Category: 1 Peter (Page 1 of 4)

Risen & Reigning

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.” ~1 Peter 1:3-4

Everything hangs on the resurrection. Every blessing God intends for us to receive comes through Jesus’ resurrection. Forgiveness of every sin, the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, eternal life with him in glory – all of it comes through Jesus’ resurrection. It is the foundation of our faith, the energy behind our hope, and the source and sustenance of our very lives. It’s everything!

If the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then Christianity is worthless and church is a joke. If Jesus is not alive today and reigning in glory at the right hand of God, then he is not even a good teacher; he is a liar and a fraud. If Jesus is not raised, then Christianity is not even a good way to live; it’s a scam and it’s evil. If Jesus is still in a grave somewhere in Palestine, then death is not conquered and we have no hope and we are to be pitied more than anybody on earth.

But Jesus is raised! And he is reigning! And he is interceding! And he is coming back! And we do have faith and hope and eternal life! And we do have forgiveness and salvation and confidence and immortality and immeasurable joy and everlasting peace!

The angels announced it, the apostles saw it, and we believe it and proclaim it: Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead and everything for us and for this world is going to be good and right forever!

Peace,

Allan

Carriers of Hope: Part 2

“Who can forgive sins but God alone?” ~Luke 5:21

There were doubters in that crowded house who watched as four men lowered their paralyzed man on a mat down through the roof into the presence of Jesus. When Jesus forgave the man’s sins, these doubters balked. They double-clutched.

Jesus, knowing what they were thinking, commanded the man to walk and physically healed him right there on the spot. Jesus proves his power to forgive sin when he heals this guy physically. Jesus proves his authority to save the man’s eternal soul when he gives strength to the man’s physical bones. “Get up and walk!” The words and work of Jesus, huh? “Get up and walk!”

The Bible wants us to see that everything God has promised us for the future is already beginning to come true today. The Kingdom has not yet fully come, God’s will is not yet being done on earth just as it is in Heaven. But it has started. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, it has started.

And you are a sign. You’re a foretaste of what God is planning to do with the whole universe. Your life of faith and your discipleship, your prayers and your holiness, your love and your hope, as up and down as it is, are some of the ways God is actually making it happen. When Jesus says to you, “Get up and walk!” he’s calling you to practice hope, to live in hope right now today.

Jesus calls Zacchaeus a beloved son of Abraham and Zacchaeus goes from stealing people’s money to giving his money away. Jesus drives the demons away from the naked guy in the tombs and that guy goes back and tells his whole family how the Lord has changed his life. Jesus had one face-to-face conversation with the woman at the well and she goes from the town sleaze to the town evangelist — she converts her whole village! Jesus forgives Peter and the betrayer becomes the pillar of God’s universal Church.

Christian hope doesn’t mean escaping from the world someday when you die; it means ministering to the world today while you live. Hope is a way of life, right now, that blesses everybody in your world. You have that hope. It’s been given to you by our risen Lord Jesus and you carry it with you everywhere you go. You are a carrier of hope.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith… may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” ~1 Peter 1:3-9

Coronavirus messes everything up. But it cannot touch the inheritance God in Christ is keeping for you in Heaven!

If your future is not secured and guaranteed by God in Christ, then you are going to be overly anxious. You’re either going to be stuck in a paralyzing fear or running blind trying to gain control. You’ll be focused on your own safety and security, your own possessions and lifestyle. And you’ll wind up carrying something besides hope.

It’s anxiety and worry and fear. If that’s what you’re carrying, you’ll infect others with it. And if there’s anything more contagious right now than COVID-19, it’s fear!

Fear is the opposite of faith. And I think it’s OK to be afraid. It’s human nature. It’s going to happen. It’s OK to acknowledge that fear is in the car with you. But you can’t let it drive! It’s in the backseat, where it belongs. Hush! Sit back! Be quiet! You don’t let it drive! If we let our fears and anxieties drive, we’re going to lose our identity, we’ll forget who we are, and who we represent and why we’ve been saved.

We are a people of hope. We’ve been born into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus and we carry this hope with us always, into every setting and into everything that comes our way. This hope gives us patience. This hope gives us confidence. This hope fuels our perseverance. This hope guarantees us that God is at work in the broken present to bring about our glorious future. This hope allows us to listen without judging, to pray without ceasing, and to love without limits.

Yes, Coronavirus is in the air. Yes, our culture is anxious. Yes, people are afraid. The schools are closed, the economy’s in a nose-dive, I’m on information overload and overkill, and I’m preaching to an empty room in our church building. But I’m telling you, our God is doing something good with all this bad. We know this! We know that God is at work even now in the middle of this mess to bring about what’s best for you and for us, what’s best for his entire creation, and what’s best for his everlasting Kingdom!

“So let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” ~Hebrews 10:23

Peace,

Allan

Carriers of Hope

Social distancing. Flattening the curve. Sheltering in place. We’re physically keeping our distance from others right now to avoid spreading infection. We don’t know if we ourselves are carrying the coronavirus or not. We don’t know who among us is a carrier of this dangerous disease and we don’t want to find out by catching it ourselves.

Are you a carrier? What are you carrying?

Colossians 1 says that God has made the glorious riches of the mystery; this is his holy will for Jews and Gentiles; this is the thing he wants for all people; this is what God has been working on for everybody: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The image of God in you, the likeness of Christ in you is about hope. That’s what’s inside you. That’s what you’re carrying. Hope.

And right now I believe the very best thing we can share with those around us is our Christian hope.

Now, “hope” is a funny word. When we say “hope”  in our ordinary English language, we don’t mean something that’s certain. We usually mean it like a wish. We want something to happen, but it might or might not.

“I’m going to the store and I hope they have toilet paper.” They probably won’t.
“I hope it’s going to be a nice spring.” It might.
“I hope the Cowboys win the Super Bowl this year.” That’s just delusional.

Hope in the Bible is not wishful thinking. Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence, a certainty, that it will come to pass because Almighty God promised it’s going to come to pass.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power.” ~1 Peter 1:3-5

You have been born into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. You have that hope inside you. And God gives hope to people through you. People place their hope in God after an experience with you. You are a carrier! When you walk into a room, the others around you sense that you’re carrying something, not because you’re coughing or sneezing or because your eyes are red, but because you are kind and gentle and compassionate and forgiving and full of grace.

Our steadfast hope is anchored in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are holy carriers of that blessed hope. And that hope compels us to live courageously and to act boldly and for the sake of others, in the face of whatever comes our way.

Peace,

Allan

Church People: Part 2

Our Lord Jesus is a flesh-and-blood person. That’s the beauty and the glory of our salvation, that our God didn’t just come to us, he became one of us. This is God’s salvation plan, that he would put on our flesh-and-blood.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~John 1:1, 14

What’s the covenant God made with us? From Genesis through Revelation, from the Law and Prophets and Psalms through the Gospels and Letters, God says it dozens of times, the same promise over and over: “I will live with you, I will walk among you, I will make my dwelling with you; you will be my people and I will be your God.” That’s the covenant.

And when Jesus comes, it’s the messy particularity of it that’s so striking. As you read the Gospels, you can almost taste the dust. You can smell the animals. You can hear the people arguing. Jesus is not so much about inspiring concepts and theological abstractions, he’s about fishing nets and mustard seeds and coins and lepers and spit mixed with dirt and sheep and synagogues and sermons and suppers and tears and frustrations and heartaches and forgiveness. The flesh-and-blood reality of Jesus as a real human person is in your face!

And it’s a beautiful and magnificent thing. We praise God because he became one with us, he became one of us, in Jesus Christ. Our eternal salvation is grounded in the fact that Jesus is a flesh-and-blood person, that he experienced everything we experience, that he knows us intimately and he fully understands everything we go through because he went through it, too. It’s awesome and mysterious and so amazingly glorious! What other God would do this? Jesus the Christ, the promised holy One of God, is a flesh-and-blood person!

So, of course, his Body, the Church, is a flesh-and-blood people.

Our God has always called people. He always calls his people to be people — certainly more than just people, but not something other than people.

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God!” ~1 Peter 2:9-10

Just like individuals, I think churches long to throw off their flesh-and-blood natures and soar like Superman. Or super-saints. But that’s a childish wish and it’s not going to happen. When people complain about the Church being too preoccupied with money or buildings or doctrines or prestige, when people gripe about the Church being closed-minded or exclusive or lazy or boring, they’re usually revealing their discomfort that the Church is, indeed, a body.

Bodies sweat and get sick, they produce weird smells and require varying levels of maintenance. That’s the Church.

Some churches are the bodies of infants — they’re crawling and stumbling and falling down and uncoordinated, but so full of potential. Other churches are like the bodies of teenagers — they’re full of muscle and energy and they’re tripping over each other in their enthusiasm to save the world with no appreciation for how difficult that really is. Some churches are really old bodies — they have a distinguished heritage and some really great memories, but they’re about ready to keel over. For better or worse, whatever kind of body we encounter, this is the Body of Christ. This is the form our risen and reigning Lord has chosen to be present in the world.

And it never meets our high expectations. We can be disappointed by the Church. Embarrassed.

But the world being what it is and we being who we are, we are not going to arrive this side of glory. We’re still human pilgrims doing our best to live out the love of God in Christ. And falling way short. But the Church is always more than it appears to be. It’s not another club or social organization. The Church is a chosen people, a holy nation selected by a holy God. What can look like a failing, declining institution for religious folks is, in truth, nothing other than the very Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, united as one with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit right now today and forever!

And it’s real. It’s physical and tangible and flesh-and-blood visible. And real.

God’s Church does not work as an abstract ideal. It’s not a theological concept. It’s intended by God to be visible and authentic and real, warts and all.

Peace,

Allan

Open Your Eyes

We are so blessed by God to be alive today during this particular time. We are so privileged to be alive during this current chapter of God’s Story. Right now, today, we are living during the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God! Because of the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit on all people, through the Church, we get to see things and experience things nobody else could!

We get to participate as co-workers with God as he redeems and restores his creation. We get to experience Gods’ Spirit moving into and re-creating people. We get to watch as God moves into a place and reclaims it for his glory. The prophets could only speak of such things; we get to live it! Israel’s kings could only imagine the worldwide spread of God’s reign; we get to help fund it! Peter says angels long to see such things; we get to see them and live them every day!

Here at Central, we’ve watched and participated as the Route 66 strip club has been transformed into a place where every day 50 homeless and marginalized men and women gather for Bible study and grace and love and dignity and Christian community in the presence of God!

We’ve painted and prayed and stacked diapers and sorted car seats as the Planned Parenthood building down the street has become a place where nearly 900 young women last year said “No” to abortion and said “Yes” to God’s promise of life!

Open your eyes. God’s Kingdom is breaking out everywhere around us. Broken things are being fixed, what’s wrong is being made right. We’re so blessed by God to live when we do, right now, in the wonder and joy of his visible reign.

Peace,

Allan

I Saw Satan Fall

LightningIn Luke 10, Jesus sends out 70 of his disciples. He sends them to every town and place, it says, to declare the Kingdom of God is here. He sends them with his power and authority: “Whoever listens to you listens to me.” And they go and they testify and they proclaim, “The Kingdom of God is here!” And they’re blown away by the power of their testimony. They return to Jesus with great joy. They’re amazed by the response to their witness, “Lord, even the demons fall down to us in your name!”

And Jesus says, “I saw it.”

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” I sent you out to go with my authority. And when you proclaim my truth and declare my Kingdom in my name… I saw it. Satan falls.

And now Jesus is overcome with joy by the Holy Spirit and he thanks God in prayer, “I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth.”

And then he says to his disciples:

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” ~Luke 10:23-24

We are so blessed by God to be alive today during this particular time. We are so supremely privileged to be alive during this current chapter of God’s story. Right now, today, we are living during the last days of the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom. Because of the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all people, through the Church, we get to see things and experience things nobody else got to. We get to participate as co-workers with God as he restores and redeems his creation. We get to experience God’s Spirit moving into and re-creating people. We get to watch as God moves into a place and reclaims it for his glory.

The prophets could only speak of such things; we get to live it! Israel’s kings could only imagine the worldwide spread of God’s Kingdom; we get to help fund it! Peter says angels long to see such things; we get to see them and live them every day!

Our God gives us the opportunity to join him in creating new possibilities, in changing the potential in people’s lives, in participating in his new creation. We are highly favored by our Father!

The prophets gave us the beautiful vision from God: You will be a light to the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, to release those who sit in darkness. The prophets gave us the glorious mission from God: I will make you a light for the nations that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. And now WE get to be that light! He’s chosen US to shine his light!

Here at Central, we’ve seen that chapel that was built in 1929 become a sacred space for five generations of Christian worship and countless numbers of baptisms and weddings and funerals and a launching pad for nearly 90 years of Gospel ministry. We’ve seen it.

We’ve seen a modest commitment to Ted and Dot Stewart back in 1961 turn into Great Cities Missions and thousands of new Christians in a hundred new churches in dozens of cities in Latin America. We’ve seen it.

We’ve seen the Upreach Center, the house Central reclaimed and redeemed in 2001, become an outpost for Loaves and Fishes, CareCentral, and Prayer Breakfast, compassionate ministry and outreach to the poor that was un-thought of twenty years ago and continues to grow today. We’ve seen it.

Just in the past year-and-a-half, we’ve seen God change the Route 66 strip club into The PARC where our city’s homeless are being gathered into Christian community around morning Bible studies and prayer in a context of God’s limitless love. We’ve seen the Planned Parenthood building become the regional headquarters for CareNet, where unwed mothers are taught that every human life is precious to God and devastated families are given love and support and resources in the manner of Christ.

We can join our Lord in declaring together, “We see  it!” We see Satan fall from the sky! Praise God, we get to see it and experience it; we actually get to participate in it. The great prophets and Israel’s kings and the angels in heaven are jealous. Who knew God believed you and I were so special!

Peace,

Allan

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