Things That Are to Come

2 Peter 3

2 Peter 3 13

Have you ever wondered: when will Christ return?  That is a thought that I think every Christian who has read the Bible has thought at some point.  We look with hope towards the second coming of Christ. There are others though who have given up believing or never have believed in God’s promises or the return of Christ.  These are the mockers that Peter refers to in verses 3 & 4.  We hear it today – everywhere people mocking the promises or even existence of God.  But God is patiently waiting for people to recognize and honor Him.  He is waiting for just the right time to fulfill all that he has promised regarding Christ’s return and the establishment of a new system under Christ’s rule and reign.

In the last half of chapter 3 the apostle Peter talks about the need for Christians to live righteously and soberly in view of the destruction of the wicked so as not to be destroyed along with them.  He explains that our present heavens and earth will be destroyed in judgment – by fervent heat so hot it will destroy the elements.  Everything will be destroyed – fire will consume water, soil, air, and even will consume itself by burning out.  Environmentalists worst nightmares will come true at that point – the destruction of the earth by fervent heat.  HOWEVER – this is to make way the apostle Peter tells us for the new heavens and new earth that will be made.  This is a new heavens and earth where righteousness reigns.  This means the new heavens and earth will be a place of peace, and happiness, where those who have hungered and thirsted after righteousness dwell.  All those who have believed in the promises of God will be able to partake in this new heaven and earth.

I like to hike and have taken many hikes across the US and Canada.  Each time I enjoy the beauty that God has created around me in this natural environment and his amazing creatures I see along the way.  Although I enjoy the natural beauty of our current heavens and earth I am filled with anticipation of the new heavens and new earth that God has promised.  What new natural beauty will be there.   In our world today where unrighteousness and ungodliness seems to reign and wreak havoc in our lives won’t it be wonderful to inhabit a world where righteousness and godliness are the order of the day?  I am looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth – while I still try to take good care of the one we currently live in and do my part to shine the light of Christ in the dark world – I can’t help but think to myself; how wonderful that God has made this awesome promise of a new heavens and earth to us!

Merry Peterson

 

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Following the Alien Way

1 Peter 1

1 Peter 1 15 nasb

As we open the first letter from Peter, we find that he identifies himself as an apostle. This is a word that is rarely used outside of the church today. It translates to one who is sent. Peter says of himself, “I am one who is sent of Jesus Christ, I am his ambassador, his representative to you.” The you he refers to are all of those “living as aliens” across the region. I remember when I was a child, I would think of Marvin the Martian or some other made-up extra-terrestrial when I though of the word alien. Now I understand that an alien is simply one who is living in a place that is not their own. I now know that we, as servants of Christ, are living as aliens in a world that has turned itself over to follow evil. So, Peter is actually writing to us as well.

He continues by saying that we are chosen according to God’s foreknowledge. So, God knew the future enough to chose us as His servants for this time and to guide us to believe in His Son so we can enjoy life everlasting in His amazing Kingdom at the appointed time! WOW!!! It is incredible to think of the ways that God sets so many things in motion for our good, even when we have no idea of what He is setting up. We are set aside to obey Jesus and be cleansed by his blood. As if that was not enough Peter then asks that grace and peace be ours in the fullest! This is quite the blessing … and that is just the first 2 verses!

In the next three verses he reminds us that our inheritance is stored up where moth and rust cannot destroy. He says our hope is in resurrection and salvation is to be revealed in the last time. This is a beautiful reminder that the dead sleep and we will receive the promise together. In verse six Peter reminds us that the troubles of this time will pale in comparison to the blessings of the Kingdom of God, and this is where we draw our rejoicing from.

Verse thirteen says because of the gospel that has been preached to us we must be ready for action, with our hope fixed, because the world will continue to resist us for a time. Therefore, we must be obedient. We are called to be like Him.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”     1 Peter 1:14-16 (NASB)

In the last parts of this chapter Peter again writes of what is imperishable. This time he is telling us that we were not saved by what is perishable, such as gold and silver (these even vary in worth today), but by what is eternal, the blood of Christ. “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

-Bill Dunn

Hope and the Faith of Abraham 

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 15

In Genesis God appeared to Abraham and made him a promise: “Through your seed shall all peoples of the earth be blessed,” (Genesis 22:17-18).

The immediate seed was Isaac, born of Abraham’s old age; but the ultimate Seed is Jesus. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that this promise is fulfilled, and all the peoples of the earth are blessed through Abraham.

This promise was later confirmed by an oath, God swearing by himself (because there was nothing greater to swear by) that he would fulfill what he had said. The writer is simply pointing out that Abraham had faith and believed God’s promise.

Why did he believe it? It was not because he immediately saw it fulfilled! There were twenty-five long, weary years before Isaac was born, and in the meantime, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were growing older and had passed the time of life when it was possible to have children. Through multiple opportunities to doubt, Abraham believed that God would do what he said he would do.

We have become too eager for immediate results. I’ve heard people say, “I’ve tried prayer/church but it doesn’t seem to work.” It seems to me that is putting it the wrong way. People who are looking for immediate results tend to drift when it doesn’t happen the way they want. But the one who sees no longer needs to believe. Faith is not found in sight. It is believing in what we cannot see.

Vs. 19 – This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

We are offered something to put our faith in, too. We have hope in the same blessings that were promised to Abraham. Jesus has gone before us and promised those who put their faith in him will be rewarded with salvation.

Let that hope anchor you through whatever life throws your way. Keep the faith even when things are difficult.

John Wincapaw

1 Timothy 6

Sat Devo

“Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:18-19

What is the purpose of life? What really matters in life? These age-old questions have numerous answers, but Paul tries to point us to the true answer in 1 Timothy 6. In this chapter, we see two different kinds of people: those who love money and those who love God. In Paul’s words, those two things can’t exist together. Paul says, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Paul doesn’t necessarily call money evil in this passage, but he definitely states that loving money, or making it an idol in your life, will lead you down a dark path. In fact, Paul urges Timothy in the next verse (v. 11) to run from these things and to pursue, instead, “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” It would seem from these verses that the love of money and God are mutually exclusive. Jesus confirms this when he says in Matt. 6:24, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” 

Our culture today encourages us to make ourselves slaves of money. Our lives are dictated by pursuing jobs that will provide enough money to pay our bills and other living expenses until we can get the next paycheck. If we have the chance to work more to get money to buy some more nice things for ourselves, many of us will jump on the opportunity. And, that lifestyle is applauded by those around us. But, we have to always ask ourselves when get sucked into a cycle of living: is this godly or worldly? According to 1 Timothy 6, our purpose in life shouldn’t be to become rich and get all of the material goods that wealth entails. 

So what should our purpose be? Paul answers that in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: 

“Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of a life that is real.” 

When we set our hope on God, it changes what we think is important. Instead of pursuing a life of riches on earth, we begin to “collect for [our]selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart[s] will be also” (Matt. 6:20-21).

~ Cayce Fletcher

1 Timothy 4

Thurs Devo

“But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:7-8

I’ve always had the dream of running a marathon. It’s something that I put on my bucket list in high school. At times, I’ve gotten closer to this dream by keeping up with a running plan and completing 5Ks and 10Ks. Other times, like now, that dream is definitely in the distant future as my running shoes collect dust in the back of my closet. 

As Christians, we have a dream as well. Our dream, or our goal, is to live in the Kingdom of God. This hope should give us the strength to aspire to live righteously. We should be pursuing godliness with our lives with the same passion that an athlete would pursue their sport. However, my pursuit of Kingdom-living can sometimes be like my goal of running a marathon. Instead of inspiring me or causing me to take actions towards that goal, I just add it to the list of things that I might do in the future. This goal doesn’t push me to live in a godly way. It becomes a dream that never affects my reality.

Though running and other sports can have positive benefits, we should be actively training ourselves in godliness. Like Paul says, “Godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (v. 8). Like running can help me to feel better in my daily life as well as help me to finish a future race, godliness helps us to live abundantly now and in the Kingdom. Importantly though, as Paul describes it in this chapter, godliness isn’t a switch that you can flip on and off. After baptism, you don’t just emerge out of the water a new person who will always make good, godly decisions. Godliness is something that requires training. How do we train in godliness? We follow the example and teachings of Jesus who reveals godliness to us (1 Tim. 3:16, 4:6). So let’s put on our training shoes and get to work! 

~ Cayce Fletcher

***If you would like to read some more about how to train yourself in godliness, check out this article about the topic: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2018/02/11/train-sport-godliness/ 

 

Alone?

FREE THEME WEEK – Psalms!

Psalm 22 1

This week we are looking at seven different types of psalms.  The first was a psalm of wisdom and the second was a royal psalm.  The third type of psalm is a lament psalm.

Life is not always easy.  I know that’s a real shocker for most of you but it is true.  Bad things happen.  People fail tests.  Relationships go sour.  People get hurt physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Sometimes people suffer in unimaginable ways and sometimes people die.   Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to express our pain during difficult times.  Sometimes this is true for individuals and sometimes it’s true from communities.

There are musical styles that express pain.  The blues are all about coping with pain.  Taylor Swift has written a song about every breakup she’s ever had.  Play many a country music song backwards and you get your truck back, your dog back and your woman back.

God doesn’t expect us to ignore pain or paint a pretend smile on our face and act like everything’s great when it isn’t.  Fortunately, God provides us a language to help us work through pain.  Psalms of lament.  The Bible is full of psalms of lament both for individuals and for communities.  The book of Lamentations is an entire book of laments after the fall of Jerusalem and their exile into Babylon.

Psalm 22 is an example of a psalm of lament.  I won’t include the whole psalm here but I’ll share enough for you to get the idea:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

This is a person who is clearly in pain.  Their pain is multiplied by the fact that they feel that God is no-where to be found.  “God, where are you?”  “God I’m hurting.”  “God can’t you see how badly I’m suffering here?”  “God, why aren’t you listening to my cry?”  “God, I need you, O I need you!”

If these words sound familiar to you, it may be because these are the words that Jesus cried out while he was being crucified.  Jesus suffered every way that we suffer and his greatest suffering came when he felt God’s absence.  There are times in our lives when God seems so close and so real and those times are wonderful.  But there are also times when God feels so very far away. Psalms of lament take our feelings of suffering, of abandonment, of God’s absence and help us to give words to them.  It also helps us to know that we are not alone in feeling alone.

9Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

The one who is suffering here pleads their case before God.  “You’ve been there my whole life”  “I’ve trusted you since I was a baby”  “God, come here… I’m scared, I’m all alone.”  Whether it is physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain or often a combination of all three, it hurts when you feel like you’re all alone. The Psalms of lament help us to find the words to cry out to God out of a mixture of faith and fear.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

Even though his situation feels hopeless… even though it seems like she is doomed, yet there is hope.  As bad as it feels, as alone as she seems, as desperate and lost and needy and broken, there is hope that one day things will be better, that one day there will be a chance to testify about God’s faithfulness.

Bad thing happen to God’s people too.  We don’t have to pretend that everything’s great when it’s not.  Don’t just read the happy psalms.  Just like Jesus committed Psalm 22 to memory so that when he was at the point of deepest agony he had the words to pray his pain to God, learn to pray the psalms of lament, both for yourself and for those you love who may also feel alone in their suffering.

-Jeff Fletcher

 

You can read the whole beautiful Psalm of lament here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+22&version=NIV

We Are Hupernikao

Romans Chapter 8

 

I am thrilled that I will be sharing my thoughts on Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome.  Romans is my favorite book of the Bible due to the sheer amount of truth, enlightenment and encouragement that is contained within.

 

Pages and pages can be written on any given chapter within Romans, but I plan to touch on only one or two (or three) portions of each chapter I am covering.

 

Romans chapter 8 is right in the middle of this amazing book, and it should be an amazing encouragement to any believer who is struggling with the weight of life.

 

Have any of you watched the news any time recently?  The old adage, “No news is good news” is often very true.  If the news didn’t have BAD news to talk about, they wouldn’t have much to say at all it seems.  Our world is fallen, and sinful behavior thrives in this fallen world.  But you don’t have to watch the news to know that.  We can see the adverse effects of living in a fallen world on a day to day basis within our own lives.

 

We are reminded in this chapter that all of creation groans and waits in eager expectation to be made perfect and freed from the bondage of decay.  Me too!  I’m not too old yet, (47 is the new 40), but I know my body is slowing down.  Much worse, I have seen loved ones pass away as a result of their bodies failing.

But that will all end!  We will be made perfect in the coming Kingdom!  That is the hope talked about in this section, and it is a hope that can not be taken from us.

 

Until that day comes, be encouraged, fellow believers, in the words Paul shares here.  Verse 28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  That’s encouraging!  That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect as we want it to be, but God, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best for our own good even if do not.

 

Verse 31b – “If God is for us, who can be against us?!!!!”  (I added the exclamation marks – it SHOULD have them in my Bible.)  That is one of the best lines in all of scripture in my humble opinion.  What God has put in motion is unstoppable.  No one will stop God’s plans, and God’s plans include YOU!

 

Yes, we all face hardships in this fallen world today, until we are made perfect in the Kingdom.  But we have a certain hope in that coming day, and nothing can take that hope away or prevent that day from coming.  Likewise, these momentary troubles can not separate us from the love of Christ.  Paul tells us  in verse 37 that in regards to these troubles we are “more than conquerors.”  The Greek word for that phrase is hupernikao.

greg 1

We learned that word in a Sunday School lesson last year, and it was fun to shout “Hupernikao!” if we demolished the other team in volleyball after church on Wednesday nights!  It feels great to be hupernikao.  That is what we are intended to be with God and Christ on our side.

 

Finally, this chapter concludes with more incredible encouragement in regards to the possibility of being removed from the love of God:

 

“38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

I hope that is as encouraging for you as it is for me.  Take these passages to heart.  Remember them when the world seems to be against you.  Remember that your creator, your Father, your God is FOR YOU!  And nothing can take that, or His future promise for you, away.

 

-Greg Landry