Welcome to College. Join a Church.

Greek life, intramural sports, and midterms. The daily rhythms of attending (or skipping) classes, sipping a hazelnut latte in the library, dressing up for yet another sorority event. The late-night trips for greasy tacos, the multiple campus-ministry Bible studies, and the Saturdays packed with college football. During the four years of college, life seems to be about you. Do what you want, when you want, with whomever you want.

And if the weekday schedule isn’t spontaneous enough, Sunday mornings can be more self-directed than the cafeteria’s salad bar: Attend any church in the area for any service with any group of friends.

My college church involvement prioritized low commitment with high comfort, and I’m not the only Christian with this experience. This semester, many students will likewise attend various churches (or skip worship altogether).

But even though college can feel like it’s all about you, and this attitude can shape our church attendance, Scripture compels college students to be meaningful members of a local church.

Let’s consider a few gospel-drenched exhortations for both college students and churches.

College Students, Submit to (and Serve) a Local Church

Seek out a Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming church and become a committed member. After all, you likely have faithfully pledged yourself to multiple honor societies, intramural teams, and social clubs. So why wouldn’t you faithfully commit as a meaningful member of the local church?

Christians are called to a disciplined life (1 Tim. 4:7–10). Just as you pursue academic disciplines culminating in a scholarship-worthy GPA, you should pursue disciplines that fuel growth in godliness. One such discipline is membership in the local church. The shepherding and teaching of its godly elders will have a greater effect on your well-being than anything in your college classroom.

Once you have found a church, don’t just occasionally attend; sacrificially serve. Hold babies, greet visitors, tithe monthly, serve wherever needed.

Church, Love (and Serve) College Students

Christians are called to discipleship. Consider what discipleship of college students within your church looks like. Do you have someone on staff thinking about college students? Do you invite college students to join multi-generational small groups? Do you have a college ministry or church outreach?

Or maybe you see a row of sleepy-yet-caffeinated college students in service. If so, introduce yourself, invite them to join you for lunch, and look for their group next Sunday morning.

Many students feel like outsiders, especially when a church doesn’t have a strong college ministry. So intentionally pursue those students in your midst. And while many of them attend one or more campus ministries, don’t leave discipleship up to these ministries. They can’t replace the local church.

Your investment in college students matters. Many students are entangled in sin and engrossed in the world. Seek their good through intentional ministry. And as you serve them, seek opportunities to call these students to serve others.

Maybe a group of students can serve with the youth group or accompany the singing in worship. Perhaps they can help stack chairs after service or assist with the lighting and sound. Invite them to join you as you serve. Remember, you’re an example of and an encouragement to gospel faithfulness for the college students in your midst.

All of Us, Pursue Faithfulness

As you confidently don your school colors this Saturday, remember you’re clothed in Christ, called to faithfulness. The gospel compels us to surrender, to lay down preferences and comforts for the sake of the kingdom. And while the college cafeteria’s salad bar or your social media feed beg for self-focused consumption, the local church instead beckons your faithful commitment. Where the world shouts self, the Word summons self-denial. This gospel calls all believers to meaningful membership in the local church.

Your identity and purpose for the kingdom matter more than any college degree, social club, or work deadline. Our greatest loves and desires shape how we define our identity. So while we might be cheering for a game-day victory, we must remember the greatest banner we carry—the gospel.

And where college allegiances create competition, the gospel compels us to walk in unity: to link arms with our brothers and sisters for kingdom faithfulness. Whether you’re a college freshman or annual alumni donor, the call to submit to and serve the local church remains consistent. The church is simply incomplete when the people of Christ aren’t committed to one another.

Think of the beauty of a flourishing church: a college student passing out bulletins next to a retired firefighter and the timely ministry of a elder’s wife to a group of sorority ladies before service. The local church is a window into the glory of the future church—the pure and committed worship of all believers from every background, ethnicity, and college. May our churches reflect this future kingdom.

*The original copy of this article can be found online here at The Gospel Coalition.

An Encouragement for all Preachers of the Word

An unexpected note in the mail, a kind word after service, or an encouraging phone call. The body of Christ is called to encouragement. The writer of Hebrews calls us to encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13). And let’s be honest, sermon prepping and sermon preaching is always demanding, often discouraging, and usually exhausting. I’m sure each of you reading this are doing so with hope for some needed encouragement. And so, may we be encouraged as we consider both some equipping tools and encouraging words.

When a Good Sermon Becomes a Great Sermon

We all know the difference – a good sermon is not a great sermon. And while the Lord graciously will use a good sermon to save and sanctify his people, we should seek to preach great sermons. Great sermons reflect excellence, the glory of our glorious Giver. God calls his people to faithfulness. In desiring faithfulness in preaching, let’s consider a few elements that distinguish a good sermon from a great sermon.

  • Passion from the preacher. Paul tells the church at Rome to “not be slothful in zeal” (Romans 12:11). There’s a call to preach with passion. If you’re not passionate about the words you are saying, do you really expect your listeners to be passionate about applying the words you are preaching? Now, we all have a different style, a different voice. Preach in your own voice. Be yourself to the glory of God. But please don’t be boring or lacking in zeal. And yes, this also involves both a sense of intentionality and authenticity.
  • Hope for the listener. Can you remember a sermon that just made you want to go crawl in bed and never get up? You know the sermon that made you feel awful about your sin, all of the suffering, and all of the evil – and yet, gave you absolute no hope. I’m sure we’ve all heard one of these sermons. And while there most certainly is a place and time to be especially somber in our awareness of our sin, we must certainly always couple that with a Kingdom hope. We have hope because of the resurrection of King Jesus. A better day really is coming.
  • Illumination by the Spirit. Pray that the Spirit will do what only the Spirit can do. It is the Spirit who draws, illuminates, and awakens. Fervently pray for the Spirit to work. Your well crafted sermon is just words on a paper and words spoken from a stage apart from the divine intercession of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Spirit for a “waking up” to the reality of brokenness and the redemption in Jesus.

A great sermon zealously preaches the hope of the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit. A great sermon is preached when the pastor is compelling, clear, convicted, and in community. A great sermon is preached when the Spirit wakes up the hearers to story of redemption – to the reality of sin and to the redemption in our Savior.

Words for Every Preacher to Daily Consider

Some of you reading this have faithfully preached God’s Word for decades. And while you’re seasoned, you may be exhausted. Others of you may be young, fresh out of seminary, and eagerly await your next opportunity from the pulpit. And for all of us, I’d like to close with a few words of exhortation to daily consider as a preacher of the Gospel. And while there are so many words of wisdom I could share, I’ll keep it clear (my application in light of a common preaching error previously mentioned here) and simply share one foundational and essential encouragement.

Examine yourself before the Lord before you exhort others in the Lord. We’ve all seen the recent fall of several well-known preachers. Perhaps, even one of your favorite preachers has disqualified themselves from ministry. Or maybe you find yourself walking in hidden sin. Friends, I urge you with these words – examine yourself before the Lord prior to exhorting others in the Lord. You can’t give others what hasn’t gripped you. James reminds us to “look in the perfect law, the law of liberty” (James 1:25). Brothers and sisters, we must examine ourselves. We must ask the Lord to search us and show us any grievous way that we might walk in godliness (Psalm 139:23-24).

So how we do we faithfully and consistently examine ourselves? Fight the urge to be busy. Fight for a rhythm of rest and reflection. Slow down before the Lord before you serve the Lord. The Lord will sanctify you, sustain you, and keep you. Position yourself as needy prior to preaching to others who are needy. And “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11).

An Evaluation of Sermon Prep and Preaching

A desire for growth demands a desire for feedback. Whether you’ve preached five sermons or five hundred sermons, the Lord continues to grow us. And this sphere of growth happens both on the front end of preparation as well as on the back end of evaluation. The sermon doesn’t end when you say “Amen.” We all know that, right? The Lord works by his Spirit to help the flock apply the sermon. And the Spirit and his people help us evaluate the sermon. Don’t worry, you’re not in a preaching class and getting an official number grade. But feedback fuels growth. And growth reflects glory. So in order to faithfully and carefully evaluate a sermon, we want consider both some common errors that preachers typically make as well as what components are essential for a great sermon.

Common Errors in Preaching

That moment when you spouse points out how you always use a certain phrase or when a fellow pastor tells you what your “filler” words are in your preaching – they are our habits of safety, and yet some habits need to broken while other habits need to be established.

Preachers aren’t perfect. And sermons aren’t spotless. Thus, we want to consider the follow common errors often made in preaching. And yes, other pastors and we too often make these. Of course, there’s grace for our mishaps, but let’s grow in light of these common errors:

  • Not clear. Preachers often try to say too much. I often struggle with this. An excess of material leads to an absence of clarity. You can’t say everything every week. So what can you say? And say that – clearly.
  • Not expository. The Word of God is sufficient, authoritative, and inerrant. We are not. And thus, we go to text, and let the text preach. Stay in the text and exegete the Scriptures.
  • Not contextual. Know your context, and preach to your context. Many pastors do not know their flock well, and thus do not preach a sermon that’s contextualized for their people. A sermon preached in Dallas, Texas should sound different that a sermon preached in rural Kansas or on the California coast.
  • Not Gospel-centered. Always get to the gospel of the Kingdom. Keep the gospel at the core of every sermon. I can’t emphasize and encourage this enough. Every sermon is to be a gospel sermon.

 

Central Components for a Great Sermon

We’ve all said it to our pastor (or maybe to ourselves if we are honest) – “that was a great sermon. You (or I) nailed it.” Now, if you’re a pastor, you might often feel a bit awkward with knowing how best to respond to this feedback. And you might also be curious on why your member gave you such encouraging words, maybe to affirm your calling but perhaps to acknowledge some specific strengths in your sermon. In light of perhaps the often tossed around phrase “that was a great sermon!” in the lobby after service, what actually comprises a great sermon?

Let’s consider the following the components of a great sermon. No, this list isn’t exhaustive, but I do hope it exhorts you for “great sermons.”

  • Gospel-centrality. Get to King Jesus every single time. Whether you’re preaching in 1 Kings or 2 Peter, preach the person and work of Christ Jesus in every single sermon.
  • Expositional. Stay in the text and when you come up, get back in the text quickly. Read the Bible and read from the Bible. Don’t be make assumptions of the flock knowing the Bible. They probably don’t.
  • Contextual. Know not only the text but know your people. Use illustrations that connect with your people. Preach with them in mind, their sufferings, their struggles, their joys, their gifts.
  • Communal. Call the listeners to the local church.  Call them to mission. Call them to not just be hearers but also doers (James 1:22). My husband (and favorite preacher) often points out that most of the commands in the New Testament are in the second person plural – “you all.” We are called to grow together and not alone.
  • Delivery. Prepare a clear sermon. Transitions demand attention. They are are like a crisp new uniform for the upcoming season. Use them. End your sermon strong. Land the plane, and when you land it, say “amen” and get off the stage. Practice your sermon. Color-code your notes. Do whatever you need to set yourself up for a “W.”
  • Disposition. You are a preacher, and you are imperfect. Your sermon won’t be spotless. But while you aren’t perfect, preach out of a disposition of progression and pruning – the Lord is working in you, through you, and always in spite of you. Preach humbly and hopeful. A better day is coming.

 

Careful Evaluation of a Sermon

Friends, we all want to grow in preparing and delivering great sermons. And a desire to grow in this way demands a desire for feedback. Pursue others for feedback after you preach a sermon. Talk with your spouse, other pastors, the flock. Send your sermon to other mentors, pastors, friends. Be willing to receive feedback, both positive and negative. Be intentional to ask helpful question, like the following:

  1. Was it clear? Evaluate the transitions, main points, and illustrations. What was unclear about the sermon?
  2. Was it compelling? Evaluate if there was a call to obedience and a to call to respond. How is your flock applying the sermon this week? What wasn’t compelling about the sermon?
  3. Was it communal?  Evaluate the presence of a call to community, to be known, to belong in the body of Christ. Or was the sermon individualistic and if so, how so?
  4. Was it convicting? Evaluate the call to repentance and hope in the Gospel. Was there a call to holiness? How was the flock compelled to deeper devotion and greater affection for the Lord?

Brothers and sisters, we are meant to be students of the Scriptures and servants of our Savior. We’re called to preach the Word with both great humility and great hope. Consider these common errors and some central components of a great sermon the next time you prepare to preach. And use these questions, and invite others to do so also, to evaluate your sermon. May the Lord help us, grow us, and use us to be faithful preachers of the Word. May our sermons be clear, compelling, communal, and convicting for the good of the church and the glory of our God. Friends, Sunday is coming. Your next opportunity to preach will be here before you know it. Entrust yourself and your sermon to our good and faithful Shepherd.

The Experiences as a Pastor’s Wife and Preacher of the Gospel

I’m married to a pastor, the one who preaches the sermon on Sundays. And yet, let’s discuss preaching. After all, as the wife of a preacher, I’ve often heard the sermon five times before it’s preached on Sunday mornings. Lucky me, right? Now while I’m no expert, the Lord has generously given me and grown me as a teacher of the Word. And thus, I want to first address my experience as both a preacher of the Word and listener to hundreds of sermons – some on Sunday mornings, some on a podcast, some excellent, some awful. Friends, this conversation matters. We’re called to preach the Gospel of Kingdom. So humor me as I share my experiences with the hope to encourage you in yours.

Learning how to Preach/Teach

Learning how to preach is like learning how to do anything – growth in knowledge and application in practice. Whether learning to bake a homemade pie, speak another language, or preach a sermon, there’s an element of both acquisition and application. We acquire knowledge, and we apply the skills.

Through years of ministry both in a parachurch ministry as well as on a church staff, the Lord has afforded me opportunities to teach the Bible – to young people, to old people, to 10 people, and to a 1000 people. In addition, getting a masters of theology provided me with some of the skills to both study the Bible rightly and then craft a sermon effectively. And of course amidst a ton of mistakes, I continue to grow as teacher of the Word.

So as you continue to grow as a preacher, remember this: we are all learners. We’re all being discipled. You’re being discipled by the preachers you listen to – whether weekly at your church or frequently on a podcast. You’re being discipled by the authors you read – whether you’re reading a puritan who is no longer alive or the most recent blog article. Good writers are excellent readers. And good teachers/preachers are excellent students/faithful sheep.

Read books. Sit under solid preaching. Listen to strong preachers. Teach. Preach. And do so consistently, whether on Sunday mornings or to your family and of course, always to yourself.

Learning in the Midst of the “First”

While many of us maybe can’t remember our “best”, we all remember our first. The first time, we walked up to the podium, leather-bound “preaching” Bible and notes anxiously gripped in our hand as we fought the temptation to vomit. Yep, I said. And let’s be honest, many of you can relate.

Maybe your first sermon was awesome, but I doubt it. Mine sure wasn’t. I was in college when I first spoke to a group of high school students at a FCA meeting. It was early in the morning, I was nervous, and the kids were probably really bored. I had 5 pages of single spaced notes for a 15 minute devotional for a FCA meeting. What in the world was I thinking?!

It wasn’t clear. I had too much material, and I tried to say too much. It wasn’t relatable. It wasn’t memorable. People connect with story. And they will remember a good story, so tell one. And it definitely wasn’t exegetical. I jumped all around the Bible with too many verses.

Learning from Other Preachers

Of course, so many great pastors and teachers I don’t know have influenced me. But the greatest influence has been those closest. Men who I’ve been blessed to sit under week in and week out. Pastors I know. Ladies who have discipled me. Ladies who I disciple. Perhaps, you’ve had the same experience?

Your community influences your teaching. Change happens in the context of community. Growth happens in and through suffering. Suffering begets glory. Just look at the cross, brothers and sisters. The suffering of our Savior preceded of the glory of King Jesus.

So I’ve been shaped by suffering and those who have both endured with me and encouraged me. Mostly by men and women who you probably haven’t heard of, but yet, in mentioning them – I hope you’ll consider those men and women who have and are shaping you in similar ways.

Mark Hitchcock is an exegetical preacher, verse by verse – every single week. Jay Risner is a Gospel preacher. I’ll always remember him saying “never move beyond the Gospel.” Matt Chandler is an incredibly compelling preacher. Jen Wilkin is a studied teacher of the Word. Brady Goodwin a compassionate shepherd as he preaches. Matt Younger is transparent in the pulpit. He often has reminded me “to not take myself too seriously” but of course, to always take the Gospel seriously. Mike Dsane is clear and consistent in his preaching. And my husband, Tanner, is Gospel-drenched in his sermons. Last month, he said “In the Gospel, we get to come out of hiding.”

I share some of my greatest influences both as a way of example and encouragement. Consider who is shaping you as a preacher. Pray for them and thank them for their ministry. Listen to and learn from other preachers. And remember, whether you preach on Sundays as a pastor, on the playground with your kids, or at work – this preaching work is a Kingdom work, for the Gospel of the Kingdom is at hand.

The Difficulty of Learning to Be a Pastor’s Wife

I can’t sew. Outside of pre-made chocolate chip cookies popped in the oven for 11 minutes, I can’t bake. I definitely can’t sing. I actually enjoy a good whiskey. I’m far too passionate about college football.

And yet I’m the wife of a pastor.

Soon after our wedding, my husband, Tanner, and I moved to Kansas. He began serving as a pastor, and I began navigating the role of pastor’s wife. A new marriage combined with a new state, new job, and new church—let’s just say there was a lot of new. And while there’s been much joy in entering this role, there’s also been much fear, anxiety, and grief.

New Challenges

I’ve been far too fearful of failure and rejection, of not living up to expectations—those of my husband, those of church members, even those of the Lord. I think, Am I failing in this new role? Am I disappointing Tanner? Do the members of our church really like me?

I’ve often been on the brink of an anxiety attack entering the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. I’ve frequently jetted to the bathroom to avoid genuine interaction with people. I’ve strategized to relieve my discomfort: If I can just avoid eye contact with that elder and his wife or not run into that lady who will probably talk my ear off for the next 30 minutes. . . .

In these moments it feels like I’m insulting my previous life of full-time ministry as a single woman. In my new role, discipleship meetings remain minimal, leadership opportunities sparse, and my influence seems insignificant.

But the gospel compels us to walk in seasons of transition with humility and hope—humility before God and others, hope in the work of the gospel to sustain and sanctify.

Here are three exhortations God is using to sustain me that might help others weathering transition.

1. Enter with Courage

Whether it’s walking into church alone on Sunday mornings and being met with several strangers who seem to know you well, or simply learning to use a crock-pot, enter into this new role and season with courage. (Yes, attempting new crock-pot recipes often requires courage.)

The Lord goes before you. His Spirit upholds you. He will be sufficient in the midst of your insufficiencies.

2. Endure with Confidence

For seven straight weeks, I cried every Monday morning. Why? As Tanner left for work, I faced the reality of all that had changed. I wasn’t in vocational ministry anymore. Solitude and sadness surrounded me.

But you know what? Those days have passed. I still have difficult moments, but not all days are hard. Most are joyful. Endure those difficult days, and do so with confidence. Confidence not in yourself and your supposed ability to have it all together, but confidence in the Lord.

He has you. He is for you. He is with you.

3. Let the Bench (and Perhaps the Food) Get Cold

When I played high-school sports, I was a benchwarmer. It wasn’t exciting, but I did feel safe avoiding potential failure on the court. I’ve recently felt the same way, believing the lie that I don’t have much purpose in this season and am not good enough for this role anyway. But the Lord has called me to engage in this role with purpose.

Before God called me to be the wife of Tanner, to be the wife of a pastor, he called me to be his daughter, a kingdom ambassador, a gospel minister, a disciple of Jesus. It’s out of this unchangeable identity in Christ that I engage in this season. The Lord didn’t only call Tanner to Kansas. He called me. He has gifted me. He will equip me.

If you’re a pastor’s wife, you’re called to the Lord, your husband, and your church. You’re called to serve. So get off the bench and don’t be afraid to let the meatloaf get cold while you prepare a youth lesson or call a struggling worship volunteer. After all, the body of Christ (and your husband) needs you even more than they need warm casseroles and ironed laundry. Your presence and participation mean more than you know. Whether you’re a singer or a fervent prayer warrior or a gifted counselor, serve the body of Christ as you walk in your calling, both as the wife of a pastor and also a member of the church.

Whatever you do, and wherever you are, you’re a disciple of Jesus. And while you may feel insignificant, afraid, or ill-equipped, the Lord will use you where he has placed you. Your ministry is worth it. And God isn’t wasting any of it.

*Original post can be found online here at The Gospel Coalition.

Hungry Appetites and Holy Affections: 4 Gospel Truths to Combat Food Addiction

People with eating disorders, disordered eating patterns, and body image struggles fill our churches. And what are we telling them? What are we not telling them? Or, even the better question might be, are we telling these people anything?

In December of 2002, I was hospitalized for an eating disorder, depression, and anxiety. Three months later, I left the hospital AMA (against medical advice) tired of bed checks, knitting circles, counseling sessions, doctors appointments, and Ensure smoothies. And twelve years later, I no longer cry over eating a banana or feel the urge to run ten miles to work off a piece of grilled chicken.

I believed the lie that if I tried harder, I wouldn’t struggle anymore

Even after receiving inpatient and outpatient treatment, I believed the lie that if I tried harder, I wouldn’t struggle anymore—that if I could just white-knuckle my cravings, I would turn to Jesus rather than to the Jif crunchy peanut butter.

And I couldn’t have been more wrong. My long-time struggle with addiction has manifested itself in fear, anxiety, depression, anger, and various behavior modifications for more than a decade in my life. As an addict, I tried to deal with the distress of my life with the same thing that caused the distress. For years, I have run (yes, literally and metaphorically) to behavior modifications. I now know that I can’t fix myself. My efforts have failed me every single time. The Lord has exposed what I’ve tried to hide and healed what I’ve tried to deny.

And when I start to drift, the Holy Spirit guides me, and fellow believers encourage me in the gospel. So here’s to an absence of calorie-counting and an acknowledgment of Christ’s beauty in the gospel. May we enjoy our chocolate cupcakes, our creamy Alfredo, and our captivating Jesus in freedom, joy, and dependence. The Lord has and is making all things—even eating—new.

Rather than a list of what not to eat and why, here’s a list of what to believe and why:

1. Source

Food is not the problem. The problem is sin. The problem is the heart. To solve the problem, then, does not simply involve meal plans and calorie-counting, but rather a transformation of the heart by the power of the gospel (Ps 107:17–21) .

2. Solution

Stop trying so hard. Start believing more. Freedom cannot be attained apart from the gospel. Replace the legalistic approach of rigid rule-following with daily submitting to the Lord, walking by the Spirit, and trusting in the saving work of Christ (Gal 5:16–18).

3. Secrets

Expose the struggle. Engage in community. The Lord does a work of healing when we stop hiding and expose our struggles and our shame. True change happens in the context of community (1 Jn 1:5–10).

4. Satisfaction

Jesus is always better. The gospel always applies. Whatever masters us, we will make much of in our lives. The gospel transforms and is redeeming everything, even food (Phil 3:7–11).

Bon appétit to our hungry appetites and holy affections.

*Original post can be found online here at the DTS Magazine.

1 Peter 3:13-22

The Lens that Makes All the Difference.

Just when you can’t take the Texas out of a girl, we can thank Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights for helping us to understand 1 Peter.  Don’t think I’m joking. Three of my favorites collide – the state of Texas, football, and the Word of God. And here we are in 1 Peter 3, verses 13-22.

Peter is finishing chapter 3 of this letter with an exhortation of how to live in the midst of suffering. In doing so, Peter provides a couple of principles for the church at large – be zealous for goodness (verse 13), be willing to suffer (verse 14), and be devoted to Christ (verse 15), be ready to defend the faith (verse 15). In reading verse 15 and teaching through this passage this week, it hit me – “Lacey, are you ready? Both in your heart and with your words?”

Now you might be thinking, “ready for what?” In all my attempts for achievement, whether athletically or now even as a wife, my husband pointed out this morning that I don’t like down time. He’s right, per the usual. I like to be active. I like to be busy. I like to be ready. But ready for what? Ready for a job interview, a date night, or a doctor’s appointment? Ready to take a vacation or ready to watch a great football game?

In 1 Peter 3:15 Peter tells us to be ready. Ready “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). And we are to “always be prepared” (verse 15). Always ready is not sometimes ready. Always ready means always ready. It begs the question if I’m always ready for anything – obviously not. Let’s be honest, a good night of sleep and caffeine usually help, but it calls us to consider how we are to always be ready to give the right words in response to the hope we have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we are people of hope. Peter has already reminded us of this earlier and the call the “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

So how are Coach Taylor’s high school football players “always prepared” for the kick-off every Friday fall night under the beaming stadium lights? How are you “always prepared” when you get asked why you go to church, why you have hope in the midst of infertility, or why you’re not leaving your spouse despite difficulties in marriage? How are you always ready to defend the faith?

Now before we think we need to flip out of 1 Peter, stick right there. And read 1 Peter 3:15 again. Peter tells us to “regard Christ the Lord as holy” in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15). Friends, we must be devoted to Christ. In the same way that we’re devoted to our exercise routines, our Netflix shows, and our social media scrolls, Peter is calling us to be devoted to Christ.

Here Peter alludes to Isaiah 8:13 in the call to regard the Lord as holy. Thank you, Peter. Once again, you’re taking an Old Testament passage and connecting it with Christ. And once again, we’re reminded that there’s a right pursuit in and purpose for how we fear Christ as the Lord. We live differently when we see the Lord the right way. We see him as transcendent God. We see him as Lord of the universe. We see him as beautiful and better. And thus we want to obey.

Think about this in your own life. When was the last time you saw the Lord with great adoration and awe? When were you moved by the Spirit with greater worship and affection for Christ? Maybe it was earlier this morning over a cup of Chemex coffee as you spent time in the Word or perhaps last Sunday during your pastor’s sermon? Or maybe it was last summer when your family took a trip to Colorado, and the beauty in the Rocky Mountains captivated you with greater worship for your Creator? Or maybe, if you’re really honest, it’s been awhile. And you’re actually feeling like you’re stuck and unable to see God.

For all of us, we need eyes to see. We need the Spirit to open our eyes to see Jesus, that our minds might be renewed, that our hearts might be refreshed. And it is here, that we’re able to always “be ready.” A constant readiness requires a consistent dependence. A daily submission to the Lord, confessing our need for fresh bread, a fresh filling of the Spirit. In own submission to our Great Giver, we see our Great Gift – we see God. We commune with him. We adore him. We exalt him.

And when we see God, the purpose of our pursuit unfolds. Here are two takeaways of how seeing God changes us. Obviously, this is not exhaustive, but hopefully encouraging.

  • Seeing God rightly leads to rightly serving God. When we see God, we are compelled. We behold him, becoming more like Christ. And out of the overflow, we serve our King and his church. We serve with the right motives the right means. We serve for the glory of God and the good of his church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Seeing God correctly leads to obeying God consistently. When we see God, we are changed. We see who he is, what he does, and what he calls us to do. We see that we are loved and chosen. We see the Cross and the hope of the resurrection. And out of this hope in the person and work of Jesus, we seek obedience – not to earn his love but because we have received his love.

Friends, there’s just no better to be prepared. To have eyes to see with clarity and courage. To have a lens that views God rightly, not with fuzziness and frustration but with faith and fervency. After all, any coach (especially Coach Taylor) would tell us, with clear eyes and a full heart, you just can’t lose.

1 Peter 3:1-12

All the Married Ladies…and Everyone Else.

For the first 33 years of my life, I was single. Busting a move (or attempting to do so) anytime I heard Beyonce’s hit song. Now before you judge me, perhaps you’ve done the same? And maybe just don’t want to admit it.

Then on June 11 of this year, I became married. I went from single to married, a Leifeste to a Stevenson, a Miss to a Mrs. –  all in a matter of moments on a beautiful Sunday morning at The White Sparrow. And while everything about my wedding day seemed perfect – the groom himself, the elegant white barn, the flowers, the wedding dress, the brunch food and drinks, the live music, the closest of family and friends – what was perfect about June 11, 2017 wasn’t anything planned or designed about the day. What was perfect about the day was the story of perfection on display – the story of the covenant of marriage, of the way Christ loves the church, and of how marriage depicts this redemptive story.

Now fast forward to four months later. Tanner and I find ourselves as newlyweds in Wichita, Kansas, living in a new city, settling into a new apartment, attending a new church, working out at a new gym, trying out new restaurants, finding new community, and making new friends. Tanner is working in a new job. I’m unemployed. And looking for a new job. Let’s just say everything is new.

And yet, everything is not new. What isn’t new is the character of our God – his presence with us, his power in us, and his promises to us. What isn’t new is the Word of God – his living and active Word that never fades or changes. What isn’t new is the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the story of the life, death, and redemption of King Jesus.

And yet, I find myself teaching on 1 Peter 3:1-12 in the midst of a huge season of new. Yes, it is here that Peter exhorts wives and husbands and then everyone else. And for the first time in studying and teaching this passage, I’m a wife. After all, Peter is talking to me!

Now let’s all just breathe. And acknowledge that there can be much confusion on both a Biblical understanding and practical application of submission. Peter doesn’t give us the x’s and o’s on what this looks like in the middle of a stressful work week, tension with family, or early morning routines with kiddos. But the apostle does give a strong exhortation in the first half of chapter 3. Let’s take a look at this verses with humility and hopefulness.

Following a discussion of submission among those in society and in the workplace at the end of chapter 2, Peter uses the first six verses of chapter 3 to exhort wives. Six verses for the wives. And yes, go ahead and notice one verse for the husbands. Why in the world would Peter spend only one verse exhorting the husbands? Well, it was due to the context. Peter was more concerned with Christian women who married pagan men. These wives were more susceptible to the cultural pressures of the day. In Roman society, it was women who were more likely to convert to their spouse’s practice of faith. As such, Peter writes to encourage women to stand firm in their faith as an example to their husbands with their “respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:2).

So what is Peter calling all of the wives to in verse 1 when he says “wives, be subject to your own husbands? The apostle is continuing to build on this theme of submission. He started in chapter 2 with the civic realm (1 Peter 2:11-17) and workplace (1 Peter 2:18-21) and then illustrates this theme with the submission of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-25).

The apostle then uses the rest of chapter 3 to address specific people in different roles regarding submission. Now let’s get practical. For those of us who are wives, whether you’ve been married 40 years or 4 months like me, what does submission look like?

Let’s pause and consider 4 simple yet practical pearls of submission:

(1) Posture of entrusting oneself to God (1 Peter 2:23-25). To have a focus on and for Jesus Christ. To submit to God and then out of that submission, to submit to our husband. And for more conversation on what it means to entrust oneself, check out my article here.

(2) Pattern of respectful behavior (1 Peter 3:1-2). To refrain from nagging, complaining, and all other disrespectful actions. And instead, to be kind, respectful, and sincere and thus display a “respectful and pure conduct” (verse 2)

(3) Pursuit of of godly character (1 Peter 3:3-5). To grow in godliness. To mature in the “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (verse 4).

(4) Practice of doing what is right (1 Peter 3:6). To obey the Scriptures.  To “do good” (verse 6) with consistency. To fear the Lord rather than “fearing anything that is frightening” (verse 6).

That’s a brief yet I hope helpful discussion on submission. And for all of us – whether a wife,  husband, or desiring to one day be married – there’s both a call and comfort. The call to submit to the Lord and to others. The comfort that in submission, Jesus became our standard, our substitute, and our shepherd.

So, here I am, trying to teach on and live out submission – with a readiness to keep figuring out how to be a wife. One pearl of submission at a time. Growing daily little by little with much grace from both the Lord and my husband. Join me, friends. After all, he did put a ring on it.

1 Peter 2:13-25

Grammar Matters: The Verb “Entrust” Grips and Guides.

Dependent or independent clause? Indirect or direct object? Passive or active voice? Yes, just a few questions circulating through my brain as I think about grammar. I’ll go ahead and tell you a little secret. I love grammar. Probably too much. One of my favorite school assignments included diagramming sentences in my seventh grade english class. So it’s no wonder that when I arrived to Dallas Theological Seminary, I was elated to begin diagramming verses in my greek class.

Now, don’t get me wrong – Purple Goods isn’t without grammatical errors. Already in this post, the usage of “to be” verbs abound. But that said, I’d love to spend some time highlighting how a verb in chapter 2 of 1 Peter has gripped me and guides me.

By way of review, we are finishing up chapter 2 of 1 Peter as the apostle begins to speak to this idea of submission. In 1 Peter 2:13-21 we see the command of submission to those in authority over us. And before I even attempt to explain the cultural context of slavery at the time the apostle is writing, I’m just going to pass. I’ll instead move on to verse 23. In these last couple of verses of chapter 2, Peter articulates the person and work of Jesus. We are reminded of the submission of King Jesus.

Before we get all antsy heading into chapter 3 and discuss submission in marriage, let’s stop and breathe. And remember our example – the submission of our Savior. Peter recalls the response of Jesus in the midst of suffering – “We he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). When Jesus was in the midst of the storm, he didn’t revile, threaten, or justify. But instead, he continued to entrust himself to the one who judges justly.

Did you catch that verb in verse 23? Entrust. Merriam-Webster would define this verb as “to confer a trust on; to commit to another with confidence.” In the midst of suffering, Jesus entrusted himself – he committed to the Father with confidence, handing himself over with trust. And I don’t want us to miss the tense of this verb. In the original language, this verb is in the imperfect tense. The imperfect tense in Greek grammar signifies a repeated past action. Friends, this is huge. With each new wave of suffering, Jesus was continually and repeatedly handing himself over to the just judge. And Jesus knew he could entrust himself to the care of the Father because he knew the character of the Father. What an example for us to follow. We too entrust ourselves to the care of the Father because we know the character of the Father.

Greater knowledge leads to greater trust. Think about it – the more you know about your company’s CEO, your workout regime, or your child’s car seat – the more you can trust that person or process. And just as Jesus entrusted himself to the one he knew and trusted, the call is the same for us. To know God fervently and entrust ourselves to him frequently.

Peter closes chapter 2 reminding us that we come under the perfect care, provision, and protection of the “Shepherd and Overseer of our souls” (verse 25). God is both our Shepherd and our Overseer. These two roles are not in isolation from one another or in tension with one another. Instead, they are closely interweaved in both intimacy and importance. God is our Shepherd – he cares for us. He is our leader, the restorer of his flock. God is our Overseer – he rules over us. He is our authority, the king over his flock.

Friends, this is the God we repeatedly entrust ourselves to – our Shepherd and our Overseer. So whether or not you too like diagramming sentences, let’s agree that grammar matters. And let’s affirm the call and comfort of the Gospel. The call – to frequently entrust ourselves to God. And the comfort – the Shepherd and Overseer faithfully cares for us and rules over us. May we be gripped and guided by a posture of entrusting, even if we don’t realize that entrusting is a gerund.

1 Peter 2:1-12

Stone of Stumbling, Rock of Offense, and Identity Statements.

We find Peter talking about each of these in the opening verses of chapter 2. After teaching 1 Peter 1:1-12 at our Women’s Bible Study last week, I was really looking forward to going into further explanation of all that Peter is referencing in verses 4-8. After all, Peter uses language of living stones, cornerstone, stone of stumbling, and rock of offense. And outside of us maybe thinking about all that we learned in a high school geology class about rocks, what on earth is Peter talking about here?

Well, instead of explaining these verses, I need to do something else. I need to remind of us of Peter’s identity statements. I need to remind of us these identity statements because the author behind this blog needs to be reminded of these truths. And if you’re anything like me, you probably need to be reminded as well.

Last week, I frequently found myself in my head – believing a ton of lies about my identity and my purpose. It started as one or two seemingly small lies, “You won’t get this job…You messed up cooking dinner with your husband…You can’t decorate your apartment well…” to bigger, more significant lies, “No one likes you…You mess up everything…You don’t fit with those around you…You ruin everything.”

Now before you think I’m just typing out my journal to you, just breathe. I’m not. One, I don’t journal, although I probably should. And two, I want to share truth – and not more lies. So last week in the midst of all the crazy talk going on in my head, two things happened. First, the Lord used his people to encourage me. My husband and close friends spoke truth to me when I couldn’t speak it to myself. When all I wanted to do was cry, they prayed for me, spoke truth to me, and helped hold my head. Secondly, the Lord used his truth to encourage me. The Spirit reminded me of the truth about my identity in Christ. Just on Monday night, I had taught through these verses, and little did I know the Spirit would use these verses to anchor me, uphold me, and refresh me.

So let’s all do ourselves a reminder today and look at what Peter says about those who are children of God. Whether you find yourself having a great day or a horrible day, our minds and hearts are prone to wander. We must be strong truth tellers to ourselves. This is a battle. Let’s get our minds ready.

In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter helps us. Just as a reminder, one of Peter’s themes in this letter is our identity in Christ. And here again, the apostle speaks to who we are and whose we are.

(1) We are chosen by Christ. Unlike unbelievers who reject Christ, believers are a “chosen race” (verse 9). Our salvation is based on the sovereign, electing purposes of God. The scriptures make this explicitly and implicitly clear. Election (the fancy theological term defining us “being chosen”) is the great privilege from which all other privileges flow.

(2) We a royal priesthood for Christ. Here in verse 9, Peter employs an excellent symbol in combining in one metaphor references to both royalty and the priesthood. The concept of royal priesthood comes from Exodus 19:6 where God through Moses told Israel “You shall be to a me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” And we are royal in that we serve a King – King Jesus. As believers, we belong to a royal house of priests as those who rule with the King through access to both his presence and his power.

(3) We are set apart to Christ. In verse 9, Peter says that we are a “holy nation.” Here Peter continues to allude to the Old Testament to support the privileges God has granted to believers. In Exodus 19:6, we read “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. As children of God, we are set apart to Christ as the people of God.

(4) We are bought by Christ. Peter tells us that we are a “people for his own possession” (verse 9). If you don’t already know this, I love monograms. And as one whose monogrammed recently changed with marriage, our “monogram” will never change in Christ. We are God’s possession. We are his chosen people. Monogrammed with his name. He has set his name on you and me and it can’t be removed. As Christians, we belong to God because he bought us with the ultimate price with the death of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Peter is writing to those enduring fear to remind them and remind us that we are set apart, bought, and named with his name. We are his.

(5) We are called by Christ. Peter reminds us in verse 9 that we have been “called out his darkness into his marvelous light.” The apostle here is referencing  the moral darkness of those unbelievers who are in spiritual darkness. Christians have received the light of the truth of the Gospel. We see darkness and light here and may think of the creation narrative – once there was nothing and now there is something. This is my story. This is your story. We have been born again – from nothing to something. God creates us and call us.

(6) We are heralds of Christ. Peter tells us in verse 9 that these identity statements are true of us so that we might “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” There is no greater delight and no greater honor than to herald the Gospel. Peter has given us a foundation of our identity and now gives us the unified purpose for those in Christ. We get to tell of the person and work of Jesus Christ – “the excellencies” (verse 9).

(7) We are recipients of mercy from Christ. Peter acknowledges that the Gentiles did not previously know compassion from Christ. They were once not a people. But now they had become the people of God. They had “received mercy” (verse 10) from God. The same is true of us. God has shown us his compassion. He has not given us what we deserve. But instead, we receive his mercy.

Here they are. Seven identity statements for those who are in Christ. And I just love that the last one reminds us that we have received mercy. We have a gracious God who is kind to his children. I hope you don’t have many days filled with crazy talk and believing lies like I did last week. And if and when you do, may you and I be quick to remind us of truth – of who we are in Christ and whose we are as children of God. Be reminded. And be encouraged.

1 Peter 1:13-25

Empty Laundry Basket, Inbox Zero, and Checklist Completed: Why I Love Peter’s Commands and Any Others for that Matter.

There’s just nothing better. You know that feeling when all of the laundry is done, no emails remain in your inbox, and everything is crossed off your to-do list – and you think, “Yes, I’m nailing it.” If you’re anything like me, you experience this sense of achievement, of completion, of control – and then when your husband, or your boss, or your friend praises you for it, the desire for approval and praise only intensifies.

Maybe I’m taking this a little too far, I tend to do that kind of thing. But my husband recently pointed out how much I thrive to live at inbox zero and seem to do laundry practically every day. Now maybe being a newlywed has something to do with my zeal to daily perform these “wifey duties” with excellence, but I think there’s more there.

In teaching 1 Peter 1:13-25 this week to a lovely group of ladies at our new church called Journey the Way in Wichita, Kansas, it hit me. This is one of my favorite passages of 1 Peter. Why? After all, it is in these verses that Peter references a warlike image of “girding up the loins of our minds” (the Greek translation of verse 13) only then to tell us to “be holy in all your conduct” (verse 15). Thanks, Peter. You create a weird battleground image in my mind only then to set this lofty expectation of holiness that is just downright unattainable for this sinner saved by grace whose heart is still prone to wander.

Now why do I love this passage of 1 Peter? I love these verses that close chapter 1 for several reasons. One of which is how Peter mentions the sustainability and sufficiency of God’s Word. He tells us that the Scriptures are the “living and abiding Word of God” (verse 23). God’s Word is full of life and also full of intimacy. It is both alive and near. And it will never perish.

But if I’m really honest, I primarily love these verses because they are filled with commands. Peter tells us what to do. He gives me the overflowing laundry basket, the full email inbox, and the long list of tasks and says, “Here you go. Go and do. That laundry, those emails, and those to-do items have your name written all over them.”

That said, let’s dig into these verses. Let’s see our task list. But let’s remember that we do not perform to attain the love of God. Jesus Christ performed on our behalf. Instead, as children of God, we seek to walk in obedience not to earn the love of God but instead because we have been embraced by the love of God.

Remember the context, after mentioning obedience in verse 2, Peter tells us now what obedience looks like. In light of everything he already told us in chapter 1 about our vision of our living hope, the apostle tells us how we are to live. This pattern is helpful. Peter tells us the why of our theology before we tells us the what of our actions. Our beliefs lead our behaviors. And we see this here in chapter 1. So get you notepad or journal open. And let’s look at these 5 commands:

The first command: respond in hope. Peter says “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be revealed to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (verse 13). Peter uses this imperative “set your hope” to exhort in a military fashion to a decisive action, to live expectantly and intentionally. He tells us that we do this by preparing our minds for action (verse 3). I already mentioned this but in the Greek, this translates to “girding up the loins of your minds.” Peter is telling us: this will be a battle. And the battle for obedience doesn’t start in our actions, in our small group attendance, in our tithing – no, it starts in our minds. Right thinking leads to read believing leads to right doing. Peter also tells us that we set our hope on Christ by “being sober-minded” (verse 13). In other words, to be sober-minded is to be single-minded. I often like to pray Psalm 86:11 that God my unite my heart to fear his name (and thus be single-minded). So that’s the first command: set your hope on the future hope we have because of Christ. And yet, we usually want to set our hope on Jesus Christ + something else (think job, physical appearance, children, spouse, etc). And for all of us, there’s grace. And our second command.

The second command: respond in purity. Peter then says, “do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (verse 14). Don’t be driven by your passions. Don’t be driven by your crazy thoughts. Let’s think about some of the dumb things you used to do (or are doing right now)…I won’t tell you what they are – you probably know very well. It’s not right thinking that drives those decisions. It’s what feels right in the moment – our passions. Let’s be honest, that’s not a safe or a smart way to live. And Peter is saying, “Don’t do that anymore.” Don’t be shaped by the desires of your former ignorance (verse 14). But instead as those with a genuine hope in Christ, pursue purity. Genuine hope results in holiness.

The third command: respond in holiness. Peter then gives the positive side to the second command. In verse 15, he says “be holy in all of your conduct.” After telling us to abstain from the former passions of our lives, Peter says to be set apart, be different, be pure, be holy. And again, our pursuit of holiness isn’t out of our desire to be the super Christian with the empty laundry basket and completed Bible study every single week (although those are great desires). Our motive for holiness stems from our awe of the beauty of God’s holiness that we can’t imagine anything else. A good friend named Kent Bowles once told me, “Lacey, you don’t have to be perfect because you are loved by perfection.” As you read this, remember the goal of progress and not perfection. Just look at Peter. He wasn’t perfect. But he did progress in his faith.

The fourth command: respond with fear. Peter writes, “conduct yourselves with fear” (verse 17). Seek to honor the Lord with reverence, respect, and awe. We don’t often talk about our relationship with God and involve the word fear. And yet, Peter reminds us in this verse that God is both Father (loving and gracious) and Judge (holy, just). We live in that tension. In the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), we see that God is both our Father (he is close) and he is in heaven (he is transcendent). Thus, we seek to fear our God who is both close and near and who is also powerful and transcendent.

The fifth command: respond with love. In verse 22, Peter gives us our final command “love one another earnestly.” Verse 22 starts with the phrase “having purified your souls,” and the Greek nerd in me wants you to know that this participle is in the perfect tense. Now before you stop reading the rest of this article, see what this means for us. This perfect tense describes a past action with continuing results. So for the child of God, God divinely cleanses our impure past. And then he gives us the continuous ability to walk in purity “for a sincere brotherly love” (verse 22) for the present and the future. Peter exhorts us to love “earnestly” (verse 22). I’m earnest about a lot of things: working out, watching college football, writing notes to my husband. But am I earnest about loving others? Again remember the context, Peter is writing to those in hostility. I don’t know about you but isn’t it easier to lash out to those closest to us and thus not love earnestly in the midst of hostility. You know at the end of a long work day, do you really want to love your roommate or spouse earnestly? And so, Peter reminds us that the ability to love with this kind of earnestness stems “from a pure heart” (verse 22). Brothers and sisters, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Spirit, help us to love earnestly.

So there they are. Five commands from 1 Peter 1:13-25. Let’s pursue both our inbox zero and the application of these. On that note, I think I have some emails needing my response.

 

1 Peter 1:1-12

Rich hope, a rewarding inheritance, and some real confusion.

This is what we see in the first twelve verses of 1 Peter. It is here that we find the apostle Peter writing a letter of encouragement to a group of exiles scattered around Asia Minor. Peter reminds and encourages these Christians. The apostle reminds this dispersed people of their living hope and their future inheritance. And he encourages them to live in the midst of suffering for the glory of their Savior, King Jesus.

We can read through the first ten verses of 1 Peter and be encouraged and reminded ourselves. For those of us who are Christians, we have been “born again to a living hope” (verse 3), to an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven” (verse 4). Peter reminds us that we are “being guarded” (verse 5) by the Holy Spirit in the midst of “various trials” (verse 6). We continue to read through verse 10 and think, ‘Thanks, Peter. In the midst of a stressful week at work or a difficult day of parenting a toddler, this is good news. I’m being refined. And there’s hope.

But then we get to verses 10-12. In these three verses, Peter uses the nouns prophets, angels, and heaven. Not three words we typically talk about in our weekly small groups or early morning accountability coffee meetings with a close friend, right? So if you’re anything like me, you’d rather skip these three verses. After all, the sermons we hear each Sunday morning probably don’t mention prophets, angels, and heaven much. So why should we bother with trying to understand?

Well, here’s the good news. Paul tells Timothy that all of Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). So these verses matter. Now, we agree that they matter. Now, let’s figure out what they mean.

Let’s all acknowledge that we wished Peter would have used additional periods here. There’s a lot here in three verses separated with only two periods. But aside from grammar, what do we see in verses 10-12 of 1 Peter?

First, the prophets studied salvation (verses 10-11). Peter says that they “searched and inquired carefully” (verse 10). They literally wanted to know all they could about God’s promised salvation. Let’s not forget that these prophets only had a partial revelation of “the grace that was to be yours” (verse 10). And despite this future grace that would come with the arrival of Jesus Christ, they shamed me and maybe even you – in how they studied the words of God. Peter encourages us: study like the prophets. Grow in your devotion so you can fully embrace this future hope of salvation.

Next, the apostles and others preached salvation (verse 12). Peter uses “the things” to refer to the salvation grace that was to come with the arrival of Christ. So who are these people who are preaching the Good News? Peter, the other disciples and apostles, and others who are not named. These were ministers of the Gospel, sent out by the church, as messengers of the gospel. And they preached salvation as those who were empowered by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Again, Peter encourages us: preach like the apostles. Walk by the Spirit so that you can faithfully bear witness to the Good News.

And lastly, the angels longed for salvation. There’s much discussion around both what angels do and what they experience. Even the Jews elevated angels, supremely worshipping them rather than seeing them as messengers of God. And today, we can see the same practice – with ideas like guardian angels and the like. As such, we affirm that angels aren’t superior. And they aren’t like us. They’ve never sinned so they can’t experience the fullness of saving and sustaining grace. And yet, they possessed a holy curiosity to understand this saving grace. The holy angels witnessed the glory of God’s salvation. And they respond with a longing for and worship of God. Lastly, Peter encourages us: long for like the angels. Desperately long to look into the beautiful mystery of the Gospel so that you might glory in the God of our salvation.

So there’s the introductory verses of 1 Peter. Peter reminds us of our rich hope, our future inheritance, and then encourages (and probably also confuses us) with talk about angels, prophets, and heaven. And yet, we have the full revelation. We know the end of the story. We have the Good News that the angels longed for and the prophets preached. Now that’s some encouragement. Be eager like the angels. And be encouraged like the prophets.

 

1 Peter 5

The Tension of Conflict and the Hope of Resolution.

College football, PGA golf, and Dateline. Those are my top 3. Yes, if my husband Tanner and I are going to be watching something on TV, those are always my first choices. Not The Office (though I really am starting to enjoy it) or The Voice or even a good chick flick. And if it’s not the weekend for some football upsets or the spring for a strong leaderboard going into the weekend, it’s rare that I don’t find myself enjoying an episode of Dateline. Call me old. Call me boring. Call me simple.

I realized last week why I love Dateline so much…yes, it’s short so I usually can manage to stay awake for an episode and yes, it’s a true story so that obviously makes it more interesting.  I enjoy Dateline because there’s conflict and there’s resolution. I know that in the first 45 seconds of the episode, Keith Morrison or another one of the Dateline anchors with one of those investigative type voices, will present the conflict and tension of the episode. And by the end of the hour (or 2 hours for those longer “special edition” episodes”), there will be resolution. A criminal will be in prison. A missing person will be found. And all will be right in the world, until the next episode of course.

As we find ourselves in chapter 5 of 1 Peter, I’m experiencing much of the same feelings. There’s been conflict. And there’s coming resolution. In teaching a Bible Study on 1 Peter at Journey the Way church, we’ve spent over two months walking through 1 Peter. We’ve talked about themes like enduring suffering, and submission to others. We’ve seen Peter provide an example of suffering and submission in the person and work of Jesus. And now, we look at chapter 5 and see how Peter exhorts both leadership within the church (verses 1-5) and living within the midst of suffering (verses 6-14).

In verses 10-11, I resonate with both the conflict and the resolution of Peter’s letter. Remember, Peter has written this epistle to elect exiles to encourage them in the midst of their suffering. As Christians, we too are elect exiles in this world. And we too will suffer. Your suffering probably won’t look like mine. My suffering might be complaining that Wichita is too cold. Or that I miss my friends in Texas. And your suffering might be your demanding job, crumbling marriage, or recent health scare. Regardless, we are all going to suffer. We will all experience the conflict. And for most of us, it is relatively safe to say that our suffering in this life won’t look like the conflict Tanner and I will probably see on Dateline tonight. But for those of us in Christ, there’s resolution. There’s a better day coming. And Peter tells us this at the end of this letter.

Dial back just for a second. In the second half of chapter 5, Peter is encouraging the reader of how to endure suffering. We are told to humble ourselves before God (verses 6-7) and then to resist the devil (verses 8-9). And then Peter gets down right to the basics in verses 10-11. In implicitly calling us to trust God, Peter gives us the resolution to our conflict of suffering. He’s already told us in verse 9 to be “firm in our faith” and now he tells us the way: a better day is coming. This suffering isn’t forever. Those moments of sadness will cease. The smiles of joy will come.

And yet, it’s not the easiest thing when your life is falling apart to just “trust God.” That can often come across as not the most helpful counsel when a relationship shatters, a job overwhelms you, or exhaustion sets in fully. And yet, Peter helps us in verses 9-10. Here are four ways to be strengthened in our faith in the midst of trials:

(1) See the trial clearly. Peter tells us the trial will only last “a little while” (verse 10). Even earlier this week, my husband so patiently reminded me of this. Hard days don’t last forever. And even more than that, our entire lives here on earth are still so short in light of eternity. Paul also speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

(2) See God continually. He is “the God of all grace” (verse 10). He is not the God of a little bit of grace. He is not the God of some grace. He is the God of all grace. His grace is abundant and sufficient. And yet, remember that Peter has told us that God gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). And thus in the midst of our trails, we come dependent. We come needy. After all, God actually really does delight in our dependence.

(3) See God’s calling for you confidently. He “called you to His eternal glory in Christ” (verse 10). We didn’t call ourselves or chose ourselves. God called us apart from us. And he has called us to himself – to the richness of his eternal glory in grace. Friends, this is a living hope. This is living hope to remind ourselves of our calling that is sure even when our days seemed to be marked by suffering. Our calling is sure. And we can see it with confidence.

(4) See God’s purpose for trials correctly. God will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (verse 10). Trials refine us. Just as metal is refined to make the finished product, God is refining us like metal, sharpening us, molding us – all to make us look more like Jesus. God is using our trials to render us complete as followers of Jesus. He is strengthening us. He is laying a foundation of our identity in Christ and his authority as God. Just as Jesus described the house founded on the rock that weathered the storm (Matthew 7:25), you and I are called to stand on sure footing in the midst of our storms.

Friends, we just don’t see what God sees. In the midst of our conflict, in the midst of our suffering, we just don’t see the resolution. But may we be encouraged that resolution is coming. God isn’t wasting your suffering. Keep his glory in view. After all, God is always writing a better story.

So for those of you who are suffering today, who are coming out of suffering, or who will be suffering in the days to come, I pray that the “God of all grace has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

1 Peter 4

Running Races and Making Deposits.

“Lacey, R & R!” I can remove those words so vividly. I’d be rounding the curve on the final laps of a race, only to hear Coach Brown’s voice in the midst of a crowd of spectators. Those words became not just words but a mantra. In the midst of heavy breathing and increasingly tighter hamstrings, I would remember “relax and run, Lacey. That’s all. Relax and run.” And friends, after years of attending track camps and early morning practices, those simple words have carried this runner to the finish line time and time again. In the midst of all the suffering, all the sweat, all the pain, the reminder to “R & R” – to relax and run.

In teaching through 1 Peter 4 this week, I felt myself a bit overwhelmed. How do I teach this entire chapter clearly and fully to these ladies? What is the most important point to land on in this passage? What kind of “R & R” reminder to do we see in this text? What is our “coach” (i.e. the Holy Spirit) reminding us of as we make the turn in the midst of pain and fatigue?

Well, I’m going to call us to do two things in this article. Read the first 18 verses. And then join me in verse 19. We’re going to camp here.

Peter begins with the word “therefore” and thus draws us to what he has previously said. And since all of you just read the previous 18 verses of this chapter (and if you didn’t, now you will), we know that Peter has given us encouragement regarding both the responsibilities of following Christ (verses 1-11) and the reality of suffering like Christ (verses 12-19). The apostle here simply acknowledges the truth that we will suffer. As Christians, it is not a question of if we will suffer, but rather when we do suffer.

You might be reading this and think “How can my suffering be according to God’s will?” How can my struggle with my current job, uncertain health, or extended singleness be according to God’s will? In the same way that Christ suffered according to the will of God, we too suffer according to the will of God. In the same way that the suffering of Christ achieved a purpose so too does our suffering achieve a purpose. That at the Cross, Jesus Christ endured the greatest suffering, dying under divine judgment as the just for the unjust and also accomplished the greatest triumph over sin and the power of death. And that in our suffering, we are refined in knowing that there’s always purpose in our pain. Just as the suffering of Christ preceded the glory of Christ (his resurrection) so to our suffering precedes glory (our future glorification). Suffering always precedes glory. Friends, there’s purpose in your pain. And your suffering has passed through the hands of God.

So in light of being reminded of the will of God, Peter tells us to “entrust our souls.” The word “entrust” is a banker’s term, referring to a deposit for safekeeping. Jesus actually uses the same word on the cross when he  committed his spirit to his father (Luke 23:46). Why does Peter call us to entrust our souls and not our bodies? He’s intentional here to contrast both the perishable with the imperishable. We are called to trust God with the imperishable. It’s simply more weighty. And if you haven’t already, you can read an article I wrote on this verb “entrust” here.

So we make this deposit, if you will, of our souls to who? Peter tells us – “a faithful Creator” (verse 19). Just as we make the deposit into our savings account and wait for the return investment, Peter tells us to do the same with our lives, to entrust our souls to our faithful Creator.

Now before you speed read the rest of this article, let’s look intentionally at the emphasis on God as the “faithful Creator” (verse 19). The combination of “faithful” and “Creator” reminds us of both God’s love (he cares) and his power (he creates). And thus, in the midst of our trials – whether with raising children, starting a new job, or battling depression – we can remember both the interest and ability of God. He cares. He creates. Because God is faithful to himself and his promises, we are to rest in his power and his purpose.

And then Peter tells us that we entrust ourselves “while doing good” (verse 19). Let’s have some real talk. When you are suffering, you know in the middle of a week that just has been “one of those weeks…”, probably one of the hardest things is to keep doing the right thing. Now let’s think of Peter. We know his history. Was he good at this? Not initially, but God grew him in this. Whew. There’s hope for us, too. Our continuation in good works in the midst of suffering reflects the assurance of our identity in Christians. And thus, we do the next right thing. Take the next step of obedience. Make the next right play.

So that’s the last verse of chapter 4. We entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator and wait for a better day to come. We keep doing the next right thing in the midst of our suffering. We remind ourselves to “E & E” – to entrust and to embrace. We entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator. We embrace the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Friends, there’s just no better way to run this race as disciples of Jesus. So as we turn the curve today, let’s drop our shoulders, take a breath, and remember to “E & E” – entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator and embrace the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.