Do you do your homework? This may seem like an odd question to be asking but that’s exactly what the people in Acts 17 were commended for doing. When Paul and Silas went to a place called Berea they were teaching the word of God to people in the synagogues. The people had never seen the scriptures in the light that Paul and Silas were teaching it to them, they had never recognized the truths that were being shared. So rather than just believe what they heard they went ahead and studied it in the scriptures for themselves to see if what Paul and Silas were saying was true. Essentially they were ‘doing their homework’. They found that what was being taught was true and so came to salvation. We refer to them as the Bereans. The term may sound familiar to you as many church youth groups have held the name Berean in their names. This is a reference to that noble group that studied the scriptures for themselves to see if what they were being taught was true.
In our society today there do not seem to be enough people who display Berean like qualities of ‘doing their homework’. Why were the Bereans noble – because they searched for the truth and they found it! Truth is important to us, but today the truth seems more, and more difficult to unearth. There are many newscasters, commentators, teachers, and yes preachers too who would all benefit from doing a little more homework before presenting information to the public. This would prevent a whole host of misinformation from circulating about. Many people would be better able to discern the truth if they did their homework. If you know the truth of a matter then you will less likely fall for anything false. We should all strive to be like the Bereans and desire to know the truth for ourselves, through diligent research especially when it comes to the word of God!
-Pastor Merry Peterson
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 15-16 and Acts 17
There’s nothing quite like being misunderstood! Have you ever felt that way – misunderstood? It happens to all of us and usually things sort themselves out one way or another but being misunderstood really put the apostles in danger in Acts 14. Along with the gospel message that they were to share, God had given them a portion of His holy spirit to be able to work miracles in those who would believe. Innocently enough the apostles began to share the message and then a lame man was healed and made strong again in the presence of all the people. This could have resulted in many more coming to belief in Jesus but instead the miracle resulted in the people thinking that their false gods were responsible and that they were manifesting themselves in Barnabas and Paul.
Talk about misunderstanding! Barnabas and Paul were mortified that the people were attributing greatness to them and thought that their false gods had done the miracle instead of the Almighty God of heaven and Earth. It became such a terrible situation that they even dragged Paul out and stoned him! What a terrible misunderstanding.
Have we ever tried to share the gospel with someone or a group of people and it went terribly wrong – with people ending up with wrong ideas or wrong impressions of what you said or did? Just remember you are not alone – the disciples had the same experience. Thankfully in our day and age stoning has gone out of fashion but tabloid lies and rumors abound. Social media can quickly make or break people’s opinions and ideas whether they get the right idea or the wrong one! Speaking from experience I had something I said unfortunately taken in the wrong way on social media due to how I phrased my response – oh the backlash! Live and learn. We must season our lives with prayer and ask God to direct our words and actions so that they will be taken in the correct manner. My prayer is that we would always be understood clearly whenever it comes to the gospel so that the work of the Lord may abound.
I am continually amazed at the way God directed the steps of the apostles through the direction of His Holy Spirit in the days of the formation of the early church. The apostles had the message to share that through Jesus there was forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to the Father. They were given the opportunity to share this message in very public places and many came to believe in Jesus. Can you imagine speaking in one place and then being asked to speak again the following week and almost the whole town shows up?
We as Christians have been given the same message to share – that there is forgiveness for sin through Jesus Christ resulting in reconciliation with our heavenly Father God. This is the greatest message of hope there is. Do we share it as often as we can? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were asked to share and a whole town full of people showed up and came to believe! We realize that the apostles were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing things, and make amazing inroads in the gentile world for the gospel of Christ to be shared and accepted. If we want to be successful like they were notice what they did at the very beginning of Acts chapter 13 – the men fasted and prayed for direction and it was given to them.
As we attempt to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world do we go about it in our own way or in God’s way. Do we remember to pray for God to lead us by His Holy Spirit to know where and when we are to share the message? Do we ask for the opportunity to share and do we ask for the correct words to say as the opportunity presents itself. The apostles were successful in their mission to share the gospel in Antioch because they had prepared the way ahead with prayer, and diligence to listen to where, and when God was directing them to speak. All of this leaves me wondering – would we be much more successful in our sharing of the Gospel if we spent more time in preparation with prayer and listening for God’s directives? Give it a try and see what happens!
-Pastor Merry Peterson
Pastor Merry Peterson lives in Ontario, Canada and pastors at Freedom In Christ Church.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 7-8 and Acts 13
There is an old gospel song called Wonderful Words of Life. I have loved this song because of its lyrics: Sing them over again to me –Wonderful words of life, let me more of their beauty see – Wonderful words of life. Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty. Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life – Wonderful words of life! In 1 John 1 the life – the eternal life – is a reference to Jesus. The disciples knew Jesus personally and knew without a doubt that he was sent from God to be the savior and teacher of mankind. The disciples knew God through his word and knew personally Jesus Christ His son. The only one – as one disciple described him in the gospels as the one who had the words of life. He actually said (when Jesus asked if he was going to turn away also as some nominal disciples had): to whom else shall we go? for you have the words of eternal life.(see John 6:68)
Having this relationship with Jesus gave them so much joy they wanted to share it with everyone. Shouldn’t having a relationship with the one who has the words of eternal life fill us with so much joy that we want to share it too?
The joy comes from knowing the one who is eternal life and recognizing that all of God’s ways lead to light, and life, and truth. Those people who walk in God’s ways must emanate this same light and life, and truth. The darkness has no part in the light. We must walk in ways of light and not in darkness. We must want to share that light with others.
Let’s face it there is plenty of darkness out there. Sin is everywhere, and everyone has sinned at some point in their life. But the life giving, light bearing news is this: God is willing to forgive all who confess their sin to Him and cleanse them from their sins. Through the power of what Christ did on the cross we can all be put back into right relationship with our heavenly Father God. These are definitely wonderful words of life! And words worth sharing, and shining in our dark world. So maybe you will find yourself singing the familiar words : Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty, beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life!
Have you ever wondered: when will Christ return? That is a thought that I think every Christian who has read the Bible has thought at some point. We look with hope towards the second coming of Christ. There are others though who have given up believing or never have believed in God’s promises or the return of Christ. These are the mockers that Peter refers to in verses 3 & 4. We hear it today – everywhere people mocking the promises or even existence of God. But God is patiently waiting for people to recognize and honor Him. He is waiting for just the right time to fulfill all that he has promised regarding Christ’s return and the establishment of a new system under Christ’s rule and reign.
In the last half of chapter 3 the apostle Peter talks about the need for Christians to live righteously and soberly in view of the destruction of the wicked so as not to be destroyed along with them. He explains that our present heavens and earth will be destroyed in judgment – by fervent heat so hot it will destroy the elements. Everything will be destroyed – fire will consume water, soil, air, and even will consume itself by burning out. Environmentalists worst nightmares will come true at that point – the destruction of the earth by fervent heat. HOWEVER – this is to make way the apostle Peter tells us for the new heavens and new earth that will be made. This is a new heavens and earth where righteousness reigns. This means the new heavens and earth will be a place of peace, and happiness, where those who have hungered and thirsted after righteousness dwell. All those who have believed in the promises of God will be able to partake in this new heaven and earth.
I like to hike and have taken many hikes across the US and Canada. Each time I enjoy the beauty that God has created around me in this natural environment and his amazing creatures I see along the way. Although I enjoy the natural beauty of our current heavens and earth I am filled with anticipation of the new heavens and new earth that God has promised. What new natural beauty will be there. In our world today where unrighteousness and ungodliness seems to reign and wreak havoc in our lives won’t it be wonderful to inhabit a world where righteousness and godliness are the order of the day? I am looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth – while I still try to take good care of the one we currently live in and do my part to shine the light of Christ in the dark world – I can’t help but think to myself; how wonderful that God has made this awesome promise of a new heavens and earth to us!
For every ounce of truth a lie is out there. In 2 Peter 2 the apostle warns of those people who would distort the truth or add to it. He warns in verse 1 from the beginning that false teachers and false prophets are out there twisting, distorting, and adding to the truth. By truth here he is referring to the message of Jesus Christ.
Today it is not uncommon to hear people say things like – all roads lead to God, and regarding religion: I’m looking for what works best for me. These are twisted and in some cases flat out lies about the truth. The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the son of God and that he is the ONLY way to the Father, and the ONLY source of salvation and forgiveness, and the ONLY hope for eternal life. This is the message that Jesus taught and that God confirmed when he spoke from the heavens saying that Jesus was his beloved son in whom he was well-pleased as referred to in 2 Peter 1:17. Jesus is the ONLY way! Anyone who would persuade you otherwise may fall into the category of the false teachers and prophets of whom Peter warns.
This is why it is important for Christians to know what the word of God says – so they will not be deceived by these false teachers and prophets. If something someone says is contrary to scripture or seeks to add to it in ways that do not agree with scripture then watch out! And for goodness sakes – don’t be so foolish as to be one of those people who leads others astray! We must know God’s word and be filled with His spirit to be able to discern what is true and what is false.
In concluding the chapter Peter reminds us that God has not turned a blind eye to those who lead others astray because of their acts of deception but rather that their destruction is sure. So to sum up Peter’s words to us: Don’t be one of those people who is either led astray or leads others astray from the truth!
The apostle Peter in his second letter to the churches encourages us and the early believers to exercise a life of righteousness and to grow in those attributes on a continual basis. The attributes or fruit that he refers to in verses 5-7 are the same fruits that are mentioned as the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-25. God by His spirit produces fruit in true believers. By producing this fruit Christians stand out in humanity and shine when they display these attributes. Even non-believers stand up and take notice of those people who demonstrate an extra amount of patience, or loving kindness, or those who do not loose their joy even in the face of dire circumstances.
Recently my mother went through her second diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. I’ve seen the fruit of joy shine through her through this – even though she ended up losing a body part. She has been a shining light to those around her – keeping her joy by not losing her sense of humor. By being more concerned about others and their overall well-being rather than by wallowing in self-pity. She has been continuing to bear fruit even in her circumstances. Christians bear this kind of fruit and every good tree bears good fruit no matter what the circumstances. Every tree is known by its fruit. Peter is encouraging us and the early believers to continue to grow in bearing good fruit indicative of God’s spirit being multiplied within us.
In the last half of the chapter Peter fears that his time in instructing the believers will soon come to an end and he wants them to remember what is of most importance. The important thing that he wants them to remember is that Jesus truly is the son of God as was evidenced by him personally when the voice came from heaven declaring it so, and the importance of receiving Jesus as the promised Messiah.
In our walk with the Lord are we remembering what is most important and truly giving Christ first place in our hearts and minds as the son of God? Are we allowing ourselves to be changed so that we continue to grow and produce good fruit by his spirit within us? If we are not then we would do well to pay special attention to Peter’s words to the early church and apply them to our own hearts and lives as well.
There is an old Amish proverb that goes something like this: There are two kinds of leaders: those who are interested in the flock, and those who are interested in the fleece. In the first part of I Peter 5 there is an admonition given to pastors but it is applicable to all those who hold leadership roles anywhere. Leaders are to lead by example. They are not to be dictators with an accompanying attitude but rather directors who are always directing people in the case of pastors toward Christ, and for other leaders directing people toward the greater vision with a humble attitude.
Peter encourages us and the early believers to honor one another and treat each other respectfully. Have you ever been around someone who frequently ‘tooted their own horn’? How annoying is that? Does it make you want to follow that person’s lead or make you like that person very much? Think about social media posts you have seen like this, or maybe even posted yourself. One Christian leader appropriately called out some posts as the ‘humble brag’ and targeted how annoying and self-serving they are. As Christian brothers and sisters no one should toot their own horn but rather let others give them any due recognition. Peter reminds us in verse 5 that God hates pride but appreciates true humility.
In serving God with a humble attitude and living a righteous life we can expect to have some opposition. Opposition can have two effects: either failure, or strength and growth. In the end of the chapter Peter points out that our adversary the devil would like to see us fail, and is just waiting to help us to our demise – but by staying the course God will give us victory. The admonition for us is to stand firm in our faith and righteousness so that we may glorify God in this life and thus overcome the evil one.
When I graduated high-school and went to my Prom I was invited to several ‘after-prom’ parties. I knew that there would be drinking and other activities at these parties that I didn’t care to participate in. I declined several invitations and have never been sorry for that decision. What I did instead , was go with a few friends after prom to Dairy Queen and have ice cream sundaes and then back to my house where we watched a movie until the wee hours of the morning. My classmates all knew that I was a Christian and I most of all wanted to stay true to my Christian values as would be pleasing to Christ. In 1 Peter 4 the apostle Peter reminds the early Christians to stay true to their righteous values in a world that did not promote those values, amongst a people who would not understand or value their decision to behave righteously.
Our culture today is filled with sensuality (notice how little clothing some people and models wear), lust (always wanting more), and a constant appeal to the senses that drinking alcohol will make you popular, relaxed, fun to be around, etc. Now I’m not proposing that everyone go around in turtlenecks and never have a glass of wine here – But by being sensuous , lusty, or intoxicated we dishonor God and his good desires for our lives. People and friends may make fun of you for not choosing to participate in these activities but the apostle Peter reminds us in verse 5 that everyone will have to give an account before the Lord about what they chose to do, and how they conducted themselves in this life.
He goes on to encourage the early believers and us to lead lives of righteousness exercising good judgment, being diligent in prayer, loving others, being hospitable and doing what God has gifted us to do by His spirit for the encouragement and uplifting of others. In verse 11 he reminds us that God will give us the strength to do these things so that He will be glorified through our lives of righteousness.
We all one day will stand before the Lord to be judged for our actions. In the last part of the chapter we are told that we should not be found suffering for sins committed but rather that if we are found suffering it should be for the cause of following Christ in an ungodly world. We can trust God to be the righteous judge, for He is our creator and we can entrust our souls to Him.
Aretha Franklin said it best in her hit song: RESPECT – all she needed and wanted was to be given a little bit of respect. Are we not the same? In I Peter 3 the apostle starts off by reminding the readers that they are to give respect and behave respectfully so that others will be won to Christ through their exemplary conduct. What it all boils down to; summarizing his words is that; in relationships mutual respect is key for both individuals, having the attitude of honoring the other person above themselves. Imagine if everyone in our world today adopted this same kind of respectful attitude. What a different world we would live in.
Have you ever seen someone who was dressed beautifully but then opened their mouth to display an ugly attitude? Isn’t it always disappointing to see? In this chapter the apostle Peter reminds us that true beauty is found on the inside. Our attitudes and actions towards others speak louder than the clothing or jewelry we wear or the hairstyle we choose. God desires for us to be beautiful on the inside and shine that outwardly. In our world today we seem to be bombarded with the notion that beauty can be bought or acquired through purchasing – however true beauty is a quality that cannot be bought or sold.
Further on in verse 7 and 8 He points out that answers to prayer can be hindered by actions and attitudes of not being respectful toward one another. We are not to be quarrelsome, we are to seek peace and pursue it. This is the righteous expectation that believers are called to. In verse 12 we are reminded that the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears attend to their prayers.
We are to live righteous lives being sure of the hope we have in Christ. In the final section of I Peter 3 the apostle Peter reminds the believers that they are to be sure of the hope they have. This hope is believing that Jesus is the only begotten son of God, that his death provides forgiveness and salvation from sin, and that his resurrection gives us the hope of eternal life. Belief in these things and the outward symbol of baptism is the indicator of the believer’s new life with Christ. With this new life in Christ, the believer is then called to live a life of righteousness that pleases God our Father.