For some of you who know me, it may be hard to believe but when I was young I was not cool. Of course, I am kidding. I am not sure I am very cool today, but I am not nearly as conflicted as I was for the majority of my life. Today, I am confident in a simple and profound truth. In junior high I was among the 99% of the population that was awkward and tortured by the 1% of the gifted and beautiful people of the world.
At 2:00 am on October 9, 2017 Edwin Guzman was awakened by the sound of roaring wind. When he looked outside he could see nothing but a sky darkened by smoke. He quickly realized that his family and home were in the path of a raging wild fire. He went back into his house awakened his wife, son and his parents telling them to get up they had to leave immediately. He then went back to alert his neighbors. Within 5 minutes he, his family and 2 dogs were in their 2 cars looking for a way out of their neighborhood. Familiar streets were impassable due to fire.
That was the beginning of the most costly and deadly wild fire in California’s history. Nearly a quarter of a million acres were burned, 9,000 buildings destroyed, 44 lives lost. Cost exceed $9 billion dollars.
America’s moral, cultural and societal trajectory is disturbing to many Christians. These changes are particularly worrying when they impact our children. Among other things, parents are forced to have conversations about sexuality, pornography, and identity in a manner and on a timetable we likely would not have chosen. News headlines once reflecting realities “out there” are now openly discussed in elementary school classrooms. In the midst of anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed, its good to reflect on what is true. When we treasure Gods’ Word—the definitive proclamation about reality—we can be at peace in the storm and give our children the gift of an unshakable and certain hope.
If I look back at my new life with Jesus, the periods where my growth stagnated or I felt stuck almost always were periods where I was captive to bitterness in my heart toward others. I think all of us, if we are honest, can recall a time where we have experienced significant pain at the hands of our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we find ourselves in these situations, forgiveness seems far less gratifying than personal justice or writing relationships off.
1 Peter 5:5-14
Focused Text: 1 Peter 5:6-7
Anxiety is debilitating. Whether it seizes us daily or relatively infrequently, we have all at some point felt the immense power that anxiety possesses in strangling our joy. In the moment, unless conditioned to respond in a godly manner, we will tend to feel overwhelmed and defeated by anxiety.
1 Peter 5:1-4
What must leaders in Jesus’ church be like? How do we recognize genuine integrity in them, and what can we legitimately expect of them? Peter begins by identifying himself as not only an apostle (5:1), but also an “elder” along with those elders in the churches to whom he writes.
Peter then addresses the work of elders; they are to “shepherd the flock of God, exercising oversight” (5:2). He does not elaborate further on their work of caring for lives of believers (see Hebrews 13:17), but instead, he focuses on their manner and motive in doing so.
Elders must lead willingly, even with eagerness (5:2). In what seems to address how elders motivate God’s people, Peter contrasts an aggressive overbearing approach of intimidation with that a living an exemplary life which is so obvious that the flock will respond appropriately without being badgered (5:3).
The elder’s heart must be fixated on a single heartfelt longing, viz., that one day Jesus (interestingly called “the Chief Shepherd”) will return at which time elders will receive from Him “the unfading crown of glory” (5:4). This designates Jesus’ approval of the leader’s life and work as an elder among God’s people. Nothing better!
Take some time to think or talk through the following questions with a view to applying the passage in your own life.
- Most are not elders in the local church, but all lead someone. In light of this, have I set the elder’s integrity and service as a goal to seek? Of those things listed by Peter as incumbent for elders, which do I most desire to grow in? What’s a first step I can take to do so?
- Do I pray for my church leaders regularly? Do I ask God to enable them to be as Peter depicts them in the passage? How often do I take time to speak to elders and express my appreciation or ask their prayer requests? (Do at least once this week!)
1 Peter 4:12-19
Focused Text: 1 Peter 4:19
In the current state of our world suffering remains inescapable. Yet God has great purpose in our suffering. Peter has already told us that suffering refines our faith (1:6-7), provides us with an opportunity to follow in Christ’s footsteps (2:21-23), and puts the authenticity of the gospel on display to our enemies (3:13-16).
1 Peter 4:7-11
Focused Text: 1 Peter 4:10-11 (cp. Romans 12:6-8)
Every believer in Christ has been uniquely gifted with some form of God’s grace for the purpose of serving others within the church (and in some cases outside as well). In this passage Peter mentions two examples: speaking the Word (i.e. teaching/preaching) and completing acts of service (i.e. serving with our hands). Paul, in his letters to the churches in Rome and Corinth, gives us more comprehensive lists, yet with the same idea in mind: God has gifted every believer with some manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the good of the church family (see 1 Cor. 12:4-11).
1 Peter 4:1-6
Focused Text: 1 Peter 4:1-2
According to Peter, we have two simple options when it comes to how we live our lives. We either take up arms in the battle against our sin, intent on living in God’s will, or we raise a white flag of surrender and give in to the desires of our sin nature. These two choices are not equal in the quality of life they produce—one is rooted in obedience and the other in disobedience. But how do we move forward in obedience?