Peter

Smiling through the pain

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nLet’s be real. Sometimes life just stinks. Pain is real. Problems continue to pile up, and you get to the point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

When life stinks, it can be hard to find comfort. No one understands your pain, and the trite little phrases like “too blessed to be stressed” only compound the agony. How are you supposed to just “speak victory” into your child’s cancer diagnosis, your wife’s passing, or the foreclosure of your home.

Yet, society expects us to just put on a smile and fake it through the day. “Fake it till you make it.” However, when the day ends, you’re right back at home, face to face with your problems.

Pain and suffering, grief and bereavement are not foreign to the Christian experience. In fact they are a real part of the Christian’s life. Christians face problems, feel pain, and experience periods of hopelessness. You’re human.

When the Apostle Peter authored his first epistle, he was looking at thousands of Christians who had been displaced by severe persecution. Roman Emperor Nero had allegedly set Rome on fire, then blamed Christians for the devastation before burning many of them alive.

He made sport of Christians by drafting them to be gladiators. He fed them to the lions. He executed them in ways he found entertaining. Imagine having your wife kidnapped from your home, and brutally murdered by being tied to the horns of a bull for the entertainment of Roman nobility. This is what 1st Century Christians faced.

Can you imagine the pain and grief that one would naturally experience under those circumstances.

Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could not sit idly by and just watch this persecution happen. And he wasn’t in a position to mount a successful civil rights movement. The best Peter could offer would be a word from the Lord to the persecuted saints. Thus, we have 1 Peter.

In reading 1 Peter, you will notice that he directs your attention away from the things happening in the world, and toward the coming Kingdom of God. His words of hope center around the fact that Christians have been redeemed by God, and He is coming to put an end to the suffering and usher in an eternity of peace and prosperity. If you know Jesus as your savior, you will see that day, regardless of what happens here. If you die, Christ will resurrect you from the dead so that you will see that day.

In chapter 1, Peter reminds us of how God chose us for this redemption, and how He purchased this salvation through Christ dying on the cross. He then encourages us to stay faithful and to trust the Lord even through those hard times. In Chapter 2, he points out how Christ suffered for us, pointing out that God isn’t allowing us to go through anything He Himself hasn’t endured.

There are no magic words to make the pain go away. What scripture does accomplish is reminding us of what God has done for us, giving us a purpose for our experience, and encouraging us to make a difference in the world around us.

If you would like to know more, join us for Bible study Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at our office at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E Industrial Dr., Early, TX 76802. If you’re unable to make it, consider reading 1 Peter on your own. It would make a good devotional for those experiencing hard times.

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Thrice Denied

Matthew 26:69-75 records Peter’s denial of Jesus Christ before two young women and a group of people who stood outside the house where Jesus stood trial before the chief priests and scribes of Israel.

It’s easy to be critical of Peter for this sin against the Lord, and his spiritual weakness in this unimaginable moment. After all, Peter had walked and talked with Jesus for more than three years, had seen first-hand the miracles Christ performed, and had even seen Jesus in His glorified state talking with Moses and Elijah. Jesus had even warned him, and foretold this moment.

Yet, here stood Peter, the only disciple willing to take up arms to defend Jesus, huddling with the masses outside the house where Jesus stood trial, trying to blend in. Here stood Peter, denying that he even knew Jesus.

It’s easy to criticize Peter for this, being 2,000 years removed from the arrest, trials, and crucifixion of Christ. It’s easy to wonder how a man who personally witnessed Jesus do so much could suddenly turn his back to the Lord. It’s easy, because we get to review this incident 2,000 years later, in the comfort of climate controlled offices, studies, living rooms and bedrooms, while looking at the screens of our laptops, smart phones and tablets.

I tend to have compassion on Peter, mainly because I see a lot of myself in Peter. He was rash, prone to sudden decisions and outbursts, and he tended to live in the “here and now.” Peter “lived in the real world” and often placed practicality over spirituality. If I am to be honest, I am guilty of the same things.

When Peter stood outside as they put Jesus on trial, no doubt he was scared, disillusioned, and confused. So, as he tried to make sense of things, people inquired about Jesus, and in order to buy peace so he could return to his thoughts, he denied Christ.

Peter could’ve spoke up, could’ve preached the Gospel, could’ve told the people that what they were about to witness would be their salvation, but he didn’t. Out of convenience and fear, he remained silent, and denied Christ.

Are we ever guilty of the same thing? Do we ever fail to speak up for Christ out of convenience or fear? Do we ever give blessing to things the Lord wouldn’t bless, all to buy peace or favor? Do we ever deny Christ by our words or actions?

The good news for us, and for Peter, is that the Lord forgives and offers redemption. Just as Peter denied Christ three times, Jesus offered Peter three opportunities to proclaim his love for the Lord in John 21. Just as we often fail to speak up for the Lord, or to represent Him well, He often gives us second and third chances to do just that- to speak and to represent for Him.

Sunday, we’ll study this passage during morning worship. Sunday School at 10, morning worship at 11, and we meet at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX 76802.

Better Days Ahead (1 Peter 1)

Three weeks ago, we said goodbye to the year 2014, and hello to 2015. For many, 2014 was a break-through year. For others, it was a tough year, and they are glad to see it go.

I know at Grace Pointe, we faced our own challenges. Financial difficulties drove us from our rented church building, to holding services at the Early Chamber of Commerce’s community room. Attendance declined, yet tithes and offerings remained steady. We changed many things… eliminated Wednesday night services, and began a series of small groups. We eliminated Sunday evening services, and began Sunday afternoon services. Then, we eliminated the afternoon services altogether. Monthly potlucks were replaced by monthly lunches at local restaurants. Grace Pointe remained committed to our mission of spreading the Gospel, and made changes to help us accomplish that mission. That being said, I will not pretend that it was easy.

When things fall apart, when times get tough, and when discouragement begins to set in, there are several things we can remember from the book of 1 Peter.

We can remember that this world is not our home. 1 Peter 1:1 says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, ” The key word, there, is “strangers.” In the New Testament, Christians used the term “strangers” to describe themselves, as this world was not their home, but Heaven was. This idea follows the old hymn, “This World is Not My Home,” which says:

This world is not my home I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

As Christians, we have a greater hope than anything that we can accomplish in this world. No matter how good, or bad things are here, we can be assured that things will be much greater in Heaven.

We can remember that God holds us in the palm of His hand. 1 Peter 1:2 says, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”

That word, “elect,” means “chosen.” God has chosen us to be saved. The basis of his choice was his foreknowledge of whether we would receive the Gospel, whether we would repent and trust Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Seeing beforehand the choice we made, God predestined our lives to bring us to that decision. He set us aside (sanctified) us through the Holy Spirit, and purchased our salvation by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Once He saves us, He keeps us. 1 Peter 1:5 says, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We can not save ourselves, nor can we keep ourselves saved. It all happens by God’s will, and His power.

Therefore, no matter what happens, we can trust that God holds us in His hand. He will work the things in our lives to our benefit, and He will receive us into Heaven. Though the storm rages, we can be at peace in the eye of the storm.

Finally, We can trust that God is using the adversities in our lives to strengthen us, and form us into the people He intended on us being. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”

When God allows adversity to happen in your life, He is refining you, strengthening you, and building your endurance and faith. He is building you into someone who can do great things for Him, so that you will be received into Heaven with honor. In this verse, Peter compares the trials of our faith to the way gold is purified. It is heated up, melted, and the impurities are burned and sifted out of it. The result is a pure, highly valuable metal. When God finishes with us, we will be the people He created us to be.

Regardless of outcome, 2015 will be an interesting year. Oil prices will continue to fall and then will rise. The stock market will do some flips, and pre-Presidential politics will move to the forefront of any discussion on current events. Whether the year ahead brings good things, or tough challenges, you can live in peace, knowing that God has you taken care of, if you know Christ as your Savior.

As for Grace Pointe, we hope to see our new worship facility built this year. Feel free to come and visit. Grace Pointe meets in the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX 76802. Sunday School is at 10 am, morning worship is at 11 am.