Shepherd and Bishop

I Peter 2:24-25.

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed.

For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Peter quoted Isaiah 53:6 in v. 25. I always think of this classic picture that I remember from Sunday school many years ago. Jesus not only risked His life in our behalf. He gave up His life for us. He is The Good Shepherd.

I love these two verse. Peter, the hurly-burly fisherman, waxes poetic as he writes, showing us a side to his character that we tend to overlook.

We were indeed dead in our sin until Jesus came and bore the punishment of our sin in His own body. He was beaten mercilessly before He was nailed to His cross. It is through His suffering, death, and resurrection that we are healed from the results of our sin. We are to live righteously when we acknowledge Who He is and accept his gift of salvation.

He is the Shepherd. He is the Bishop (an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly) of our souls. He rightly claims that position because He gave His own life for ours.

In His Steps

I Peter 2: 21-23.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth:

Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously:

The last verse we looked at last week was I Peter 2: 20. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”

“For hereunto. . . .” All these verses tie together, and it is often difficult to know where best to separate them for the purposes of our study. It is always good to go back and look at what Peter has said before the hereunto. What he is saying here is that we are called to follow in His steps; that is, we are called to suffer persecution patiently, just as He, Jesus Christ, suffered in our place.

He did not sin. He never deceived or lied or told a story to excuse or protect Himself. He never tried to shift the blame away from Himself, which He obviously could have done with complete justice. His behavior was governed always by the will of the Father, and by His great love for the Father and for each one of us.

He never returned abuse for abuse. He never threatened retribution for His undeserved suffering. Instead, He committed Himself entirely to the will and care of His Father, Who was a righteous Judge.

We can do the same. There are thousands of believers around the world today who are already suffering persecution. Satan is ramping up for his final effort to defeat the Son of God, and the natural outcome of that effort is that believers will suffer. Satan knows his end. He knows it is unavoidable. So his purpose and plan is to take as many of the people that God loves to spend eternity with him in the Lake of Fire. He cannot destroy God, so he will destroy that which God loves — which is mankind, for whom His Son suffered, died, and rose again, providing the only way of salvation.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Good Sleep, and a Goodbye

It’s a gift! Good, restful sleep is a wonderful thing. No restless leg symptoms last night. What a blessing!

So. The big news today is that our pastor, who has been at the church for 25+ years, is retiring. Today is the send-off, celebrating his years of ministry to our church and thanking him for his faithfulness and godly leadership. There will be a meal after the morning service, and a time of testimonies and probably tears as we say this goodbye. He’s going to begin a ministry of being an interim pastor, starting next week at a church in Maryland.

It’s sort of like seeing a very close friend retiring from that position. We will miss him so much!

He has done his best to prepare us for this momentous change in our lives as well as his, but I don’t think you’re ever really ready for such a big change, until suddenly it’s happening.

This photo was taken at his 66th birthday party in October:

We’ve been part of this church since 2013–nearly ten years! That’s hard to realize! We’ve certainly grown under his ministry. His life and ministry make me think of this song by Ron Hamilton:

Saturday Soliloquy: A Rough Week

I’ve mentioned before that I have restless leg syndrome. The muscles in my right leg, in particular, are actually sore from clenching against the jitters. I’m losing sleep and waking up ornery as a bear poked out of hibernation.

Drastic measures are required. I’ve upped the amount of magnesium by adding a supplement to my regimen. That was four days ago, too soon to say if it’s helping or not. I also found a homeopathic product that is mostly magnesium. Little tablets that you dissolve under your tongue, and you can use them as often as necessary. So far, I’ve taken them in the middle of the night when a call of nature summons, and the leg kicks up when I go back to bed. The tablets seem to be helping a lot. I’ve had a couple of really good nights in a row, and am less likely to bite people in the ankle this morning.

“Can’t you get the magnesium you need by way of food?” you may ask. I could, if I were willing to eat, say, three avocados every day. That would blow my calorie allowance pretty quickly, so no, that’s not an option. Most magnesium-rich foods are also calorie-dense. It’s a bummer, but the supplements are inexpensive and easy to take.

Well, enough of that. Unless you share this malady with me, you’re probably tired of hearing about it. It may seem like a small thing, but when sleep is interrupted and physical discomfort is chronic, it becomes a really big issue.

I need my sleep. Always have. I don’t do well on only four or five hours a night, especially if it’s interrupted. Under such circumstances, I closely identify with Auntie Acid and Crabby Road.

Look them up. They’re hilarious 🙂

Take it Patiently

I Peter 2:18-20.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

Peter takes v. 17 one step further and addresses the relationship between masters and servants/slaves.

“WHAT?” You may ask. “Slaves? Really? In the BIBLE?”

Yes. The Bible dealt with life as it actually was, not as any idealist wished it were. Slavery was common in Peter’s day, as the Greco-Roman empire flexed its muscles. Any conquered nation was sure to be considered as free pickings for those who sought slaves for their households or businesses. It was quite common, for example, for a Roman household to purchase a Greek slave to be a teacher for the children in the household.

I’m pointing this out NOT to approve of slavery, but to acknowledge the reality of it. Peter’s message to Christian servants, whether they were hired or enslaved, was to honor and respect their masters–the good along with the froward, or those who were bent, perverse, wicked, unfair and surly.

If a slave suffered abuse for his faith, that was honorable and praiseworthy, especially if he suffered it with humility and dependence on God.

To be buffeted was to be beaten. If you did wrong and were beaten for it, there’s no particular prize to be won. However, if you did no wrong and were still abused, and bore it with patience, then you found honor in the sight of God.

Years ago, I read Richard Wurmbrandt’s story Tortured for Christ. Recently, I watched a movie on my computer about the story of Richard and Sabina’s efforts to help Jewish refugees and, finally, Nazis who were running from Russian Communism. How remarkable that they were able to help the very man who had murdered her family! It was an amazing story of true forgiveness. Richard’s suffering at the hands of Communism came a bit later, and is not an easy story to read. The great lesson, I believe, is that he bore it with patience. After he was finally set free, he traveled to many places. I was honored to hear him speak way back in the 70’s, and was amazed at his lack of anger or hatred toward those who persecuted him.

That is what Peter is teaching in our passage for today. Believe me, I’m not volunteering to be mistreated. I only pray that if such a calamity should arise, my testimony would remain strong.

Fear God

I Peter 2:17. “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

Sometimes it’s really, really hard to “honor the king.” Here in America, we don’t have a king who has absolute authority over everyone and everything. We don’t have a king at all, never have. So that means we don’t have to concern ourselves with that part of this verse. Right?

Well, we may wish it were so. When we disagree with our government, though, we are still to do so without that cloak of malice we talked about yesterday. We have, on paper, the right to freely speak out about our ideas and beliefs. That is a precious freedom, hard-won at the cost of blood and sacrifice on the parts of those who laid the foundations for this “new” idea of a people who choose their own government. It was a radical idea in the 1700’s, and still is in many parts of the world.

So how do we disagree with the authority that we, the people (or at least some of the people) have put into place? How do we react to the steady encroachment of government into our private lives? What do we do when pastors are jailed for standing on the Word of God as their ultimate authority? Must we sit in silent endurance while the America we love falls to the ideas of Marxism?

I do not have one easy answer for that question. We used to be a nation that upheld the laws which we created. When the leaders abrogate those laws, what are we to do? Sit meekly in silence while we lose our precious freedoms?

Again, no easy, simple answers. What I do know is that God said we are to honor all men, including whoever is in the position of highest authority. So we need to look at what honor means in this context.

The Greek word here is timao. It is defined as (1)to estimate, to fix the value; to fix the value of something belonging to oneself. (2). to honorto have in honor, to revere, venerate.

One of the best things the writers of our Constitution provided for us was the every-four-years election of a new President. No one man is President (king?) for life. So we must be wise in our selections, always looking for the one who will best support the Constitution in all of its parts. When we err and put someone in the office who wants to ignore and/or rewrite the Constitution, then we do have options to remove that person when it becomes necessary.

The issue, then, is how we speak of/to government that is stepping out of its lane. And as much as it goes against the grain, we need to use respect toward that person or body of people, no matter how radical they are, no matter how opposite to our founding principles they are. No matter how deep the evil may be, we are to honor all people. Name-calling, for instance, should not characterize the way we speak of anyone, including government.

In particular, we are to love the brotherhood of believers wherever we find them. This is an absolute imperative, with no room for argument. We are not to disparage other believers, even when they follow practices we think are unbiblical. We can point out such practices, but we must do so in Christian humility and respect. Sometimes, there will be a parting of the ways with other believers, but there is no room in this verse for ugly words and behaviors when we do so.

It is important that we always keep in mind that the author of all earthly confusion is Satan, not God. Where there is strife, there is evil at work. For believers to descend to satanic strife is certainly not what God intended. It was not the way He desired His children to bring honor to His Name.

To fear God is to always, always speak and behave in such a manner as to bring honor to Him. We are His ambassadors; we are His witnesses. What others see in us is what they will assume represents God.

We must choose our words and actions with care.

A Cloak of Malice

I Peter 2:15-16.

For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

For so in v. 15 refers back to submitting to authority as good citizens. By doing so, we will put to rest the ignorance of foolish people who accuse Christians of all sorts of heinous behaviors. Of course, Satan will never give up in his efforts to malign Jesus and those who believe in Him. In spite of that, our behavior should be such that if someone accuses us of something outrageous, no one would believe it.

We enjoy great freedom and liberty in the gospel and in the grace of God (Gal. 5:1). We must not abuse such freedom by covering our bad behavior with the cloak of that freedom. Bad behavior is bad behavior, no matter what kind of mask it may wear. We must not be guilty of bringing shame and dishonor to the Name of God, doing so under the guise of “Christian liberty.” We are His servants, not His masters!

God never intended for us to abuse the liberty and grace He gives us as tools to do exactly as we please, no matter who may be hurt by our selfishness.

Be Good Citizens

I Peter 2: 13-14.

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

We often dislike this type of biblical teaching. We may not say so, but we resist having to obey laws that we think are stupid, unnecessary, or an infringement on our freedoms.

Take, for example, the mask mandates. I strongly dislike wearing one. I believe it is next to worthless in preventing the spread of Covid. However, because I have respect, for instance, for my chiropractor who maintains wearing a mask in his office, I honor him by following his example. It doesn’t hurt me to wear one for the half-hour or so that I’m in his office. I do have to wonder about people who wear them in their cars when there are no other people besides the driver. Or the woman on the beach whose mask was flapping in the breeze and certainly not covering her mouth or nose. We’re hearing more and more, even from the CDC, that masks have not been proven to stop the spread of anything! Now I suppose the Big Tech folks will slap a sticker on this when I publicize it. That’s okay. They like to think they can control “group-think,” bless their hearts.

We’re told, in this passage, to comply with human law for the Lord’s sake. We are not to bring reproach to His Name if we don’t have to.

Aren’t there times when obeying human law contravenes God’s Word?

Yes, of course. And that is easily answered by Acts 5:29. Even though the Apostles were threatened with bodily harm and/or death, they were compelled to share the gospel in spite of man’s laws. The caveat there is that we must be ready to accept the consequences of doing so. Here in America, we have been accustomed to our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to practice our faith without dire consequences. We’re slowly but surely seeing that freedom eroding, and we will have to face the consequences of defying restrictions. Some are already feeling that weight. What we need to be sure of is that in continuing to speak freely, we are not doing so merely in defiance of man’s law. That’s not–should not be–the motivation. All that we do is to honor God and spread the gospel in His Name.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Sleepless

It is 2:30 a.m. I am exhausted, but my restless leg won’t let me sleep. I’ve done everything I know to settle it down. Nothing works. It’s a no good, horrible, very bad night.

So I figured I may as well get a jumpstart on my blog, because I’m pretty sure I’ll be sleeping when everyone leaves for church in the morning. Well, it IS morning.

Restless is, I understand one of the joys of old age. Drives me crazy. Stretches don’t help. Tonic water, a product called Calm, a couple of topical things I rub into my leg? Not tonight. Usually I hit on the right cure, but not this time. A pinch of salt under the tongue. Walking. Nada.

Tonight, it has traveled to my left leg, too. I’m afraid they’re going to get into a leg wrestling match.

I try to tell myself it could be so much worse. And it could But somehow that brings me very little comfort when I can’t sleep and my legs have a life of their own.

Well. I hope you are all having a better night than I am. I think I’m going to try going back to bed, and maybe have a little talk with Jesus. Maybe He’ll calm the storm in my leg!