Archive for the month “May, 2011”

Pondering the Passages: 1 Peter 1:3-9

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So… as I ponder this passage I realize that there is no way that I can get past the first half of verse 3 this week. This half verse alone is so pregnant with truth that I will only focus on it. I’ll try to tackle the rest of the verse next week and then the rest of the passage.

For those of you still pondering with me, I promise there is still meat on the bone for next week. Think! Look! Digest!

As Peter begins his epistle he can’t help but start with praise. He is so overwhelmed by what God has done for him and for us that it overflows from him through his pen to us. This is his starting point.

Question… Is this my starting point when I communicate with others.? Am I so captured by God’s work in me that it has to find release by way of exclamation? Is this your starting point? Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In His great mercy…you probably already know the best definition of mercy that I’m aware of – not getting something that we deserve. Most of us have no real understanding of what we really deserve. When Scripture talks about God’s judgment and God’s wrath and damnation and hell we have no clear comprehension of what the consequences of our sin should have earned us – except for God’s mercy. (The other side of the coin is also true, which Peter talks about later in this passage – we have no real clear comprehension of heaven and of  our eternal inheritance.)

Some of the phrases that Jesus uses when He talks about hell include: eternal fire, wailing and gnashing of teeth, weeping and gnashing of teeth, torment, condemnation. (If gnashing of teeth is anything like listening to grinding of teeth then hell is a horrible place.) Use your sanctified imagination and try to picture yourself experiencing this … forever. My oldest son got 2nd degree burns on his leg when he was about 6. That was enough for me to have a very real appreciation for the danger of fire. The smell of burning skin, the scream that pierced the air, the pain that went along with all of it – and that is just a VERY small glimpse into the torment of hell that will last forever.

This is what we deserve because of our sin – and yet… in His GREAT mercy! God has not given us what we deserve. Instead He has given us “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

This is what I’ll ponder with you next week. So much to think about.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: 1 Peter 1:3b
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 Peter 1:3

Pondering the Passages: Matthew 16:24-28

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red):  24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

The disciples had just heard some news that devastated them... Jesus’ prediction that He would soon be killed. Peter reacted rather strongly to this news (as we might expect from Peter) – and Jesus let him have it with both barrels. He then looks his disciples squarely in the eyes and issues this spiritual gauntlet. Here are a few of the things that I thought about as I pondered this passage:

“If anyone would come after me – Jesus was not twisting His disciple’s arms and making them follow Him – and He is not twisting our arms either. He is making sure that their eyes are wide open and they know what they are getting themselves into. But it is their choice. And it is our choice. There are consequences to both choices just as there is in all of life. He spells out the consequences of “coming after Him”…


“deny himself”
– When you say yes to Jesus you are automatically saying no to a lot of other things. The Christian life is a life of self-denial. There are a lot of things that I would really like to do, in fact that I think I would enjoy doing – that I choose NOT to do because I have said yes to Jesus. Everyday I have to deny myself worldly pleasure because the pleasure of God upon my life is more important.

“take up his cross” – For the early Christians, following Jesus was essentially a death sentence. All but one of the men He was talking to in this passage ended up being martyred – that is, being put to death for their faith in Jesus. We American Christians for the most part have absolutely no idea what this kind of commitment is like. We equate taking up our cross with being willing to wear a cross around our neck. In this sense, our faith has become somewhat of an accessory to our lives – an add-on, so to speak, rather than the driving force behind every decision that we make. We are very good at wearing our faith to impress others but not so good at living our faith to please God.

“follow me” – Following Jesus is not like following somebody on Twitter. You don’t just check in with Him from time to time to see how He is doing. And if you only let Him speak to you in 140 character sound bytes then you’ll miss a lot of what He wants to say. Following Him is more like being in a haunted house and He is leading the way and you are not about to let Him out of your sight. You stick with Him every step of the way because you never know what you might encounter around the next corner. In a lot of ways we live in a haunted world – but following Jesus takes the scariness out of it and allows us to experience the adventure of it.

“whoever wants to save his life will lose it” – Jesus has always been on the side of losers. There are a couple of things that come to my mind here: 1) you have to know that you are lost before you can be found. 2) You have to lose your grip on the all things worldly if you want to be saved. Americans too often find their salvation and satisfaction in things of this world rather than in the One who created the things of this world.

“What can a man gain in exchange for his soul?” Pleasure? Yes! Success? Yes! Fame? Yes! Toys? Yes! Acclaim? Yes!…. Eternal life? No! Joy? No! Applause of heaven? No! Reward from God? No!

We get so caught up in this life that we lose sight of the fact that we were created for Heaven. We forget that “the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory“.

May our choices today reflect the fact that we are living not for today but for THAT DAY!

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 Peter 1:3

Pondering the Passages: John 10:1-10

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red):  1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.  7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

One of the many great passages in the book of John. Probably 2-3 sermons in these 10 verses alone. I will just point out a few things that drew my attention as I pondered the passage.

1) Jesus starts off by saying “I tell you the truth.” Of course we would expect nothing less from Jesus. But we are so used to being lied to by people and the world that it is hard to believe that someone will ALWAYS tell us the truth. Jesus will do this because He IS the Truth!

2) Jesus is both the gate for the sheep and the shepherd of the sheep. Not only must we enter through Him (as the gate) to be saved but we must also follow Him( as the shepherd) to find safety.

3) One of the greatest promises in all of Scripture is found in verse 10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus wants his followers to experience the richness of life not the riches of life. He wants us to live satisfied lives – not dismayed, discontented, or distraught. He wants us to live with purpose and mission – not aimless and wayward.

4) But verse 10 also gives us one of the greatest warnings in Scripture: “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” The key word to me in this dire warning is only. Often we are deceived into believing that God is holding out on us and that a little dance with the devil might be fun and fulfilling. But if we are to believe that Jesus ALWAYS tells us the truth then we need to understand that Satan’s agenda is ONLY to steal, kill, and destroy.

5) Those who belong to Jesus are intent on listening to His voice. If we are His, then it is His voice that captures our attention. It is His voice that we hearken and obey. We will filter out all the noises and distractions of the world around us and do whatever it takes to hear what He is saying. Why? Because we know that He ALWAYS tells us the truth.

6) Not only do those who belong to Jesus clamor to hear His voice but they also “will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  Unfortunately we are not so quick to run away. We linger and listen to “the stranger’s pitch” and see what he has to offer. And before we have a chance to realize what is happening the stranger sets his hook and reels us in and the next thing you know we are being fried up and battered. It is imperative to RUN. Not doing so is just an invitation to the devil to do with us as he pleases. But never forget – his agenda is to steal, kill, and destroy.

I hope you have been intent to ponder these passages we are looking at. They are so rich with truth, promise, and application. And I hope you have also been intent in memorizing the Scripture verses – they will help you to combat and run away from the stranger’s voice and make listening to the shepherds voice that much more familiar to you.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Matthew 16:24-28
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Matthew 16:24

Pondering the Passages: Romans 5:1-8

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): Romans 5:1-8    1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 If you happened to be at our Baptism Service on Sunday night then you heard a preview of some of my ponderings. Marc had asked me to share for a few minutes on “What does the new birth mean for a believer.” As I began pondering our passage I realized it was the perfect passage to look at for this assignment. Just another indication to me of the power of pondering. Now on to the passage…

Paul uses this passage to talk about what is true for believers since they have been justified. In other words, since they have been given new life in Christ. I find at least 9 that I will briefly comment on.

1) Believers have peace (5:1):  Peace with God which translates into peace in the midst of the craziness of life. The kind of peace Paul is talking about here has it’s roots in the Jewish word for peace – shalom. Shalom doesn’t necessarily mean the lack of conflict as much as the presence of God. When the presence of God is pervasive there is peace. There is a lot of truth in the bumper sticker saying – “No Jesus, no peace! Know Jesus, know peace!”

2) Believers have a new Master (5:1): Romans 6:14 says that “sin shall not be your master”  and 6:17 “though you used to be slaves to sin”. 5:1 refers to to the fact that we have Jesus Christ the Lord now reigning in our lives – He is our new Master. The question is not whether we will choose to serve a master, but which master we will choose to serve. Our new birth in Christ means that we have made that choice and now we are FREE to serve our Master rather than a slave to the master of sin – a ruthless and heartless master. To me, it’s kind of a no-brainer which master should be chosen.

3) Believers have gained access to the Father (5:2): Last Friday, Kate Middleton, stood before a pastor and basically said to her prince ” You have chosen me to be your bride. I also choose you to be my husband.” At the moment that they were pronounced man and wife Kate, a mere commoner, was entitled to all the rights and privileges of a royal. At that moment she was granted access into the royal family and from now until forever there will never be anything common about her. She is royalty. So are we. Our new birth has given us access to the Father and there will never ever be anything common about us. We are kids of the King!

4) Believers live under God’s amazing grace (5:2): Here are a few quotes from smarter men than me to illustrate the richness of God’s incredible grace to us…

  • “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” – Jerry Bridges
  • “Grace never ignores the awful truth of our depravity – in fact it emphasizes it. The worse we realize we are, the greater we realize God’s grace.” – Randy Alcorn
  • “Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live. The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out.” – Dwight Moody
  • “Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind.” – A. W. Tozer

5) Believers can live joy-filled lives (5:2,3): Even in the midst of difficulty, tragedy, despair, and pain believers can still experience joy because they know the end of the story. They know that God is in control and that He will use all the suffering we deal with in this lifetime to get us ready for the next. We don’t have to be happy about what we go through but even in hardship our lives can still reflect a faith-fueled joy that will help us persevere as God prepares us for eternity.

6) Believers are not immune to suffering (5:3): One of the great promises of Scripture is not that as believers we get to suffer but that as believers God promises to redeem our suffering. In other words, any suffering that we experience has a purpose. We live in a world that has been devastated by sin and the consequences of sin. Therefore, there is going to be suffering. but God can and will take the suffering that we go through and bring good for us and glory for Him out of it.

7) Believers live with inexplicable hope (5:4,5): Peter calls it a “living hope”. Paul calls it a “hope that will NOT disappoint.” Because of what we have to look forward to in Christ there is ALWAYS reason to hope. ALWAYS a reason to keep plodding along. ALWAYS a reason to anticipate that the best is yet to come. Our hope is not based on some kind of spiritual wishful thinking but on the historically verifiable life, death, and resurrection of the One who has justified us by faith – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

8 ) Believers are embraced by the audacious love of God (5:5,8): Why would I call God’s love audacious? Can you think of anything more bold or more brazen than reaching out to embrace someone who detests and despises you. That’s what the phrase “while we were still sinners” indicates about us. We loved our own ways and hated God’s ways. We thumbed our noses at Him and did what we wanted to do. We turned our backs on him and reveled in our sin. We mocked Him and delighted in iniquity. We were sinners deserving to have the full and complete wrath of God unleashed upon us. And yet… “God demonstrated His love to us.” What an audacious act of love!

9) Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (5:5): Just so there is no misunderstanding, this in no way implies that we are now also gods. There is much teaching afoot today that will tell you that you can become  a god. There is only one God. And for some crazy reason He has chosen to reside in the hearts of those who have been justified  by faith. What this means is that we now have the power of God within us so that we can obey, so that we can love, so that we can unselfishly serve, so that we can worship. It’s kind of like having the fuel to empower us to do what we were created to do. Before we were made right with God (justified) we had no desire for the things of God. But now that He dwells within us our desires have changed. This kind of transformation can only happen from the inside out. Praise God for his Holy Spirit.

I hope you spent some time this week really soaking up these words from the Apostle Paul. If you did then you should have a much better understanding of what the new birth is all about – or as Paul says of what it means to be justified. And you should have lots of reasons to fall on your knees and exult in the One who demonstrated His love for you even while you were still a sinner.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Weeks Passage: John 10:1-10
Next Week’s Memory Verse: John 10:10

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