Category Archives: Wednesday

The Recipe of Evil

2 Peter 2:17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 

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This is Peter’s reminder that God will not ignore false prophets or bold and arrogant false teachers that continue to be a threat to the real freedom He offers. It’s a grim, but necessary record of the consequences that accompany deliberate sin. The skillset of evil is designed to cleverly manipulate truth.   The word “evil” barely covers how bad “these people,” are who purposefully seduce others with demonic lies while luring them into believing they’re offering freedom.  “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”   

“Think of a traveller in the desert being told that ahead lies a spring where he can quench his thirst and then arriving at that spring to find it dried up and useless. Think of the husbandman praying for rain for his parched crops and then seeing the cloud that promised rain blown uselessly by.”a   This is not freedom.  This is the recipe of evil created to enslave people: it changes the character of the past, alters the present with suspicion and finally destroys the expectation of hope for the future.

a Barclay commentary on 2 Peter

Confirming your Witness

2 Peter:1:17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.  19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. NLT

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The prophets spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit of things they had not themselves seen.  Peter is a witness that speaks from personal observation and experience that confirms what he what he has previously only known by word-of-mouth from the prophecy of the prophets. 

Prophecy is “pre-seeing” but prophesying is something different. Prophesying is not just knowing what is predicted but speaking of the witness of the Holy Spirit in your personal observation and experience.  I write to you today from personal awareness of the gap that exists between all I know should be a part of my life of faith and the reality of my heart’s desire to honestly be able to prophesy Peter’s encouragement to you.  “You must pay close attention to what they wrote,for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. NLT

That is the one relationship that fills the gap between what we know but have not personally experienced and what we speak. That’s what makes the words from these other witnesses the prophesy of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives,
and that is what confirms the truth of our witness.  

Orchestrating

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.  NIV

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There are two words that are the mystery of God we all deal with in our feeble attempts to understand what is  humanly unknowable. I call them flashpoint words – preordained and predestination.  Neither of them is in this passage but as I read they are what came to my mind.  The word “orchestrating” is how I deal with them as part of the natural system put into place during, and even before, the time of creation that includes “everything” I do know.  God is in control. God is ever-present.  God knows all things. 

“Orchestrating” is more than those two flashpoint words. They are only a mysterious part of the music of the Sovereignty of God. Imagine God as the composer and conductor directing each of these parts of His symphony of faith. The music begins with the conductor.  You want to see faith?  Let me bring in goodness…  Now in the flow of His personal arrangement for His creation each of those lovely parts is brought in to enhance the music of life.  Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness and mutual affection are added at just the right moment as the overall music swells to the beautiful conclusion that explains everything God pre-ordained and predestined as He composed His symphony – LOVE.

“Rest” is a Relationship

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  ESV

This morning I was thinking about an article I’d read by Billy Grahama that referenced this verse from Matthew.  It was only one part of the big truth the article contained but it was the catalyst that opened my eyes to a new idea about that one last word…”rest.”  

It’s such a simple revelation but I think it’s a meaningful one.  Life, even a privileged one involves labor.  The good life certainly has moments that are heavy laden.  We know the Word is a reliable place we come to find rest in Jesus.  The daily reading of the Word is a blessing.  We plan to read daily and we’re frustrated with ourselves when we don’t do it.  We know that devotional time seems to be impacted by…well…everything! 

There will be circumstances when your “daily” devotion may fail you but your rest is not dependent on that circumstance.  Rest is a relationship with Jesus and His devotion never fails you.  THAT dear friend is His perfect provision that overcomes circumstances that interrupt best-laid plans.  Jesus’s relationship with you is what makes it possible for you to enjoy the “rest” of your day…today, everyday and forever.

a https://decisionmagazine.com/the-three-invitations-of-christ/

Dear Friend,

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. NIV

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Dear Friend,
Be alert and watchful, of sober mind and spirit.  The devil is not an adversary content with luring you into sin but one who is intent on your complete destruction.  All my children are united in this struggle at this time of suffering…but I am the God of all grace who has called you beyond death to eternal glory with me.  I’ve given you faith to make you strong beyond your own ability to stand firm and resist.  I myself will support and strengthen you and make it happen.  Stay in toucha.

a A composite of ESV, NIV, NLT and NASB versions

Who Me?

I Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered [died] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which [the Spirit, in whom] he went and proclaimed [preached] to the spirits in prison, 20 because [when] they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. ESV

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Truthfully, I sometimes ignore footnotes when I read Scripture but this short passage of two verses with four [footnotes] caught my attention.  The footnotes have emphasized the intensity of their meaning and my curiousity.

We know “Christ [died]!
We know Christ died as “the righteous for the unrighteous”
We know Christ died for a purpose, “that he might bring us to God”
We know Christ was “made alive in the spirit”
We know THAT is [the Spirit, in whom] Christ [preached] to the spirits in prison, [when] they formerly did not obey

Now here’s where it gets interesting to think about.
Whose “spirits”? What “prison”?  Who me?

I know John 6:44 No one is able to come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me attracts and draws him and gives him the desire to come to Me, and [then] I will raise him up [from the dead] at the last day.  [AMPC]
I know John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. ESV
I know John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: ESV
I know Romans 8:9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. [NASB]

That Spirit of Christ spoke conviction and truth to my spirit when I was imprisoned by self imposed ignorance, sufficiency and disobedience.
Yes, thank God it was me.  Was it you too?

Optional Ending

I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. [ESV]

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I’ve Been Healed – by Shirle Bedient circa late 1980s
It’s lonely Lord, with people all around when no one knows what’s really deep inside.  Give me the courage not to hide my hollow life from you for by your wounds my lonely heart is healed.
I’ve been healed, I’ve been healed, praise the Lord
for by His wounds I have been healed.
The guilt I bear is heavy on my heart.  I want to hide my sin and shame from you.  Lord, I’m not worthy but forgive me, show me once again that by your wounds my sins have all been healed.
I’ve been healed, I’ve been healed, praise the Lord
for by His wounds I have been healed.
My spirit Lord is sometimes very low, for I forget just where my strength comes from.  Remind my heart to sing your praises all of my days, for by your wounds my spirit has been healed.
I’ve been healed, I’ve been healed, praise the Lord
for by His wounds I have been healed.

Earlier this Spring a little-known Gospel trio, The Followers, had their 40-ish reminiscence reunion and we recorded this song, from the “old” days.  I hope you ‘ll listen to the audio file all the way to the end because it’s the very end that inspired the object lesson of this post.  Many years have passed since I wrote this song but the lyrics still reflect truth; hiding, guilt and anxiety are realities of everyday life but “praise the Lord, for by His wounds” we can be healed.  Jesus has given us access to an optional ending.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” [and this is key] to guarantee every day our life could be “returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul…that we might die to sin…”  That is the daily process the Lord has provided to teach us how to”live to righteousness.”  That’s the reality that makes healing and laughter the “optional” ending to a life of hiding, guilt and anxiety.

A Visible Part

I Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  ESV

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At one point in time I took daily devotional walks and would pick up a stone [mostly unremarkable] everyday to put in a jar at home as a reminder to me of the purpose of the walk.  I’ve collected stones for many years now and they have become a visible part of my living room decor.  Most are just plain stones I’ve either found or been given but there are some I’ve purchased because they’re polished and show the beauty of what is underneath their natural exterior.  Both have meaning to me.  And therein lies the reality that makes this Word live for me. 

A stone is not like a book that’s known by it’s cover.  The significance of a “living stone” is this: “in the sight of God,” He saw the beauty beneath your natural exterior and gathered you up from the rubble pile of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all slander, to be a “living stone” in His  “spiritual house.”  You were purchased and polished by Him and His Word to be a very visible part of “a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” …in plain sight.

 

You Shall…

I Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” NASB

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We’ve seen the reality of many people who’ve chosen to overrule their natural anxiety during this coronavirus.  People in many places and many jobs prepared their minds for action, and with sober spirits were willing to do what they were called to do.  Some have openly done that in the name of Christ but others have come forward out of an intuitive obedience and goodness they’ve not yet assigned to Jesus.  But…they’ve revealed a greater truth that I don’t want any of us to miss. 

Some might call that the human desire of goodness.  I am only an observer but I see an impact on too many hearts to believe only human goodness is involved here.  Hearts have NOT been been called out of familiar patterns of life by the power of an enemy virus but by the intuitive memory of their Creator.  Our hearts in this exile are being reshaped by God, NOT coronavirus!

Our hearts have witnessed something about holiness that in our human ignorance we never expected to see.  The power of holiness isn’t always clearly identified but it’s never absent.  We’ve seen a deeper truth that still motivates the intuition of the human heart to respond.  “…Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 

Corporate Grief

I Peter: 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

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We are all are experiencing corporate grief right now.  Many of us are fortunate enough to only experience it second-hand through TV coverage of Covid-19 but there are so many more who are terrifyingly closer to it.  God bless them.  God bless us all.  Even from a distance we see the evidence of grief that impacts hearts in varied ways.  We see the productive side through testimonies of determined sacrifice and service.  We see tears of courage that will not bow to anxiety and loss.  We hear real stories of creative compassion that finds ways to bridge the circumstances of isolation in life and death.  We also see willful denial that balks at being told what we should be doing.  We see angry protests redefined as personal freedoms.  We see choosing risk over reality because it’s beyond the walls that isolate us in our own homes and neighborhoods.  These are how varied the responses are that define corporate grief during this very real trial.

All the elements are in place right now for Jesus to redeem the evidence of our corporate grief and make it productive, not destructive.   Grief that teaches us to put the other “person” back  into “personal” lives. Grief that reveals Jesus to the hearts of those who love, serve, weep and mourn as well as those deny and protest.  

Lord Jesus redeem our grief so that it will not be what defines our hearts, but what refines them.  May it be “though you have not seen him[Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  May it be so!