A Spiritual Oil Spill

On Tuesday, April 20, 2010, there was an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed eleven workers, devastating eleven families from Day One. I’ve read this is the worst environmental disaster in US history, but just how big is the spill? Imagine if the spill was in Virginia Beach, how far would it reach? Click here to find out, (or to type in your city and state).

Today, this event in the Gulf is on Day 56, completing eight full weeks of disaster for the Gulf coast, but on a serious and spiritual note, I have a few questions to ask…

How is our sin like an oil spill? Let me suggest that as the oil comes from deep inside the earth and gushes out to destroy life and the environment, our personal sin comes from the deepest and darkest regions inside of us and also leads to a similar destruction of life and family.

How do we tend to deal with that sin? The experts at BP and the US government have tried numerous methods to cap the well and stop the flow of oil. One method after another has failed and we wonder if the oil leak will ever be stopped. What are some ways that we try to cap the sin spillage in our lives? We try one thing after another until we discover that there is only one way to cap the sin problem we have, the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (John 14:6, Romans 5:8). The bottom line is that we try to cap the well on our own, with little success. When a relationship is breached, the only way to mend the relationship is to follow the prescription of the offended one. We cannot come to him on our own terms.

How can we clean up the mess we have created? BP is utilizing thousands of employees and volunteers to help clean up this oil spill. When it comes to getting rid of sin, if we could clean up on our own, we would not really need Jesus or the Holy Spirit to work through us. The goal of the believer is to conform to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29) and the Spirit is called our Helper (John 15:26). Let’s work in partnership with the Holy Spirit to conform to the image of the Son. That’s what sanctification is all about, becoming more and more like Jesus in thought, word and deed. So, for those who have trusted Christ, the gospel has effectively capped our rampant sin spillage.

How does sin impact the lives of others? Just as this oil spill has affected hundreds of thousands of people and communities, sin also has a lasting effect on others. Think about how your sin has affected those around you; your relationships at work, with your wife, your business dealings, your peace. The dark oil of sin is lurking just off the coast ready to destroy whatever it can cover. We can set out a boom, but the source of the leak needs to be capped.

Why do we often feel so helpless? Romans 1:16 tells us about the power that is available to us, to save everyone from the looming oil spill of sin. Tony Hayward said in the BP public relations commercial that “we will make this right.” The “good news tells us how God makes us right in his sight.” (Romans 1:17) Praise God that he has been in charge from Day One and gets the job done for those who know they cannot survive without him.

When You Lose Your Way

Life can be hard, no denying that fact. We work all day, try to be a faithful and loving husband and good and nurturing father, a good employee or boss, a good neighbor and friend, a man of integrity… you try to catch a break every once in a while but then life still falls apart. We eventually ask a similar question as the disciples regarding the blind man, “Who sinned, him or his parents, that caused him to be born blind?” (John 9:2). What did I do to deserve this?

At times we feel as if God is out to get us. Why is that? Why do we not recognize that God is actually the one holding our lives together and the outright assault on our lives is really from our adversary and enemy (who is like a roaring lion ready to devour – 1 Peter 5:8)?

I listen to K-Love radio (when Bethany is in the car, 90.7 fm in Va Beach) and Toby Mac has a recent song with great lyrics (as usual):

You turned away when I looked you in the eye,
And hesitated when I asked if you were alright,
Seems like you’re fighting for your life, but why? Oh why?

Have we been there? Don’t turn away when someone reaches out to you. Remember that no man is an island. How often do we get asked the question, “How are you?” and we casually reply, “Fine” or “Good” or some other meaningless phrase that intends to dodge our hurting or the burning issues in our lives? The church is a community of believers who gather together not because we have it all together, but because we don’t. We gather to bleed together, and share each other’s burdens and pain (Galatians 6:2).

Wide awake in the middle of your nightmare,
You saw it comin’ but it hit you outta no where,
And there’s always scars, when you fall that far.

I love that phrase, there are “always scars when you fall that far.” Each of us has a past we are not proud of, and what I get from this song is just when you think you’re ready to stand, life comes out of nowhere to dash your hopes, dreams and plans. When it happens often enough, scars form, but scars are not always bad. They can remind us of where we have been, keep us from going there again, and help us to be thankful for the intervention that Jesus did in our lives (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20).

We lose our way, we get back up again
It’s never too late to get back up again,
One day you gonna shine again,
You may be knocked down, but not out forever.

We all can get sidetracked and lose our way. We start each day with the greatest of intentions, like living pure lives, showing kindness to our wife, demonstrating more joy as we spend time with our kids, but then (as the Nationwide commercial tells us) life comes at you fast. Remember it is never too late to get back up and do the right and godly thing (1 Corinthians 10:12, Ephesians 6:11, Colossians 1:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, James 4:6). The call of Christ is to stand firm!

You rolled out at the dawning of the day.
Heart racin’ as you made your little get away,
It feels like you been runnin’ all your life but, why? Oh why?

You pulled away from the love that would’ve been there,
You start believin’ that your situation’s unfair
But there’s always scars, when you fall that far.

To love is to risk (John 3:16, 15:13, 1 John 3:16, Romans 5:8). We become vulnerable whenever we open up to another person or even to our wife. Perhaps we choose not to hurt today and we close up to those around us. We “pull away from the love that would have been there.” But if we never risk, we will never feel the joy of solid friendships and a rewarding marriage. Don’t pull away or feel that life is unfair or regret past decisions. Risk, open up, and become vulnerable, because it really is worth it.

Sometimes we lose our way due to a conscious decision. James tells us that we will give in to sin due to being tempted by our own lust, which gives birth to sin, which then brings death (James 1:14, 15). We know the darkness that dwells deep within. Don’t be tempted. Flee immorality. Seek to live a life of integrity at all times.

Sometimes we do all the right things and life still may get the best of us, but continue to stand firm. Remain strong, and steadfast, under submission to God, allow the Spirit to guide you in the way you should go (Proverbs 3:5-6). As always, when you lose your way… get back up again.

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Strangers in This World

All of us have experienced times when we did not fit in: arriving overdressed (or underdressed) for a social occasion, not knowing the language spoken around us, being in a setting as a minority race or minority, gender, holding a single dissenting opinion in a hotly debated topic. But underneath these embarrassing and painful moments sometimes lurks a pervasive sense that maybe we don’t fit anywhere.

  1. Think about a time when you felt out of place, like a stranger who did not belong.
  2. If you knew you were about to enter a difficult time in your life that would test your faith, how would you prepare yourself?

Early Christians were subject to many kinds of isolation. Although their faith originated in Judaism, the Jews rejected them because Christians saw Jesus as Messiah. Romans would eventually use Christians as scapegoats, blaming them for all sorts of political problems. Pagan Greeks saw Christians as atheists because they insisted on worshiping only one God rather than their pantheon of deities. Here comes Peter offering first-century Christians (and us) a different kind of belonging.

Read 1 Peter 1:1-12

1. Imagine you are one of the early Christians receiving Peter’s letter. After studying this opening section, what would motivate you to keep reading?

2. Study Peter’s description of the people who were about to receive his letter (1 Peter 1:1-2). How does his description of them help explain why they were “strangers in the world?”

Notice the source of our salvation (1 Peter 1:2).
The Father elected us – we still have responsibility (John 3:16, Romans 10:13, Revelation 22:17).
The Spirit sanctified us – he convicts of sin (John 16:8) and points to Christ (John 16:13, 14).
The Son redeemed us – blood sprinkled signifies cleansing (Leviticus 14:1-7), ratification of a covenant (Exodus 24:3-8) and set apart holy items (Exodus 29:20-22)

3. How does the introduction to Peter’s letter help you appreciate the three persons of God? The word blessing is the same root word for eulogize.

4. Peter says that God has given his people “new birth.” What does he say grows out of that new birth (1 Peter 1:3-5)?

Notice the blessings of our salvation
A living hope (1 Peter 1:3) living word (1 Peter 1:23) living stone (1 Peter 2:4)
A lasting home (1 Peter 1:4) which is perfect (incorruptible), pure (undefiled) and permanent (does not fade away)

5. Peter says in verse 6, “Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” If you were to hear that kind of message, what information in this paragraph might help you through the suffering (1 Peter 1:3-9)?

Notice the trials of our salvation
Attitude – greatly rejoice (1 Peter 1:6)
Duration – for a little while (1 Peter 1:6)
Evidence – proof of authentic faith (1 Peter 1:7)
Blessing – belief in the unseen (1 Peter 1:8)
Effect – bringing salvation (1 Peter 1:9)

6. How does the future as Peter describes it here offer you hope in your own setting?

7. What did Peter believe to be true of genuine faith (1 Peter 1:7-9)? Proof of faith rests in the fact of the ability to give God praise, glory and honor in the midst of suffering.

Notice what Peter describes as precious:
Precious trials of faith (1 Peter 1:7)
Precious blood (1 Peter 1:19)
Precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4)
Precious spirit (1 Peter 3:4)
Precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)

8. Peter complimented his readers because they believed in Jesus and loved him, even though they had not seen him (1 Peter 1:8). What questions do you think people today have to cope because they have not personally seen Jesus?

9. When have you seen Jesus (through a person or event) in a way that increased your faith?

10. By what different routes did news of salvation come to the readers of Peter’s letter (1 Peter 1:10-12)? Old Testament prophets did not always understand their messages. Prediction would be understood at a later time (Matthew 13:17).

Notice suffering compared to glory (1 Peter 1:11)
Clothing (Luke 2:12 – Psalm 93:1)
Possessions (Luke 9:58 – Hebrews 1:2)
Rejection (John 1:11 – Isaiah 9:6)
Grief (Isaiah 53:3 – Hebrews 1:9)
Crown (John 19:5 – Revelation 14:14)
Appearance (Isaiah 53:2 – Psalm 27:4)

12. In what ways are Christians special, even when compared to Old Testament prophets and angels (1 Peter 1:12)? Angels don’t understand salvation!

13. Peter refers to new birth, or salvation, throughout this passage as a central difference between Christians and the world. What tensions have you experienced because of this difference?

14. How does God’s gift of salvation help you cope with these tensions?

Right now, thank God that you belong to him and that you have an eternal home with him and his people. If you have not yet come into God’s family, ask that he continue to guide you on your spiritual journey.

For Further Thought

Review some of the people who came to mind as you considered question 9, people who have increased your faith. Write a letter of appreciation to one of them. If this is not possible, write a prayer of thanks to God for that person’s influence in your life.

Suffering and joy are mixed in this section of Peter’s letter (a lot like right life). Consider the people and events that have brought you pain; consider sources that have brought you joy. Are some perhaps the same sources? In prayer, share all of this with your loving God, who understands the mixture far better than we do.

Read again 1 Peter 1:8-9. Meditate on love and joy as Peter describes them. Thank God for offering a joy that cannot be diminished by earthly events. Then, as much as possible, enjoy!

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Introduction to First Peter

We are finishing our study of the life of Peter, and decided to move right into the writings of Peter. First Peter is a wonderful book of hope for the hurting. Get the First Peter Chart. Here are a few facts about the book:

  1. Of the 12 original disciples, only three where inspired by the Spirit to write Scripture (Matthew, John and Peter).
  2. In Peter’s letters, he takes seriously the last command of Jesus to feed his sheep (John 21:15-17).
  3. Peter writes a lot about hope (1 Peter 1:3, 13, 21, 3:15) , whereas Paul writes about faith and John writes about love (Faith, hope and love – 1 Corinthians 13:13).
  4. A key theme in Peter’s writings is suffering (word used sixteen times) and grace (used eight times).
  5. The church appears to be affected by worldliness in the pew (1 Peter 2:11) and materialism in the pulpit (1 Peter 5:1, 2, 3).

Peter develops the doctrine of Christ in a remarkable way:

  1. Incarnation (1 Peter 1:20)
  2. Names of Christ: Spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:19), Chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6) in relation to the Scripture, Precious Stone (1 Peter 2:7) in relation to the believer, Stumbling Stone (1 Peter 2:8) in relation to unbelievers, Bishop of our Souls (1 Peter 2:25), Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)
  3. Sinless Life (1 Peter 1:19, 2:22)
  4. Suffering and Death (1 Peter 1:11, 2:23, 24, 3:18, 4:1, 13, 5:1)
  5. Resurrection (1 Peter 3:21, 22)
  6. Ascension (1 Peter 3:22)
  7. Presence at the right hand of the Father (1 Peter 3:22)
  8. Second Coming (1 Peter 1:13, 17, 4:13, 5:1, 4)

Peter describes believers in a remarkable way:

  1. Obedient Children (1 Peter 1:14)
  2. Newborn Babes (1 Peter 2:2)
  3. Living Stones (1 Peter 2:5)
  4. Holy Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
  5. Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
  6. Holy Nation (1 Peter 2:9)
  7. Peculiar People (1 Peter 2:9)
  8. Strangers and Pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11)
  9. Christians (1 Peter 4:16)
  10. The Righteous (1 Peter 4:18)
  11. The Elect of God (1 Peter 1:2)
  12. The People of God (1 Peter 2:10)
  13. The Oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11)
  14. The Flock of God (1 Peter 5:2)

It is considered that Mark’s gospel reflects the teachings of Peter.

  1. Peter and John are the only NT writers who refer to Jesus as a lamb (John 1:29, 36, Revelation 5:6, 1 Peter 1:19).
  2. Peter was familiar with Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:15, 16).
  3. There is a similarity of teaching and wording between 1 Peter and Ephesians.
    Ephesians 1:3 and 1 Peter 1:3
    Ephesians 3:5, 10 and 1 Peter 1:12
    Ephesians 3:6, 21 and 1 Peter 4:11
    Ephesians 3:8 and 1 Peter 1:8
    Ephesians 4:2 and 1 Peter 3:9
    Ephesians 4:7, 11 and 1 Peter 4:10
    Ephesians 4:13, 15 and 1 Peter 2:2

Next we will look at being strangers in this world…

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Remember God's Faithfulness

Memories of God’s miracles and faithfulness sustained Israel through its difficulties. The Israelites knew that God was capable and trustworthy. Hear the message of this Psalm:

My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud (Psalm 77:1)

In the day of trouble I sought the Lord, and my soul refused to be comforted (Psalm 77:2)

When I remember God, then I am disturbed (Ps 77:3) An odd statement but it makes sense when it points to Psalm 77:7-9, he had feelings that God had rejected him, God was angry with him, God stopped loving him, that God would not keep His promises.

I am so troubled that I cannot speak (Psalm 77:4)

I grieve over God’s change of heart concerning me (Psalm 77:10)

Life is hard: work, the economy, kids, marriage, and so many times we feel like God is nowhere to be found. When it seems like God is MIA, perhaps we can have the same action plan as the psalmist, we should remember.

But then I recall all you have done and remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. (Psalm 77:11-12)

What God is like our great God? You work wonders and have demonstrated your strength (Psalm 77:13-14)

God has the power to redeem His people (Psalm 77:15)

Remember the details of the defining moment when God came through (Psalm 77:16-20), for Israel, it was the deliverance from Egypt.

When you meet new trials in your life, review how good God has been to you, and this will strengthen your faith. In your thoughts today, go back to the main time when came came through for you. Remember what He did, and have hope for the future.

Keep the Son in your eyes, -Scott

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