A Bold, Daring Faith

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S (Scripture): 1 Peter 1:3 May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! On account of his vast mercy, he has given us new birth. You have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 4 You have a pure and enduring inheritance that cannot perish—an inheritance that is presently kept safe in heaven for you. 5 Through his faithfulness, you are guarded by God’s power so that you can receive the salvation he is ready to reveal in the last time.

6 You now rejoice in this hope, even if it’s necessary for you to be distressed for a short time by various trials. 7 This is necessary so that your faith may be found genuine. (Your faith is more valuable than gold, which will be destroyed even though it is itself tested by fire.) Your genuine faith will result in praise, glory, and honor for you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

O (Observation):  The early Christians are empowered by Peter to hold on to their faith in the midst of oppression.   Peter (our author) knows that earthly things (like gold) only last so long.   But one’s faith – a gift of the Spirit – lasts eternally.  

The encouragement Peter gives, then, is that followers of Christ are given a new birth, a living hope, and a pure and enduring inheritance.  

This is how Peter grounds his greetings: with thanksgiving!

A (Application):  We have a lot we can gripe about in this world.  White supremacists, government leaders with whom we disagree, the fact that the Church remains mostly silent when our neighbors are oppressed.  All of these things can drag us down.  And we can start to tell ourselves that our story is one of sadness and despair…

Or…we can remember Peter’s words today.  We have a living hope in Jesus Christ!   Our salvation is secure and thus we can live out our faith boldly, confidently!

When your faith is tried, and you stand out on the front line, the circumstances can seem overwheling.   But we are empowered by the Spirit to remember our story.  To remember that we have a pure and enduring inheritance that cannot perish.  So no matter what happens in this life, we are secure.   

So go!  Act boldly, to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us steadfast in the faith. Amen. 

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The Only Response to God: “I repent!”

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S (Scripture): Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted;…3b I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know.

4 You said, ‘Pay attention, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.’

5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes!”

O (Observation):  Job has come to the conclusion of his trials before God.  He never blasphemed God, but he did assume wisdom beyond that of God.   Job thought he knew best, but God’s last couple of points about the weather and the Leviathan being beyond Job’s comprehension were enough to cause Job to come to one conclusion:  “I repent in dust and ashes!”

 

Job has sensed that he truly encountered God in this experience.  He’s heard about God…but he doesn’t think he’s ever heard from God directly.  Now he has.  He has now “seen” God (that is, he has “encountered” God).

A (Application):   Job’s response is the only possible response when in an encounter with God.   Nothing we say or do can ever please God in and of itself.  All that we do is tainted with a bit of sin.   But we act boldly, anyway, trusting that our Lord will guide all things together for those who trust in the Lord.

We can be as righteous as Job, but that still doesn’t make us worthy of God’s love.  Instead, God’s very nature is mercy and love.  And so, we come, humbly, into our encounters with God, trusting that God will pick us up from dust and ashes in which we repent, in order to wash us clean, fill us with the Spirit, and send us out to make disciples.

…but it all starts with the only response possible:  “I repent in dust and ashes…”

P (Prayer):  Lord, give us repentant hearts…and pick us up from the dust and ashes.  Amen.

Cracked Pots for Jesus!

S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. 4:7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”

O (Observation):  Paul acknowledges the gift of God – the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.  Paul recognizes that this gift comes to him and the fellow believers, and declares that they – the vessels – are as fragile as clay pots.   Clay pots can be broken, but can also contain water, wine, grain, etc.

The earthly nature of these pots makes them frail, but also powerful as carriers of material.

In this case, the Christian witnesses, as imperfect as they are, have a very important message to carry.

A (Application): Cracked pots for Jesus!  That’s what we are.  God chose us, the church, to carry forth an amazing story and testimony to share with the whole world.  The image of the clay pot helps me understand that my witness, as powerful and wonderful as it is, is all about what’s INSIDE the clay pot, and NOT ABOUT THE POT ITSELF (I.e. ME)!

I am breakable, I am frail.  Yet I am the one, and you are the one, who has been given divine knowledge to carry with us and to share with others.  Again, it’s about the message, not the messenger.

Let us be as humble as clay pots, but also brave witnesses to the gift of God in Christ Jesus.

P (Prayer): Lord, we can get to big for our britches sometimes.  Help us to know our place in your Kingdom, and to be bold and brave in delivering your message to the world.  Amen.

A Living Letter

  S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we? 3:2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, 3:3 revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.

O (Observation): Paul makes a distinction between a reputation on paper versus a living testimony.  Paul suggests that he and his followers do not need any kind of written testimony of their Gospel message, because they have one another, and The Gospel written on every one of their hearts. 

Paul compares members of the body of Christ to letters written by fellow members of the body of Christ written by way of the Spirit, delivered by one another to one another.  

A (Application):  Great metaphor. The impression each believer leaves on each other gets written into their very DNA.  As a letter-writer leaves a bit of themselves in the letter, so too, do we leave a bit of ourselves with one another after we spend time together. 

As a church, we must be careful what we measure, because we ultimately value what we measure.  If we only measure butts and bucks (attendance and offering) we only value those things.  That’s not necessarily the Gospel.   

What if we measured the number of households that hold daily devotions or spend time in Scripture every day?  

What if we asked how many people are you mentoring in the faith (or conversely, do you have a spiritual mentor)?   (Or, are you being mentored AND mentoring others?)

What if we asked people about where their strengths lie: between spending time with God, disciples, or the community?  What is their weakest area?  Why?

These are questions that get to the “heart” of Paul’s words.  Knowing butts and bucks doesn’t always get us there.   The fact that we are living letters means that we will bear fruit, fruit that will last.   That means we will struggle with our faith journey, with reproducing a disciple-making culture, and with being a living letter for Christ. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to see our lives as gifts from you.  Help us to know that we are living letters, informed by those who have come in the faith before us.  Helps us to see that we will write the living letters of the future.  Amen.