Thursday, March 31, 2011

1 Peter 5:5-6 - Authority of elders?

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:5-6

Summary: The younger should accept the authority of the elders. Be humble in your dealings with one another.

Thoughts: After reading this scripture, it would be easy to fall in to the trap and turn to my kids and say, "See, the Bible says that you should accept my authority!" On the surface, I agree with this statement, because children need their parents to attempt to keep them safe and teach them how to be good people. So when you tell a small child not to run in to the street, it is important that the child listen to you. At some point, however, my children are going to have to be able to make decisions for themselves because I won't be there to help them. They will have to decide for themselves if they want to run in to the street (or whatever!). So now that my kids are older, I am trying to step back and allow them to make their own decisions and live with the consequences. But for all of us, younger and older, it is important to remember to be humble with one another. Because we can all learn from each other. Some of the most important lessons in my life, I learned from a young person, which is why I love my work in youth ministry! Adults, we need to remember that the youth are children of God and bring a unique perspective to share with us. Youth, perhaps you could give us a little bit of credit for our life experience, and listen to us on occassion. As children of God, we need to have a large dose of humility in our dealings with one another.

Prayer: God help me to be humble with all people that I meet, young and old. Amen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

1 Peter 5:1-4 - Am I leading my flock?

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:1-4

Summary: Tend to the part of God's flock that is in your charge. Don't lord it over them but be a good example. Then when Jesus appears you will win the crown of glory.

Thoughts: It's easy when you read this to think that this scripture only applies to the senior pastor of the church. After all, the rest of us don't have a flock, do we? I think that we do. In my case, as the youth minister at my church, I can fairly easily see that the youth are my flock. And beyond that, there is probably a good case to be made that the entire congregation is my flock, since I preach to them on occassion. This scripture also applies to the youth who are on the Youth Council, and to the adults on Ad Council, and those on the worship team and the mission committee. But I'm sure there are still a few of you who are reading this and saying to yourself that you aren't in leadership at the church and so you don't have a flock. However, even those folks who are not in an official leadership position are still leaders in our church. For example, the people who donated blood last Sunday are leading by example. And each of you lead those outside of our church walls by the life that you lead. So, if we are all leaders of a flock, what is this scripture saying to us? Tend your flock, don't lord it over them, but be a good example. By showing every person we meet that we care about them, we are tending a part of God's flock. And if we lead by example, rather than by force, we are following the example of the chief shepherd, Jesus Christ. And isn't that what the Christian life is all about? How will you lead by example today?

Prayer: Christ, help me to live in your shadow and be the sort of example that you would be. And never let me forget that I am the shepherd for a part of your flock. Amen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

1 Peter 4:12-19 - Do Christians Suffer?

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-19

Summary: Don't be surprised by suffering, but rejoice because you are sharing Christ's suffering. Don't suffer as a murderer, etc., but if you suffer as a Christian you should glorify God.
Thoughts: I'm sure I've said this before, but life doesn't get easier when you become a Christian. Yes there will be times when God blesses us with good things, when we feel that we have everything that we need and more! And we should rejoice in those times. But there will also be times when we will suffer. Being a Christian does not make our lives perfect so that we will be free from suffering. Even worse, sometimes we may suffer because we follow Christ. The hopeful news about our inevitable suffering, is that God will be with us. I have had several times in my life when I was suffering severely. As I looked around me and saw the support that I had from my church and my friends, I found myself wondering how I would handle the suffering without the help of these friends and family and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. When things are at their worst I still feel that God is there with me, walking beside me.  So, as this scripture says, I will "entrust myself to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good."
Prayer: Christ, walk with me on this journey that you have set me on, so that I might rejoice in my suffering that I share with you. Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

1 Peter 4:8-11 - God gives me strength!

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:8-11

Summary: Love one another, be hospitable, serve one another. Speak the words of God, serve with the strength that God supplies.

Thoughts: I love this scripture! When I try to describe God to someone, the word love always shows up in my description. God is love. So this scripture, which encourages us to love each other and serve each other only cements the concept of love. As God loved us, we should love others. This scripture also says that "whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ." I am well known for being kind of a nut about missions. I think some of my best moments happened when I was on a mission trip. I've been on 40-50 mission trips in the past 10 years. So you might think that it would get humdrum. But they never do! Each trip is different. Sometimes we go to a different place, but there are always new people to get to know on the trip (people traveling with me and people that I meet on the trip). My point is that on every trip, I have some point when I realize that I don't have the strength that I need. And when I realize that my strength is gone, God supplies me with strength. With that strength, I am then able to do what needs to be done, to the glory of God. Where in your life is God supplying you with strength?

Prayer: God, thank you for loving me and giving me strength when I most need it so that I can do Your work. Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

1 Peter 4:7-9 - The Discipline of Prayer

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7-9

Summary: The end is near so be serious and disciplined for your prayers. Love each other and be hospitable without complaining.

Thoughts: There's alot of good stuff in this scripture of just 3 verses, but what draws my attention today is the first sentence: "be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers." Prayer has been a struggle for me all of my life. As an extrovert I find it difficult to follow the words of  Psalm 46 to "be still, and know that I am God." Being still is not my forte. I am an active sort and have been all of my life. So it's hard to take time to pray and even harder to take time to listen. After all, it took 40 years before I heard God calling me to ministry. Perhaps God waited that long to make the call, but it is more likely that it took me that long to hear God! Having said that, I should also say that when I take the time to be still, when I take the time to read scripture and contemplate what God is saying to me on that day in that text, when I take the time to listen, it is amazing what God shares. And so I continue, in my limited way, to open myself to God, knowing that God can use me if I make myself available.

Prayer: Lord help me to continue to work to develop the habit of prayer so that you can develop incredible things inside of me! Amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1 Peter 4:1-6 - Led by God, to do what?

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:1-6

Summary: Don't live by human desires but by the will of God. You have spent enough time doing what the Gentiles like to do. However, we will all have to be judged at some point.

Thoughts: It is so easy to give in to human desires. For example, lately I've been having trouble resisting sweets. It's entirely too easy, when I'm sitting around watching TV, to grab an unhealthy snack. But it's difficult for me to give up sweets entirely. So I am trying to eat them in moderation. As I type this I am thinking about the delicious looking cake in the office, calling my name, wanting me to come and get a piece to eat! And this is just a small example of the ways in which I allow myself to give in to human desires. I also find myself spending money on things that I really don't need or putting off until tomorrow something that really needs doing now (like straightening my desk!). And these are just the surface things. Below the surface are more important decisions. One such decision is my choice of vocation. Do I choose a vocation based on my human desires (a job deemed important by the world, making lots of money) or do I follow Christ and choose a job based on God's will? I hope to live my life, as this scripture says, "no longer by human desires but by the will of God."  So help me God.

Prayer: Christ, who endured much suffering, did not take the easy way. He set aside human ways and followed the will of God. Please, Lord, help me to do the same. Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

1 Peter 3:18b-22 - Remember your baptism

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:18b-22

Summary: Christ was killed but made alive in the spirit. Just as God saved 8 people through water in the flood of Noah's time, so our baptism saves us with water.

Thoughts: I'm having a hard time making the connection between how God saved Noah from the flood by having him build an ark. and baptism. It seems that in the flood it is the water that killed people, but in baptism it is the water that saves us. It is through the sacrament of Baptism that God brings us into the family of God. The water is used to symbolize the cleansing of sin from our lives. Perhaps that is the connection. The water of the flood cleansed the earth of the sin of its sinful inhabitants. But even then, this connection doesn't work for me. Baptism is a life giving event in our lives, one that doesn't need to be repeated because it is the work of God. So I take this opportunity to thank God for my baptism, for the opportunity given to me to become a member of the family of God!

Prayer: Lord help us to remember our own baptism each time that we see someone else baptized. For it is truly a mystery why you would take a frail human being into your own family, but a blessing that you do. Thank you! Amen.

Monday, March 21, 2011

1 Peter 3:13-18a - Building a home in Juarez, Mexico

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:13-18a

Summary: Better to suffer for doing good, rather than for doing evil. Christ suffered in order to bring you to God.

Thoughts: This scripture makes me think about our recent mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. The week after Christmas our family joined a small mission team who went to Juarez to build a concrete block house for a family living in a cardboard house. We went even though almost every one of our friends and family had urged us not to go. We knew that there had been alot of violence in Mexico in the past year, especially in Juarez. Because of the violence, I had stopped taking youth on mission trips to this area. But I was still feeling called to go to Juarez. I wanted to see all of my friends in the area and I wanted to build a house for one family. We work with Proyecto Abrigo in Juarez, a religious organization that has gone from building hundreds of houses each year with the help of volunteers, to building 15-20 houses in a year. And it's not like the violence is keeping the poor people from migrating from central Mexico to Juarez. There are still more jobs in Juarez than in the central part of the country. Since the poor people are still moving to Juarez, I wanted to show someone that we still cared about the people there. And so we went. Despite the warnings from everyone, including the US border guards. This scripture says perfectly why we went to Juarez. First, we hoped that since we were going there to do good, perhaps no one would harm us. Second, even if we did suffer, we would be suffering because we had been doing what was right. Although I am not willing to put other people in danger, I was willing to put myself in danger, for what was right. And I was willing to let my children make the same decision for themselves. Because we follow the Christ who suffered for us and we are called to follow his example.

Prayer: Christ, it is beyond comprehension why you were willing to suffer for us, the lost creatures that we are. But in response, I are called to follow you. Help me to take up my cross, perhaps suffering because of it, so that your will might be done here on earth. Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

1Peter 3:10-12 - Running After Peace

Scripture: 1Peter 3:10-12

Summary: If you desire life, don't speak evil or deceit. Instead do good and seek peace. God's eyes are on the righteous, God's ears open to their prayers. God's face is against evil doers.

Thoughts: Right in the middle of this scripture, I am struck by the sentence "turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it."  The author not only encourages the readers to seek peace, but to pursue it. This emphasis on peace strikes me as interesting. Don't just look for peace. Instead you should run after it. Don't just glance around you as you go through life, looking for peace wherever you might be. Instead you should go to where the peace is.  What does this mean for me in my life? I shouldn't just work for peace when it is convenient to me, but I should be going out of my way to encourage peace. I should work for peace with those I see every day. I should work for peace in my neighborhood. I should work for peace in my country. I should work for peace in the world.

Prayer: God of peace, remind me daily of my task to be a peacemaker in your world. Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

1 Peter 3:7-9 - Who is my Beloved?

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:7-9

Summary: Husbands, show consideration for your wives, they too are heirs of life. Be united in spirit. Don't repay evil with evil.

Thoughts: I think today I will just skip over the fact that this writer calls women the weaker sex. I'm going to tell myself that this refers to our physical strength, which is usually less than the strenght of a man! Instead I want to focus on verse 8. "Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind."  If we really loved one another, even those people that we don't like, it would be alot harder to treat other people badly. For when you love someone, you want to treat them well and you want them to be healthy and happy. What if we lived as if every person with whom we came in contact was a loved one? The clerk at the grocery store, the woman with two squirmy kids in worship, the obnoxious driver on the freeway, the homeless man on the street corner. How would our attitude change toward them if we regarded them as a loved one? Perhaps I should use this season of Lent to remind myself that every human is a loved one of God and thus should be a loved one of mine.

Prayer: God, you are a father and mother to us all. But that means that all of these human beings on this earth are my siblings. Some of them are easy to love, but some are not. Help me to see the image of God in each of them, loving them with a tender heart. Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

1 Peter 3:3-6 - A New Easter Dress?

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:3-6

Summary: Don't worry so much about dressing up on the outside, but instead focus on your inner self.

Thoughts: It's usually around this time of year that I begin to notice how old most of my clothes are. I start to yearn to buy new clothes or a new piece of jewelry. At the very least, I tell myself, I need a new dress for Easter!  But the truth is that what we wear on the outside only impresses other people, and only for a little while. Even the best dress will get old and fall out of style. Instead this writer encourages us to "let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight." It is so easy in the world in which we live, to allow ourselves to focus on external things. We all want to have pretty things around us and have nice things to wear. But what is precious to God is my inner self. That gentle spirit that can lift up others. I'm hoping this Lenten season to focus on my inner spirit, through Bible study and prayer, letting go of my desire for pretty things. I don't think that God will be impressed by a new Easter dress.  Instead I want to focus on what is precious to God, my inner self.

Prayer: God, you have already given me so many pretty things, including the budding trees and the little birds who populate them. Let that satisfy my desire for beauty, so that I can spend my time focusing on my spirit as I become closer to you, Oh God. Amen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

1 Peter 3:1-2 - Authority of men?

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:1-2

Summary: Wives accept the authority of your husbands so they may be won over by your conduct.

Thoughts: I have been tempted on several occassions to take a marker and mark out the first verse of this chapter. Just as I imagine that the last chapter we read was used to promote slavery, I believe that this verse has been used to subjugate women. We live in a world where women are treated as less than men in so many ways. In many Muslim cultures women are not allowed to leave their homes without a male escort. Many women in our country put up with abuse from their spouses because they are afraid to leave their situation. I am not aware of any profession where women make more than men, given the same amount of experience. So to see scripture that says that women should "accept the authority of your husbands" is infuriating to me. This is another moment when I remind myself that these words were written thousands of years ago, when women were property. But when I look at the second part of this sentence there is a little bit of redemption. The writer says that even if your husband doesn't obey the word (doesn't follow Christ), perhaps the way that the wife leads her life will win him over to Christianity. So perhaps I need to read this in a new light, considering how my conduct can influence those around me who do not follow Christ. Perhaps I can redeem this scripture by applying it in my own context.

Prayer: God, even in the difficult scriptures, you can find a way to give me a word. Thank you. Amen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

1 Peter 2:18-25 - Who is enslaved today?

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:18-25

Summary: Slaves should accept the authority of their masters with all deference. Christ suffered for you, leaving us an example.

Thoughts: No doubt this scripture was used by slave owners who used the Bible to explain why slavery was OK It's difficult for me to read scriptures like this that tell slaves that they should accept their situation. Not only does it say that slaves should accept their master's authority, but they should do so even when their master is harsh. Ugh! There are times that I want to ignore parts of the Bible, pretending that they don't exist. But I know that the New Testament was written a couple of thousand years ago by people who were in a totally different situation than I am. And so I have to accept the fact that I am not going to be able to take everything that I read in the Bible at face value. I know that there are times when we will have to accept suffering.  But that does not mean that slavery is acceptable or that it is OK for one person to hurt another. The God that Jesus Christ tells us about is a loving God who does not want any human being taking advantage of or enslaving another. Rather he calls us to free the slaves and the oppressed.

Prayer: God, we know that you desire only the best for each of your children. Help us to fight oppression wherever we find it. In your name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

1 Peter 2:13-17 - Accept the authority of the emperor?

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:13-17

Summary: Accept the authority of human institutions. Live as free people. Honor everyone and fear God.

Thoughts: It's Ash Wednesday.  The day we go to church, have ashes put on our foreheads in the shape of a cross, and try to think of something to give up for Lent. So on this Ash Wednesday, I find myself thinking about what I should give up.  I think of the young person who gave up Facebook last year for Lent and her testimony about how it served to show her how much time she spent on-line. Although I am tempted to do the same, instead I feel God calling me to be more intentional about getting into the Word. And so, I am going to attempt to blog each day of Lent, in order to remind myself to spend more time with Scripture.

But about today's scripture, I find myself returning to these words: "As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone." God wants us to be free. But we need to live within the laws of our system of government. Don't use your Christianity as an excuse to break the law, saying that you serve God, not the government elected by mere people. However, what the writer doesn't say, is that if the law goes against God's law, then we need to fight against it. Just as the people in Libya are fighting against those in power in their country. That's what I hear when the writer says "Honor everyone." As Christians we must find a way to live within a system that is not Christian. Sometimes that means that we should accept the authority of the emperor, but sometimes that means that we should stand up against those in power in order to be in solidarity with the oppressed. Because we serve a God of love, not a power hungry God.

Prayer: Lord give me the strength to stand up against any system which does not treat people equally and help me to do what I can to support people around the world who are doing the same. Amen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

1 Peter 2:11-12 -Living Honorably

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:11-12

Summary: Abstain from the desires of the flesh and conduct yourselves honorably, so that people may see your deeds and glorify God.

Thoughts: The people to whom 1 Peter was written lived in communities with very few Christians. In this scripture, the writer is encouraging them to be honorable among these non-Christians, letting their deeds speak for themselves. How well do I let my deeds speak for myself? In some aspects of my life I do a good job of living honorably. I treat other drivers with consideration, giving them space to merge in to my lane. I tell the cashier when I have been given too much change back. But it's more difficult to act honorably when the actions cost significant time or money. Like using and washing a coffee cup at church rather than using the disposable cup or buying the free range chicken instead of the chicken raised in horrible conditions. But God is calling all of us to live honorably so that we can glorify God in all of our actions, not just when it is convenient or cheap. Which aspects of your life need more honor?

Prayer: Creator God, help me to make the honorable choices today, considering my fellow travellers in this life, as well as the creation around me. Amen.