Saturday Soliloquy: It’s BACK!

Yup. My back is back. I hope it’s just a little bump in the road, but it’s been bothering me off and on. I can usually settle it down with a little TLC, but this session is going to take a little more time, I think.

Have you ever prayed about something, asking God to–well, just fix it, please? Take it away? At least relieve the pain? And He says NOTHING in response? Did you ever wonder if He even heard you?

If you are His child, He hears you. What we have to understand about God is that we can’t put any requirements on Him. That’s beyond our human ability. One of the hardest things I’m still learning to do is to let God be God, and trust Him for the outcome. He is not required to concede to our demands.

But doesn’t the Bible say that He delights in giving us good and perfect gifts (James 1:17)? Yes. BUT! He is not only the giver of gifts. He is also the One Who knows when the gifts are good and perfect, and we cannot define that and dictate to Him what He needs to give us.

So I can only conclude that I need to continue to let Him be God in my life, and to accept what He allows. I can be thankful that this pain started in my late 60’s, and not my early 20’s. I can be thankful that there are pain remedies that were not available when my mom went through this same pain. I can learn to not focus on the pain, except to treat it as much as humanly possible. I have excellent medical care from compassionate people who don’t tell me it’s all in my head. The injections I get now and then really do help a great deal, although they are not a permanent remedy.

I can be patient, because I know that when He takes me home, I’ll have a new body, pain free and perfect.

For This Cause

I Peter 4:6. “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

For this cause: Or, because of this coming judgment. Peter has already said that Christ preached to those who are waiting in Hades (Sheol) for the coming judgment. Those who were believers in life are still faithful believers. They waited for release from Hades into the glories of heaven. Those who were NOT believers in life are still not believers in death. Christ’s appearance to them was, possibly, to announce the completion of God’s plan of salvation, and a reminder that they would receive eternal judgment for their unbelief.

We do not know what Jesus preached to those in Hades. We can only guess, based on this and other scriptural passages, so I am not taking a hard line here. I believe, for our purposes and our life in the Spirit, we need to focus not on exactly what Jesus preached in Hades. Instead, we need to focus on how we are to live our lives, and the importance of sharing the gospel with those around us.

Men will often judge us harshly, claiming that Christians are the source of all evil, all trouble, all hatred. There is nothing new in this judgment. In the days following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Christians were accused of killing babies and drinking their blood, among other heinous acts. The key to our behavior in the light of such accusations is to live our lives in such a way that no one who knows us will believe the rumors and allegations against us. It is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what our circumstances may be.

God Will Judge!

I Peter 4:4-5.

Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

Who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

I was born again when I was only five. I grew up in a Christian home, and never took part in the behaviors described in yesterday’s post. Don’t misunderstand–I struggled with my own sin nature, and still do. However, I did not run with a group that participated in a lot of drinking, promiscuity, and so on. I’ve not had to deal with being rejected by the friends I had before becoming a Christian.

However, I do know what it is to be the brunt of criticism for not participating in such behavior. I had a work acquaintance many years ago who was offended that I chose not to have a drink at lunch with her, even though I did not make a big issue of it. She was angry, and spread some rather nasty rumors about me. The outcome was far different than she expected. Very few people believed her, which was a balm to my soul. That’s just one incident. There have been others down through the years, mainly allegations that I consider myself to be superior to others because of the way I live.

Those who are saved out of a dissolute lifestyle are going to experience rejection and, often, severe criticism from their former friends. It can be very difficult to bear.

What those people do not know or understand is that God is prepared to judge both the living and the dead for their own sin, and there will be no one else for them to blame for behavior that rejects God and holiness.

Our job, then, is to live godly in Christ Jesus, and to share the gospel of salvation whenever we can.

Walk According to the Will of God

I Peter 4:2-3.

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

In verse one, Peter urged believers to have the mind of Christ under persecution. He enlarges on that idea by telling us in today’s passage that we are to live not according to human desires, but to the satisfy the will of God.

So, what is wrong with the lusts of men? Well, we get that list in verse three:

Lasciviousness: unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence

Lusts: desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust

Excess of wine: drunkenness

Revellings: a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honour of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before houses of male and female friends; hence used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry.

Banqueting: drinking, carousing

Abominable: contrary to law and justice, prohibited by law, illicit, criminal

Idolatries: in the plural, the vices springing from idolatry and peculiar to it

(All definitions according to Strong’s Numbers and Blue Letter Bible)

No Christian should ever be characterized by such things. They bring shame to the believer, and dishonor to God.

Arm Yourselves with. . . .His Mind

I Peter 4:1.

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

Forasmuch is not something we say these days. We would probably say, “Because Christ suffered. . . .”

Jesus voluntarily gave Himself up to physical abuse and suffering in our behalf. Armed with the love of the Father and the comfort of obedience to Him, Jesus endured agony for us.

What Peter is saying here is that we can follow Jesus’ example. We can be armed with the mind of Christ to endure suffering, if God so allows.

How does one have the mind of Christ?

We develop the mind of Christ through the reading, study, and love of God’s Word. Every word of scripture is inspired of God through the Holy Spirit. My life verse is Psalm 119:165. “Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend (cause to stumble) them.”

The love of God’s Word engenders inner peace. The love of God’s Word keeps us from tripping and falling over temptation that Satan strews across our pathways like little rocks. It is through the knowledge and love of God’s Word that we can get the victory over temptation. Satan figures out our vulnerabilities and tempts us accordingly. When we have the peace of God in our hearts, through His Word, we will NOT stumble over those temptations. Even when we experience great fear and dread, we can have the peace of God that enables us to face it and endure it.

Why does Peter say that those who have suffered for Christ will cease from sin? Is one perfected by suffering for Him? I’ve thought about this over the past weekend, knowing I would be writing about it today. No, we are not made sinless through suffering. However, I believe that when one has truly suffered for Christ’s sake, his faith is strengthened and refined, and his tendency to sin is decreased with the new understanding of what Christ suffered for his sake.

Verse two says it perfectly. Persecution has the tendency to encourage us to live the rest of our lives in obedience to God’s will, and not in giving in to human lusts.

I’m not very brave. I would much rather choose to live for God because of my love for Him than to have to suffer persecution that would bring me to that point of surrender.

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Church

We have a big decision to make after church today. We’ll have lunch first, then a business meeting in which this important vote will be taken. I hope, of course, that it turns out the way I want it to 🙂

I’m happy to say that the cartoon above is NOT my church 🙂 Our business meetings are usually short and to the point, with anyone free to state his opinions, and no murmuring and complaining once the decision is made.

And so it ought to be. One of the main benefits of the church is that we have fellowship with other believers, in a spirit of unity and respect for one another.

No church, of course, is perfect. If you find one that is, you’d better go somewhere else because you’ll probably ruin it :). The church is comprised of sinners, saved by grace and looking forward to heaven. We are particularly blessed in my church to have some outstanding teachers both in children’s ministries and for the adult Sunday School classes.

I hear a lot of nonsense concerning church these days. Don’t really need to go, can worship God while I go fishing, the forest is my church, etc. The problem with all that, of course, is that it countermands God’s plan that church is to be a place where believers are edified, admonished, helped, and encouraged.

We have a really good group of young people. Our teens are, for the most part, open and friendly with the adults. They seem to enjoy little kids as well, and participate in helping with children’s church and in the baby nursery. They’re normal kids. They like to have fun. I enjoy them a lot in my home school co-op classes.

I’m rambling this morning. I’ve just been thinking a lot about how important the church has always been in my life for nearly 75 years. It hasn’t always been a blessing. Being the preacher’s kid puts one in an awkward position, in which you are expected to be a paragon of virtue, but are disliked for being too holy. “Be good, be an example, but don’t be holier-than thou.” Believe me, it’s a tricky rope on which to balance! However, that ends fairly early in life, and the lessons learned during those years are invaluable later on.

I love my church. I love the people, the little children, the teens, the young adults who are happy to sit and talk with me after the service is over. And I truly enjoy the older people–oh, wait. I AM an older people! Huh.

I saw a meme yesterday that said, “I hate it when I see an old person and realize he’s the same age as I am!”

Saturday Soliloquy: Narnia

We just finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in my homeschool co-op class. It was both fun and interesting to teach, and I was impressed with the insights of my teenaged students.

The topic arose of whether or not Lewis intended this story to be an allegory, so I did some research. The simple answer is NO, he did not intend it when he began writing. What Lewis has said is that the story just wrote itself, and that he became aware of the comparisons to the biblical story of salvation as he wrote. He was happy to point out those allegorical elements, but declared that it was not his original intent when he started writing it.

I asked my students what characters or events were their favorites. The answers ranged from the colorful imagination of the writer (C.S. Lewis) to characters such as Aslan, the rescuer of Narnia. One young man liked the character of Edmund because he developed throughout the story from a selfish, angry brat to a noble, self-sacrificing boy.

My personal favorites were the beavers. Full of ingenuity and heart, these magical animals saved the day for Peter, Lucy, and Susan. I also enjoyed the Professor, to whose estate the children had been sent for the duration of WWII. He appeared to be an irascible old grouch, and his housekeeper aided and abetted that appearance. He wasn’t, though. He actually enjoyed the children, and gave them some very wise advice in their adventures.

It was a delight for me to listen to my students engaging in conversation over the characters, the plot lines, and especially over comparisons in the story to biblical events. For example, the Stone Table upon which Aslan was willingly sacrificed in Edmund’s place was split in two, right down the middle, after Aslan’s disappearance following his death. The comparison to the rending of the veil in the temple in Jerusalem was obvious. When Jesus died, He fulfilled the Law. The veil had separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple, and only the High Priest could enter at the appropriate time each year. The rending of the veil was symbolic of our new access directly into the presence of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The breaking of the Stone Table is symbolic of the rending of the veil.

It was a good semester. I love to teach, and feel privileged to do so with a group of kids who love to learn.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I Peter 3:21-22.

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him.

It is hard for us to imagine the immensity of the Flood. So much contributed to it–not just the 40 days and nights of rain. The Bible says that the “waters of the deep” inside the earth were set free. Such a storm was never seen before, and has never been seen again. I’ve often wondered what it must have been like inside the ark as Noah’s little family listened to the raging storm all around them.

In this passage, Noah compares the water of the Flood to the water of believer’s baptism. He stresses that it is not the water that saves us from sin. Rather, it is an indication of a right relationship (good conscience toward God) that saves us, through the power of His resurrection. Why doesn’t Peter say our salvation was through the death of Jesus? After all, it was His blood that cleanses us from sin, right? Yes, BUT: Without the resurrection, Jesus would have been just another Jew executed by the Romans at the demand of the Jewish religious leaders. Without the resurrection, there would have been no point in His death! It was His ultimate victory over sin and death that we celebrated last Sunday. Because He lives, we too can live eternally!

Jesus is now in heaven, at the right hand of God. Angels, powers, and authorities are subject unto Him. Nothing happens that He does not allow.

After the Flood, God put a rainbow in the sky as confirmation of His promise never to destroy the earth again by flood. He did NOT promise never to destroy it again at all. That day is coming, and when it does, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is indeed Lord (Phil. 2:10-11)!

Longsuffering of God

I Peter 3:20. “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

God was patient. He gave mankind plenty of time to observe the building of the ark. They scoffed at Noah, of course, because there had been no such structure before. They laughed at the idea of rain, since to our knowledge there had been no such event before. The world and its climate were very different then.

My research leads me to believe it is possible, even likely, that it took about 55-75 years for Noah and his sons, who were adults and married when the building started. Here’s a link you can check out:

If it was indeed that long in building, then people had more than enough time to repent; to acknowledge God and His holiness, and to turn to Him for redemption.

How many people died in the Flood? One man,, believes the world’s population at that time was somewhere between 5-17 billion, with an average around 10 billion. This number changes from person to person depending on belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible. It’s not really worth arguing about, in my opinion. The only reason I mention it is to get some idea of the immensity of the loss of life because of rebellion and sin against God.

For comparison’s sake, the two most populous countries today are India and China, with a combined population of about 2,900,000,000. Multiply that by 7 or 8, and you have an approximation of how many people perished in the Flood.

Mine is not a math brain. I have a hard time understanding 10 billion. I give you these stats for one reason only: To show you the incredible patience of God. The Bible uses the term longsuffering. In spite of Noah’s preaching, people scoffed and sneered at God’s warnings until, at last, the Ark was ready. When God shut the door, their time was up. No last-minute changes of mind.

Those who died in the Flood are mentioned as the ones to whom Jesus preached in Hades. Were there others there? I’m sure there were. We don’t know why they aren’t mentioned, or what Jesus’ sermon was about. Apparently God doesn’t need us to know. Perhaps those who died in the Flood are mentioned because of their long-standing rejection of His warnings.

Only eight souls were saved from the Flood: Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their sons’ wives. Our verse today says they were saved “by water.” The flood waters washed away sin and corruption and left a fresh new world in which to begin life anew. The obvious comparison is to the waters of baptism, which do not provide our salvation, but which indicate to God and other people that we have been saved by His grace, and are starting life anew.

He. . Preached. . .to the Spirits

(Before I start my study today, I need to apologize for my two-day absence. We had a major computer glitch, which my talented husband has jerry-rigged until he can figure what else needs to be done. I’m so thankful for his abilities to fix stuff!

I also want to say ahead of time that this verse and the next have been the subject of much study and controversy. I do not claim to have the definitive answer. I will only do the best I can to explain it in simple terms–hard to do for such a complex subject.

I Peter 3: 19. “By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison;”

Peter, in the previous verse, says that Jesus, quickened (made alive) by the Spirit, which enabled Him to go and preach to the spirits which were in prison.

Who were those spirits? I believe they were the souls of all who believed God, through faith,. They had died before our salvation was complete, but their faith justified them. They were not in the place of torment. They were sheltered “in Abraham’s bosom,” waiting for their release when Jesus came to take captivity captive; and I believe they knew Who He was when He appeared in Sheol and preached the gospel of the risen Christ to them. What an amazing time that must have been! To see the risen Spirit of the Son of God standing before them! To hear from His own lips the fulfillment of the promise of eternal life in heaven! I believe they were silent as He spoke. I believe there was great rejoicing and praise to Him as He made clear what was about to happen.

Some believe that Jesus went to preach to the demonic spirits in Hades. He went to announce that death had been defeated, and that the final judgment for sin was still to come. It was not an evangelistic message He preached, but one to make clear that He had gained the victory over sin and death.
I find this position difficult to justify on several levels. The most important is that Jesus would have had nothing to offer the demons beyond the surety of their coming torment in the Lake of Fire.

I like this quote from a Bible commentator I admire:

“What His message was we are not told. Why only those disobedient in the days of Noah are mentioned is not stated. What the purpose or result of Christ’s preaching was, is not revealed. On all these points we may form our own conclusions, but we have no authority for anything approaching dogmatic teaching.” (Morgan)

Morgan, Blue Letter Bible