Monday, December 31, 2018

Devotional: God’s Standards For Daily Life #1, Matthew 5:21-32

Outline of Matthew 5.21-32

In the rest of Matthew 5 Jesus continued to reveal what living out the Torah according to what God really intended means. It is not enough just to agree with Jesus. We must imitate the way Jesus approached daily life in our closest relationships. Jesus gives six examples in the chapter of his very stringent application of the Torah. God eternally judges based on the motivation of the heart, not just the action. We may seem okay on the outside but the law judges unjust anger, lust or coveting, betrayal (divorce), integrity (oaths), what we really love (retribution or resistance) and what we really value (love for enemies). Jesus calls us to carefully consider, not just what we do, but our motivations for being and doing, and humbly commit to imitation of Christ in the power of the Spirit. In the first three examples we see that God wants peaceful relationships that deal with anger appropriately; service rather than exploitation of one another; and marriages that reflect the committed love within the Trinity. 

In Jesus’ first example we see that God calls us to attitudes and actions that create peace, not conflict. (5:21-26). Here Jesus corrects the Pharisee’s misunderstanding that God only judged the action, murder, and not the attitude, anger. It is not enough before God just to refrain from homicide because the anger itself is murderous in principle. Anger is dangerous because it leads to actions that will be judged by society and, ultimately by God. It must be dealt with quickly before it destroys relationships. First, it needs to be recognized as sin and honestly confessed before God. Then, you must do whatever is necessary to do to make the relationship right.. If you are the offended party you must forgive and deal with the issue in a way that will benefit everyone involved. If you have wronged someone make it right whatever that takes. Malicious anger is so evil and destructive, emotionally, physically and spiritually, that we must get rid of it before we murder ourselves with it. Forgive each other for no reason but God’s mercy and do whatever it takes to be at peace with others.

Jesus, next, uses male-female relationships to show that God desires relationships that serve, rather than exploit one another. (5:27-30) Again, Jesus is correcting a misunderstanding that only the act of adultery will be judged. It is not just the action that concerns God, but the selfish lust or greed that leads to the action. God desires a “pure heart” (5:8). To be pure in heart is to do everything to glorify God and serve others. Instead, lust or greed focuses on self and exploits others by using them for one’s own benefit. God calls us to purify the desires of our hearts by filling our minds with his word and by disciplining our bodies to keep busy and focused on doing the good things God has called us to do. This requires daily submission to God, honest confession, regular prayer and accountability to God and others in the body of Christ.

The third example of God’s standards for daily life is illustrated by the commitment of a godly marriage. (5:31-32). Again Jesus is correcting a misunderstanding, that Torah approved of divorce.(Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Instead, Jesus pointed out that Torah was regulating divorce in order to protect its victims from a sinful spouse. Divorce was never part of God’s original plan. It’s caused by sin and is sin. It was permitted by God to protect the offended one (mainly the wife in the patriarchal culture of the day) from an unfaithful spouse or spousal abandonment. Marriage is the ultimate picture of what godly relationships should look like: people committed to one another; able to trust one another totally; a loving ministry team perfectly fitted and brought together by God.

This is the standard that Jesus taught and lived out in his life. When Jesus was hurt and misused he didn’t give vent to His anger. When he was personally hurt he said “father forgive them” and he kept the door to relationship open as he reached out with God’s mercy. Even when he got angry he dealt with it quickly and appropriately confronting those in the wrong so they could be restored to relationship. Jesus was surrounded by women but never, ever exploited one of them in any way. He loved them so much that he wouldn’t even think about using one of them to satisfy himself. He was so focused on what God wanted Him to be and do he wouldn’t be distracted by his own interests. Jesus gave His life for us and sits at the right hand of God meeting our every need so that we, can be what God wants us to be. That is what Jesus did. That is what we should do too.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Owen Christmas Letter 2018

2018 Christmas Card

I know our Christmas card this year is a little "weird." We just wanted to point out what God has done for us in 2018. Our gift from God this Christmas was continued life and health. Last year at this time we had just returned home from my extended stay at Stanford Hospital for a stem cell transplant. I was confined to the house because of my weakened immune system. Joyce was recovering from a fall in the parking lot which broke her glasses and beat her up pretty badly. What a difference a year makes! Both of us are able to get out and enjoy celebrating the Christmas season this year. Last year we were the sick ones being ministered to by the carolers. Last night we were able to go Christmas caroling. We have also been to a few Christmas services and programs. We are looking forward to spending time with family over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

We are also thanking God for...

  1. Continued clear PET scans and blood tests. We have the big scan coming up in January. We are confident and praying that it will confirm that we are "one-year cancer-free" a major milestone.
  2. Our bill at Stanford is gone. We now owe 0$ on a bill that was $473,000 at the beginning of the month. Joyce said "it feels like we won the lottery."  We thank God for the amazing provision!

So now we are looking ahead to 2019 and are wondering where God is going to take us. I will still be officially in recovery but we are looking forward to being much more active in ministry in the near future. We are available still for sharing our ministry, preaching, teaching etc. in 2019. We would love to fellowship with you. Our schedule is wide open. Please contact me at if you would like us to visit. We will be speaking at the morning service at Gateway Bible Church in Scotts Valley California  on December 30 and at the evening service at Gold Country Baptist Church on January 6th.

May God give you a blessed time celebrating the incarnation of Jesus and a joyful 2019.

God Bless

Dave and Joyce

Devotional: God’s Standards For Kingdom Living, Matthew 5:13-20

Outline of Matthew 5.13-20

In the rest of chapter 5 Jesus challenges those who would be His disciples with some very hard, perhaps hyperbolic, teaching about our relationship to God's law. The point is that legalistic fulfilling of the letter of the law is not enough. God wants total transformation of our hearts, goals,and desires to match His character and that we value His kingdom above our own desires and even our own needs. It is not enough just to agree with Jesus or believe the right things about him. Faith means that we follow Jesus without reservation and humbly commit to imitation of Christ in the power of the Spirit. Faith opens up God’s resources to us and allows God to make his home in us. It overwhelms us with the beauty of God’s grace and love so that we want to be different and then gives us the power to be different. What God wants from us is a love relationship with Jesus, guided by the revelation of him in the Bible and practiced publicly.

In verses 17-20 Jesus corrects some misunderstandings about God’s revelation to his people in the Torah which also apply to the revelation of the New Testament. The bottom line is that the whole revelation of God in the Bible is about Jesus, leads us into relationship with Jesus, and is only effective when actualized in our lives by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. In these four verses Jesus gives four principles about how God’s revelation in scripture enables us to live out Jesus’ character and actions.

First, Jesus is the embodiment, goal and direction of every word of the Bible. (5:17) Jesus was not throwing away the Torah. Its principles still apply. But they all point to him. Jesus fulfilled the law by living it out perfectly. Jesus fulfilled the law by providing a way for it to change us from the inside-out. Jesus fulfills the law in our lives by giving us the Spirit who works it into our lives. Being like Jesus is the goal of the law and he provides the direction and the power for that.

Secondly, Jesus promises that God will accomplish everything he promises in his word. (5:18) Until “heaven and earth pass away” God is working in your life to accomplish every little detail of his plan for your life and for the entire universe.He will destroy evil, and present us to the Father transformed into the likeness of the Son. Each one of us participates in this righteousness now as we submit to Jesus’ direction in the power of the Spirit and let it lead us into deeper relationship in Christ.

Third, God calls to a deeper level of obedience at the level of priorities, commitment and attitude; not just adherence to an external standard. (5:19) Then he promises reward based on our heart commitment to these standards. God is preparing us for greater service in his eternal kingdom, and there will be levels of authority (“least, greatest”) there. Your obedience to God’s Word and commitment to emulating and following Christ will have effect on your eternal lifestyle. As we submit to the Word, read the Word, let the Spirit activate the Word in our lives, and teach the Word of God to others, then we grow into Christ who is the embodiment of the Word and are made ready for what is coming.

Finally, Jesus says that a righteousness imposed from the outside in is not enough. The standard for entrance into God’s Kingdom is perfection (5:20), God’s character. Our real problem is our corrupt heart; rules can never deal with that. Thus, we need Jesus’ righteousness which guarantees our entrance into the kingdom, the Spirit’s power to provide for our growth into Christ and ability to serve him, and the Father’s love that guarantees that his plan will be completed to make us perfect in the image of Christ.

Jesus tells us what that this looks like in verses 13-16. We need to live lifestyles (salt) that make people thirsty for God; lifestyles that display changed hearts in Godly relationships, words and action. We need to be light that shows Jesus to others, a lamp that teaches by words and example what Jesus is like and what he wants from us. We must be a “city on a hill,” a shining example of what relationship with God is all about that provides a place where hurting people can come for guidance, protection, and sanctuary. True Christianity cannot be kept private. We should live a life that says, “Here I am, I’m not perfect yet but I’m growing. Do you see Jesus in me?”

You can choose to live by your own power, by rules and external standards which can never please God. Or you can choose to live by Christ’s righteousness, trusting in His death and resurrection for your eternal destiny, living daily in submission to his Word and by the power of His Spirit. This is the kind of righteousness that will create the image of Jesus in you and allow you to experience kingdom living now. This is the kind of righteousness that will make you salty, creating a thirst for Jesus in those who come in contact with you and will make you a light that God’s people flock to for direction, care and safety. Walking with Jesus is a moment by moment choice to be with Him, submit to Him, love him and serve Him.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Devotional: Attitudes for Kingdom Living, Matthew 5:1-12

Outline of Matthew 5.1-12

In Chapters 5-7 Matthew presents Jesus as a “greater than Moses” revealing a fulfillment of the Torah under the new covenant.  This section is probably a summary of Jesus’ teaching and the content here was likely spoken by Jesus many times in many venues. He emphasizes the shocking nature of the teaching's requirements to be a kingdom disciple, but also emphasizes that the entire section must be understood in a context of grace. The point is that Jesus fulfills the purpose of the Torah by completely embodying the character of YHWH that it pointed to. So, the disciple of Jesus must live the kind of self-giving lifestyle that Jesus lived. We cannot live for ourselves or for our own personal agendas, but instead be focused on God's will and kingdom, even if that brings persecution and death. Jesus knew that kind of righteousness, that brings God’s blessing, is planted in our hearts by God as we trust him. It comes out from within and produces Jesus’ character and actions in us.

Matthew, in 5:1-12, emphasizes that true righteousness comes from the inside (attitudes) and then works itself out in our actions. It is not imposed from the outside by rules and laws. It begins in our hearts and is received by faith. It then produces Christlike lifestyle, conduct and relationships as we cooperate with God’s grace. So in verses 3-11 Jesus details the attitudes we should cultivate in our lives as Christians to cooperate with God as He works righteousness and its blessings into our lives.

Jesus begins with the right perspective about ourselves in verse 3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Being right before God begins with a humility that recognizes my dependence on God. I am neither self-sufficient nor am I in control. I trust Christ and Christ alone for all my needs and submit my plans, ideas, and goals to Him. Jesus promises an experience of a little heaven now when we do this.

Verses 4-6 emphasize a right attitude before God. First, we sorrow over sin and its effects. This means we are brutally honest within ourselves as we confess our own sins to God so that we can experience his forgiveness and comfort. We then can mourn over what sin does to others and pass on the forgiveness we experience to them. Second, God calls us to “meekness,” a submission to God evidenced by a life of service to God and others as he has gifted. God entrusts his authority to those submitted to him. Finally, true righteousness is seen in a passion to know God and his ways. When we have that passion God promises to satisfy it.

Verses 7-9 emphasize attitudes of right service to God. Jesus is seen as we are merciful. Mercy comes out as forgiveness for the guilty and compassion for the needy. It is only when we are merciful that we truly experience God’s mercy. The second attitude is “purity of heart,.” single-minded devotion to God that allows nothing (good or bad) to get in the way of what God wants for us. This results in a daily experience of God. Finally, righteous people are “peacemakers.” Peacemakers seek reconciliation in relationships and seek to repair what sin has broken. This is how others recognize the image of God in us. 

Finally, verses 10-12 emphasize our attitude toward the hostile world. The real Christian responds to persecution with love and joy rather than in kind. This joy comes from an eternal perspective that realizes suffering and opposition are all for our ultimate good and will result in a greater experience of Jesus and reward in eternity. An added bonus is that our enemies may be defeated, not by being destroyed, but by becoming “friends of God” and his people.

These attitudes are completely counter-intuitive and make no sense without the promise contained in the repeated word “Blessed.” To be blessed mean to have God’s approval. God approves of your growing character as you seek Christ.and enters into your inadequate actions and completes them. Blessing means a satisfaction that does not depend on circumstances, that comes from knowing nothing can deter God’s plan and a peace that knows that “nothing can separate you from the love of God.” Blessing means a complete sufficiency for every situation and confidence that whatever God calls you to do he empowers you to do.

God offers you His righteousness. This leaves you with a choice. You can go with your own righteousness which says, “God, I’ll let you be part of my life. I’ll give you so much of my money, my time, my effort, my heart, but after that the rest is mine, keep your hands off. Or you can receive His righteousness which is experienced as we display these attitudes of humility, sorrow for sin, submission to God, passion for God, focus on God, and a desire to display his compassion and reconciliation to a sometimes hostile world. That kind of righteousness requires everything we have and everything we are, but it brings into our life everything Jesus’ is. That is what God made you for. That is what will fill the deepest needs of your heart. The other kind of righteousness doesn’t make it. Choose real righteousness. Choose real life. Be like Jesus.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas Fun in El Dorado 2018


We have been enjoying the Christmas displays and events here in El Dorado county this year. This is already our 3rd Christmas here, but it is really the first one we have been able to participate in. The last two I was too sick. So we have been going all out with driving to see Christmas lights (above), church and school Christmas programs, ice skating (I watched) and other fun events. Here are a few pictures.


We went ice skating at the District Church in El Dorado Hills. I watched and drank coffee to keep warm.


We celebrated with the El Dorado Hills Fire Department and Leila got to meet Santa. It was a lot fun to get out meet people at different churches and from different communities.

Devotional: The Beginning of Kingdom Ministry, Matthew 4:12-25

Outline of Matthew 4.12-25

Chapter 4 of the Gospel of Matthew ends with the beginning organization of Jesus' ministry and a brief summary of what kingdom ministry looks like. Matthew makes it clear that kingdom ministry is intimate and relational and ministers holistically to the physical and spiritual needs of all the people it encounters. Jesus’ gospel message is condensed to two short sayings, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (4:17) and “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (4:19). .As Paul reduced the gospel message to “Jesus is LORD” (Romans 10:9), so Jesus reduces it to “repent” and “follow me.” The rest of the Gospel will recount the events that show that Jesus is the promised king who has defeated death and sin (the gospel events) and, thus, we need to repent of our own ways of living and trust, submit to and follow Jesus (the gospel response). The kingdom of God has come in the person of the king and Jesus now begins to gather his disciples and minister to them.

He defends Jesus' choice of despised Galilee as his base of operations and emphasizes the prophesied outreach to the Gentiles.(4:12-17) Right up front Matthew lets us know that King Jesus is going to be a very unusual king. He does not go to the capitol to begin his ministry but, instead, goes to “Galilee of the Gentiles,” the least likely place in the nation for God to show up. Jesus would be a king who goes where the needy people are. He would also minister in unusual, unexpected ways. Isaiah 9 compares his victory to that of Gideon who did not win his victory by superior strength but in a weakness that displayed the power of God. This king would gain his throne by stooping down to help to help those in “the shadow of death”  and bring the light of life and victory over death by giving his life, rather than taking lives.

.Jesus would also gather an unusual group of people for his inner circle of attendants. (4:18-22) Just as God called Israel, when he was a “wandering Aramean” and “few in number” (Deuteronomy 26:5), to be in covenant relationship with him and to reveal YHWH to the world, so Jesus would choose very flawed men and women to be part of his inner circle through whom he’d reveal himself to the nation and to the world. That began with the calling of four Galilean fishermen to “follow me.” That is “give your lives to me,” “live with me,” “learn from me” and “become like me” so that “you can reveal me to the world.” Peter, Andrew, James and John, exemplified what “repent” means as they left their old lives behind and followed Jesus. These would become the people who “turned the world upside down.” This should be how we do ministry today. We follow Jesus and take others with us.

Matthew records a summary of Jesus’ ministry in 4:23-25. First, Jesus proclaimed the “gospel of the kingdom.” That is he announced the good news that God was there in his person and what that meant for them. For us, this would be the applicational preaching of the whole apostolic revelation of the New Testament message. Second, he taught them “in their synagogues.” Jesus went where the people were and clearly taught how the scriptures related to him and what God wanted from people in their present situation. A good teacher is in relationship with the students and is able to take eternal truths and apply them to new situations. Finally, Jesus ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of all the people he came in contact with.  For the church to be what Jesus has called us to be we must be reaching out to people in all three of these areas.

Jesus calls us into relationship. Proclaiming the gospel is basically introducing people to a Jesus that we know and love. Discipleship is basically being in relationships with people that invite them to  “walk with me as I walk toward Jesus.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Devotional: Recognizing Your “Wilderness” Moment, Matthew 4:1-11

Outline of Matthew 4.1-11

In chapter 4 Matthew continues to show us how Jesus recapitulated and fulfilled the history of Israel. Just as the nation was nurtured in its infancy in Egypt and then was delivered to return to the promised land, so Jesus as an infant was saved from Herod and spent his infancy in Egypt before he grew up in Nazareth. Just as the nation was “baptized” in the Reed Sea and then experienced the presence of God at Sinai, so Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John and the presence of God was seen as the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and the Father’s voice from heaven pronounced “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (3:17) Now, just as God, in a pillar of cloud and fire led the nation of Israel into the wilderness to be tested before they could enter the promised land, so the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. There is no wisdom gained apart from suffering. There is no calling to mission without testing. There is no paradise without a cross. Jesus must endure the same kind of testing and temptation all of us endure. The great difference will be that, while the nation failed the test in the wilderness – they worshipped a golden calf, they failed to trust God for their daily bread, and they failed to complete their mission – Jesus passed the test with a 100%. He knew God’s promises, trusted them and submitted himself to accomplish God’s mission with God’s resources and in God’s way.

The slanderer, the accuser, tempted Jesus with the three main temptations to which the nation succumbed throughout their history: idolatry, self-reliance, and lack of faith. The devil began by tempting Jesus to lack of faith in God’s promise to supply “daily bread.” Israel in the desert was sustained by God for forty years with manna, their daily bread, always fresh with just enough for that day. They responded with grumbling and complaining and several times tried to turn back to Egypt for the fried fish and seasoned food they liked. Jesus, on the other hand, had been fasting for forty days and is tempted to not trust in a time of deep need. He responds with the words of Deuteronomy 8:3, a reminder that God allows times in our lives where it appears that our daily needs are not being met (as and when we want them to be) so that we develop a trusting heart that knows that, God will not only handle the basics in our life as he promised, but the “big” issues as well. Jesus would fulfill his calling with a trust that God was with him in everything and would supply all his needs.

The second area of temptation was self-reliance. Would Jesus do things God’s way or would he try to manipulate God to do things his way? Again, the nation failed at this over and over. They asked for a king so they could be “like the other nations.” They made foreign alliances and trusted in vast armies to protect their safety. They tried to manipulate God to overlook their immoral lifestyles, misuse of power and blessing, and oppression of their fellow Israelites with their sacrifices and meticulous ritual. The devil here is trying to get Jesus to try a different way to glory than the way of suffering. This is a temptation Jesus will face again when Peter takes the role of the devil by opposing Jesus’ announcement of his death and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus again quotes Moses (Deuteronomy 6:16) as he refuses to “put God to the test.” Expecting God to do things our way, according to our agenda tries to put us in the place of God as the decision maker. This was the sin of Adam and Eve in Eden and the sin of the “shining one” (Isaiah 14:12). Any time we back out of God’s will because it leads us into difficulty or fall back on old ways to deal with a problem we succumb to this temptation of the devil.

The third temptation was to the besetting sin of Israel in the Old Testament – idolatry. The history of Israel from Egypt to exile was a succession of periods of falling into idolatry and purges and falling again. Now the devil pulls out the big lie: He shows Jesus everything he wants and says, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (4:9.) Of course, the problem is that the kingdoms of the world are not his to give and the devil never “gives” anything without exacting too high a price. The kingdom of God would come only when the principalities and powers of darkness would be defeated by the cross. Jesus knew the plan of God from Eden to Sinai, to the cross to the new heavens and new earth and he would stick with it. God is the only one worthy of worship and obedience and Jesus would not make the mistake of replacing God with something less, even if it meant giving his life.

Each one of us will have wilderness experiences as we pursue our calling from God. The devil is a clever tempter and knows how to use these difficult times. He will try to sidetrack us with worry about daily things God has already promised to take care of,  using blessing, power or position to serve ourselves instead of others, or to move God from the center position of our lives. He knows how to use religion and worldly power to get us off track. He may even twist scripture to do it. Like Jesus, we need to know and trust what God has promised, be people of prayer, and refuse any substitute for God and his Spirit as a way of accomplishing the mission he has called us to do. When we do that, like Jesus, we will see all the residents of heaven come to help us get through the wilderness. (4:11) 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Devotional: Recognizing Your “God” Moment, Matthew 3:1-17

Outline of Matthew 3.1-17

Matthew, in chapter 3, jumps ahead in the story of Jesus to the initial revelation of the adult Jesus to the nation at his baptism. Jesus is revealed by God through John the Baptist as the one promised by the prophets and for whom Israel had been waiting to deliver them from exile and bring in God’s kingdom. The Father Himself announces Jesus to be (3:17) the Son of God (Psalm 2), the promised Servant (Isaiah 42) and God come in the flesh (Isaiah 40). John announces to the nation that their moment of decision was about to come. God was about to visit his people in the person of Jesus. Their future would depend on their response. John’s message was simple: Repent! In other words “Quit living your life for yourself and give your total allegiance and trust to Jesus and his mission. John calls all of us to pay attention and listen and look for our “God moments” and respond to them by giving our lives to follow Jesus and serve his people.

The chapter begins by identifying John as the prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-22, Isaiah 40:3) and God’s special messenger (Malachi 3:1) who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah (Malachi 4:5) to herald the coming of YHWH, in the flesh, to his people. John lived a lifestyle, like Elijah, that rejected luxury so that he could stay focused on his mission of  boldly calling the nation to submission to God. He called the nation to a change of lifestyle (repent) to become ready for the kingdom and denounced the religious leaders who had misused their positions for personal gain. The message was urgent because the nation and its leaders were not ready. The coming of God meant that their misuse of God’s promises and blessings was about to be judged. Jesus was about to become the stone that could be the foundation for life and blessing or he would be the stone that smashes things to pieces. The nation’s response to Jesus, and ours, would determine how they, and we, would experience God in their lives.Many in the nation recognized this and came to John to be baptized and confess their sins.

This is a lot to claim for a person so Matthew shows how the events of Jesus’ baptism verify that he was the coming one to whom the prophets were pointing. John, with prophetic insight, immediately recognizes Jesus as his superior. With passionate language he identifies Jesus as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” and has the divine authority and power to separate good from evil and determine eternal destiny. (3:11-12) John tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized because he knows he does not need it. But John agrees to do it when Jesus responds that his baptism is necessary to “fulfill” all righteousness. Jesus would take on himself the burden of the sins of the nation and the world and submit himself to a baptism of repentance and, ultimately, the “baptism” of death on a cross for their and our righteousness. Their God moment had come and everything hinged on their response. 

Now, every time Jesus is presented a “God moment” comes. First, he calls us to trust that he has “fulfilled all righteousness” and that his baptism in death paid for our sin and defeated death, his righteous life saves us, and he baptizes us with the Spirit to experience his life now. Jesus’ example then calls us to offer our lives, as he did, to serve God and benefit others. God may not call us to a diet of grasshoppers and honey but he does call us to adjust our values to his and change our lifestyles to focus on his kingdom as our highest priority. Are you having a “God moment” right now?

Friday, December 14, 2018

Devotional: Jesus the New Israel, Matthew 2:13-23

Outline of Matthew 2.12-23

Matthew concludes the account of Jesus’ birth and childhood with the story of how God preserved his life from Herod’s attempt to murder him and how that resulted in Jesus growing up in Nazareth of Galilee. Matthew is telling the story in a way that reveals Jesus as the embodiment of the nation of Israel who will accomplish what Israel was supposed to do and thus, will “fulfill” what God had planned to do through Israel. It is likely that the main background for this is the servant songs in Isaiah in which the Servant-Messiah brings in the kingdom of the age to come through his message, substitutionary death and exaltation (Isaiah 53). This was a common theme in the Hebrew scriptures and Matthew will cite Jeremiah, Hosea, and allude to many other passages to make his point. Jesus will not only bring in the peaceful worldwide kingdom promised to David and Abraham, but he will also recapitulate the slavery, suffering and exile of Israel. But, unlike the nation, he will live without sin, perfectly fulfill the covenant and accomplish Israel’s mission to bring blessing to the whole world. .

The Magi are the first of many Gentiles who will come, worship and follow Jesus. Herod, on the other hand reminds us that opposition to Jesus’ mission and rule is deep within the human heart and, wherever Jesus message goes out, there will also be persecution of the messengers.(2:13-15) The irony here is that pagans are honoring God's Messiah, while the religious leaders of the Jews, who know enough to know where Messiah will be born, are not willing to go out of their way even to go find him. Herod typifies the oppressor of God's people. He reminds one of pharaoh. And like the Israelites in Egypt (Hosea 11:1), Jesus's family become refugees fleeing Herod, but are miraculously preserved by God. Matthew reminds us of Israel's history to encourage us that when we follow God’s call he will also preserve us through suffering and persecution because Jesus leads us in a new exodus into God’s kingdom.

The journey to the new exodus is not easy. The worship of the Magi leads to the murder of the infants in Bethlehem.(2:16-18)  As throughout history, the desire to preserve the earthly power of leaders leads to the suffering of their people. Matthew likens the suffering of the people of Bethlehem to that of the people in the slaughter of the Babylonian invasion and exile of Israel when their children were slaughtered before their eyes (Jeremiah 31:15). But with this reminder of the “normal” intense suffering life in this evil world brings, Jeremiah 31 is also a reminder that, when suffering leads to a turning to God, there is restoration, a new covenant, and hope for  a new world. This is what Jesus came to earth to bring to us.

But tyrants die and God’s plan to bless the world goes on. The angel who has been guiding Joseph announces the good news of Herod’s death and tells Joseph to return to Israel. (2:19-23) But this time the angel directs him to settle in Nazareth of Galilee. The angel speaks to Joseph four times in this short section to direct him and save his life. Joseph’s attentiveness to God’s direction and quick obedient response is an example for how we should navigate difficult and chaotic times.

Matthew ends the story of Jesus’ birth and childhood with the note that he would be called a “Nazarene” “so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled.” (2:23) This is a puzzling statement because Matthew cites no specific prophecy. It is likely that Matthew is thinking about Isaiah 9:1 which predicts that the “great light” will come from “the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” The word “Nazarene” is also a puzzle. It is possible that Matthew is making a word play off of the Hebrew word for “branch” (נצר natsar). This word is used in several places (Isaiah 11:1 for one) to describe the coming king as a son of David who will bring God’s final kingdom. Matthew’s point is that, like David, even though Jesus came from an insignificant town and a lowly background, he is the king of Israel and will fulfill the career predicted by the prophets.

The bottom line is that we can be sure that, despite opposition, suffering, and anything else this evil world can throw at us, Jesus has lived through it, has overcome it and will preserve us through it. We follow the path of the new exodus into blessing as we are attentive to the voice of the Spirit and as we trust and follow Jesus.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Devotional: The Birth of the King, Matthew 1:18-2:12

Outline of Matthew 1.18-2.12

The theme of Matthew’s Gospel is that the kingdom of God (heaven) has come to earth in the person of the king, Jesus Christ. In one sense, with Jesus walking on the earth the kingdom of God, as prophesied by the prophets was already present. But in another sense the full manifestation was yet to come. Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension would bring in a New Covenant (26:17-30) that would extend the blessings of God’s presence to all the nations of the world (the “already” blessing we live in now). God’s kingdom plan would then be completed at the return of the Son of Man (24-25) (the “not yet” completion of the kingdom when heaven and earth are renewed and joined). In telling the birth story of Jesus, Matthew looks back at how the history of God’s plan in the story of Israel pointed to Jesus and looks forward to how Jesus would accomplish God’s future plan to accomplish his purpose on earth to disciple the nations and to fully realize God’s presence and rule on earth.

The birth story is framed by two visions in which an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph to give him instruction about what his role was to be in God’s plan to bring his Son into the world. The first dream informed Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and that he should not divorce her (1:18-25). Instead, he was to name the child Jesus as a sign that Jesus “will save his people from their sins.” (1:21) In the birth story of Jesus, while Luke emphasizes Mary’s story, Matthew emphasizes the righteousness of Joseph. Joseph chooses to obey what God tells him in a dream rather than cling to his honor which would have allowed him to divorce Mary. Joseph provides the example of what our devotion to Jesus should look like as he chooses obedience over cultural norms and the honor of his peers.

Matthew points out that Jesus is the “fulfillment” of the Immanuel prophecy of Isaiah 7-9 (1:22-23). Just as Isaiah’s children were a sign to the nation 700 years before that God was present with them to bring blessing and deliverance to those who trusted and acted on God’s promises in the Assyrian crisis, so Jesus was a sign that God was acting decisively in the world again. Isaiah had predicted that a greater Immanuel was coming who would bring God’s rule, rest, and peace to the entire world. (Isaiah 9:6-7) This greater Immanuel would bring God’s presence into the world in an even more concrete way. God himself would take on a human body and come into the world through a miraculous virgin birth. God himself was coming to free all people, not just from tyrants like Assyria and Rome, but from the dark spiritual forces behind them, from sin, death, and all its consequences. Like in Israel of old, our response to the sign child Jesus determines whether we receive the Immanuel of blessing or the Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Isaiah 8) of judgment. Joseph models the proper response as he obeys completely.

In the next section (2:1-12) Matthew records the visit and worship of the Gentile Magi from Persia. The story of the Magi is another of the indications that Matthew is concerned for the mission to the Gentiles. It would have reminded Jewish readers of the many prophecies that, in God’s kingdom, people from all over the world would come and worship God and his king. This is the context of the prophecy in Micah 5:2 that the Jewish priests use to confirm that Messiah will be born in Bethlehem of Judea. This same prophecy (Micah 4:1-5) predicts that people from all nations will come to God’s king and worship. The Magi would be the first in a long line of Gentiles who would worship Jesus.

The worship of the Magi is a model for how we are to worship King Jesus. As they brought gold so should we worship by using our possessions and resources to serve Jesus’ mission and Jesus’ people. As they brought frankincense, the incense that went up to God in the temple symbolizing the prayers of the people, so we should privately and publicly lift up our prayers and praise to the throne room of God because we know he hears them. As they brought myrrh, burial perfume, so we should remember the cross of Jesus and what it accomplished and take up our own cross and follow him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Devotional: The Family of the King, Matthew 1:1-17

Outline of Matthew 1.1-17

In each Gospel the writer lays out his purpose in his introduction. Mark identifies Jesus as Son of God, Messiah and Savior and then proceeds to prove it inductively. Luke declares his intention to provide an orderly account of Jesus’ life. John begins before creation and identifies Jesus as God come in the flesh, the Logos, the ordering principle of the universe, come to live with us in a human body. Matthew begins with a genealogy. It seems odd to us, but Matthew’s purpose can be seen quite clearly. He begins with a genealogy to show basic truths about Jesus' mission: He came as the culmination of God's plan for Israel to bless the entire world. The genealogy shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to bless all the world through his family and the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant which promises that God would bring a ruler from the family of David who would usher in a new covenant which will result in the defeat of evil and death and produce a new earth fully joined to heaven and in alignment with God’s purpose to bring peace and blessing to the world. It is a kingdom which includes all nations but presents Jesus as the embodiment of Israel  who fulfills everything God planned to accomplish through them. Matthew presents Jesus as the coming king of Israel who brings the kingdom of heaven to earth and invites everyone, men and women, Jew and Gentile, “bad and good,” to join him, worship him, and live according to the values of his kingdom and be part of his family.

The genealogy is arranged in three blocks of fourteen, leaving out several generations, to make his point. 14 doubles seven, the number of completion. At the beginning of each set of 14 is a key figure who represents a major step in God’s plan to redeem and renew the world. Abraham received God’s covenant that promised blessing to the world through his family. God would make him into a great nation that would be the vehicle of God’s revelation of himself to the world..The second group of 14 begins with David through whom God narrowed the promise to an individual, a Messiah/King who would unite the kingdoms of heaven and earth into one. God’s temple would be with people. The second section ends and the third section begins with the exile which highlights the nation’s failure to do this. The final section of the genealogy ends with Jesus who fulfills God’s purpose through Israel to reveal God to the world and bring his blessing to all nations. He fulfills God’s purpose through David to build a “temple” where God can dwell with his people. Jesus is the temple made “without hands” to provide the way for holy God to dwell bodily within his creation. Jesus has the both the pedigree and the resume of a king we should all want to follow.

One oddity in the genealogy is the inclusion of four Gentile women and some unsavory characters. The Bible does not hide the fact that Jesus’ family has some “skeletons in the closet.” Right up front Matthew is telling us that Jesus’ kingdom is universal and open to all genders and nationalities. Jesus’ kingdom is not a kingdom “of this world” that operates by exclusion or coercion. He breaks down the barriers our sinful cultures have erected to keep us apart from God and from each other. Jesus connects with sinners and transforms them into citizens of the kingdom of heaven. He then calls his followers to go out and “make disciples” in the same way.

Thus, the Gospel of Matthew provides us a with a promise and a challenge. The promise is that all of us can now experience the “shekinah” the light and fire of the presence of God which indwelt the tabernacle and indwells each believer through the Holy Spirit. This demands a response from us of full commitment to him, despite the fact that in this present age we will experience similar rejection and persecution that he suffered. But we do this knowing that the full expression of his kingdom is coming and that Jesus promises “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Devotional: How To Defend the Faith, Jude 17-25

Outline Jude 17-25

Jude ends his brief. dark letter with a hopeful note. The opposition and persecution we face from false teachers and fake believers should be expected. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament expected it to happen and have already given us the method to combat it. First we must remember that God is in control of the situation and will use even the opposition and persecution to bring about his plan for his people, locally and worldwide. He calls us to take preemptive action to protect the church from false teaching by purposeful discipleship that includes teaching, corporate prayer and reminding people to keep a “kingdom perspective.” We are working for Jesus and he is coming back to evaluate and reward our efforts. We can do this boldly and hopefully because God is the one who will ultimately preserve the truth, grow believers into maturity and keep believers safe in judgment. Thus, we can confidently fulfill our responsibility to preserve the truth of the Word and pass it on to the next generation.

First Jude reminds us that Jesus and the apostles warned us to expect opposition and persecution. But they also predicted the even more dangerous opposition of false teachers who “have crept in unnoticed” (4) and cleverly lay error alongside truth to deceive and manipulate believers. (17-19)  Jude calls us to be discerning to recognize these dangerous people. We cannot look inside them to see that they are “devoid of the Spirit,” but we can recognize them by their teaching that does not conform to the scriptures, their immoral and selfish lifestyles, and their divisiveness. The best way to avoid deception is to know the truth well.

Jude counsels us to take preemptive action to keep ourselves in the faith. First, we are responsible to “build ourselves up.” This means that we make ourselves available to be mentored by faithful Christian leaders and, as we grow to mentor others. As we teach, train, encourage, and serve together we grow in knowledge and in the depth of our love relationship with God and with each other. This also involves “praying in the Holy Spirit.” In corporate and individual prayer we keep close accounts with God, pray for one another’s needs and listen for his leading in our daily lives. Finally we hold each other accountable to Jesus and encourage one another as we remind ourselves of the blessing coming when he returns. 

We are called to do this in a way that shows God’s mercy to the deceived and moves toward the goal of saving the person rather than condemning them. We must be honest and frank about false doctrine and practice (“hating even the garment stained by the flesh” 23) but merciful in our desire to restore. Sometimes it may take a “tough love” (“snatching them out of the fire”) that may even remove false teachers from the fellowship but, again, should have a goal of restoration if possible. Church should be a place where we defend the basics of the faith; freely, mercifully and openly discuss the more difficult unclear issues; gently and honestly deal with words and actions; and do this all in a context of seeking God together in his word and in prayer.

It is our responsibility to rely on the Spirit to lead us into creatively applying the truth to our present situation, It is also our responsibility to preserve the unchanging truths of God’s word and pass them on to the next generation. We know that it will happen because God will never let the truth disappear, he will complete his task of growing believers into the image of Jesus and he will bring us safely through judgment. We will win the fight..

Monday, December 10, 2018

Devotional: Defending The Faith, Jude 1-16

Outline Jude 1-16

The Letter of Jude is very similar to 2nd Peter (who knows which one came first and influenced the other) and deal with a very similar issue. Jude writes passionately to urge believers to see the urgency of opposing false teaching and to fight against apostasy to preserve the content of the witness of the apostles to the gospel contained in the New Testament. We need to recognize that, in every church, there are people who, some out of ignorance and others out of intentional rebellion, who are being used by the forces of evil to destroy the church’s witness to the gospel, pervert its witness and oppose God’s kingdom. Jude wants us to prepare ourselves to know and preserve the truth and rescue the church from false teachers in God’s strength.

Jude hints at the basic problem with the false teachers in the greeting of the letter (1-2). True leaders, “slaves of Jesus Christ,” who recognize their dependence on God who has called them into the faith, loves them and keeps them in the faith. One of the key characteristics of the false teachers is a self-reliance that breaks God’s boundaries and abuses the responsibility of authority.

The main job of Christian teachers is to accurately explain the special revelation of God contained in scripture and apply it to daily life. (3-4) This requires diligent study in the scriptures to properly understand it and continuing dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Jude sees the false teaching focusing on two issues. First, false teachers “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” That is they compromise the deity and authority of Christ, often by deemphasizing or redefining the Trinity and the nature of Jesus as the God-Man. Second they “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality” by twisting the idea “that God loves as we are” into “God is ok with leaving you just as you are,” in order to excuse their own immorality. The grace of God is always extended to everyone where they are but is always working to change those who believe into the likeness of Christ. Good teaching must keep this balance, God has entrusted us with this counter-intuitive special revelation and Jude wants us to avoid the condemnation that we bring on ourselves when we change or compromise it.

The main body of the letter presents examples of apostasy from the past as warnings of the danger of rejecting the truth. These rebels from the past lack submission to God and practice overreaching, abusive authority. Their rebellion and unbelief is recognized by their grumbling, complaining, immorality and greed. They are seductive, unreliable dangers that do not deliver what they promise. Eventually their prideful words and deeds will lead to devastating consequences in the near future and judgment when Jesus returns. Thus, Christians need to be able to recognize false teachers so that they can oppose them and avoid their judgment.

We would be missing Jude’s point if we only pointed his warning at others. All of us, especially Christian leaders, are prone to a self-reliance that forgets our dependence on God and fails to be accountable to God and one another as a “slave of Jesus Christ.” We can fail to keep the balance of the gospel and change grace to “sensuality” or spiritual discipline to human rules. We need to watch in ourselves the tendency to impose standards on others and then give ourselves a pass. As we fight for the faith, let’s make sure we are staying on the right side.


Saturday, December 08, 2018

Ready To Hit The Road Again


20181203_133531This is the view through the windshield of our van as we headed back home to El Dorado after a weekend of ministry at Gateway Bible Church in Scotts Valley. We enjoyed fellowshipping at the church on Sunday morning. We saw many old friends and met some new people. We were able to share what God has been doing in our lives and some of our plans (still somewhat tentative) at the Gateway DCL (Devoted to Changing Lives) dessert meeting on Sunday night. It was an encouraging time for us to be prayed for at the meeting and see how God is working in my old home town. We will back at Gateway on Sunday morning December 30th to share my “Vow of Praise” sermon about how God healed me from cancer in the morning services. We then drove back to El Dorado on Monday. Notice a new first: I shared the driving for the last half of the trip I am praising God for my continued recovery from the stem cell transplant. Getting a little better each day. I am enjoying being a little more active, but trying not to do too much. I will be preaching tomorrow (9th) at Camino Community Church in their 10:15 AM service. I am looking forward to that.

Joyce and I are looking forward to doing more ministry in 2019. We would like to spend some time with all our supporting churches as soon as we can,, We are also available for Bible studies. missions meetings, preaching or to just hang out and talk about stuff. We would love to see you.


Message of the Letter of Jude

Message Jude

Friday, December 07, 2018

Devotional: Be Ready for the Day of the Lord, 2nd Peter 3:1-18

Outline 2 Peter 3.1-18

In chapter 3,  Peter deals with one of the false teachings that was prevalent in the church of his day and one we still face today: that the “Day of the LORD” will never come. The “Day of the LORD” is a prominent theme in the Old Testament and refers to a time when God steps into history to judge the sin of his people and the world, to set things right and to set in motion the next phase of his plan. In the Old Testament it referred to Noah’s flood, the Assyrian invasion, the Babylonian captivity and other pivotal events in the nation’s history. At Jesus’ 1st coming he predicted a “Day of the LORD” that would come for Israel when Jerusalem would be wiped out, the temple destroyed and the new covenant age of the church would begin. As Peter wrote this letter, this prophecy was on the horizon and would be fulfilled in less than ten years. All these “days of the LORD” were merely precursors to the final one that is coming when Jesus will return bodily, all the dead will be raised, final judgment will commence, and heaven and earth will be renewed. It was this final “Day of the LORD” that was being denied by the false teachers. Peter reminds his readers that just as God kept his promise of the previous “Days of the LORD” he would be faithful to complete what he promised in the end. Jesus will come back and Peter’s last words are here to prepare us for that event.

Again Peter points to the evidence for this in the Old and New Testaments (3:1-7). This promise has been repeated over and over again from Genesis to Revelation. The false teachers shortsightedly point out that things have been going on as always for a long time. The long delay in the return of Jesus must mean that God has forgotten his promise. Peter responds with a reminder of the history of God’s promises. God formed his creation out of the chaotic watery mass and, in the judgment of the flood, returned the world to that chaotic state. As Noah preached the coming of judgment for 120 years, the people of his day made the mistake of thinking that delay meant God had forgotten his promise. Just as the flood judgment came on those who were not ready, so the final judgment will bring a refining fire that will purify and prepare a new heavens and earth and remove “the ungodly.”

Peter explains the reason for the delay in keeping his promise in 3:8-13. God delays because he wants to allow the repentance of as many as possible. The Bible is clear that God is very patient and does not want anyone to experience condemnation, but eventually judgment will come. God will remove evil and cleanse the universe of all its effects. To create a universe where “righteousness dwells” God must remove anything that does not conform to his character and standards of beauty and order. Thus, Peter’s point is that we must live godly lives now to be prepared to live in the new order of the heavens and earth.

What does that look like? (3:14-18) We prepare for Jesus’ return by responding to the grace of the Gospel with faith and by working hard to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to grow into the image of Christ (14). We work hard to live out the gospel. This means that, like God, we are patient  with ourselves and others as we grow together (15). We work hard to understand scripture and apply it to our daily lives (16). We work hard to know and guard the truth by being alert for false teaching and living according to who we are in Christ (17). Finally we work hard to grow by learning to appreciate and use the resources God has provided and to deepen our relationship with Jesus and with his people (18). Because judgment is coming, believers must live for God now, focused on His Word and on the eternal; not on the temporary things of life. The way to be ready is to work hard now to grow to be like Christ and to do the work he has called his people to do.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Devotional: Beware! False Teachers! 2 Peter 2:1-22

Outline 2 Peter 2.1-22

After testifying to the importance, truth and reliability of the apostolic witness to Jesus (New Testament) and the ancient scriptures (Old Testament), Peter now warns the church about the danger of false teachers. The issue is not whether or not they will come. They will come and believers need to work hard to know the truth so that they will be able to recognize them when they come. Jesus (and Paul) warned of “wolves” who appear to be Christian leaders but are actually dangerous, immoral fakes. They can be recognized by their departure from the apostles’ teaching (this is why you need to know the truth well!), their disregard for the moral boundaries God set up in creation and their disrespect for legitimate authorities ordained by God. Separation from them now is important because we do not want to get caught up in the judgment that is certainly coming for them. False teachers promise freedom and fulfilment but all they deliver is enslavement, degradation and death.

Peter warns us to expect false teachers. (2:1-3). Just as there were false prophets in the Old Testament who led many people into destructive beliefs and lifestyles there will be false teachers doing the same thing today. They are not easy to recognize and their message can be appealing. The danger is that they will lead their followers into the same judgment they will receive. History is littered with “movements” that led their followers to disaster and away from real faith. All Christians should be able to recognize false teachers and expose their false teachings so that they can avoid their judgment.

The point of the next section (2:4-10) is that God knows how to discern between the false and true, the good and evil, and will bring the former to judgment and the latter to reward. Peter gives two examples. The first is the spiritual beings who had sexual relations with human women (Genesis 6:1-4), corrupted humanity and brought on the flood. God confined them for all eternity in an underworld prison. The ancient world viewed these supernatural beings as gods who brought knowledge and technology but God’s judgment showed what was true and right. The second example was God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah for failing to heed God’s sexual boundaries. In both cases God eventually sets things right by removing the wicked and rescuing the godly. Believers must make sure they are on the right side in every situation.

Peter then describes the character of the false teachers in 2:11-16. First, they do not recognize legitimate authorities set up by God. They make light of spiritual authorities they do not understand. Instead of submitting to God they try to manipulate the dark principalities and powers which brings terrible destruction. Not all spiritual power or signs and wonders are from God. They tend to be self indulgent and remove the normal restraints that the scriptures place on human desires. Finally they are greedy. Watch out for teachers, preachers and ministers who only minister when they get paid. Especially watch out for those who indulge themselves to live a more lavish lifestyle than their followers.

Finally Peter describes the judgment of false teachers in 2:17-22. They become enslaved in the consequences of their sin. They promise freedom to their followers but become more deeply entangled in their own sins. Sadly, the scandals that have destroyed prominent “ministries” continues to bear witness to this truth. In addition, these false teachers will face a much stricter judgment when they stand before God.

All Christians should be able to recognize false teachers and expose their false teachings so that we can avoid their judgment. False teachers can be recognized by a departure from the central doctrines of the faith, by their advocation of "freedom" from the "restraints" of biblical morality and indulging of selfish desires. Be very wary of any Christian teachers that use the gospel bring attention to themselves or to live a lavish lifestyle.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Devotional: Apply God’s Word to Grow, 2nd Peter 1:12-21

Outline 2 Peter 1.12-21

Peter’s goal in this letter is to give the church one last reminder of the of the truthfulness and reliability of the ancient scriptures and his witness to the new revelation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He knows that only this will provide a sure basis for our personal faith and for the stability of the church. It is only when we see the message and acts of Jesus in the context of the holy and inspired words of the prophets (this is why the old Testament is important) and in the context of the apostolic witness and instructions to the church (this is why the New Testament is important) that we can see what God is doing in our lives and wants to do in our world. This is why it is so critical for us to work hard to read, study and understand what the Bible says, in its own context. This is why we need to listen and learn from spiritually gifted teachers, preachers and scholars as the Holy Spirit uses them to handle the ancient words accurately and apply them to our current needs and situation. But it is not enough to just know the testimony of the Bible in our heads. We must submit to its teaching, pay close attention to its message, and listen to the Holy Spirit as he applies it to us from outside (teaching) and inside, his inner voice and leading. Then the Spirit will take the word and use it to produce Christ in us.

Because Peter knew his time was short, he thought it urgent to remind believers of the truth about Jesus by putting it into written form. (1:12-15)  Previously, the message was shared verbally, but now the first generation of Christians, who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and life, was passing off the scene. This letter, and probably the Gospel of Mark, would be Peter’s lasting testimony to what he saw and heard when he was with Jesus. How blessed we are to have access to the words of someone who was an eyewitness of Jesus’ first coming. Peter would expect you to make just as much effort to study these words as he did (1:15) to live them and write them down.

Peter insists that this written testimony is from an eyewitness of what Jesus did (1:16-17). What he describes is not in “mythic” form but happened in space-time history. He, along with John and James, were on the mountain of transfiguration and saw Jesus in his “Majestic Glory.” He actually heard the heard the voice of the Father from heaven proclaiming the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. He saw and heard the resurrected Christ and watched his ascension. Like the prophets of old (1:18-21) this was not just a private ecstatic experience. He had been called into God’s council, heard God’s plans and been enabled by the Holy Spirit to share these words and experiences with us.

The Bible is one of the most important of the resources that we must “make every effort” to apply to our lives. Like Peter, we need to “pay attention” to the “voice from heaven” that Peter’s, and the other apostles’ written testimony, provides for us. We live in a world in which there has never been more access to the Bible and resources to understand it. The proper response of the believer is to pay close attention to the Word, submit to it and let the Holy Spirit use it to change you.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Devotional: You Have What You Need, 2 Peter 1:1-11

Outline 2 Peter 1.1-11

2 Peter was written right before Peter’s death to pass on the apostolic doctrine to the next generation. Peter reassures his readers that the gospel (Jesus' teachings and actions) rests on accurate eye-witness testimony and its truth is the only way to become like God and share in his coming kingdom. In a way, it is Peter’s final instruction to succeeding generations of the church which he helped to found. Peter wants us to know that the good news of the gospel is that God the Father, through Jesus Christ, has given us all the resources we need to become what he wants us to be and to do what he wants us to do. Faith is believing that what God has said about this is true and then proves itself by working hard to apply these resources to our attitudes, words and actions. When we believe and do this the Holy Spirit works supernaturally in our lives make us grow, help us avoid sin and gives eternal reward. Peter calls us to work hard to grow.

Peter begins the letter with a remarkable statement. He says that the recipients of this letter “have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.” (2 Peter 1:1). Our faith is seen by God with same standing as that of Peter. There is no difference because both rest on “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Who we are as Christians is entirely determined by who Jesus is and what he has done and this never changes. His divine power lives within us so that God works on us from the inside and the outside so that we are able to become progressively more like God and actually share in the “divine nature” within the perfect fellowship of the Trinity. As we grow and respond to the God within us we become more like him, know him better and thus escape our corrupt habits and sinful desires.  

In the next section (1:5-8), Peter calls us to apply the resources God has provided to our daily lives. Because of what God has provided this is not self-help but flows out of our life as we expose ourselves to God’s grace and power and allow what he has promised to become active in our  lives. This is not easy. We must “make very effort” to cooperate with God’s grace and build on the character of Christ that he produces in us. God supplies all the resources but graciously calls us into a cooperative project. This transformation begins with faith and its goal is love for God and for those around us. As we work hard the Holy Spirit will will work from within to strengthen, encourage, and comfort and, as he works in others believers, he will use them to work on us from the outside. The result is a church that is growing together into the character of Christ.

God will always meet and love you where you are but he will never leave you there. (1:9-11) Peter is prodding us to a far-sighted perspective, to God’s calling to be like Christ and enjoy the intimacy within the Trinity that we are destined for. God has given us all the resources we need to do this. Let’s work hard, sacrifice, spend time and effort on what is really important, and do it together.

Message of Second Peter

Message 2nd Peter

Friday, November 30, 2018

Devotional: How to Live Together in This World, 1 Peter 5:1-14

Outline 1 Peter 5.1-14

Peter closes his letter with some practical application about how believers should live together in a way that will reflect God’s grace in this world of suffering and trials. In this chapter he gives two basic commands about church relationships. Church leaders are to shepherd the church. That is, they are to sacrificially serve and protect the church by being living examples of a gracious lifestyle and submission to the needs of their people. The command to all the church is that all their relationships be characterized by a humility that entrusts all of life to God’s care, controls oneself to avoid self-indulgence and stays faithful despite suffering. The promised outcome of this lifestyle is eternal, unfading glory. All of us are called to faithfully live out God’s grace in the power he provides.

Peter calls leaders to serve their people as “under-shepherds” of Jesus. (5:1-4) Their people are to be regarded as belonging to Jesus and placed under the leaders’ care by Jesus. The task of the leader is to train and serve the people as Jesus did. Thus, pastoring (shepherding) can only be done in close relationship with people. Just as Jesus modeled the behavior he was teaching, a pastor/leader must be closely connected with the people so he can know and meet their needs. The pastor should be willing to share the sufferings and trials of the those being ministered to. Church leadership must be a calling to serve, model, teach and lead, not just a profession. A church leader must be Jesus to the church even if that means that one must give their life for the people.

The attitude driving all relationships must be humility. (5:4-11) Humility should permeate every aspect of our behavior. In our relationship with God it means that we give up control completely and trust his care for us. Instead of worrying about what we cannot control we pray in a way that hands over all these problems to our faithful Creator. Instead of giving Satan an opening by indulging our selfishness, we watch ourselves and remind ourselves of the truth of who we are and what is really important. Instead of self-pity in trials, we join in service and prayer with our fellow-believers who are also suffering. We keep the proper perspective that trials are short-term and God promises that whatever was lost will be restored, that what seems in doubt now will be confirmed, what is weak now will be strengthened, and that all these troubles will end with us being established in eternal glory.

It is only with this perspective (5:12-14) that we can live out God’s grace in the power he provides and experience the peace that comes from being in Christ.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Devotional: Expect and Welcome Suffering, 1 Peter 4:1-19

Outline 1 Peter 4.1-19

Peter continues discussing suffering in chapter 4. His main point is that, as Christians, we should expect and welcome trials and suffering because they work out God’s will for our ultimate salvation. In a way, trials and persecution function as God’s judgment, not to condemn the Christian, but to remove and conquer our propensity to sin and accept the inferior benefits of the world. Persecution focuses us on God and his superior blessings. Thus, Peter urges that we should respond to trials and suffering with acts of grace and love enabled by God’s power. When we do this God promises deeper fellowship with Christ, glory, and the blessing of the experience of the Spirit, which will bring praise to God, purging of sin and completion of God‘s work of grace in our lives.

In 4:1 Peter again points to the example of Jesus. Just as he suffered in the body in order to defeat death and sin for all of creation, we need bodily suffering to overcome sin in our own lives. Suffering has a way of making spiritual things a higher priority and taking our minds off of fulfilling selfish desires and passions. It highlights our dependence on God and helps us see the meaninglessness of things that our flesh values. Those that have never experienced the comfort of the Spirit in suffering will never understand this. Suffering can appear to be a negative judgment on a person but Peter assures us that it will result in a positive outcome as the Spirit’s work of transformation prepares us for glory.

Thus, Peter urges believers to respond to trials and persecution with daily practical acts of love and grace. (4:7-11)Suffering often is the means God uses to enable the believer to make more use of the power and gifts God has given them. Suffering focuses us on the things that are important which energizes our prayers.  Suffering provides a perspective that enables us to give all our resources (hospitality) to serve without grumbling. A proper response to suffering energizes our spiritual gifts and increases our ability to serve effectively. Just as Jesus showed God’s glory through suffering, so we show his glory better as we experience times of suffering.

Finally,Peter says that we should not be surprised when we suffer or are persecuted and insulted. Instead we should “rejoice and be glad” that we have been chosen to “share Christ’s suffering.” The rejoicing is not in the pain and suffering itself, that would be crazy, but like Jesus we look through the suffering to the blessing, salvation and glory that will result from it. Everyone will experience God’s judgment. Better to let God perform his work of purifying us in the fire of suffering now than stand before him with a wasted life later. We can be sure that our “faithful Creator” (4:17) is going to set things right for us and for those who cause the suffering. Thus, our best question in the midst of suffering should not be “why?” but can always be, “how can I do good in this situation?”

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devotional: Suffering Leads to Victory, 1 Peter 3:13-22

Outline 1 Peter 3.13-22

In 3:13 Peter begins the next major section of the letter. Normally we would expect that living lives of humble service and doing right would be welcomed by our neighbors and often it is. But now, Peter points out that living for Jesus often brings trials and persecution from an unbelieving world. Nevertheless, Peter urges us to welcome suffering with joy and by returning good (acts of grace) for evil done to us. This seems odd but it works because our trials and suffering are the way God will bring about his perfect plan for the world and the way that the forces of evil, both physical and spiritual, will be defeated. In addition, this is how God strengthens our faith and builds our character and brings blessing to us now and ultimate blessing in the future. Peter’s encouragements to believers to stand joyfully and graciously in suffering (3:13-17, 4:7-19) frame the example of Jesus (3:18-4:6) whose suffering and death led to resurrection, ascension to the right hand of the Father and the defeat of all the powerful supernatural forces of evil.

Peter begins by reminding us that if we “suffer for righteousness’ sake” (3:14) we will be blessed. If fact, he says it is better for us to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong. If we “set apart Christ as holy,” that is, we recognize him as the ultimate authority and build our lives around him, this will challenge societal norms and sometimes put us at odds with our neighbors and the governmental authorities. However, Peter cautions us to make sure that our “defense” of Christ’s standards is done with gentleness and respect and that our best argument is our good behavior and service to our neighbors. There is great blessing in suffering for Jesus. There is no blessing in suffering because you are acting like an arrogant jerk.

The example of Jesus provides the ultimate expression of how this works. His death, in the body, led to his resurrection and reward; and also provided, not only salvation to the world, but defeated the supernatural forces of evil that had dominated human society for thousands of years. When Jesus died it appeared that the spiritual forces of darkness, Paul’s “principalities and powers,” had defeated God’s plan to save and redeem the world. But, as Jesus’ body lay in the grave, he preached to the supernatural beings who had been imprisoned in the days of Noah. Jesus announced his victory over them and then proved it by rising from the dead. Just as Noah’s family were saved through the destruction of the flood, so we will be saved through the chaos of this life. Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” (3:22). As we have renounced these powers through our baptism they are also subjected to us now and, in the future we will join Jesus at the right hand of the Father.

So when suffering comes we can respond as Jesus did, with acts and words of grace and truth. We don’t need to fear because God has won the victory over death and evil and anything the powers of this world do to us will result in our blessing. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Devotional: Gospel Relationships at Home, 1 Peter 3:1-12

Outline 1 Peter 3.1-12

Peter continues to apply the message and mission of the gospel to personal relationships in the first half of chapter 3. Jesus’ example of humility and dedication to pointing others to God with his words and actions, no matter what the cost, continues to drive Peter’s teaching on relationships within the home. In 3:1-7 Peter focuses on the marriage relationship, especially those in which a believing wife is married to an unbelieving husband. Peter’s basic point is that the marriage relationship is one of mutual submission to the specific and different needs of one another and respect for each other as partners in the grace of the gospel. In 3:8-12 he summarizes the section with a call to “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” supported by a promise from Psalm 34 that God will protect, hear the prayer and bless the one that lives this way. In all our relationships we are called to live out the grace of the gospel whether we are in a position of power or weakness.

In 3:1-7 the Christian wife receives the longer exhortation because she would have been the one more likely to be struggling in a relationship with an unbelieving husband who may have been against her Christian beliefs. It may also be that the church was being criticized that its raising of the status of women was causing strife in marriages. Like Paul, Peter urges the wife to submit to her husband (as was expected in the culture) and use her freedom in Christ, not to serve herself, but to serve him and meet his needs. Instead of prolonging the battle of the sexes, in which the husband uses his standing in society and generally greater physical strength to control his wife and she counters with seduction and manipulation, each one should imitate Jesus by submitting to, loving and serving one another as partners in salvation and ministry. But also like Paul, Peter goes against culture by telling the husband, “likewise,” to submit to the needs of his wife by especially being considerate of her unique needs as a female and her equal status as a gospel partner. Ultimately the goal is not to protect traditional social order or to “liberate” the wife from being a woman, but to remake both marriage roles as they should be in God’s kingdom and produce marriages that create homes that live out the gospel.

Finally, Peter closes the section with a summary of what gospel behavior looks like. The gospel message is especially seen in our closest relationships as they are transformed by the gospel. We must live compassionately, humbly and in harmony with one another, even in a hostile society, We can trust God to take care of our personal interests because God’s protection and provision are guaranteed to those who live submissive lives. Homes where husbands and wives serve and love one another are powerful witnesses to the power of the gospel. Relationships at work, with our unbelieving neighbors and with the authorities that display compassion, integrity and return good for evil demonstrate God’s rule and draw people toward him. Giving up our own agendas and desires seems dangerous but the ruler of the universe promises to bring blessing and peace as a result. This is the message,  mission and promise of the gospel.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Devotional: Gospel Relationships With Unbelievers, 1 Peter 2:11-25

Outline 1 Peter 2.11-25

So far  Peter has shown us that offering ourselves to Jesus means living out the gospel as Jesus did and growing into what Jesus has saved us to be. Now in 2:11-3:12 he will show us what this means for our relationships with the people around us. The bottom line in all of our relationships is that we should live in a way that draws others to Christ. (2:11-12) The supreme example of this is Jesus, who submitted himself to suffering and persecution without retaliation in order to secure our salvation. In 2:11-25 Peter explains how this affects our relationship with unbelievers and in 3:1-12 he explains how it should affect relationships in the church and in our homes. The key word governing all these relationships is “submission.” This means that we live compassionately, humbly, and in harmony with one another, trusting God’s care, protection and provision to take care of our personal interests. Our lives should always be lived in a way that draws people to Christ no matter how they treat us.

The central section (2:21-25) points to Jesus as the primary example of how to live in relationships and is bracketed by a section on our relationships with secular authorities (2:13-20) and by a section on relationships with believers (3:1-9). The ultimate example of an exemplary life that draws people to God is Jesus. He responded to persecution, insults, and suffering without retaliation. In doing so he defeated the forces of evil and opened the way of salvation and entrance to God. This is how God works. He does not work through violence or revolution which merely replaces one oppressor with another, but calls us to live peaceful, productive lives of service in the face of mistreatment and persecution. Just as God defeated the powers of evil by Jesus giving himself over to death, he will give us victory as we repay evil with love.

Peter gives two examples of how we respond to tyranny and persecution in verses 13-20. He urges Christians to respond to Roman authorities and slave masters with proper honor, obedience and submission. Here he is dealing with terrible situations in which there seems to be no solution. His point is that, even in these situations, God will work within this kind of suffering to save the world as he did through the suffering of Jesus. (2:24) This is the way the kingdom of God changes the kingdoms of this world. We can be sure that when we are in this type of situation that God will use our peaceful, loving responses to our persecutors in the same way he used Jesus’ response. And it does work. This is how the Roman empire was “Christianized” in less than 300 years.

So, if you are in a difficult situation from which there seems to be no escape, take courage and respond with love. God is able to protect you and, even if the worst happens, to take your good behavior and use it to change the world. He might even use it to save the one who is persecuting you.

Devotional: Grow Into Who You Are, 1 Peter 2:1-10

Outline 1 Peter 2.1-10

Peter continues to explain who you are as a Christian and what you need to do to apply these truths to your life in the first half of chapter 2. He calls believers to leave behind the selfish goals, methods and perspectives that drove their lives before they met Christ and instead intensely desire to nourish the new goals, perspectives and methods of the gospel that has saved them. This is done as God's people offer themselves to Jesus because He is the only sure basis for life and what he has done for us obligates us to set aside our lives to serve Him. The old ways of getting what we want, “malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander,” break relationships and do not satisfy. Instead, we are called to crave the gospel, the word about who Jesus is and what he has done for us. and apply it as we follow him. When we daily offer ourselves to serve Jesus, the Holy Spirit will “grow us into our salvation” so that we resemble Jesus more and more each day. He will then join us together with other believers into the the temple (a “spiritual house”) that displays Christ to the world.

What Jesus did for us when we first came to him should drive us to seek more of him and grow into what he made us to be. We should desire this like an infant desires milk. The natural response to what Jesus has done for us should be a regular approach to Jesus, through the Spirit, in commitment, prayer and study of the gospel testimony contained in the Bible. This happens in the context of the church body as the Holy Spirit takes the diverse gifts of individual believers and builds us into one “spiritual house” offering ourselves as “spiritual sacrifices” to God. This is how God will build his new “temple” spreading out all over the world to offer the benefits of salvation and following Jesus to everyone.

Peter emphasizes that Jesus has made us into a “holy priesthood.” We are now created to be his special people, a “chosen race” set aside to serve him, represent him and distribute the amazing blessings he has given us to whoever we come into contact with. We offer ourselves to Jesus because he is the only sure basis for life. The longer we serve him the more we realize this. So let’s “crave the unadulterated milk of the word” by daily commitment to Jesus and serving him, meeting with other believers so that we are built into his spiritual house, and connecting those around us to the Jesus who saved us and loves us.