Grace In Suffering

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And after you have suffered a little while, 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

We have come to the end of Peter’s first letter, and despite the heavy subject of suffering he leaves us with a beautiful word of encouragement.

 He began his book by addressing those who are suffering and reminded them of the mercy and grace found in their Savior. He ends his letter in much the same way.

I love that Peter does not try to sugar coat life. He says, “After you have suffered a little while.” Yes, life will be hard; there will be trials and sufferings of various degrees in our lives. We can be sure of it.

But Peter does not stop on a downer; he continues with “the God of all grace.” Such simple words, and yet so powerful, especially to those who are worn out and sad. God is not simply a gracious God who shows us kindness and love. He owns ALL grace. Every form that grace can take comes from God himself and he pours it out on his people.

Here are a few ways the grace of God touches those who are suffering.

who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Called

That is what you are! God has called you out of darkness and into his light, his kingdom, his family, and eventually into his presence. This is guaranteed to us. So no matter what this life is like we can be confident of our future, and our future is filled with all kinds of beauty.

Restored

There are an endless amount of peaceful days ahead of us, and we can look forward to those days because we have been restored or made perfect in Christ. His sacrifice is our life. It may not feel like we will ever see peaceful days, but one day God will restore everything to the way it is supposed to be. This includes us, as well. He will restore in us the image of Christ completely. This process of restoration has already begun, but it takes time. One of the tools God uses is his Word, so treasure it.

Confirm and Strengthened

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Is. 41:10

Trials and suffering wear you out. Even those smaller trials like sleepless night with a baby, or a stressful week, can leave you feeling worn out and, in my case, weepy. But God promises that he will be our strength. Don’t try to push through on your own. It won’t work. We will only succeed if we acknowledge our weakness and cling to Christ for his strength. He will gladly give us what we need.

Not only will God give us the strength we need to make it through a trial, but the word “confirm” gives the idea that we, ourselves, will be made stronger so that we can endure future trials even better.

Established  

I like how the old English versions use the word “settle.” He will settle us. God will place us on ground that cannot crumble or come crashing down because this foundation is Jesus Christ. Those who are in Christ cannot come to any real harm.  The Psalmist points out, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6)

Trials may take their toll on our bodies and emotions – they may result in broken friendships, difficult days, and many tears – but they cannot take away our faith. As a matter of fact, trials and suffering have the power to strengthen our faith and our love for God if we cling to him.

Even in our suffering there is grace, as God uses our trials for good in the lives of his children (Ro. 8:28). This includes trials and suffering brought about by our own foolishness, as well as the hurt inflicted on us by others.

Remember this: you NEVER suffer without God’s gentle hand of grace upon you.

Love God Greatly

 

 

Looking To Jesus,

jen-sig

 

 

 

You Have A Gift

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Growing up I never felt like I had any special talents. There was nothing that I excelled at. I wasn’t into sports, academically I was average, at home I was a bit messy. I’m not crafty or super outgoing.  For years I had no idea what “spiritual gift” God had given me.

But each of us is born with a special gift, something that we are passionate about, something we like doing and are good at. These talents or gifts don’t just happen by accident; they are given to us by God. Matthew Henry explains that some of us will receive “ordinary” gifts, while others of us will be given “extraordinary” gifts.

Now God doesn’t do things without a purpose. He doesn’t give us these gifts just for fun, though they do bring joy and fun into our lives. These gifts are to be used to help and bless those around us. In this way we bring glory to God.

The rule is that whatever gift, ordinary or extraordinary, whatever power, ability, or capacity of doing good is given to us, we should minister, or do service, with the same one to another, accounting ourselves not masters, but only stewards of the manifold grace, or the various gifts, of God.

Matthew Henry

The difficulty we have is figuring out what gift or gifts God has given us.  Spiritual gift tests have been invented to help Christians figure this out. I took one years ago, and according to the results my spiritual gifts were discernment and pastoring. Ha!  While these tests can be helpful, they are not always accurate or necessary.
LoveGodGreatly

Here are a few ways to help you figure out what gifts God has blessed you with.

1. What are you passionate about?

What are those things that you really love doing? What gets you excited? What brings you joy when you are doing it? What comes natural to you?

2. What are you good at?

While figuring out what you are passionate about is a good start, it is not always accurate. You can be passionate about singing but not be able to carry a tune. So the next question to ask yourself is, “what am I good at?”

EVERYONE is good at something because God has given everyone a gift. This doesn’t mean that you are an expert. It  simply means that you do it well and that you see fruit.

3. Ask someone

Sometimes it is hard for us to see what we are good at. This is when we need to ask someone. Ask your spouse, your friends, or family member. What talents or gifts do they see in your life?

4. Let your church help you by plugging in

One of the best ways to find your gift is by practicing. If you like cooking, baking and caring for people, then plug into a hospitality ministry. If you like babies and children, then plug into the children’s ministry. If you like to teach, then maybe you can work with older kids, youth, or even lead a women’s Bible study. Are you musical? Then join the worship team. If you like to organize and lead, then find out where in your church you could put those gifts to use.

If you are still not sure then see where your church needs help and just plug in. You may be surprised at how much you like serving in an area that you never really thought much about before.

Remember that the gifts we have been given were not given so that we would keep them to ourselves or only use them within the confines of our own four walls. God gave us gifts, talents, and interests to use to help and love others and bring glory to His name.

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

Swimming In The Baptismal

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“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
1 Peter 3:21-22

Christians have, throughout the history of the church, disagreed on certain aspects of baptism. Much of what I write here is agreeable to all, but I am writing this from a theologically baptist perspective. This means there are points where my Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican sisters will disagree with me. I love my sisters from other denominations (and non-denominational churches), and simply want to encourage everyone to take baptism seriously.

During my junior high years my dad was a pastor at a church downtown Frankfurt, Germany. The building we lived in had 5 floors. The church was located on the first 2 floors and we lived on the 5th floor. Every now and then my sisters and I would put on our bathing suits and take a swim in the baptismal. It was like our own little swimming pool.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I entered that same baptismal for a completely different reason. I was finally ready to take that step of obedience and make my love for Christ and my faith in him public.

Baptism is often a misunderstood ordinance; a command that is easily pushed to the side and ignored. Since Peter brings up the topic of baptism in our text I thought it would be good for us to take some time to discuss and think a little more about it.

What Is Baptism?

Post Tenebras Lux – “After darkness, light” is engraved on the Reformation Memorial in Geneva, Switzerland. This is the beautiful truth of the gospel. The shadow of sin has been overcome by the light of the Gospel, the darkness of death has been beaten by the Son of God. By the glorious life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the old has been made new. All of this is what we celebrate in baptism.

The word baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo meaning “ to dip repeatedly,  to immerse or submerge; to overwhelm.”  Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist himself, said that in baptism, “the element must encompass its object.” So, as Christ was immersed in the wrath of God, encompassed by death, and buried in the tomb; so we, as a sign that we have been united with Christ (Rom 6:3), are encompassed, overwhelmed, and buried in water. And as Christ was raised from the grave so we are raised out of the water as a sign of us being raised with Christ into a new life. (Rom. 6:4). When Peter says, “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God” he is not saying the rite of baptism (removal of dirt from the flesh) saves, but that what it represents (union with Jesus leading to a “clear conscience toward God”) saves us.

Why get baptized?

Baptism typically marks the public aspect of a Christian’s faith. Many view their Christian life as a private affair. While your conversion was a very private experience, it was not meant to remain private.  We are called into the body of Christ, the church, which becomes to us a new family. Baptism is a public acknowledgement that you belong body and soul to Jesus and to this family of believers.

We also get baptized out of obedience (Matt. 28:18-20; Matt. 10:32-33). In the mind of a Christian baptism should not be optional. It is a way in which we follow Christ’s example and command.

What amazing grace that Jesus took on our sin so we could stand pure and without shame before God. Who would not want to proclaim this from the mountain top! Baptism is a way for us to proclaim our unbreakable alliance with God. His death has sealed our life, and we are now his.

Who should be baptized?

Baptism is for all who believe. It is for everyone who understands the depth and ugliness of their sin and can say, “By faith I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for my sins.”  (Acts 8:26-38).

What keeps some from getting baptized?

In the Bible we see, over and over again, stories of people believing in Jesus and immediately being baptized. But today many are lackadaisical about baptism. Why are so many indifferent about this sacred ordinance?

For some it is a false understanding of baptism. There are many who think it is just a nice suggestion instead of an important ordinance to participate in.

For some it is the fear of man. This is what kept me from getting baptized. I felt awkward standing in front of people. What were they thinking of me? Did I look silly? I was overly concerned about the opinion of others instead of the pleasure of God. I was too focused on myself instead of focusing on what Jesus did for me.

But here is the thing: it is never too late!

If you have not yet been baptized as a follower of Jesus, you can and should follow the Lord through the baptismal waters. No, baptism does not save. Jesus Christ alone saves. But baptism is a picture that we have been buried with Christ and have been raised up into a new life; a life of forgiveness and peace, a life of righteousness and joy, a life of love to God and neighbor. The old has gone, the new has come ( 2 Cor. 2:17). All praise be to Jesus Christ, our redeemer and our God.


Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

Week 3 – Help For The Hurting Wife

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Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word,
they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1 Peter 3:1-2

Welcome to week 3 of our study! We have come to a very fun passage of scripture today, one that excites much debate in various Christian circles. “Wives, be subject (or submit) to your own husbands.” Peter mentions this twice our passage so we need to pay attention.

Before we dig into these verses we have to remember the context of this book. Peter wrote this to fellow believers who are suffering, who are feeling alienated, and are being persecuted because of their faith.

In this passage Peter is addressing wives who are married to unbelieving and ungodly men. Though, what he says here applies to all marriages.

So what words of wisdom does Peter have for these these women and for us?

Before we get to that, let’s remember what the goal of marriage is. We read marriage books and attend seminars in order to figure out what marriage is supposed to be all about and how to be successful in it. But what is the point of it all?

It’s actually Paul who gives us the answer to this in Col 1:28:

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Our goal in marriage is to see our spouse become mature in Christ. We should want to see the image of Jesus shine more and more brightly in their lives and for them to bear fruit in faith.

And Peter gives us some practical tips on how to do this.

1. Submit To Your Husbands

Submission means to willingly follow the lead of another person or to willingly deny ourselves for the good of another.

Now this is not a command only for wives. The whole of the Christian life is about submission.  We are to submit first to God, and then we are told in Eph. 5:21 that we are to submit to one another, and in Phil 2:3 we are told to consider others as more important  than ourselves. So this concept of submission is not something that God only intended for wives to do. It is for all Christian to follow.

Now this does not mean that we follow our husbands into sin or foolishness. Submission does not equal being silent or inferior. Remember: in Christ we are equals. We are of equal value and worth.

Peter knows that marriage is not easy. He was himself a married man. And now he  is seeing these women who are married to non believers, and some of these marriages are very difficult. Peter is saying to these ladies, “What I want you to do right now is to submit to your husband’s leadership wherever you can, to respect him, and to live in such a way that the beauty of Christ shines through your life. Maybe they will find faith in Jesus through your witness.”

While everyone needs to have the gospel preached to them, these husbands also need to see  the gospel at work in you. They needs to see what a changed heart looks like. This goes for those who have believing husbands as well. We encourage our husbands by living a godly life.

2. Pursue Spiritual Beauty

What makes a person beautiful? Is it the external? Sure, but this kind of beauty is subjective. What I find beautiful, you may not.  Outward beauty really should be of small concern to us, and yet we spend a lot of time worrying about our hair, nails, eyebrows, weight, and diet. Often times it is not because we want to be healthy, but because we want to look a certain way.

But as my husband so eloquently once said, the older we get things “fade, wrinkle, and drop”. Lovely! :)

Peter says, pursue spiritual beauty! This has the ability to make you beautiful even when you are 90 years old. And this is also a way for your husband to see Christ’s work in you. The fruit of your faith can be used by God to draw your husband to himself. Things like a gentle and quiet spirit.

Some of you may think well I have a loud personality. That is fine. A gentle and quiet spirit is not silence. It is avoiding needless arguments. It is a humble heart that does not complain but complements the circumstance.

So Peter’s advice to those who are struggling in their marriages, especially those who are married to a non-believer, is to follow their husbands leadership wherever they can and to pursue spiritual beauty.

This is not a guarantee for a perfect marriage. But it is what God may use to change your husband’s heart; and most importantly, it is honoring to God.

Our challenge for this week is to:
1. Pray for humility as you seek to willingly submit to your husband.
2. Look for an opportunity to share what God is teaching you with your spouse.
3. Commit to regularly praying for your husband. Either for his salvation or for his continued growth in holiness.

Alternative Challenge:
Look up passages that show Jesus acting with a gentle and quiet spirit. Ask yourself these questions, “What keeps me from having a gentle and quiet spirit?” and “What can I do to grow in this beautiful character trait (i.e. in the workplace, among friends, with family, and in difficult circumstances)?”

Looking to Jesus,

jen-sig

 

 

 

WEEK 3 READING PLAN

W3 Reading Guide

 

WEEK 3 MEMORY VERSE:
LIHz4XqLmCDVmJagvvURhPueMK6LsaljZTyEHjkuyVU

 

WEEK 3 CHALLENGE:
Weekly-Challenge-3a

 

ALTERNATIVE CHALLENGE:
Weekly-Challenge-3b

The Mark Of A True Believer

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I was super excited when I found out that we were going to be studying 1 & 2 Peter together because my hubby just finished preaching through 1 Peter. Since I have a poor memory I am hopeful that this  study will cement into my brain the things I have learned. So let’s dig in, shall we?

What is the the outward sign of a changed heart? What is the true mark of a Christian? Is it passion? A wealth of knowledge? Social action or political involvement? Is it generosity?  While all of these things are good things, they are not the defining marks of a true believer.

Peter teaches us what this mark really is.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
1 Peter 1:22-23

Love! This is the mark of a true believer.

Love - Augustine

Peter knows this is the proof of a changed heart because he heard Jesus say this very thing.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (emphasis added)

So what does it mean to love someone? I think to best understand this we need to first look at the opposite of love which is hate.

Now most of us would say that we are not hateful people. Hate is such a strong word I don’t even like my children using it.  On the surface hate is not something that I feel that I struggle with.  But the painful truth is, I am wrong – and you may be too.

Here are a few characteristics of hate:

  • speaking ill of someone (slander and gossip)
  • not seeking their good
  • wishing harm or misfortune on someone
  • finding secret pleasure when things don’t go well for another
  • unjust anger
  • refusing to forgive
  • ignoring someone
  • indifference toward another’s circumstance

Are any of these found in your life? Ugh, some of these are alive and well in my own heart. And these are not just the rumblings of frustration in a fallen world. They are manifestations of hatred.

“Hate is often more subtle than wrath, and quieter than rage.” – Joe Thorn

Love

Love should be what governs everything we do and say. It is what pushes us to know and obey God’s word and it is the driving force behind us doing good to the people around us. I could give you a succinct definition of love, but that is too easy. I find it even more helpful to answer the question, “What is love?” by looking at 1Cor. 13.

Love is:

  • Patient with others
  • Kind to all
  • It does not want what it doesn’t have
  • It doesn’t brag or think itself superior to others
  • It is not rude
  • It is not irritable
  • It isn’t resentful
  • It does not rejoice at other’s misfortunes or wrongs done to them

Love:

  • Rejoices and pursues truth
  • Bears all things (or puts up with anything)
  • Always believes the best
  • Endures all things
  • Believes God

Peter tells us that these are the virtues that ooze out of loving hearts and into the lives of others. But I get overwhelmed looking at those lists. I am overwhelmed, and sometimes discouraged, because of the hateful ways I see in myself. I don’t love the way I should. I want to, but I fail.

Don’t be discouraged, because this is where the good news of the Gospel speaks words of encouragement and hope to us. Christ not only loves us, but he loved perfectly for us and died for our selfishness and less than perfect love towards others. And through his love we have been gifted with power to change, to love more deeply and to put ourselves last.

We must continue to work at loving others and killing selfishness, not to gain favor with God, but to work out our salvation and to show others that we are new creatures in Christ. But such work is the work of faith, and is ever-dependent on Jesus.

What are some things that we can actually do to practice love?

Here are a few thoughts.

  • Become a good listener; otherwise you won’t know what someone needs, how to pray for, or care for them.
  • Ask forgiveness without explanation or excuses
  • Be generous
  • Include others into your circle of friends, small groups, and Bible studies
  • Put people before your own interests
  • Be willing to sacrifice for others
  • Tell the truth with kindness and wisdom
  • Encourage with the gospel
  • Pray for them

Loving others is not easy. As a matter a fact it is one of the hardest things to do. Sure, loving our friends doesn’t seem to be too hard, but what about the person who is always annoying? The one who knows how to push our buttons? The one who doesn’t care? The one who is malicious? The one who takes us for granted? The family members who are difficult? The strangers who inconvenience us? Or even our fellow Christians who believe differently?

In order to love well we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the perfector of our love and the example of how to love well.

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

Chime in:

What is the hardest part about loving others? And who in your life has shown you the greatest example of love?

 

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