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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Word Remains Forever: Day 3

I Peter 1:2 – [To God’s elect, exiles] who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
If I have learned anything in teaching Bible classes, it is this: if I want to start a confusing, frustrating discussion that leaves people dazed, confused, and, frankly, scared, I simply have to bring up the word “predestination.” Ah, yes, that terrifying doctrine that teaches God secretly chooses whom He will save, leaving everyone else in the world without any hope in the end. God arbitrarily didn’t pick them for His eternal kick-ball team. Or so we think.

We tend to worry tremendously about whether or not predestination is true. Peter, on the other hand, uses it as a greeting in his letters! He believes he is writing to God’s elect children, whom God knew He would save before the foundation of the world. Has Peter no concern for the sort of fear these words conjure up?

Well, perhaps the problem is that we no longer view predestination the way it is taught by Peter and the apostles. This doctrine is never used in the Bible to discuss some arbitrary choice God has made concerning who is or is not on the team, like in middle school gym class. No, it is a proclamation of comfort to those who are in the midst of trials!

Peter is writing to churches who are suffering persecution, wondering if God is still for them, and in need of comfort. So, he opens by addressing them as the people for whom the entire triune Godhead has worked salvation! Before their sufferings, from eternity, the Father chose to save them by sending Jesus for them (predestination). The Holy Spirit is at work to purify them from their sins (sanctification). And Jesus has called them to be His followers by graciously shedding His blood in their place (justification). Predestination is simply the Gospel that God is entirely in charge of saving you (because, by the way, He chose to save you!) from beginning to end. Your salvation was not an arbitrary decision made by God in the recesses of eternity, but God’s gracious choice from eternity to send Jesus for you!

+PRAYER+
Father, I cannot fathom how you can be both gracious and sovereign. Forgive me for doubting your good will towards your creation. I thank you that in baptism you chose to give me Jesus and His salvation. Please teach me to trust in your Word and your choices. Thanks for choosing me! AMEN!

*The symbol on the top of this devotional stands for “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum.” It is a Latin phrase which means “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” This phrase, based on I Peter 1:24-25, served as the battle cry of the Lutheran reformers as it reminded them that God’s Word alone was sufficient to teach them God’s will. The symbol was on flags, banners, uniforms, and even swords as a sign of unity among those who suffered for confessing their faith in Christ alone. *

Pastor Bob

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Word Remains Forever: Day 2


1 Peter 1:1b - To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia…
It is sometimes said that we should read the Bible as though it were 66 love letters written from God to me. Now, I appreciate the sentiment here. After all, each book proclaims to us the love God has for us in Christ Jesus. However, these letters were not written by God only for me, nor are they only for you., but for us! As the church, we are to read, study, pray through, and believed this Word from God as one!

Peter addresses His letter to “God’s elect…scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” In other words, this letter was written to Christians who were scattered throughout the entire Roman Empire. Basically, Peter is saying, “If you are one of God’s elect (that is, a believer in Jesus), what I am about to write is for you!” This means the apostle of Jesus believed what He had to say in this letter was a message from God himself to every church that belongs to Christ, regardless of time or location. This is something we all need to hear…together!

Every Sunday in the Apostle’s Creed we confess that we believe in the holy Christian church and the communion of saints. We believe that we are not alone in our faith, but are members with the entire Christian church throughout time. We are united together by our common faith in the same Lord Jesus who put on flesh, suffered, and rose for all of us. It is His Word that makes us one. So that, when Peter writes to God’s elect-and-scattered church, he knows that what he has to say applies to everyone who hears it. Our church in Moorpark needs the same message the congregations in first century Cappadocia needed to hear. They were forgiven and saved and sanctified by the exact same message we are. So, as you read I Peter, remember that you don’t go at it alone! But you are a reading partner with the entire communion of saints! I Peter is one of God’s wonderful love letters to all of us!

+PRAYER+
God of all creation, by your mighty Word you spoke creation into existence. By that same Word you have created faith in our hearts and united us as one in your church. Forgive us for when we focus too much on our own spirituality and forget the family you have called us to love. We thank you for uniting us with your Son and His whole body of believers. Grant us joy as your Spirit guides us to love and serve your church. AMEN!

*The symbol on the top of this devotional stands for “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum.” It is a Latin phrase which means “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” This phrase, based on I Peter 1:24-25, served as the battle cry of the Lutheran reformers as it reminded them that God’s Word alone was sufficient to teach them God’s will. The symbol was on flags, banners, uniforms, and even swords as a sign of unity among those who suffered for confessing their faith in Christ alone. *

Pastor Bob

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Monday, April 28, 2014

The Word Remains Forever: Day 1


1 Peter 1:1a Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…

A few weeks ago we had a rather large earthquake here in Southern California. Apparently we had been in an earthquake “drought,” so when this quake hit, people got nervous. Did this mean we should be ready for more big shakers? Was this a prelude to the Big One? What does this earthquake mean? To get an explanation of what we should do now, a press conference was held with the seismologists. They couldn’t give any predictions on what this quake might mean (it was comical how many times they said that). However, this quake was a reminder that we should always be ready for the next one. They used the press conference to show us how to live in preparation for the next one, whenever that may be.

On Easter morning there was an earthquake, and Jesus walked out of the tomb! After his resurrection, he appeared to over 500 people (I Corinthians 15:6). As St. Paul tells us here, he specifically appeared to Peter, and then to the other apostles (I Corinthians 15:5). He gave them the commission to go out and explain what this resurrection meant for God’s creation. The apostles were sent out to hold press conferences to speak the good news! He told them to not only explain that Christ had risen to begin the work of the new creation, but to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name (Luke 24:47). In a personal conversation, Jesus specifically told Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

In the book of I Peter, we receive part of the apostle’s fulfillment of Christ’s commission. Here is his Holy Spirit inspired press release which teaches us how we are to live in light of the great Easter earthquake. Here in this book, the Spirit will see to it that we, the sheep of our Good Shepherd, are fed and nourished. As Christ’s sheep let us join together to read, study, and pray through Peter’s first letter for the strengthening of our faith!

+PRAYER+
Merciful Father, after the resurrection of your Son, He graciously sent out His apostles to teach us of your grace and favor. Forgive me for the times I ignore your Word because I think I am too busy or because I am too lazy. I thank you that you have given your Word to me in Holy Scripture so I can know your will and your love for me and all the church. Guide me ever more deeply into your Scriptures so that my faith and love toward you would grow ever stronger. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

*The symbol on the top of this devotional stands for “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum.” It is a Latin phrase which means “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” This phrase, based on I Peter 1:24-25, served as the battle cry of the Lutheran reformers as it reminded them that God’s Word alone was sufficient to teach them God’s will. The symbol was on flags, banners, uniforms, and even swords as a sign of unity among those who suffered for confessing their faith in Christ alone. *

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 2014

Hope. Hope is not something we take seriously enough. It is a very powerful word that has become somewhat trite in our everyday conversation. Hope is nothing more than an amplified wish about the future. We hope for a raise, for a better job, for our kids get into a good school, that the Broncos don't disappoint us in the next year. We would be very happy and grateful if these things were to happen, and we do what we can to make sure they do. But there is very little certainty about any of this. Hope has to do with the future, and we are never certain about the future. We just hope everything works out.

This, however, is not how the Bible speaks about hope. A worldly definition of hope leaves us with doubt about what the future holds. The Bible defines hope as the anticipation of a certain future. Biblically speaking, hope is not some optimistic anticipation about an uncertain future. Rather, hope is being secured in the promises of God. It is about receiving a promise from God that, no matter how sinful, how broken, how dark, nor how bad things are now, a better day is coming! It is a promise. That better day is what we hope for, that is, what we anxiously await knowing that it is coming without a doubt.

The reason our hope is certain is because our hope is in God our Father who has raised Jesus from the hopelessness of death. As Jesus approached the cross, He knew death was imminent. He knew He was about to pay the price for the sins of the world. He knew He was about to enter the hopeless darkness of God's wrath. But, He did not enter that hopeless darkness hopelessly. On His way to the cross He told His disciples, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him." (Mark 9:3la) Death, it would seem, is the end of hope. Death is the end; there is no turning back at that point, right? All hope is gone. But not with Jesus! He goes on, "And when he is killed, after three days he will rise." (Mark 9:31b). Jesus saw His cross and His death as inevitable for it was God's will that He should die. But, He also knew God's promises were bigger than death! His death for sinners was inevitable, but so was His resurrection! This was His certain hope!

In the book of Acts, during St. Peter's first sermon about the resurrection of Jesus, he quotes Psalm 16 saying, "I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption." (Acts 2:25-27). Now, what is interesting here is that, if you look up this verse in Psalm 16:9, the part about the flesh dwelling in hope is translated, "my flesh dwells secure." Jesus went to the cross with the secured hope of His promised resurrection.

April 20th is Easter Sunday this year. Easter is all about giving us security because it places our hope in Jesus who has conquered death and promised us everlasting life. Easter is the promise that Jesus' empty tomb means my empty tomb. Easter draws us back to that baptismal promise which says "if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." (Romans 6:5) Putting your hope in this world will only leave you in fear and doubt. So, this Easter (and every day for that matter), put your hope in God who raises the dead! God's baptismal promise to raise you with Christ is certain and secure. This is a hope that does not disappoint!

Pastor Bob

Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email