Fruitful (2 Peter)

2Peter 1:5-8 ESV For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, (6) and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, (7) and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (8) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have a peach tree out back. It’s produced plump and juicy peaches before, however this past year it struggled to produce smaller, shriveled up peaches that weren’t much larger than the pit. If we want to see real fruit on the peach tree again we will need to do some work. We need to prune the tree, work around the roots and perhaps add some fertilizer.

The tree never really stopped being a peach tree. The environment and lack of maintenance caused it to produce shriveled fruit rather than large juicy peaches. Our faith works in the same way. We may have a saving faith in Jesus Christ, but for faith to be fruitful in our lives it needs to accompanied by character transformation. Actively trusting in the promises of God should produce these character attributes that lead to, or are a demonstration of, God’s love in our lives. We should be growing towards maturity. In the Christian life that means that the fruit of the Spirit is produced in our lives in greater and fuller quantities.

Father, thank you for faith. Thank you for the fruit/ evidence of the spirits work in our lives. I pray that we grow more fruitful in our following after you. I ask that you would see true growth in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on 2 Peter

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Don’t Just Stand There, Use Your Gifts (1 Peter 4-5)

1Peter 4:10 ESV As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

In my few years of ministry I have noticed that sometimes folks get discontented with others in the areas of their gifting. Those gifted in organization tend to wonder why the Sunday School Class, Children’s ministry, etc. isn’t more organized. Those gifted in hospitality wonder why they haven’t been invited over more often to others houses. The list goes on. We see the needs most clearly in the areas that we are able to help. We need to be careful and observant that our discontent moves us to healthy action rather than undue criticism.

We each have at least one gift from the Holy Spirit that we are called to use to bless the body of Christ. How are you serving others with the gifts that God has given you? Your gifting is from God. You may think it’s just personality, your genes, or you are just the way you are, but don’t miss the fact that God has entrusted you with at least one spiritual gift. You were given spiritual gifts for a purpose. Your gifting wasn’t given to you for you to be a judge or a critic but for you to serve one another in his name.

Your gifting is for others. You received it, but it’s not for you to keep to yourself. You don’t exercise spiritual gifts in isolation. They weren’t given to be hidden or never used. Spiritual gifts are to be exercised in the power of the Holy Spirit for the Glory of God.

Father, thank you that you have entrusted us with spiritual gifts that we might serve one another. Help us to discern when and where we need to use our gifts so that we might be good stewards of the gifts you have given us. Thank you again for your grace that empowers us to minister to one another. Let us exercise our gifts to their fullest capacity for your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on 1 Peter 4-5

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We Were Called To Get Along (1 Peter 1-3)

1Peter 3:8-9 ESV Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (9) Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

How incredible is it that sometimes the people that fight the most have the most in common. Brothers and sisters can argue and fight like cats and dogs. Indeed some churches are known more for there arguing than they are for their love. This shouldn’t be so!

Peter challenges believers to fight for unity. We can’t all be in control. So we seek to come to the right understanding of things together. We look to have sympathy for one another and genuinely care about what others are going through. We seek to love our brothers and sisters in s fiercely loyal sort of way. We are able to empathize with others and the situation they are going through. And we seek to serve one another in humility.

When others don’t demonstrate that behavior towards us it doesn’t give us a right to forget those attitudes and retaliate. Rather we are to continue to demonstrate love for one another by returning blessings on those who curse us. Think about that. When is the last time you asked God to bless someone who mistreated you, yelled at you, or called you names?

Father, thank you for your grace that changes everything. Thank you that you have called us together, to love one another and work in unity. I ask that you would give us grace to honor one another, speak well of one another, bless one another, and strive to glorify you in all things, even when someone has been mean to us. Thank you for grace, may we experience it and demonstrate it in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on 1 Peter 1-3

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Sincere Demonic Wisdom(James)

James 3:13-18 ESV Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (14) But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. (15) This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (16) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (17) But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (18) And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

I had a friend who was so puffed up with pride that it was annoying. What was worse, is that like me, this man had been called to gospel ministry. It drove me crazy that someone so prideful could attempt gospel ministry. Didn’t he know that he should be humble? Another lowly friend and I wanted to help my prideful friend off his high horse and bring him back to his senses. We met and discussed how to bring our prideful friend down to earth.

We thought we knew what to do, but as pious as we were, we wanted to check all the boxes on what we should do. We realized in our frenzied discussion of our friends pride that we hadn’t prayed for him. So we prayed for him and his pride. Then we realized that we hadn’t stopped to pray for ourselves and confess our own sins. So we began to confess our sins and somewhere in the confession something broke lose (James 5:16). Our prayers for our own sins became more fervent as our eyes were open to more and more sin issues in our lives. We soon came to the issue of pride and the Holy Spirit made it clear that the issue of pride we had seen in our brother was actually an issue of jealousy and pride in our own hearts. We came to tears and eventually came to our brother to confess our wrong.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. I learned that sometimes bitterness, jealousy, and pride in my own heart can cause me color how I see the motives of others. If I’m not careful, I’ll think I’m on a righteous crusade to set a brother straight, when what is really at work in my heart is sinful, disgusting, and demonic. I can be sincere, thinking I’m doing the Lord’s work, but actually be working against Him.

James reminds us today that there are two types of wisdom. They produce two different fruits. We should examine our hearts to see if we genuinely want to build others up in the faith or tear them down. The one so jealous for the “truth” that he wants to tear others down might be fighting for the wrong team.

Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for brothers and sisters to whom we can confess our sins and who will pray for us. Thank you for direction on checking our hearts. It is so easy to operate in the world as the world operates. We need your accountability and grace every day. Let us be peacemakers filled with godly wisdom today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on James

Expositional Devotions through James

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Faithful Men and Women (Hebrews 11-13)

Hebrews 11:6 ESV And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 12:2 ESV looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

We often learn by following someone else’s example. We need to be shown what something looks like when it is lived out. We might grasp what faith is on an intellectual level, but demonstrating it in our own life in the midst of persecution might be challenging. Especially if we are young in the faith.

Writing to a young church who is experiencing persecution, the writer of Hebrews demonstrates what faith in God looks like. He examines the lives of different individuals throughout the Old Testament. He demonstrates the core aspects of faith (believing that God exists and he rewards those who seek him – 11:6), through the lens of different Old Testament saints.

In chapter twelve we are challenged to not be lazy, but to diligently lay aside the things that would stop us from demonstrating real, biblical faith in our own life. We are reminded that we are not the first to discover faith in the midst of persecution. And we are also reminded that Jesus has blazed the trail ahead of us when it comes to trusting God the Father in the mist of suffering. Indeed He is the, “Founder and Perfecter of our faith” (12:2).

My big takeaways today were two fold. 1. In Preaching and teaching, it doesn’t hurt to use examples and “case studies” to demonstrate doctrine as applied to everyday life. Indeed this might be exactly what a less mature audience (5:12) might need. 2. Am I laying aside the things that hinder me from pursuing God in faith? What “weight” can I lay aside? For me it’s not watching a few hours of TV this week that I might normally watch, so I might have time to study the Word of God more.

Father, thank you for your word. Thank you that you demonstrate what faith looks like. Thank you for the stories we have in the scriptures of so many individual who have walked with you. Thank you that we can learn what faith looks like. Thank you that we can lay aside the things that hinder us from growing in a relationship with you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

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Consider One Another (Hebrews 9-10)

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, (25) not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The church is the people, not the place or the programs. Sometimes the church meets in a certain place and has programs, but do not be mistaken, the church is the people. There is something special that happens when we gather together. We come in as individuals with strengths and weaknesses. We come in with different personalities, spiritual gifts and talents. Yet, as we gather together for the purpose of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism we find fulfilment in the gospel and in one another. God has given us our brothers and sisters in Christ to aide in our spiritual development.

As a pastor I get a front row seat to see the congregation gathered together each Sunday. I see folks going through trials in life blessed by those who use their talents to sing and introduce a new song or hymn to the congregation. I see those who are discouraged become encouraged by the words of faithful friends. I see the formerly lonely now greeted with handshakes, hugs, and high-fives. I see individuals praying with one another through times of crisis and celebration. I see tears of sorrow made more bearable by those who silently come along side and offer comfort. I see a lot of things.

Sometimes we are tempted to think when we skip out on meeting together that the only things we are missing are the songs and the sermon, but what we really miss is the life of the church. We are told to consider one another. This text was originally written for a church that was suffering persecution. They weren’t able to meet in public places. Yet they are told not to forsake assembling together… because they needed each other. They needed to be there for their brothers/sisters and they needed their brothers/sisters there for them. We are foolish today if we don’t think that we need each other as well. We should strive to meet with our brothers and sisters in Christ whenever we can.

Father, thank you for your church. Thank you that you have given us brothers and sisters in Christ. Give us grace to know how to help, encourage, and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ when they need is. May they always be there for us in real and tangible ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

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There is Mercy! (Hebrews 6-8)

Hebrews 8:12 ESV For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

I don’t know where you are in your relationship with the LORD, but how great to know that He is a God of mercy. How good it is to know that my sins are forgiven and indeed forgotten by God. We don’t deserve this kind of mercy. We could never earn it. The only way to receive it is as a gift from God.

Father, thank you for your overwhelming mercy today. There is so much to consider in your word, but I marvel that you should love me like this to forgive my sins. Thank you for your overwhelming goodness that is so evident in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

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Milk or Meat? (Hebrews 3-5)

Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, (13) for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (14) But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

We set different levels of expectations on individuals due to their age or experience. For example we might expect a 1 year old to crawl and start taking first steps. We might expect a 15-16 year old to be interested in driving and learning to drive. We might expect a 2nd grader to tie their shoes. Each of these abilities/ milestones open them up to even more freedom and experiences down the road.

The author of Hebrews has some down the road information the he wants to share with this church, but they are too immature. They won’t be able to stomach it, because they are still dependent on others to spoon feed them the world of God. He wants to give them milk, but they are delayed in their development. They can’t take the next steps, because they haven’t taken the first steps to grow.

So often we look at spiritual giants and imagine that they took a leap to get there. The reality is that they just obeyed the LORD to take the next step in their growth and the next step, and the next step, through to maturity. We can look at the other end of the spectrum and see those who for whatever reason failed to take the next step towards maturity and so languish as spiritual infants. The question before us is what will we do with what we have been given? Will we grow to maturity?

Father, thank you that you give us milk and meat of your word. Thank you that you have given us teachers and pastors to lead us to maturity. We pray for grace to take the next steps to grow in faith that we might not need the milk, but can go straight to the meat. I pray that we would be those who press on and grow to maturity in Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post on Hebrews 3-5

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He is Able to Help (Hebrews 1-2)

Hebrews 2:18 ESV ) For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Pastoring is a difficult calling. It has a tremendously high burnout rate in America. There are many who begin in ministry, but few who end there. There are so many aspects of what a pastor does that are difficult to convey to those who have never done it. It helps to speak to other men who are currently serving or who have served as a pastor before because they can help shed light on some of the challenges you face. Fellow pastors can sympathize and pray with insight because they know the difficulty of the calling.

When it comes to dealing with temptation we have the advantage of being able to talk with Jesus. It’s not as though Jesus doesn’t know the struggle of temptation. When he stepped into humanity he faced temptation, yet was able to resist (Matthew 4). He can intercede for us with insight. He knows what temptation is like. He can also give us grace to prevail as one who has succeed in overcoming temptation.

That’s the point here. Jesus isn’t just a perfect sacrifice for our sins. He also is a perfect priest who offers the sacrifice and stands between us and the Father. We can pray with confidence in Jesus’ name because he has walked in a sinful world and experienced first hand what temptation is like.

In context, the larger point here is that Jesus is better than the angels. He didn’t come as an angel to intercede for fallen angels. He doesn’t need to intercede for those who haven’t fallen. He has come for fallen humanity who trusts in him with simple faith like Abraham. Accept no substitute for the one true mediator between God and man, that is Christ Jesus. No one else has both the divine and human nature. No one else knows both temptation and the victory of a sinless life. There is no other way to God but through Jesus.

Father, thank you that Jesus is my mediator. Thank you that he knows my weakness in temptation but has also overcome temptation. There is salvation in no other name. I’m provoked to praise today when I consider that your love for us is greater than I can imagine as I see a glimpse of just how much Jesus took on that I might come to you in Faith. I rejoice to be able to pray In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on Hebrews 1-2

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Motives Matter (Philemon)

Philemon 1:14 ESV but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

Motives matter. Paul wrote this letter to Philemon about Onesimus, a slave (indentured servant) that had stolen from Philemon and ran away to Rome. While in Rome Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a Christian. He then begins to help Paul and is being discipled. It’s a great working relationship, Onesimus is growing in the Lord and Paul has an assistant. But there is a problem, Onesimus’ past can’t be left in the past. He is still unreconciled to his former boss and he legally owes him for everything he had stolen. What to do?

Paul had a choice on what to do. He could have sent a letter presuming that it was okay for Onesimus to serve as Paul’s helper in Rome. He was an apostle, the polite thing to do would be to let the matter go. If he did that, Philemon might feel like his hand was forced in the matter and be a little bitter. Onesimus also wouldn’t have an opportunity to really address his past sins and how they affected others. He wouldn’t really be reconciled to Philemon. And Philemon wouldn’t really be given an opportunity to forgive Onesimus and demonstrate grace.

So rather than opting for the practical, ends-justify-the-means, pragmatic logic, Paul goes for the uncomfortable, but right approach. He sends Onesimus back, giving Philemon an opportunity to forgive him and send him of his own free will. It gives Onesimus an opportunity to look his former employer and man he stole from, in the eye and ask for forgiveness. It gives Paul an opportunity to honestly ask for assistance in the form of a helper from Philemon’s estate known as Onesimus.

Motives really matter. Sometimes to grow in our relationship with Christ we need to embrace the difficult steps of doing the less pragmatic, but right thing. We may need to address sin in our lives that has affected others. We may need to ask help and assistance in non-manipulative ways. We may need to simply offer forgiveness and entertain the pleas of those who have hurts us. We don’t really know how the rest of this drama unfolded, but we do know that because Paul didn’t cut corners that He, Philemon and Onesimus all had an opportunity to grow in Christ because of it.

Father, thank you for the grace to address one another. Show us how to handle our past sins and seek repentance and reconciliation. Give us grace to forgive those who have sinned against us. Show us how we can honor you in how we deal with others. Thank you for how the gospel transforms every area of our live. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Previous Post on Philemon

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