Monday, May 25, 2015

This is who we are and why we are

Imagine: The ground has been leveled and hardened. On one corner of the foundation sits a large stone, dark gray with specks of green shimmering like emeralds. The cornerstone begins to move and grow. Green tendrils like those of a plant shoot forth. There are leaves and buds. The buds grow rapidly into other stones that take their places as a temple grows toward heaven, one living building, filled with light and life.

"You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple."

Human forms emerge from the stones, shimmering with the same emerald green as the stones and connected by tendrils that move with them. They offer sacrifices and worship God in the midst of the temple. 

"What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. "

I get the impression that Peter did a word study. Perhaps since Jesus declared that he would no longer be called "small stone" but "large rock" he was drawn to passages in scripture that talked about and prophesied about the "cornerstone." Maybe at first he even thought he might find something out about his own identity and future. He may have, but mostly what he discovered was about Jesus, our cornerstone. He says that "anyone who trusts in him will not be disgraced." 

That encourages me. I have done shameful things in my life, things that I regret and that would bring me disgrace and dishonor. Rightly so. But in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no dis - grace, only grace. For those who trust him, who follow him there will be no dis-grace, only grace. Jesus bore our disgrace on the cross.

"As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. "

I am not one of those who rejects the cornerstone, but rather I have obeyed God's Word. Can't really say that with a straight face now can I? I have trusted Christ. I do trust Christ but my obedience is imperfect, and I hope growing. Peter here is not talking about a life of perfect obedience, but of the obedience of faith, trusting Jesus and deciding to be his follower. For those who do so our joint identity is:
- a chosen people
- royal priests
- a holy nation
- God's very own possession.
- those called out of darkness into light
- God's very own people
- those who have received mercy

Our function is:
- show others the goodness of God

I think I can do this!

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” 

Showing others the goodness of God requires careful living. I need to, we need to "keep away from worldly desires". For me that would include lust, impure thoughts, a desire to be admired and sought after, a desire to impress. We're called to live upstanding lives, lives that bring honor to the name of Jesus. This is not pretend piety or conservative political beliefs, but a genuine testimony filled with love, humility and service of others. Pride has no place here, because we totally did not deserve mercy BUT now we have received the mercy of God. I am special because God says so and because he gives me grace. In and of myself, I am a messed up failure, "not his people" - a nobody, without mercy, outside of his love. Now I have received his love and he calls me to show his goodness to others. 

"Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world."

Father, you have shown us such wonderful kindness. You accepted us as your people, you showed us mercy, made us priests, called US out of darkness into light. We are now your people. Help us today to show others the goodness of God that you have shown us. Help us today to live well among our not yet believing neighbours. Amen

Friday, May 22, 2015


1 Peter 1:23, 1 Peter 2:1-3 NLT
For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God... 
So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
I was always taught that this instruction "crave the milk"  is for new Christians. I'm 62 and have been a Christian for more than 40 years. For many of those 40 years I struggled with sin, lust, feelings of unworthiness, etc. Sometimes I lived a double life, 1 foot in sin, 1 foot in the church, trying to be good while trapped in a prison of lies and deceptful behavior. 

Peter reminds me that I am a newborn baby. 40 years - what is that? It is like 40 minutes of a newborn's life. "Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal living word of God" ...

"Get rid of"
Peter breaks the analogy here. Babies can't get rid of anything, but we are called to get rid of

  • all evil behavior: you know what your evil behavior is. I certainly know what mine is
  • deceit - no more double life, come into the light
  • hypocrisy - saying one thing, doing the other
  • jealousy - wishing we had someone else's life
  • all unkind speech - but I so dearly love my sarcastic wit 


We have this one short mortal life to prepare for eternity. We have started the journey but we are in the newborn stage. What does a newborn need? His mother's tit, the sustenance, the closeness, the bonding, the milk, pure spiritual milk - not Chinese milk powder - mother's milk. This is why Paul tells Timothy to beware of the false teachers - babies need pure milk. If I drink the pure spiritual milk then I will grow into a "full experience of salvation". 

what if I don't crave pure spiritual milk? It probably means that 1) I haven't got rid of all evil behavior and that behavior is choking off my new life. In the parable of the soils and the seed, some of the seed gets choked out by the weeds. Is that you? me? I need to fully repent and share my darkness with some brothers or sisters, step into the light. OR 2) I'm not born again yet. Stillborn babies don't crave milk. Are you, am I truly born again? If so, we need to "get rid of evil behavior" and "crave the pure milk". Then we need to 

Cry Out: 

Cry out to God, our mother for nourishment. Ask the Holy Spirit to nourish your soul as you sit down to read the Word of God. Study God's Word, sign up for reading plan on or download the Bible app and read. Crave and Cry Out. 

Father God, Mother God (in keeping with the analogy), Show me those things in my life that I need to get rid of. Help me to share them in my small group and bring them into the light. Create in me a craving for your Word. I cry out right now to you. "I'm hungry..Feed me please." Thank you. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chicken or the Egg, Christ or the Father, who do you trust first?

Chicken or the Egg, Christ or the Father, who do you trust first?
I didn't trust God the Father. Growing up I blamed all my unhappiness on the Father. He was all powerful and he could intervene if he wanted to. I prayed every night to not wet the bed (into early teens, I'm ok now, but that day may be coming again now that I'm getting old) and woke every morning soaked. How could I believe that God the father loved me? Then I read the gospels and met Jesus who said "If you've seen me, you have already seen the Father." Jesus was so incredible. He loved the unlovely. He loved people like me.  Jesus taught me to trust the Father.

1 Peter 1:21-25 NLT
"Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory."

Jesus is the reason I trust the Father. 
The Father is the reason I trust Jesus. 

I trust Jesus because the Father raised him from the dead. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, I would not have trusted him, but the evidence of the resurrection was overwhelming. The Father raised Jesus from the dead, and gave him glory." So I trusted Jesus. Jesus taught me to trust the Father and the Father taught me to trust Jesus. Great teamwork!

" You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart."

Faith is a verb. I was cleansed from my sins when I "obeyed the truth". In the NT that usually took place at baptism. People trusted Christ by obeying the call to repent and be baptised. Faith demands obedience. Jesus never commanded us to raise a hand, fill in a response card, etc. (all good things) but he did say to "Repent and be baptised" and we see this pattern in the NT over and over again. New believers need to start with an act of obedience and baptism is still the best way to do that. 

And then, "Love each other deeply" radically.

"For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you."

The gospel message is the "eternal, living word of God" that causes a person to be born again. My physical life is going to be really short: 90 years if I'm lucky. But the new creation born in me when I obeyed Jesus is still an embryo. I will live forever. What power the gospel contains! What potential! 

Father, you brought Jesus back from the dead. I trust you and love you. Jesus, you showed me what Father was like. I trust you, I love you. Your Word, the good news that was preached to me has power to create new life, eternal life within us. This week I want to be faithful and bold in sharing the good news. Holy Spirit take the gospel message and use it to impregnate, to engender new life, eternal life in the lives of people around. Amen

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Kidnap and ransom are common in parts of Asia and Africa. Ransom is paid to rescue someone from the threat of death. Recently in HK the heiress of the Bossini fortune was kidnapped. The Bible says that God Almighty ransomed us. If you are God Almighty why would you pay a ransom? You can take what you want by force?

In the OT the idea of ransom seems to be similar to "rescue".
Psalms 25:22 (NLT)  O God, ransom Israel from all its troubles.
Psalms 44:26 (NLT) Rise up! Help us! Ransom us because of your unfailing love.

In the NT the rescue is effected by the payment of a ransom.

"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake." 1P 1:18-20
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NLT) 
For some reason (to satisfy the demands of his righteousness and justice, or to pay a ransom to Satan under whose control we were) God decided in eternity past to ransom us. Before making us He already knew what it would cost him.

Imagine this! A couple with a teenage son are considering adopting a baby. Their son is an incredible young man, perfect in every way: creative, loving, obedient and the joy of the family. The family, the 3 of them all have the same dream that tells them: if they adopt this baby, he/she will grow up and make many wrong choices. He/she will fall in with the wrong people and eventually will need to be ransomed and rescued. The price of the ransom will be the death of the son they already have. What family would decide to go through with the adoption? God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit made this choice. Knowing everything I would do to screw up my life. Knowing how much ruin I would bring, they decided to rescue me by paying the ransom, the death of the Son.

The purpose of the ransom was to rescue us from the "empty way of life we inherited from our ancestors."

Jesus rescues us from slavery to sin. He rescues us from "empty living". He brings us into freedom and abundant meaningful living. We are brought/bought from the slave market and brought into the kingdom of his dear Son, where we become children of God.

Lord, this is too much. Before I was born, before the world was even created you decided to make me, to die for me, to ransom me, to rescue me. No more empty living. No more slave market. Kingdom living, freedom, LIFE - these are why you ransomed me. This is what you rescued me for.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Journey towards judgment and eternity

Growing up in a family of 6 kids I felt that my parents had favorites. Dad invested more time in the eldest Stephen and mom doted on Warren the youngest son. Being in the middle I was often overlooked (which sometimes has its advantages). But it was also painful.

My heavenly Father has no favorites. His judgment will not be clouded by sentiment. Judgment (punishment?) or reward will be according to what you do. Can Christians be punished, rebuked, assessed, exposed, etc. If we are shown to be children of God then we won't be punished for sin, but our lives will be exposed and assessed and rewarded or not.

1 Peter 1:17 NLT
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.”

What shall I do? I can't change the past so dwelling on my failures or successes is useless. It will all come to light and God will assess the mess.

Today, right now I can live in reverent fear, awe of God, remembering who he is and remembering that life here is a temporary sojourn. I am made for eternity, but what I do now will effect my eternity.

Heavenly Father, I know you will someday assess and judge my life. You created me and have the right to do so. Help me today to fear you, to live in reverent awe. My journey is mostly over. Some of it has been dismal, but I will leave judgment to you. Today help me to live in the light of eternity, to stay in awe of you, intent on experiencing your grace and love, and help me to show rust grace and love to others. Amen.

Monday, May 4, 2015

My life is a soap opera

People love serial dramas. We used to call them "soap operas" because they aired during the daytime supported by the makers of laundry and other soaps. Since the characters are not real, it's not gossip when we talk about the latest romantic interest of the Good Wife or say "OMG, did Madam Secretary's daughter kissed the president's son. Doesn't she know how messed up he is? What is she thinking?" 

I've been reading 1 Peter and wondering if my life is a soap opera. Here is what he says,
This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.  1 Peter 1:10-12 NLT
Did you get that? Angels are watching us. Are we their soap opera? In Hebrews 11 we are told that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. There is no secret sin, failure or small act of faithfulness and love that is not witnessed.

Do we live in a fishbowl? I think we do. Our lives and the outcome of our choices deeply matter to the Universe. We're not a curiosity. We place a key role in struggle between good and evil, God and Satan.  The witnesses are not dispassionate, curious and uncaring. They are our teammates, those who want us to win, who want the team to win. They wear the same uniform. They may be on the bench but they are deeply invested in the outcome of our lives. The angels watch intently so that they may learn about God's grace and understand the salvation He has provided for mankind.

I am tempted to think that my small life does not matter at all. My life is of interest to angels and there are witnesses who are cheering for me. My life matters.

New bodies needed

My current body is dying. This morning I will go out and exercise trying to postpone the inevitable, but I am dying. So are you. We are all on a death march where every step takes us closer to the he's grave. Paul says "
"What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever."

That's the bad news. The good news is that God has already prepared a replacement. And some people will not even have to die to get it. The word he uses to describe the process is "transformed".
"But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. "

It won't take long, a blink of an eye only. The transformation will be permanent. Our new bodies will be immortal. Death will be finished.

" Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? ” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ."
"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. "
Thank you Father that my inheritance includes a new immortal body. Thank you for the gift of victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to be strong and immovable. Help us to be enthusiastic as we serve you today. Thank you that nothing we do for you is ever useless.