Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 18 May 2020

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light1 Peter 2:9(NIV).

In this very next verse, Peter contrasts being stones and obstacles to faith to being God’s special, called people.  Others may trip and fall; some may be crushed.   These people may even be us.   Yet those who follow Jesus are also set apart to share light in darkness, to serve as His servants in the crushed and broken world.

That’s you.   That’s me.   Personally, I think you look great in your priestly garb, whether it’s robes, jeans, or flip flops.   Me, I’m feeling pretty dapper as well, though perhaps a little chubby around the midsection.   Whatever you’re wearing, wear it proudly, then make your ministry about doing something for Jesus in your own way.   Be authentic; be yourself.   Use the gifts God has given you and only you to share something about Jesus with someone else.  That may mean you become a called servant, that you find a seminary and do what’s necessary to earn the title of “pastor.”   Good for you!

Or it may mean you live kindly towards others, rarely quoting Scripture, maybe even rarely saying the name Jesus to other people but being His true sister or brother anyway.   Or it could mean you do that same thing and, when asked why (because eventually someone will ask) you tell them about Jesus and how He saved you, then you felt compelled to live your life in such a way to serve as His royal priest or priestess.

Maybe you’re a fire & brimstone evangelist; maybe you’re a nurse or blogger or firefighter or policeman.   Maybe you’re a work from home parent, or a student in college; a hairdresser, a welder, a teacher, a manager, a trucker driving over the open road.   From time to time, you and I actually are the stone God lays in Zion for others to trip over.   From time to time, we’re that capstone that crushes someone whose words and actions have earned that.   Occasionally, we trip and we are the ones crushed.

Yet we are here to live our lives as followers of Jesus as the people He has chosen to take His message of salvation, peace, and true freedom to a scared, locked-down world that needs to know that more than ever.   We do it by living our lives genuinely, where we are, using the talents He gave us, being ready at any time to tell why we live in peace and love.  He saved us so that we could use our lives and priestly words to praise Him so that others might see us and say, “there’s something about them and I want to know more.”

For further reading: Deuteronomy 10:15, 1 Samuel 12:22, Isaiah 62:12, Acts 26:18, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 2:10

Lord Jesus, make me worthy to be Your priest here today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 14 May 2020

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”  They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.  1 Peter 2:6-8 (NIV).

Remember that part from yesterday about me and you being stones, and how stones can be broken or crushed?   Yeah, it’s true.   And it may be why Christ selected you, specifically, to follow Him.

We aren’t supposed to be jerks about our faith.   Sharing it with someone should be a bold thing but NOT bold to the point of hurting someone else.   Share boldly but temper boldness in sensitivity.   And if confronted, be ready to answer why you believe what you do.   Yet when someone complains you’re infringing on them, yes, respectfully consider your options.   We must not be ashamed of what we believe, or lie about it, or let ourselves be silenced without standing.   We also must practice our faith in healing, understanding and grace to others.  We must not weaponize faith lightly.

Because…

…Because this is life or death.  Because what we believe actually may crush someone.   It may be a stumbling block they can’t get around.   It may be an obstacle they can’t overcome without confronting it.   Our faith may so convict other people that it may change everything about them.   Jesus loves and wants them, too.  We may be where we are for His reasons.

Or our faith may crush us.   There are those who work to silence or persecute the faithful and will use any opportunity to do so; you know this.   You may have even been subject to it.  As with those who would be confronted by us, so it is that, before time, Jesus also willed it to be so that we would suffer for Him in faith.   It’s not that He wants us to hurt:  it’s that He wants us to be purified, refined in Him so that we may stand stronger.   He wants this knowing that our praise of Him during our afflictions will spread His glory and Name far and wide.   That more will know His love and believe.  This has always been so.   Where man persecutes the body of Christ, the body of Christ grows.

Sometimes the cost of that is paid in blood.   It was paid in His blood first; mankind may also require ours.  But glory is why Jesus selected you and me.   Let there be more of it no matter what it takes.

For further reading: Deuteronomy 10:15, 1 Samuel 12:22 Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16, Isaiah 62:12, Romans 9:22-23, 2 Corinthians 2:16, 1 Peter 2:9

All praise and glory to You, Lord Jesus, no matter my circumstances.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 13 May 2020

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house  to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 2:4-5 (NIV).

It’s possible that you got more than you bargained for with Jesus.   Maybe you just wanted His peace.   Maybe you just craved being loved for who you are.   Maybe you simply accepted the truth.   Maybe you just wanted to be truly free.  You still got more than you bargained for.  You accepted Him and He made you a priest, a saint, an apostle.   He made you into a rock on which He’d build His church.   Just like Peter, who wrote these words.

You see, Jesus wants ALL of you.   Not just your Sundays; not just your Sunday best.   He doesn’t simply want you to just try hard, to do better, to make amends.   All those are great things, Godly things even, but they aren’t what God is after.   Jesus doesn’t just want you to submit to Him, to repent for Him, to do anything in isolation or alone.  Again, those may be good things, even things that you want to do for Jesus (and good things He wants for and of you), but that’s not why He put His life into you.

Jesus wants all of you.   Every bit.   The good and the bad; the heartwood and the bark off it.  Jesus wants you to submit everything about yourself to Him because He sees you and me as His priests, as the building blocks of His family here.   We’re not just brothers and sisters, moms and dads, friends and lovers:   we’re His church, His children, His family, His brothers and sisters.   He looks at us as vital, living embodiment of His purpose.   He lived, died, and lives for us, and He asks us to give everything about us over to Him in sacrifice and commitment.

Oh, and stones?   Stones can be broken, crushed.  He was.   He may want that for us.  I bet you didn’t think that was part of the deal when you said, “I believe.”

Jesus wants all of you just like He wanted all of Peter, John, and the others.   He wants it all because He gave all. Only by doing that could He ready us to build His church of followers in the world.   And only by our giving over to Him could we truly commit ourselves to HIm as those living sacrifices He asks for.   He made it possible on the cross, but we live it out because of the empty tomb.   All of Him.   All of us.   We’re who He wants.

For further reading: Exodus 19:6, Proverbs 9:1, Isaiah 42:1, 1 Corinthians 3:9, Philippians 4:18, Hebrews 13:15, 1 Peter 2:56

Lord Jesus, I didn’t fully understand You when I accepted You, but I’m learning.   I give myself over to You for Your good purposes.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 12 May 2020

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV).

If you’re like me, sometimes a glass of milk simply hits the spot.

People who are new to faith in Christ are, according to Peter, like newborn babies needing milk.   They need the Spirit of Jesus to feed them, to keep them alive, to help them grow, to nourish them on things that matter most.  When we get older – when our faith begins to mature – we supposedly crave less milk.   It’s not that we don’t still need His nourishment.   Instead, we can dig deeper into a heartier meal.   We can begin to explore His Word for deeper understanding, for more solid food, for different tastes and different meanings.

Yet every now and then, we should get back to basics.   Every now and then, we need a cleanse, a detox from the world.   The richer food of faith still nourishes us but sometimes our systems need simpler food.   Maybe the ways of the world have made us sick; maybe we need to re-focus on the foundations of believing.   Following Jesus.   Simply listening to Him as He communicates to us.   Simply doing what He asks without searching for more depth.   Just being in the faith.

When that happens, open the fridge (or wherever you keep your Bible), and just focus on the words of Jesus.   Pour yourself a glass of milk and just accept at face value what He’s telling you.  Even the most learned scholars still need to hear, “Jesus loves me this I know.   For the Bible tells me so.”  Drink up and enjoy.   It’s good for your bones; it’s good for your soul.   It’s what you need.

Granted:   there are some people who can’t handle milk.   Some people are intolerant of it.   That’s ok:   He’ll meet you where you are, with whatever you need.   He is the point; the Word is the point, not so much how it gets into you.   If it takes soy milk, then so much the better.   Or almond.   Or even just a glass of water.   Didn’t you know that He told us He’s the living water, too?  In Him are streams of living water that permanently refresh us.   In Africa, they say “water is life,” and how true that is.   Without water, we cannot survive.   Without Jesus, we cannot survive.

Without milk, a young baby cannot survive.   It’s how they are nourished, how they build up muscle, strength, and immunity.  Not much about that changes as we age.   Without the spiritual milk of Jesus, we cannot survive.  With it, what matters most will never die.

For further reading:  Psalm 34:8, John 4:10, 1 Peter 2:4

Lord Jesus, I need Your spiritual nourishment and Your living water.   Fill me today so that I may share with so many others.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 11 May 2020

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  1 Peter 2:1 (NIV).

We don’t have to hold onto the things that hurt us in the past.   And we don’t have to keep doing the things that feed our bad memories, or create new bad memories in addition.  We have the right, the choice, to rid ourselves of destructive feelings, grudges, memories, and most of all behaviors, that draw us deeper into the darkness.   We can choose to cling to the light.   In fact, Jesus tells us through His word that we must not cling to anything but His light, that we are to rid ourselves of things that aren’t of the light.

In fact (again), that’s the basic choice of every follower of Jesus:   light or darkness?  Which will it be?   Yes, most things in life do indeed come down to this binary choice.   Do we draw ourselves towards the one candle shining in the pitch-black hall, or do we choose to remain alone and shrouded in that darkness?   He’s the light; He’s the shining and the power and the warmth while we’re in the darkness.   Will we walk towards His light and be warmed by it or will we choose to remain in the cold darkness?

In our social media-dominated world, that isn’t an easy task to undertake.   Yes, I’m as guilty as anyone else of sharing in the darkness, or just outright sharing it online.   Please forgive me if my doing so has hurt you, or drawn you into the darkness further.   The older I get, the more I think that the world could do without social media.   I don’t want some of the things I said or did in my yesterdays to haunt me, or those I love, or really even just to haunt.   I want them to just stay gone.

But, you see, a wonderful thing about every new day is that it’s a chance to try again.   To do differently what we did poorly the day before.   The things of the past, the things we want gone?   They actually are, even when we still are affected by their consequences.   Jesus paid for them once for all.   As far as the east is from the west, so our sins are removed from us.   Way, way over there, they can’t harm us.   Way, way over there, those sins are cast into darkness and the past, never to return to us to pull us away from God.  Our lives here only last a few decades.   Jesus doesn’t want us to spend them cowering in darkness.  He asks us to let go and let Him.   To put off the misbehaviors of our past and let Him re-tool our present for His good purposes.

In His light today, let’s begin.

For further reading:  Psalm 103:12, Ephesians 4:22, 1 Peter 2:2

Lord Jesus, I follow You in Your light.   Please shine it into me and then through me today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 7 May 2020

For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  And this is the word that was preached to you.  1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV).

Peter is quoting Isaiah here when he mentions “grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”   That’s a quote that was (in Peter’s time) already several hundred years old.  It would be as if you or I quoted someone from the early 1600s today to make our point.   It’s a quote that, most likely, Peter would have heard throughout his life.

It’s poetic imagery.  The blades of grass growing in a field seem innumerable, so many that only God can know their true number.  That’s sort of like the population of mankind.  And grass grows but eventually is cut, or it browns and withers.   Sort of like men and women, you see.  Peter uses Isaiah’s poetic allegory to make the point that we are like blades of grass growing in a field, living our lives under the sun (or the Son) until the time when we wither and die.

And we’re like the wildflowers that grow there as well.   The older I get, the more I enjoy driving down the road and looking at the beautiful wildflowers growing there; thank you Lady Bird Johnson for beautifying our highways.   Here in Texas, springtime brings blankets of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, primroses, and brown eyed Susan’s.   You can drive down almost any highway and see thousands of them.   Set against our blue skies, they’re God’s artwork on a scale no human artist could match.  That’s not just here in America, however.   Drive anywhere in the spring and summer and you’ll see the same thing.  They’re splashes of color and life in what could otherwise be vast fields of green.

They’re an allegory, too.  Their beauty, like ours, doesn’t last long but it’s wonderful while it does, and it lives forever in our hearts.   The flowers are a sight to behold, something to brighten our lives and give splendor to what could be average or dull.  Bluebonnets are only in bloom for a few weeks, then the flowers fall and the plant goes to seed.   We’re only here for a short time to give our beauty to God and to each other, yet we’re here to produce seeds of beauty so that our kind – followers of Christ – may live on beyond us.  The body – the plant – may wither and die, but the beauty – His Word – lives forever.

I wonder if the fields in heaven are full of wildflowers.   One day I’ll see.   Perhaps you and I will stand there admiring them, right beside Peter and Isaiah.

For further reading:  Isaiah 40:6-8, James 1:10-11, 1 Peter 2:1

Lord, thank You for the beauty You give us here in simple fields and flowers.   Thank You for the images You inspire in us using them.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 6 May 2020

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  1 Peter 1:23 (NIV).

My friend, Mark (who is also my pastor), is always saying that “we’re part of heaven now.”   Not just when we die, but here and now, in this temporal life, living on the Third Rock.   We’re not just guaranteed to have a place in heaven because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice:   we’re reaping the benefits of that promise right now.   All that happens because Jesus made it so that we’re part of heaven – God’s adopted children of His Spirit – here where we live now.   We’ve been born twice, once of a physical parent and once of our Spirit-parent.   The life our parents gave us in conception and then birth will perish.   But the life God gives us through faith in His Son allows us to live forever.   Our death from this life is the entrance to the next phase of eternal life.

Yet we’re part of that eternal life right now.   It happened because He who could not be bound by death shared His resurrection with His people who are.

It’s a beautiful thing, you know.   It’s the circle of life as it really is, not just a cool song from the Lion King.   The perishable seeds of our lives give way to the imperishable life of forever.   What’s more, the body that dies on earth will one day be reunited with the spirit that never died but was freed from it for awhile.  Until then, as we live, we produce for God’s community and His Earth.   When we die, the soul is freed to be in paradise with Christ while the body decays here.   And in His good time, the two will be reunited in a life imperishable, living on an earth remade as Eden where sin and pain won’t be present.

We get to live with the knowledge of that now.   What’s better, we get to share that knowledge and especially Jesus’ love with others, helping them to know Him better as well.   He who was and is and is to come, who is God and was with God before all time, guaranteed this for us.   We’re part of heaven now.   It’s how God designed things.  He uses things in this life to refine and, to teach us how to live holy so that we might give love to others and glory to Him in doing so.  We’re part of heaven right here, right now.   Let’s live out today knowing it.

For further reading:  John 1:13, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Peter 1:24

Lord Jesus, You gave us life for here and for later.   You make us part of heaven now so that we might share You with our brothers and sisters.   Teach us the best ways to do this today, then open up opportunities to do it.