Monthly Archives: March 2019

The Firsts: 2 Peter 1 – Quilt Making

NIV 2 Peter 1:3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence…5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.  8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My husband once commented about the oddity of buying yards of pricey fabric and then cutting it up into little pieces and reassembling them to make a quilt.  It’s a labor intensive process and undeniably costly…but at the end of that process you have a beautiful and useful work of art to show for it.  Reading and pondering this portion of Peter’s words brought to mind that process and this awareness: we have God’s pattern and all the supplies we need to make a very special quilt. “God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” – yards and yards of the beautiful fabric of His Word.

Living a Godly life is a process just as making a quilt is.  Even two quilts made from the very same pattern by two different people will look very different. Peter’s words aren’t a list of clever steps you can tick off as they’re accomplished.  They are like pieces of a quilt that require choices to be made as you’re collecting, selecting, arranging and piecing together what often seems like odd, unrelated and even crazy combinations of fabric. Peter’s words describe the pattern God has given to help each of us create a uniquely designed quilt that becomes the beautiful and useful work of art that is our inheritance of faith.

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.”  Follow God’s pattern and Peter’s list; choose, collect, select, arrange and piece together your personal quilt from this fabric of words God has provided for you. “The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”…and your inheritance will become a beautiful quilt of worship.

The Firsts: I Peter 1 – Application

NLT 1 Peter 1:1 This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.  I am writing to God’s chosen people… who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.  2…May God give you more and more grace and peace…3… Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay…8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls… 10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you…12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

I’ve learned these first chapters of Bible are like pieces of a patchwork quilt for “God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners.”  Chapters that are separate and often unique somehow fit together to become an image of Christ so “you love him even though you have never seen him.  Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”  

Each of these chapters are pieces of a quilt meant to become a beautiful and useful part of your “priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” The author’s “messages were not for themselves, but for you” spoken by “those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” 

These first chapters are their God-given record of their relationship to God through Jesus.  That record is their application; exactly what God intended His book should teach us.  Application is where the power of the Bible lies.  Our personal application is pieced together from each of these individual chapters God has given us to complete our transformation.  “The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

The Firsts: James 1 – Words as Worship

NIV 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Not all words are reliable evidence of truth.  What is true is that our words as believers count as evidence of our relationship to Jesus and that requires we “keep a tight rein on [our] tongues.”  James was writing to people just like us who struggle with the temptation to waste our words as weapons to wound or masks to hide behind.

Weaponized words to hide behind are everywhere today.  They’re one of the easiest ways we can be “polluted by the world.” This is James urgent reminder to us that our words are part of our worship.  The words we speak every day have an impact on Jesus’s reputation as as surely as those we speak in church on Sunday.  William Barclay says it this way “…worship is empty and idle unless it sends a man out to love God by loving his fellow-men and to walk more purely in the tempting ways of the world.”

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” [NLT Micah 6:8].  

Those are God’s words.  Amen.

The Firsts: Hebrews 1 – Inheritance

NLT Hebrews 1:1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets.  And now in these final days…he has spoken to us through his Son.”  This is it folks, the absolute truth that has lasted through such a long history that it’s beyond our calculation of time.  Christ is “the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised.” [Hebrews 9:15]  

God has promised you a changed life for today and an inheritance for all eternity.  We have this inheritance because “in these final days, he [God] has spoken to us through his Son” not because of all the do’s, dont’s, could’s and should’s we cling to.  “When he [Christ] “cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” to celebrate your inheritance with you…got it?

The Firsts: Philemon 1 – Grace and Freedom

NASB Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,
16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philemon is clearly the wronged party in this story of slavery and freedom.  The slave Onesimus has effectively stolen his “property” simply by running away from him.  Onesimus ran away hoping to find freedom in the crowded city of Rome. God had a different plan to teach him about a different kind of freedom from a man “now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  The Apostle Paul writes of “my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment.” Onesimus found his freedom in the faith of Christ from a man in chains.

God led Onesimus to Paul in that crowded city.  It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for him to return to the master he’d run away from.  It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for Philemon to accept Paul’s word that Onesimus has become part of the fellowship of faith and “more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.  

What began as a story of slavery and freedom God turned into a blessing of grace and freedom for both Philemon and Onesimus.  

The Firsts: Titus 1 – Practice Purity

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,…15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. [NIV]

The life in which Jesus has chosen to live again for the world to see is ours!      “The hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” is critical to our life today because “to the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.”  The conscious need of those who love Jesus to practice purity in their daily life is the hope of a transformed world view!

We live in a world where we are bombarded on almost every front by impurity and yet the Apostle calls us “to be pure.”  Life in Christ as William Barclay says, is “the offer of God’s power for our frustration, of God’s serenity for our dispeace, of God’s truth for our guessing, of God’s goodness for our moral failure, of God’s joy for our sorrow…we can do nothing except receive.”  

“Now at his appointed season he [God] has brought to light” the reality of our need for purity. Mark 7:15 says “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.[NLT]”  Isolation isn’t the answer to fighting the impurity of the world around us; choosing to live in Christ and practice purity in it is!  We have Jesus, we have the wisdom of the Scripture, we have the promises of God, and most practical of all we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us practice purity.  Practice makes perfect.

The Firsts: II Timothy 1 – Fly!

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,… 3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day…. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Long before I recognized Jesus as “Savior” I believed he was the Son of God.  Those two things are very different but even in those early days I knew enough to ask: “how can you overcome that life teaches you to build a protective shell around yourself?”  That reminded me of this short video.  It’s a visual picture of what’s at the heart of evangelism; the desire to nurture the vulnerability of new life with “the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.“ It’s also a lesson about what the heart of an evangelist looks like; prepared, persistent and present.

Do you remember when you were freed from your protective shell you were stuck in?  Do you remember how helpless and exposed you felt? Was there an “evangelist” who maybe looked like a neighbor or friend who was prepared to nourish you with their “prayers night and day…by the will of God…according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus?”  Maybe today, you’ll have the chance to be an evangelist for someone longing to break out of their shell. This is your reminder: “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard…” Fly!