Imperishable!

Aritcle #3 in April Kyle’s series on 1 Peter.

Thoughts on 1 Peter…

“…not with perishable things…”

Milk BottlingThe milk in my fridge has an expiration date. The loaf of bread in my pantry has an expiration date. Even the bag of tortilla chips that I must purchase with the necessary jar of salsa has an expiration date. These things are perishable. They’re going to go bad. They’re going to grow moldy or stale or clumpy or…well, you get the picture. And quite frankly, that is not shocking to me…these things will not last forever. They will – and are – perishing. Heavens knows if some of them will not perish by the end of the week.

Think of the things in your house that are fading and perishing. Books on the shelf with covers faded and pages torn. Photographs of little people who are now taller and hardly recognizable; or photographs of loved ones who have passed on. Old t-shirts and ripped jeans; faded wood flooring striped by sunshine pouring in through the window. Even looking in the mirror, there’s a whole lot of perishing going on there…! All these things we live in and around from day-to-day. Our stuff is fading. Expiring. Perishing. And yet, truth be told, this is not too shocking really. We know our stuff is getting old.

In contrast, I checked the inside of my gold wedding band and it does not have an expiration date. There’s no timeframe of when I should expect it to crumble off my finger. I don’t anticipate the perishing of my gold wedding ring or the perishing of the diamond sitting so sparkly on my left ring finger. I think of these things lasting forever…as I fully anticipate my marriage doing, but that’s a sermon for another day. I would be all-together shocked and very upset if my diamond stud earrings were to somehow dissolve or disintegrate. They’re made of gold! The real stuff…in my earthly vernacular. I do not think of my gold jewelry as perishable!

Good o’ Peter sets me straight however. He uses this word perishable to describe the silver and gold of this world. He sets my perspective aright. He says my inheritance was not purchased with the perishable stuff like silver and gold. He says my living hope was not established by the acquisition of mere silver and gold. He says my sanctification is not achieved by the trading of cheap metal like silver and gold. He says that what I have in Christ is not going to perish – not like bread and milk – but it’s not going to perish like silver and gold perishes.

Somebody better shout Glory! Amen.

food-3190171_1280The Word of God has a way of setting our priorities straight, does it not? So often, I’m caught up in my perishable stuff. I lose sight of the imperishable things of Almighty Eternal Creator God that are a part of what makes me His royal kid. I forget that this earthly home is fading, expiring, crumbling. That it is in reality perishing.

Peter tells us the inheritance that belongs to the child of God is imperishable and is being kept in the un-expiring all-glorious ever-preserved Heaven. This non-perishable item was purchased by the raised-back-to-life-pouring-out-mercy Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Peter says that I no longer exist in an “empty way of life” but that I have a new way of living that was redeemed with non-perishable items. And again he compares this to “things like silver and gold.” I mean, Peter, what could possibly be more imperishable, more non-perishable than silver and gold…??? Peter, I have to question your knowledge here! Silver and gold. That’s the good stuff.

Peter says that I have been born again of imperishable seed. The life I now live is no longer perishable. He even says my faith, my character is being refined into imperish-ibility!!! (yes, I made up that word…) I no longer live in a fading, expiring, crumbling existence. I’m called to, established into a non-perishable, imperishable life.

This world can get my attention off these truths. This earth is so…crumbly.

The gold of my ring – hardly 19 years old – is already scratched and bent. It will fade away one day. The milk in my fridge needs to be dumped out.

But my inheritance, not expiring.

The living hope I live in, not fading.

The faith I hold is being made more valuable.

My eternal home has no cracks in the walls.

The fountain from which I drink deeply will never run dry…or sour.

The position I hold is imperishable.

Praise be.

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Peter: Chosen & Holy

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(If you haven’t read April’s first article on Peter, check it out here.)

Thoughts on 1 Peter… continued.

As mentioned before, Peter uses the word chosen several times in his letter to the exiled Jewish believers. It seems such a contrast to how they must’ve been feeling though…these believers are exiled from their home! They’re suffering persecution. They’ve fled for their lives. They’re experiencing everything but “chosen-ness” at this time, are they not?

However, herein lies the beautiful tension of being a chosen people of God, we are chosen to accomplish much more than our own narrow plans, our personal agendas, our finite purposes. We are chosen for the glory of God, to glorify the One who has indeed chosen us. And then there’s more

The richness of Peter’s letter begins early on in just the first few verses. He says these believers have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit

And there’s the more… The sanctification process.

He’s working to make me holy.

He’s working to conform me to the image of His Son.

He’s working to sanctify me by the Holy Spirit.

I recently finished reading through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and on into Numbers. God is teaching the children of Israel how to be His people, how to live as holy. He gives them the guidelines and demands of receiving His blessings within this chosen community. And, He’s giving them the Tabernacle where He will dwell with them.

Image result for public domain picture tabernacle utensilsThe utensils in the Tabernacle are deemed as holy and are set apart, sanctified, for service in the Tabernacle. So often those utensils and other pieces were sanctified or made holy by blood or even fire. The process was intense and – if I may say so – quite gruesome at times. In order to purify an instrument for service, blood had to be shed, and sprinkled or applied or poured; a fire had to be lit while the instrument or the sacrifice itself endured or was consumed by the flame.

From the beginning, God has demonstrated to us that holiness doesn’t come by way of sheltered pampering and soft caresses. No, not at all. It comes in a violent way. Fire. Blood. Pain. Struggle. Trial. And if I may be so bold, we shrink back from this because we are not aware of the un-holiness that lies within, the depth of our un-cleanness. We cannot possibly recognize and acknowledge our colossal need for the strenuous cleansing that is required to make us holy. Glory to God for His abundant Grace. Amen!

Peter knew these things and he knew his fellow Jewish believers simply needed reminding. The trouble is seeing by faith the holy outcome while we’re in the midst of the fiery making. He reminds them, “You’re being sanctified by the work of the Spirit. Hang in there. The outcome will be worth it.”

So often we lose sight of these precious truths. The truth is we are a chosen people. The truth is we are being made holy. The truth is that God is working on our behalf and for His glory.

In the midst of the trial, there is a Craftsman and He knows exactly what He’s doing.

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Bringing Peter

You gotta love Peter.

Well, if you struggle with putting your foot in your mouth, you gotta love Peter.

And, if you have an overly passionate personality, you gotta love – and identify with Peter.

…all my friends are either nodding their heads at me or rolling their eyes, AT me.

As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Peter is without a doubt a key figure in the Gospel narrative. He was chosen along with the other 11 men to follow Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. We know Peter was charged with leading the movement, to usher in the early stages of the Church. He was, he is a prominent figure in Church history and a vocal patriarch of our Christianity. He led the way.

Recognizing all of this now on this side of his story, there’s an important detail that, looking back now almost seems strange. Looking back, knowing Peter’s personality, it’s odd to think… Peter’s story did not begin with a dramatic sprint toward Jesus, shouting down the streets declarations of unabated loyalty and devout allegiance, while drawing a sword to defend His King and cut off any ears of those who dare defy… No.

Andrew brought Peter to Jesus.

Andrew, his brother, brought Peter to the Messiah.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed Him [Jesus].

He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “we have found the messiah” (which is translated the Christ), and he brought Simon to Jesus… John 1:40-42

As I write, this week the earthly body of Billy Graham has been laid to rest. There’s no denying the impact of this modern-day preacher, a godly man. As “America’s Pastor” (as some have called him) Billy Graham preached the Word of God and proclaimed the Good News to literally millions of people. But you have to consider, who brought Billy to Jesus? I wonder if Mordecai Ham considered the profound impact, the chain reaction he would ignite when he proclaimed the Gospel message into the ears of young Billy Graham, a teenager when he heard those sermons about the sin in a man’s heart.

2 Timothy 2_2.pngIt’s definitely something to consider. Who am I leading to Jesus? What is the possible impact for the Kingdom of God? I wonder what Andrew would say to us today…

So Peter, here we are, a couple thousand years later and the rest is history, a living-breathing-ever-powerful history. The power of God moving through a man, penning the Word of God that you and I hold and contemplate today.

It’s a weighty reality that God uses a human being to work His plan, to accomplish His purposes; and although He gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7), our Father places us in the work. Andrew and Peter demonstrate this so well.

In his first letter, Peter uses the word chosen at least five times. His recognition of the powerful choices of God, to use what God chooses to use, comes through in his message to the believers who are exiled and dispersed. He tells them they have been chosen by God to do what they’re doing, to endure this time of suffering, and then to step into the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)

Chosen.

That utterance brings great solace to my heart, as I hope it does to yours.

I’ve often pondered the grace that chose me…all the while knowing, I would not have chosen me. Ah, the grace of God that reaches down to choose whatever He wills. In His infinite mercy, I’m forever grateful for so many of His choices.

And to think, Andrew was part of God’s work! He brought Peter – THE Simon Peter – to the Messiah. God could’ve brought Peter to Jesus all by Himself; but Andrew was part of the plan! I want to be a willing part of The Plan. The impact is so far beyond imagination.

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Holy Oatmeal

One of my favorite authors often refers to the pot of oatmeal cooking on her stovetop during the early morning hours as her family prepares for their busy day running a farm. The way she describes the scene, the sounds of the low bubbling and the nurturing way she stirs in preparation of serving her family, has always drawn me to think that oatmeal is simply wonderful. Without a doubt, oatmeal must be the breakfast of wonderful people. I want to be one of those wonderful people.

I’ve heard that oatmeal is healthy too. Exactly.

Pondering this beautiful scene, I set out to create my own wonderful-ness this morning. I cooked oatmeal on my stovetop. I could literally sense the anticipation in my mouth, and my heart. This was going to be life-changing.

holy-oatmealI carefully followed the directions on the side of the canister. The boiling and bubbling began. I decided to add a little butter. Then, I added a little brown sugar. After one little bite, I decided it needed a little – lot – more butter… and maybe a pinch – large pinch – or two – more of brown sugar. Oh it looked so pretty! I scooped some into my new big soup mug. Took a little bite… Then I thought maybe it needed a little vanilla… or perhaps some mini chocolate chips.

Are you following me here…?

After an exorbitant amount of butter, brown sugar, and more than several sprinkles of mini chocolate chips, I dove into a large spoonful.

Then, I decided that oatmeal is just NOT for me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I like the idea of oatmeal. I like the idea of the warm bubbly nutritious good-for-your-heart-health breakfast.

But I don’t really…actually want to eat it… I just want a picture of it posted to my Instagram account, with my Bible in the background.

In his letter, the apostle Peter wrote these words: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

I so sincerely want to conduct myself in a holy manner. Correction: I like the idea of conducting myself in a holy manner. Because when I’m NOT hungry and tired, I really want to BE holy. When it’s NOT too late for the kids to still be awake, I really want to BE holy, to conduct myself in obedience. Not to mention when someone does NOT pull out in front of me and does NOT begin driving so very slowly in order to purposely ruin my life, I’m really thinking about BEING holy in my conduct. However, when I’m rested and healthy and cared for and my car is shiny fresh out of the carwash, I am especially in tune with holy conduct…

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Let me first say that I have been made holy, been made righteous by the precious blood of the Lamb; but walking worthy and being “holy in my conduct” is something I would prefer with butter, brown sugar, and mini chocolate chips on top.

Peter says to be as “obedient children” and to be holy in my conduct. He never mentions sweet and easy living.

I was made new in Christ for many things like precious freedom and sweet fellowship, but also obedience and holy living. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I desire to look like My Father, to conduct myself in a way that causes others to see Jesus Christ; therefore I’m called to a standard of living that is beyond my former desires.

I’m just glad Peter didn’t require oatmeal.

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As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

Questions

by April Kyle

John 9:1-7 (ESV) – The Man Born Blind

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

jesus20and20a20blind20manThis story has been a fascination of mine for some time… well, for almost nine years now.

Watch the beginning, how the Holy Spirit chooses to lead you into this story…

The disciples ask Jesus whose sin has caused this man’s blindness, his disability. Were his parents diehard trespassers who were punished by a physically hindered son, as opposed to a healthy, seeing son?

Did he do some wrong to bring this predicament upon himself?

“Who sinned…?”

Reminds me of Job’s friends… Job knew he was clean and guiltless before his God; but his buddies couldn’t comprehend such tragedy coming by any other vehicle than that of the consequences of sin. The Bible says that Job held to his integrity. Pretty intense.

“Who sinned…?”

I said this passage has fascinated me for some years now…

I have a niece who was born with some hindrances, some restraints. She was diagnosed in the womb with Down syndrome, as well as esophageal atresia – that’s a fancy word for when the esophagus and stomach do not meet. Pretty intense.

“Who sinned…?”

I remember praying for that sassy girl with such intensity, such fervor, pleading, crying out for God to work a miracle.

“Who sinned…?”

…reminding God how as a family, we stood blameless – not perfect mind you – but faithful to all God had called us to. We were trusting Him to do what He does for good people. At least, that’s what I was trusting Him to do.

You see where I’m going with this…

Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad sinners. God works miracles for us good kids. He saves the tragedy, the heartache, the disabilities and birth defects for the wicked.

That’s how we think, isn’t it?

Oh my, we wouldn’t dare say it aloud, but deep down in our heart of hearts, that’s exactly what we think.

“Who sinned…?”

It’s shocking really. Jesus’ answer is really rather earth-shattering, life-altering. It rocks traditional thinking to its very foundation. Typical Jesus.

Much to the dismay of Job’s friends, Job stands blameless before them. In the end, they get the real scolding.

Much to the astonishment of the disciples, nobody’s sin has caused this blindness; nobody’s sin has deserved this punishment.

Then why?

Why is this man blind?

Why was he born blind?

Why does Job lose everything?

Why does he sit in a garbage heap, scraping his sores?

Why does my niece have Down’s syndrome?

Why does she wear scars from too many surgeries?

“Who sinned…?”

“No, guys,” says Jesus. “This one isn’t about sin. This one isn’t about punishment. This isn’t a public display of judgment.”

Then what? … and why!?

“This is about glory, God’s glory. His mighty acts and deeds. His glory. No one will miss God’s glory today.”

I’m not sure if I picture Jesus with a slight smile, a glimmer in His eye, and a “watch-this” glow on His face; or if He’s wearing that determined-to-praise-my-Father-on-the-Sabbath-rebel’s jut in his jaw. (Jesus is totally awesome.)

At this point, Jesus does something very spiritual…NOT.

He totally spits in the mud! I cannot even imagine what the blind guy is thinking. I mean seriously. Ewww.

(You know Jesus couldn’t have done it this way if this had been a blind GIRL. We would have been like, “No thanks, Jesus. I’ll pass on the spit/mud remedy.”)

Hilarious. (You know Jesus thought it was funny.)

Jesus heals him. To God be the glory. No other explanation.

You know, Job got possessions bestowed upon him a double portion. He even had more children and then grandchildren… and more. The Bible even says that his daughters were the prettiest in the land. But, nonetheless, he suffered like no other…outside of the perfect Lamb of God upon that rugged cross; no one knew unwarranted suffering like Job.

God used the wonderful doctors at Vanderbilt to repair my niece’s esophagus. She can put away some chips and salsa, and she loves pretzels. Oh that girl. But, she still wakes up every morning with Down’s syndrome.

Why?

I’ve asked that question a bazillion times…

The Answer is always the same…

Glory. God will get His glory today, and everyone will see it.

Praise be to His name!

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Sparkly Things or God Things?

by April Kyle

Recently, I’ve had to come to grips with my constant impulse and obsession to be a part of –and to purchase– the latest and greatest “thing” — journal, online study, blog, video/DVD, new study Bible….etc. etc. etc — in order to “be more sincerely spiritual, and stay hip and cool” all the while growing in my relationship with God through personal study of the Holy Scripture.

I also battle a constant panicky feeling that I’m behind, that I’ve not studied enough, and I’m not up on the knowledge scale of where I should be. As a ministry leader and teacher, and as a homeschool mom, this has been a serious point of contention — insecurity — for me in regards to the calling I’ve been given by my Creator.

pexels-photoI battled this intense anxiety once again at the close of a Bible study/teaching training I recently attended in Mississippi…my mind began to race as I put myself into “game on” mode, deciding to be sure to read the whole Bible through by the end of the following week, alongside any suggested study helps, not to mention Grudem’s Systematic Theology would need to accompany my personal quiet time…along with, of course, my “other version” study Bible, my Jewish study Bible, my two Old Testament commentaries…and on and on and on… all the while coloring/drawing/stamping in the wide margins of my journaling Bible, AND remembering to post to social media so everyone would know that I had my quiet time…which by this point would’ve lasted 4-5 hours…and trying to compensate for never taking a Hebrew or Greek class….WHA?????

Even in moments like these when I’m looking for a paper bag to breath into or to hide in, I find myself returning to the one thing I cannot do without. That one method that brings me back to center. The one correct answer to almost every Sunday school question. Read the Bible and pray, then pray and read the Bible.

Read the Bible and pray, then pray and read the Bible!

Several years ago, God brought Chronological Bible Storying into my life. It was perfect timing. My Loving Abba knew I was frustrated in my walk with Him, and struggling with where to go next in my quiet time with Him once the DVD driven Bible study and workbook homework were done… What do I read? What does it mean? Reading the Bible chronologically has literally changed my life.

I used to sit under my favorite Bible teachers and preachers wondering how to get “that kind of connection” with God and His Word. Nobody would’ve guessed I was floundering. Christian home, christian school, Bible institute student, christian college grad, small group leader… All this, yet my quiet time with the Creator of the Universe was dull and minimal. I was a child of God and I knew I had the Holy Spirit…AND I knew I had the right Bible because I would make sure I was using the same ones those expert teachers were using!!! Studying God’s Story chronologically, recognizing that it is indeed one story — not many isolated tales of interesting people — changed my perception and really empowered me to dig in deep and grow in my walk with God.

On a very practical note, I began using certain questions to guide my thinking. When I sit down to read God’s Word, I ask:
  • What does this passage teach me about God? About man? About sin? About grace?
  • What is happening just before this passage? Just after?
  • Who is talking in the passage? Who is the human author of this passage?
  • What does this mean for me right now? Does this apply to me today? Because, “If this Book is true, then what?”

Sometimes not all the questions work or apply, but my guided thinking helps me grasp more of God’s Word than I would without them.

I typically use a journal or I just write notes in my Bible, sometimes I simply say the answers aloud. I’ll confess, not every day do I get to relish in God’s Word this methodically. However, I’ve been given the Ultimate Teacher to guide me so I can receive spiritual nourishment from His Word-Feast in the Scripture…

hands-hand-white-weddingI believe as American Christians, we can get pulled away from God by the sparkly things that say “God-things.” We seek stuff about God rather than actually seeking His Face. God speaks through His Word…yes He speaks into our different personalities and through our different circumstances, but His Word is His Very Words To Us. If we miss it, we’ll miss Him.

I’ll never forget sitting in a proctor meeting as a college student when our Dean of Men was asked to address this small group of student leaders. I remember anticipating what he would say, shifting my weight to lean in… He stood quietly and began to talk about his best friend. Love and memories. Good times and hard times. Tears brimmed in the eyes of this God-fearing man as we all began to realize that he was talking about his Bible. I couldn’t tell you one other thing that was said in that meeting. I only remember asking God to put that kind of passion into my heart for His Word.

Open Book Bible on Brown Wooden Table

Read the Bible and pray, then pray and read the Bible!