So many options
So many choices - too many!
If you don't know what you are looking for
(i.e. the wife didn't send you with a specific list),
many things look like viable options:
All brands of toilet paper are in play.
Detergents - what's the difference?
Shampoo, soups & salad dressings: seen one, seen 'em all.
~ NOT HARDLY SO! ~
Don't do it Bucky!
Stick to the approved items on the list.
HORRIBLE analogy, but when's that stooped me...
God's list of Saviors is short: His Son. Period!
His pick of paths away from perdition is particular.
Thus despite all the choices - faith paths, philosophies -
that parade themselves, clamoring for our allegiance,
we must hear what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-15:
"Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road
that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.
Watch out for false prophets.
They come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves..."
"Narrow, small, few"
Sounds selective, specific...
Glad He warns & informs us!
He further warns us in vs. 21-23:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
Then I will tell them plainly,
'I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matt. 7:21-23 - NIV)
The point of distinction?
Those who Know Him.
They live differently.
They do His Father's will.
They are entering God's gate, on His narrow path.
Their fruit is evident (see vs. 16-21).
Do you know HIM?
Jesus is the only way,
the true truth,
the proper path
See John 14:6; 3:16, 36
1 John 5:11-13
Thank You Lord for making the choices obvious.
May I, having chosen YOU, keep choosing You daily.
Help me stay on the straight and narrow.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Monday, September 08, 2008
The best test of love for God is . . . ?
Tell me about your ultimate house guest?
Now read this a few times with thought:
"If anyone loves me,
he will obey my teaching.
My Father will love him,
and we will come to him
and make our home with him.”
- John 14:23 (NIV)
Again: The best test of love for God is . . . ?
Tell me about your ultimate house guest?
Don't go on about loving God if you do not obey Him.
Talk is cheap, love is not - it costs us our willfulness.
Want to draw in the love and closeness of God?
Love Him - i.e. obey Him.
KSD / GEFC
For further study about God being close,
spend some time in Psalms 15& 24
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Relationships: Sources of Stress & Comfort
More practical life training from 2 Corin. 7:2-7
Kerry Doyal / Grace Ev Free CH / www.GetGraced.org
Finally, some good news! Titus has returned & told Paul that they are longing for & even zealous for him – what a relief. Paul is still seeking to develop & deepen a mutual relationship with the Corinthians. A one way relationship is not spiritually healthy or safe for these new believers. This is a sad reoccurring theme in this long, pleading, soul-bearing letter.
Still building a case of his trust worthiness, Paul is able to point to his behavior when he was among them. He writes of his comfort from hearing Titus’ report & shares his confidence that their relationship will survive this test. Once again, there is so much for us to learn about building, maintaining & repairing relationships that honor God & mutually edify.
2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. (ESV)
You can you make this appeal: “Make room in your hearts for us. . . (vs. 2)
When you have lived this way:
We have wronged no one, godly methods
we have corrupted no one, godly message
we have taken advantage of no one.” godly motives
you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. (vs. 3)
Ministry = Making huge deposits in people’s relationship banks.
“I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you…” (vs. 4a)
Our comforting God often uses people to comfort us (vs. 4b-7)
“I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.”
· Through Titus’ return / presence
· By the Corinthians’ treatment of Titus
· In the Corinthians’ attitude towards Paul
· Is your life one that builds trust & confidence in others? Interdependency!
· Are you a source of comfort that God uses to bless & bring joy to others?
Monday, August 25, 2008
Who has peace?
Who is steady & sure - unshakable?
“Great peace have they who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.”
- Psalm 119:165
Law-lovers live loose
(i.e. not strung out in anxiety)
They are sure of foot, on a safe path,
warned about the things that others trip over.
When you know the path, the right way,
when you follow the directions,
it eliminates a lot of getting lost,
being frustrated, and tense.
The Message - Ps. 119:165
For those who love what you reveal,
no stumbling around in the dark for them.
KSD / GEFC
Saturday, July 19, 2008
"fear not, for I am with you;
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The temple was the place of God's presence on earth. To bow towards it was to bow
Monday, June 30, 2008
“For whoever wants to save
his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life
for me will find it.”
Matthew 16:25 (NIV)
To live in Christ, we need to die to self
& do so daily.
Jesus calls us to lose our life for Him.
That - HE - is how we find our life.
To avoid Him to try & save your life
is to waste, forfeit your life.
In Him is life.
He is life.
To live is Christ.
Don't worry about getting a life
give yours to Him - that's life.
KSD / GEFC
Is & will be:
“The LORD will be king
over the whole earth.
On that day there will be one LORD,
and his name the only name.”
- Zechariah 14:9
Jesus IS Lord - no doubt.
Pockets of rebellion, outposts of uprisings exist
- true too.
His reign is unequaled and some day
will be unchallenged.
Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess
the lordship of Jesus.
Inaugurated eschatology, some call it.
More than just good practice is the life
that already lives under His kingship.
Better than just avoiding the last minute rush
- make His name your only one.
Name above all names - supreme allegiance.
And He shall reign forever & ever.
KSD / GEFC
Monday, March 17, 2008
Righteousness: A Primer & Review
The Righteousness He Requires
Is the Righteous His Righteousness
Requires Him to Require
(quote by ? ? ?)
This "tricky" phrase is worth some thought.
- go ahead . . .
It contains some of the essential truths of the gospel.
To help you grasp it better, lets study the subject of
Righteousness and His Righteous Requirement of Righteousness.
The Problem: God requires us to be righteous to have fellowship with Him.
To be righteous is to be in right standing with God,
to be morally upright, sinless.
None of us are righteous, not even one of us (Romans 2:11, 12; 3:10-18).
Our own efforts to be righteous are as filthy rags in Gods sight (Isaiah 64:6).
So, an obvious question is:
"How then can a man be righteous before God?
How can one born of a woman be pure?" (Job 25:4).
The Solution: Since God is a holy and just Judge,
He cannot change or lower the standard and remain just (Romans 3:26).
Instead, God provided some one to meet the standard for us
(Isaiah 45:17, 24; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Matthew 3:15).
Jesus is our substitute, our vicar (Vicarious atonement).
God made Him become sin for us and has declared those who receive
Him righteous (Romans 3:21-30; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
The Gospel is the message of Gods righteousness available to man
by faith in Jesus (Romans 1:16, 17; 3:21-14; 4:1-8; Philippians 3:9).
Like Abraham, we can be declared righteous by God through faith.
This is a Righteousness given and not obtained by works of
the law (Romans 4:4-6; 5:6-11; 17:21; Galatians 2:15, 16; 3:6-14).
Having been declared righteous, we are to live a righteous life,
living consistent with who we are (Ephesians 4:1,2; I Peter 1:13-16).
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Encouraging Yourself in the Lord
from 1 Samuel 30:1-6
Discouragement is a ruthless thief. It not only robs us of "full steam
ahead" service for the Lord, it also decreases the spiritual goods and
services others receive from us. Despair is a despot who despoils its
Those faith-filled and faithful souls who press on in the face of fear
and despondency have treasures to share with others. By God's grace,
these God-bolstered bad boys - in the nicest sense of the word - bless
others with booty from life's battles.
When life assaults one's heart and leaves breaches and scars, when
retreat seems the only sensible and survivable option, we need to follow not-yet-king
David's example in 1 Samuel 30:1-6.
"Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the
Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They
had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were
in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but
carried them off and went their way.
"And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with
fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David
and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more
strength to weep. David's two wives also had been taken captive...
"And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him,
because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and
daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God" (ESV).
How David zapped back at Ziklag - went from cinders to spoils to share - is beyond
inspirational. It is instructional. He models how to move
ahead in the Lord when we would rather just move away.
Charred houses, kidnapped families, despair and near mutiny greet David
when he came home to Ziklag. He had been excused from going to war
alongside the Philistines against Israel. They knew his heart - that he
would turn and fight for his people - God's people (1 Samuel 27-31). A
Relieved at being spared another battle, David and his 600 men returned
to a burnt city and abducted loved ones. What a way to come home!
After intense grieving, David's men considered finding comfort in
stoning him. Note: leadership means wearing a target and leaders often get
too much blame or credit.
David, lonely and discouraged, sought and found comfort and strength in
the LORD. He "strengthened himself in the LORD his God" (vs. 6). Instead of
digging a hole, he fled to the Holy One. He rediscovered resolve in His redeemer.
Like Nehemiah would later tell of those who "repaired" Jerusalem's torn
down walls, so too David found help, repair for his breached soul. David found
fortification in the Father.
The word "strengthened" is often used militaristically - beefed up
troops. It speaks of being strong, courageous, to fasten to. David
fastened his hope in the LORD and it turned this tale around. Read
Psalms 27:14 and 46; Proverbs 3:5, 6; Isaiah 40 and 35:4.
To what or whom do you turn for encouragement, fortification, help,
soul-repair and mind-mending?
Who is your source of inner strength, resolve, courage (see Joshua 1:6,
7, 9, 18)? Friends are great blessings, but when they edge out God, we
rob ourselves of God's help.
Note: such help that David found comes not from gods of our own making.
We idol-crafters need to turn fully to the LORD God (1 Thessalonians
1:8-10). Ask Israel if their dallying with idols gets proven results?
"Judgment," they say?
To recovering, still-stinging freshly spanked idolaters we read: "For I, the LORD
your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, Fear not, I am the one who helps
you" (Isaiah 41:13). Is the LORD your God? Take a self-test from Jeremiah 2:5, 11-13;
Finding gumption in God, David seeks His will, then pursues and
whips the bad guys. The Lord blesses him with full recovery of their
wives, children and stuff. In celebration and as a witness, David sends
out gifts from the goodies, perks from the plunder to several cities.
Had he stayed in his funk, sunk into his bog of despair, the story might have a very
different ending. Yet, he allowed God to gird him up for life and the battles ahead. What
circumstances have you hidden behind? What excuses do you need to confess as sin?
For us to have spoils to share from wars won by God's grace, we must
find solace and strength in the LORD (see Jude 20; 1 Peter 1:3- 2:3; Psalm 37). Who has
enjoyed the benefits of your seeking God? Who has been enriched by your encouragement in
Who has gone without - physically or spiritually - because you cling to
your circumstances and not the God of the universe? Read Matthew 6:25-34 and Jeremiah
What spoils can you share as a testimony of God's greatness? We must
seek strength and comfort from the Lord as if lives depend on it.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
When foot soldiers deploy, they set up their tents, temporarily occupy foreign soil, get acquainted with the "locals” and seek to bring peace and safety. When their mission is accomplished, they pack up and go home.
Nomadic Bedouins live on the move, seeking pasture for their sheep or camels, looking for food for their families. Encampment means setting up their huge tents, settling in for a few weeks or months while ready to head on.
The Jews in the wilderness – after Egypt - had no permanent place to worship God. So, the LORD gave them plans for a mobile worship facility - the Tabernacle, the Tent of meeting. Here they sacrificed to and served the LORD.
When the Cloud or Fire that lead them stopped, they camped. It was God saying: stay here, set up the Tabernacle, My Tent and worship. When the days were complete, they struck the Tent and the Cloud led them along.
How do these Christmas images grab ya? If I threw in some wise men, would it help? How about mutant flying reindeer or a bloated, bearded Senior in slick red P.J.s? "Ho, ho, NO" you say?
If you want the classic Christmas story, turn to Matthew or Luke. If you want tent talk, read John's gospel. Do not expect any angels, mangers or maligned Inn Keepers. John tells us about the eternal Word who was with the Father who took on skin and bones. He speaks of a Life that is light. He - well, read it for yourself from John 1:1-4 & 14:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men... vs. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (NKJV)
While this offers little to market for the holidays, it makes up for it with some awesome theology. It also takes us back to our bivouac and answers: Who sneaked tents into the already crowed Christmas panoply? The "dwelt among us" in verse 14 is camping talk. It literally means: Jesus tabernacled, pitched His tent, encamped among us.
From John, we learn that the Word, Jesus, is co-eternal with God - not a new part of God's product line for the holidays. No, Jesus, also self-existing, created all of God's product line (see also Colossians 1:14-17). Jesus is called life: the kind of talk reserved for the Divine.
Keep in mind this Christmas that His birth was not His beginning. He was from the beginning and was the beginning, the Creator of all. Yet, He left the Father’s side to be with us. The Word became flesh and moved in our neighborhood.
As if this was not deep enough, the eternal Creator who is life - just like the Father - is also light. When the Light came into the sin-darkened world, He provided illumination, a “show and tell” of the Holy God.
So the spiritual (the Word), became physical. The eternal One became temporal (i.e. "in time", not temporary). God as man with us, or as John put it: He pitched His tent among us.
Did God's ultimate Scout, the firstborn, leave a trace? Yes! Talk about getting to know and fixing up the place!
Jesus, the ultimate Army of One, is our means of peace with God. His mission was accomplished. Remember His powerful "It is finished" battle cry? Can you say simper fi - always faithful? Hooah!
Was He on foreign soil? Yes and no. Though He made it, and came to the ones and place He made, they did not receive Him. The Master of the house returned to be treated like an intruder.
Thankfully, those who do accept Him as the true Owner are given the authority to become God's sons and daughters - all the ones believing in His name (see John 1:11-13). How hospitable to Him are you?
Jesus himself is both God's holy Tabernacle and the lamb offered for our sins. He is the eternal Word who chose to reside in humble, temporary fashion among us to provide a means of fellowship with God.
This homeless Nomad from birth still wants to feed His sheep. He wants to gather all those who are His, be their living water and heavenly food. Jesus invites us into His tent for fellowship, a life relationship. He alone can make us happy campers.
In his first letter, John wrote that this Word was no mythical figure. No, Jesus, the Word of life could be heard, seen, studied carefully and even handled. He reminds us that Jesus' followers - that he - did just that.
John continued: "... that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:3 & 4 - NKJV). Jesus, John tells us, is to be experienced, declared and shared with all.
When we look at our new pup-tenting Neighbor, we see glory. This unique One, the Father's Son, is still full of grace and truth. Merry CHRISTmas and happy camping with Him.
Monday, November 26, 2007
It was just a short car ride with Uncle Roy, just down the path at Bancroft Bible Camp. Yet, it yielded two great phrases that I’ve been pondering for months.
Though retired, Rev. Roy Thomas is part of the staff of Bancroft Bible Camp. A WWII Vet – he was across the island from Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 – Uncle Roy has learned a thing or two in his many and often hard years.
An orphan boy from Chicago’s south side, Roy was a pastor for many years. He and his hard working spouse Evelyn, have faithfully and diligently served the Lord in many roles and places.
Getting out of my car that day to go into chapel and lead singing at camp, Roy cheerfully told me: "Keep looking up." Live with an eye to the sky, anticipating the Lord’s return. Things may be bad down here, but be encouraged, He will return. This is a source of hope and accountability; be ready.
This gentle, playful soul must have sensed the humor of telling someone who was about to drive off to "Keep looking up". So Uncle Roy – as he known by countless campers at Bancroft – added with a smile and twinkle in his eyes: "But keep your eyes on the road."
This was more than just a witty word of driving advice. This in fact completed the encouragement to "Keep looking up." Yes, we must live in light of the blessed hope, the return of Jesus, the setting up of His kingdom, the consummation of the ages. We are also to be faithful and wise servants day by day.
"Keep looking up. Keep your eyes on the road" - not a bad couplet. One could do worse for spur of the moment advice. Live in light of the hope of heaven. Live out your calling while here on earth.
Can one be – as the phrase goes – so heavenly minded you are no earthly good? Yes, if you do not keep your eyes on the road, traveling the path Jesus laid out for you, fulfilling your calling which God sovereignly designed just for you (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 8:28-39; Jeremiah 1:1-11; Psalm 139).
I recently looked through a Hymnal and noted that the first 80 plus songs were about heaven. Not about God per se, but about mansions, streets of gold, rest and the sweet bye and bye. Frankly, the impression I had was one of escapism.
Do not misunderstand: I praise God for His gracious promise of heaven through Christ (John 14; Revelation 20-22). Yet, I somehow sense He did not mean it to be an excuse to just wait out our time here.
Much like the exiled Jews in Babylon, we are told to settle in and serve Him until the time is right (see Jeremiah 29:4-14); an eye on the road, and an eye towards heaven.
With apologies to my Catholic friends, there are more Protestant monks than any other variety. You know them – might be one. People who have so orchestrated their lives that they have all but eliminated life-contact with anyone but other Christians. God warned against such faulty living (Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
Between continual internal church events, having Christian mechanics, grocers, beauticians, these functional Monks rarely have to risk involvement with the lost. Even their dog goes to a Christian Vet, where other Christian dogs congregate. May I add, Christian fleas are the worst.
Such Monk’s quick forays into the world are done holding their spiritual breath: in and out, avoid contamination, minimize risk of compromise. Yet, they also eliminate any chance of helping others, having impact, being salt or light. People who live only looking up will not be found in service to their Master, wasting their talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
We can also be consumed with keeping our eyes on the road. I find that when I am solely looking ahead and not looking up, as I ought – remembering Him and why - I become frazzled and fruitless. Remember Martha (see Luke 10:38-42)?
When we get too busy going and serving, taking care of life’s business every day, in every way, living in overdrive, we need to get back to turning ours eyes towards heaven.
Casting an eye upward helps me remember why I am running so hard (see Colossians 3:1-11). As Twila Paris sang: the warrior is a child, who needs in the midst of life’s battles to drop their sword and look up for a smile.
Wisdom can’t be contained. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We bring out what we have stashed in. Roy was kind enough to remind me to keep the faith, be hopeful, live with obedience and anticipation: keep looking up.
Roy was also seasoned, sensible and – with all due respect – silly enough to remind me to be alert, take care, fulfill the job that was at hand: keep my eyes on the road.
The Lord took my dad home about three years ago. When an older man is now fatherly to me, I have a new appreciation for it, even at age 46. Young pups, don’t kid yourself: we always need wisdom that comes from those with experience. Especially those like Uncle Roy & Aunt Evelyn who keep looking up and keep their eyes on the road.
Monday, May 28, 2007
A Penny for My Thoughts
Dedicated to All who Don’t feel
Worth a Plug Nickel
www.GetGraced.orgRejected: what a painful process. It speaks directly to our sense of worth, value, loveliness and love-ability. "Reject": what an ugly label, crushing to the soul. My bank recently reinforced these truths for me. Before you wonder which bank to avoid or what I did short of robbing it, allow me to explain.Counting coins can be a pain. Our bank has a wonderful machine that does that for you – at a price – 3%. Well, if time is money, we deemed a three-penny hit on the dollar worth the work it would do and time it would save.So, coin bucket in hand, it was off to the lobby to dump the pennies, a few nickels and maybe a shiny dime or two into this very cool device.
It was worth the three cents to watch the machine with its little conveyor’s belt, digital screen and buttons to push. Cheap entertainment! Coins counted, we took our tally slip to the window for our cash. Yes!It was then I noticed it. A coin, beat, bent and I guess hard to count was sent to a coin return labeled "reject". My heart went out to this little penny. The big bad machine had spit it out, deemed it of questionable worth and not counted it among our happy haul.Inflicted with illustrationitis – common to pastors - I fell in love with this penny – my brother. Scooping up this little lost lamb, I set it aside for future use. Not to spend, mind you.The unbent coins presented no problem for the machine – which I shall now rage against. Since they fit its mold, its tolerance levels, its spectrum of acceptability, they were deemed of worth. Not so my little Lincoln image-bearing penny. It was a reject.Yet, irony of ironies, after all the other pretty little coins had had their spin in the machine, they also lost some value – 3% is still 3%. It cost them to be counted worthy of the counter’s standards. They were in fact tarnished in worth and now in the belly of the beast.But my penny – which I still have – of different bent than the others, though called a reject, kept its full value. With my claiming it as my own, its value has soared. I would not take a dollar for my penny. It not only reflects Lincoln, but yet another Great Liberator.Called from the world, Jesus has stamped His image on and in us. Scuffed and scarred by sin and the world, defaced and devalued – labeled rejects - we have now fallen into new Hands. Like my 1977 S cent (I think it is an S– its hard to read), He has called us His very own – blemishes and all.For those who stay on the world’s conveyor belt and let it size them up, they come out diminished, lumped together with all the other mere coins. They are cheapened by the very thing that allured them with its bells and whistles. They are reduced to tally slips to be cashed in as they are left behind.Make no mistake, this world sees things differently than God. This Machine rages against God, His values, His ways, His people. Though its invitation is tempting, the process and product it is culpable for is nothing to brag about.God, collector of rejects, seems to do poor public relations work. When was the last time you sought to be numbered among life’s losers and failures? Talk about an image issue. Yet, as the Word says, not many mighty, not many noble or brilliant, nor many powerful are called.He uses the weak, the simple, the lowly and despised. The things that are not much in this world are His trophies to show to the world who His kind of people are.Not losers and rejects per se, but anyone, everyone who will humble himself or herself and let God call His name over them. Why? So no one can boast before Him. So those who do boast can boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:25-31; Jeremiah 9:23, 24).Are you tired of the world’s lies, its false fancy front? Tired of trying to measure up and knowing you are one more scratch away from being rejected? Refuse the world and its lusty, boastful ways. The fallen world and those who love it are all passing away. Those who do God’s will last forever (1 John 2:15-17).Come to the One who showed His love for us while we were yet sinners. Those who come to Him – any of any kind, shiny new dimes or marred cents – He will in no way cast out (Romans 5:6-11; 8:28-39; 10:8-13). Only with Him, through His grace, is their acceptance. Rejects lose their labels and have their full value redeemed by none other than God Himself.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
offered to all who will 'fess up and come clean with God through Christ.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Worse than having Dummy books and still being dumb is having God’s Book to all us dummies (sheep) and not following it. His “How To” guide for life is the most sold, owned, maybe read yet least followed of all – if I may – self help books.
The Apostle Peter, a fellow dummy at times, for all his bumbling was also very pastoral. In a letter to believers who are suffering for their faith, he reminds them to not be surprised at such treatment. Instead, rejoice you are suffering like Christ and resolve to stay true to God. Peter wrote:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
“Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name… Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:12-16, 19 - NASB).
We are to recognize that trials – harsh, fiery ones - will come. Do not be surprised. This may sound basic, yet I have to confess wrong expectations at times when life gets hard. Ever heard yourself singing “Why me, Lord? After what I have done for You, given, sacrificed, this isn’t fair. What did I do to deserve this? I’ve lived for You and this is the thanks I get?”
Have you ever starting slugging down a glass of ice tea on a hot day, to discover it was coke? Even for those who like both, the initial surprise and sudden gear shifting can make the best tea taste bad - for at least a moment. It was not what one expected.
Since expectations are powerful things, they must be biblical. They can rule and ruin relationships as much as reality can. Jesus’ disciples who expect only smooth sailing are set for a sad surprise. Sometimes, like those to whom Peter wrote, hardships and abuse are our earthly reward for living for God.
Mistreatment for living for Christ is promised to God’s people. In this world, Jesus assured us, we will have tribulations. If they abused Me, your Master, He warned, expect the same as My servants. Our trials may be severe, ongoing and even fatal. Ask Stephen, James, Paul or Peter (read Hebrews 11:23-40).
Instead of being surprised, rejoice, Peter says, when you share in Christ’s suffering. From realizing to rejoicing is a huge step. It moves from the mere cognitive (“yep, Christians suffer”) to the emotional and volitional (I get to suffer with and like Jesus - cool).
If you are taking a beating because your actions are Christ-like, rejoice and glorify God. You are sharing in Christ’s suffering, blessed with God’s Spirit and glory. They rest on you. Also, you do not have to be ashamed before God or man. Instead, you can glorify God for having the name Christian – one of Christ’s.
If life is hard because you have not been living for God, then quit applying for the martyr’s crown. Repent! Do not conveniently confuse God’s spankings and life’s consequences with persecution (See 1 Peter 2:19-25 and Hebrews 12:1-7). Paraphrasing the original Rocky (Peter): if you suffer for your sin, well, duh. What is the glory in that?
However, if it is because you obey Jesus you do not get a promotion, or a date or lose friends, rejoice, even in the pain and tears. Such followers can be confident in the Judgment (vs. 17-19).
When suffering, it can be very tempting to compromise our convictions and pull away from the Lord. Thus, Peter writes that we should resolve to stay committed in hard times. Instead of shrinking back into so-called safety, we are to stay in the arena and do His will.
Those who suffer according to God’s will are to trust their souls to the capable hands of our faithful Creator. Entrusting yourself is to make a permanent deposit of your life and fate with God. No quick withdrawals when the market looks rough (Luke 12:48; 23:46; 1 Corinthians 15:58)
Knowing that the One who made us is faithful, we are far safer with Him than any FDIC guaranteed deposit. We are to serve, obey and do good (see 1 Peter 2:12, 15, 20; 3:13-17). There are no excused absences from obedience or service to God. Sin or spiritual slippage is not winked at because of extenuating circumstances.
A few meddlesome questions: does your way of life risk persecution for His sake or are you “safe”? Are you confused or angered when doing right leads to tough times? Do you expect better treatment than Jesus received?
Do you rejoice when mistreated like your Master (see Acts 5:41)? Do you allow God to refine you through trials, thankful to share His name? Are you on loan to God on your terms, ready to withdraw in hard times? Are you trusting your faithful Creator and doing good?
If instead of suffering for Christ, you shrink away in fear like Peter once did, then follow Peter’s pattern in John 21: Repent, restate your love and commitment for Christ and return to your place of service, feeding and tending His sheep. As Peter later lived and wrote, believers are to be ready to face trials for their faith in Jesus, rejoicing and resolutely faithful to God in the midst of them.