Grow up!

Because the word was preached to you, because it stands forever and you are now of imperishable seed (born of someone who will not perish), rid yourself of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. Crave the basics…but grow up.

You know that the Lord is good.

As you come to Jesus, you’ll be built into a spiritual house and priesthood offering sacrifices to God through Jesus. Scripture itself says:

I lay a stone in Zion, a cornerstone; whoever trusts in it will not be put to shame

To those who believe, the stone is precious. To those who do not, it is stumbled over and discarded, cast aside and meaningless.

But you are His chosen, people with a mission to praise Him to all people because he called you out of darkness and into the light. Once, you were not this people and you had no identity but now you are his. Once, you had not received mercy, now tou have.

This identity demands that you be strangers and aliens here- so strange and so alien that you abstain from sinful desires- they war against you. Live so faithfully as a stranger and alien to the world that they have nothing “honest” to accuse you of. And even if they should accuse you, your real deeds will be so obvious and God will be glorified.

Submit to the authorities over you- ALL OF THEM- the kings who have supreme authority and the governors who are sent in to punish those who do wrong and lift up those who do right. It is God’s will that you:

  • do right- and when you do, your critics will be silenced
  • live free- but not so free that sin abounds but as servants of God
  • respect all- love believers, fear God and honor human authorities

Slaves, serve your human masters faithfully- the good ones who are considerate of you and even the ones who treat you harshly. If you suffer unjustly, you’ll be commended by God because you know him. But, if you are evil and endure suffering, this suffering has no value; you were called to suffer for doing good and Jesus was our example:

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth

When they attacked him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. He just gave himself over to God. He alone bore our sins that we might die to sin and live for righteousness- his bearing of our sin heals us. You were like sheep gone astray, but now you’ve come home to the Shepherd and Overseer.

1 Peter 2- paraphrased from NIV 1984.

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Rejoice!

Peter, an Apostle of Jesus- To God’s people, scattered throughout the world who have been chosen by the Father through the work of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus because of his blood, grace and peace to you:

Praise be to Jesus:

  • he gave us new birth through his resurrection
  • he gave us an everlasting inheritance
  • he shields us with his power until the final salvation

Rejoice! For while you currently endure hardship, your faith is being proven as genuine and will result in Jesus being praised. Though you’ve not seen him, your love is evident and you are filled with joy. Why? Because you are being saved. About this salvation the prophets worked hard to be faithful in their proclamations- they were actually serving you as they preached the true gospel of Jesus. Because of this, be ready:

  • be self-controlled
  • set your hope on his grace
  • be like obedient children
  • do not conform to the old ways but be holy

You call on a Father who judges fairly; live like you do not belong here and fear…because “Daddy is coming home!” You were redeemed by the blood of his son Jesus, NOT with silver or gold. Your hope is in this righteous Father. Now that you’ve been purified by obeying the truth, love one another faithfully. You’ve been born again from someone who will not perish and His word stands forever. -1 Peter 1- paraphrase from NIV 1984

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“cause I gotta have faith”

“Faith” is just the beginning.

“Faith” is not all that is required of the believer. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1 that the believer is to: “…make every effort”

-to add to your faith goodness
-to goodness add knowledge
-to knowledge add self-control
-to self-control add perseverance
-to perseverance add godliness
-to godliness add brotherly kindness
-to brotherly kindness add love

“For if you possess these qualities in INCREASING MEASURES, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

In other words, knowledge of Christ alone without our “efforts” (these are the words of Peter) leads us to be “near-sighted and blind.” What’s more, these efforts help us to “make our calling and election sure” and will lead to a “rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

To clarify- this is not a works theology- Peter is not suggesting that man works to own his salvation. What he is stating is that if we are “cleansed from past sins” that matters for our lives TODAY and not merely for a future reality.

We are called to works, to bear fruit, precisely because of what Jesus did. Because of his divine power, we have all that for life and godliness- it is because of this power from Jesus that not only “should” we do these works, but this power gives us the ability. It is through Peter’s litany of behaviors that we “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

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The Invitation, continued

Jesus is not nice.

It’s one of the conclusions that I’m coming to. Of course, I’m using that word “nice” culturally. “Nice” people don’t judge others. They are quick to keep their religion to themselves and lay low. Nice people point out that Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you” but leave out the “go and sin no more” (Coincidentally, the Pharisees among us love “go and sin no more” yet leave out “I don’t condemn you”- but that’s a post for another time). Hold on to this for a moment…

Here’s something that I’m learning lately: The Kingdom of God is for those who accept the invitation to join Him and his work.

In Luke 14, we find Jesus in the home of a Pharisee for a meal. After healing a man on the Sabbath (thus demonstrating that Jesus was immoral- because everyone knows that moral people obey the law) Jesus tells 3 stories that demonstrate his “not-niceness”:

  • After noticing that people were taking the best seats at the dinner, he calls them out on it to their faces. He doesn’t keep it to himself and complain to the disciples privately. He doesn’t gossip about them. He confronts them. Those attending should not take the best seats, but seat themselves in the lower places. That way, they can be moved up by the host. Humility is the key.
  • In the same way, he notices who it at the part. It was likely a veritable “who’s who” of the religious and cultural elite in Jerusalem. Again, Jesus calls them to account. Jesus tells them that they should not invite people who can repay them, but people who cannot- the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. This removes any hint of pride and ulterior motives. And, when one of those gathered weighs in with a spiritual platitude along the lines of, “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be…”
  • Jesus becomes “not nice” to him…when we read this final parable, we know that it’s not about a simple dinner party or wedding feast. The final story is about those who receive, and initially accept, the invitation to join the kingdom whole-heartedly. When the time of the party comes, those invited create stories and reasons why they cannot attend:
    • one man bought a field and had to go and see it (he must have purchased a storage locker from an auction)
    • one man bought 5 oxen and had to go and try them out
    • still another had just gotten married and could not attend

Upon learning this, the man ordered his servants out to gather (notice there’s no invitation here)…the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind (these are the same ones who Jesus had spoken of earlier) and they attended. As there was still room, the call went out to anyone “on the roads and country lanes” so the house would be full.

And of those invited, Jesus says this: “not one…will get a taste of my banquet.”

Jesus is being painfully direct. He has invited us to participate in the bringing of his kingdom.

  • Some will attend and act like they belong there, that the party is about them. It’s not; it’s about Jesus.
  • God invites us because we are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. We have NOTHING to off Him. He is God.
  • If we decline Jesus’ invitation, others will be gathered. And, those “others” will be, in our minds, completely undeserving. They’ll be the ones we cast aside, the ones we drive by on the way to our homes, the maligned and marginalized. The ones we mock behind closed doors. The ones who don’t vote our way, and the ones who sin differently than us.

Soon, I’ll post thoughts based on my experiences in student ministry of what I’ve seen happen when those marginalized people “take the spots” of those who had been invited.

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The Invitation

Friend Geoff Lawson recently posted these thoughts on Twitter (they were retweets from the music pastor at the church he serves):

“When we ‪#‎ownit‬, all who claim Christ enter the Kingdom through Him. We are then gathered together as His people.

When we #ownit, we understand that we are members of a flock. We belong to Jesus & are dedicated to those who also claim Him.

When we #ownit, we see the sheep make the flock. Everyone contributes to the whole, interconnected community.

When we #ownit, we take our part seriously in being healthy, active & participating. Everyone’s contribution matters.”

Here are my thoughts:

When we #ownit, we take joy in the invitations to participate in community with one another. We step outside of ourselves and our silos, out of our territorial selfishness because we anticipate learning and growing together. We understand that we have things to offer others, and they have things to offer us.

Paul’s instruction to the church in Romans and 1 Corinthians is clear. We are called to work together. And yet, these instructions are within the context of Jesus, whose instructions and call to both relationship and discipleship come in the form of INVITATION. Jesus invites us to join Him, then the church invites others to join us as we join Him.

One of the incredible things about this invitation is that if it is accepted, all benefit. The (so-called) individuals benefit because they take hold of God’s giftedness and truly live how they were meant to live. The Body of Christ, the church, benefits because we are many, yet one, focusing singularly on Jesus and others.

If the invitation is not accepted, then the church (lower-case) will simply degenerate into turf-wars and lines in the sand. Pride and arrogance will reign and others will see this, having their opinions, about the church, confirmed and also decline the invitation.

The church will grow, and Christ alone will be magnified, when we choose to leave behind our own desires and designs, both our pride AND our false humility accept His invitation to be part of the community that He offers and empowers. Jesus gives those in the church an open invitation to know Him and others in the body.

We decline at our peril, and accept to His glory.

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Understanding the Other

My good friend Melissa suggested a follow-up post to “A Crisis of Belief, part 3” that gave some practical advice on beginning conversations with “the other”. In a way, this post is a bit embarrassing, Continue reading

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A Crisis of Belief, part 3

March and April were CRAZY months.

Where were we (please see post 1 and post 2 of this series for some context)…

Ultimately, these crises of belief were about the concept of identity, my own. Continue reading

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A Crisis of Belief, part 2

My first real “crisis of belief” began in 1988. I went off to a Bible College that I clearly was not prepared for. I met great friends, and also the person who’d become my wife. But my immaturity and what I perceived as an over-reliance on rules and focus on the outer man was a terrible combination. So, I walked away from my faith in 91 or 92 and Continue reading

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A Crisis of Belief, part 1

I grew up in a conservative Christian environment. This shaped much of who I was and am; after high school I attended a very conservative Bible college. While I wandered from the faith shortly after this- actually I walked away from it- I remained in that sphere of influence, especially as it related to my political thinking. Continue reading

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Acts 2 and the Holy Spirit

The Rundown

The disciples have gathered in Jerusalem, awaiting the “baptism [with] the Holy Spirit” that Jesus had promised in Acts 1:5. It is Pentecost, the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover week (which was also the day Jesus was resurrected). Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks/Feast of Harvest.

At once, a sound “came from Heaven” and filled the room where the 120 believers were gathered and something like “tongues of fire” rested above each of the believers. Continue reading

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