How to Be An Effective Leader

1 Peter 5: 1-3

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 

There is no doubting that Peter was writing this first letter to believers who were suffering immensely. And, when any of us suffer it is natural for us to look upon a select few around us to give us guidance, care, and leadership. Think of all the leaders that have transcended the history books throughout history of America… Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, etc… Or in sports: Jim Valvano, and Vince Lombardi.  Their legacy was born out of trying times, and the people around them all looked to them as a source of encouragement and strength in difficult times of our country.  But, there is a consistency among all great leaders, and it is HOW they lead.

Now, the obvious endeavor of Peter in the passage above was to give instruction to the Elders of the Church. It was to exhort, encourage, but also challenge them in order to equip them for the work of being an elder. But there is a transcendent message to us today, I believe.

Not many of you are elders, but many of you are leaders, even if in less traditional ways. Being a leader doesn’t inherently equate to having a sophisticated title. Being a leader isn’t what you do, or some prefix/suffix, and it isn’t a job description. Being a leader is what you are, and the only simple criteria for being a leader is that you have some degree of influence upon others.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. John Quincy Adams

So, this all begs the question. If being a leader isn’t a title, a suffix/prefix, and it isn’t what I do. Then what is it? How can we be God honoring as we lead others?

Well, I believe there is much wisdom, and many lessons on leadership in scripture, much more than I can cover in this devotion. But the passage above does give us a small glimpse into one aspect of leadership.

Did you know that there are 3 different ways in which we can choose to lead? Look at the passage above, and you will see this as well.

#1 We can be a passive, and reclusive leader

Some “leaders” are passive and uninvolved, yet when they do decide to wake up and lead- they do so under compulsion. They rarely consider what is best for the group, because under compulsion they think only what is best for themselves. And, they make decisions accordingly. A few traits of these types of leaders: they are compulsive, unorganized, unloving, and they lack vision. The last trait being the worst of them all.

#2 We can be an aggressive and domineering leader

No one appreciates a dictator, but in difficult times people will choose to enslave themselves underneath the rule of a dictator because they are promised peace, security, and provision. Think of Hitler, Stalin, and all the other narcissistic, wicked, and domineering leaders throughout history. People bought their lines hook, line, and sinker. A domineering leader uses his office to advance his own agenda, and/or personal endeavors. He considers not what is best for the group, but what he thinks is right.

A few characteristics of the domineering leader are: micromanagement, self-preservation, manipulation, and stinginess. Domineering leaders promise great achievements for the group, but seldom share the successes- even monetarily. Yet, along the way they ensure that their hands are in every pot, not allowing others to have autonomy and successes of their own.

We must understand something about the two options of leadership above. We typically think of these as options only “bad” people and “bad” leaders take. But good men and women at times embody these dangerous habits just as much.

At times, good “Christian” men and women choose to be uninvolved leaders, and similarly they choose to be domineering leaders. Some choosing to watch passively as those they lead make bad decisions, and some lording their opinions and ideas over others or thumping others on the head with their own thoughts.

As Christians in a dark world, we must purify the way we lead to embody this third option.

#3 We can be a servant leader

To some, the phrase “servant leader” is an oxymoron; thinking the two cannot co-exist. But to those of you who feel this way, I would encourage you to look at the ministry of Jesus.

Mark 10:42-45

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Being a servant leader simply means laying down our lives out of great concern for those we lead. We see our office, not as a personal endeavor, but an office entrusted to us by the Heavenly Father. And, we wouldn’t dare use this office to advance our selfish ambitions. Servant leadership doesn’t correlate to passive leadership, nor does it approach dictatorship. Servant leadership means using your power to advance and better those you lead, it means loving and helping those you lead, it means being compassionate and caring, it means walking alongside another person and pouring out your wisdom and knowledge, it means giving proper provision for those you lead- not being stingy. But, at times, it also means stepping to the front of the group and charging to new pastures- taking the brunt of the criticism, and less of the glory.

Being a servant leader is difficult, it means less glory for us, and more glory for those we lead. It means less monetary benefits as we share the successes of our endeavors. It means giving others enough room to fail, but also enough room to experience great success. Servant leadership is who you are, and when you are a servant leader- the body in which you lead is part of who you are. You become so committed, so loving, and so considerate that the organization you lead becomes part of your own body. When it hurts, so do you. Yet, seeing others prosper and achieve success becomes the crown jewel of every effort.

Those you lead are not “yours,” they are God’s… and he has entrusted you to lead them. Will you examine your leadership qualities, and will you make necessary changes?

Caleb

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The Faithful Creator

1 Peter 4:19 – Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Peter has described a lot of suffering for these persecuted Christians and encourages them to not be surprised at the persecution that continues to come at them.   Jesus himself warned that those who follow him will face these type trials.  As he sent out the Apostles to preach he spoke these words to them.

Matthew 10:19-22 –  19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus he wrote these words.

2 Timothy 3:12 – Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

But did you know even in the suffering there is great joy and peace?  You may be saying, “What? Are you kidding me?” Remember what is being talked about here.  This is persecution and suffering for proclaiming the name of Christ.  If we are suffering while in the will of God then nothing can happen to us or harm us that does not bring glory to God.  It doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pain of a lost loved one, the struggles of battling a sickness or the hurt of being maligned for our faith.  Is God not faithful?

But when we become obedient to God and live for him we become his children and we understand that suffering will come.   Though we live in the here and now we look beyond that to the future hope we have in Jesus Christ.  As Peter says we “entrust” our souls to God.  The Greek word used here is “Paratithemi” which means to deposit to or commit to one’s charge for protection.    This is the same word as used when Jesus was on the cross and said these words as he breathed his last breath. “Father, into your hands I commit (I Paratithemi, I Deposit) my spirit.” Can we say that now? Can we say, Father, I am ready to give it all to you.  No matter what I give myself to you and will praise you and honor you through it all.  Is Got not faithful?

It is as if you are taking the most precious thing you have in this world and you are giving it to someone else for safe keeping.  In this case we are giving the most precious thing that all humanity has and that is our eternal soul.  We are giving it the Creator of all life.  That will take faith!  That will take obedience!  But is God not faithful to all his promises and who he is?

As we look at this it is one of the few times that in the New Testament God is referred to alone as Creator.   This reference shows that God has all power and authority even over a fallen world.   Our souls are protected by the author, designer and sustainer of all things.  The one who breathed the breath of life into us is protecting us. God is faithful in all his promises as we serve according to his will and do all things for the glory of God.

Romans 8:35-39 – 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ladies and Gentlemen that is something to get excited about.  That is something to take confidence in. As I was writing, this Hymn came to my mind and I think it is worth singing today.

Blessings on this wonderful day!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!

Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!

Hail Him! Hail Him! Highest archangels in glory;

Strength and honor give to His holy Name!

Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,

In His arms He carries them all day long.

Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness;

Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!

For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.

Dale

Judgment At The House of God

Having been a Marketing Major in college, I’m always thinking about “catchy” titles that will grab attention. I do that for my sermons, 2-Minute Tuesday videos and I do that for these devotions and my blog posts. I figure, if the title is good, it might make people want to watch or read. But, the truth is, I can only go with a title that is pertinent to what the Scripture text will allow. Therefore today’s text brings us to a title with perhaps one of the most hated and maligned words of the day: “Judgment.”

People despise the word “judgment.” We say, “Don’t judge me!” or “Who are you to Judge!” Yet, judgment is real. We have a legal system with judges and there is an ultimate Judge and He will one day Judge the lost and reward the saved.

1 Peter 4:17-18

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Judgment.

We don’t like to talk about it, but here it is. The Bible says, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God…” What does that mean? Are we supposed to judge each other as Christians? I don’t believe that is the case. Yes, as believers, we are to hold each other accountable. We are to go to one another in a one on one manner if there is sin (Matthew 18:15), but we are not to do so in a mean-spirited “witch-hunt” manner.

The judgment that Peter is describing here is not punitive (meaning to inflict punishment). In fact, it’s meant to draw believers to purity and holiness. We are being encouraged to inspect our own lives and cleanse ourselves of sin. Certainly suffering will do this (as Peter has been describing).

Now think about it. If the people of God need purifying, then surely those who do not know Jesus and follow Him will be judged more severely.

…what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

We know at the Great White Throne Judgment, the lost will be judged based on their rejection of Jesus and then cast into the Lake of Fire (Hell). For the believer, our judgment will only be a time of receiving our rewards for that which we have done for the kingdom of God on earth. Our judgment before the Bema (judgment) Seat of Christ will not be one of condemnation because we are children of God (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Don’t let the “scarcely saved” part in verse 18 cause you concern. Peter is saying, that as believers, we are saved in the midst of suffering and pain in this world, so that our salvation is not easy or simple to “live out” because of the culture of the world. Peter is actually quoting from Proverbs 11:31 from what is called the Greek Septuagint, (which is an account of the Old Testament, translated from the original Hebrew into Greek). Truly, The we are saved only by our faith in Jesus. So, salvation is simple, yet it is hard. It’s hard because it’s a daily “taking up of our cross” and a “dying to self” and that’s hard for all of us.

You see, here’s the bottom line: if we would judge ourselves and get our own lives right, then we would see power in the church and thus…power to be salt and light in the world.

I know I will stand before that Bema Seat one day and I don’t won’t what I’ve done on earth to burn up. I don’t want my works to be wood, hay and stubble.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

So, how is it with you? Let’s allow judgment to begin with us. Is what you are doing and how you are living worthwhile? Is it for Jesus or for yourself? (I’m asking these questions too…and it’s hard…believe me.) May we choose to build on Christ and live for His kingdom and seek those rewards that will come with it when Jesus will one day say to us: “Well done good and faithful servant!”

Kevin

No Shame to the Name

Do you know who this man is?

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It’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ve been reading a book by Bonhoeffer, titled: “The Cost of Discipleship.” Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran Pastor and businessman who lived only 39 short years. He was executed in 1945 by Hitler and the Nazis, during WWII for hiding Jews to save them from the gas chambers. He lamented how the church in Germany had gotten so weak and was becoming more and more immersed in what he called “Cheap Grace.” He wrote this (circa 1940):

Today, “grace” is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance… Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross…

“Costly grace is…the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.

I know he wrote those words almost 75 years ago, but they are so appropriate for today. In fact, they perfectly describe the words of God penned by the Apostle Peter some 2,000 years ago.

1 Peter 4:15-16

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 

Peter is writing to Christians who are suffering great persecution. They are losing their homes. They are losing their jobs and income. They are even losing their lives and because of this tremendous pressure, some seemingly were turning to sin to survive the tumultuous times.

Peter says (my paraphrase in today’s language), “Don’t do it! Don’t go back to being a thief and evildoer…don’t be a meddler…sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong… No…No! Act like a Christian. Don’t be ashamed…instead…glorify the name of God!”

You see, here’s the problem. Because we have this “cheap grace” that’s being pumped down our throats today, we are told that we are “…free to be me and you are free to be you and that perfection is my enemy…” Folks, I’m not free to be me because of the grace go God! And you are not free to be you because of the grace of God. Because of the grace of God, you and I are free to be like Christ! We are FREE to suffer as Christians. We are not to bring shame to the name of Jesus. No sir! I’m to offer my body as a living sacrifice! I’m to deny myself and take up my cross and follow Jesus. No sir…I’m not free to be me…I’m crucified with Christ…nevertheless it’s not I who lives…but Christ who lives in me. Do you understand that?

We’ve got this cheap grace and “easy-believism” that’s permeating the church. Come as you are…stay as you are. Well, let me tell you what the 1700’s Bible Commentator Matthew Henry says about this kind of living…

“When men are not content with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine which is according to godliness, but instead will frame notions of their own and impose them, (and that too in their own words), which man’s wisdom teaches, and not in the words which the Holy Ghost teaches, they sow the seeds of all mischief in the church.” Matthew Henry

And this is precisely why the Church in America is so weak. We must return to living lives that represent Jesus in righteousness and holiness. We must be salt and light and if we will choose to do so, I promise you that we’ll be persecuted. I promise you we WILL suffer. But, we must not be afraid. That’s Peter’s message over and over…

1 Peter 4:16

16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 

For Jesus’ sake and His glory, let’s not shame His name by how we live, but instead…may we bring glory to the name of Jesus! If we will, then we’ll glorify God and honor His kingdom as we carry His name throughout the world as His ambassadors.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced Hitler and brought fame (not shame) to the name of Jesus and even to this day (75 years later) we remember Bonhoeffer’s courage. May live the same.

You are loved!

Kevin

Seeing Our Suffering Biblically

One of the things I’ve become acutely aware of over the last month or so is the fact that as Christians living in America, we’ve had it really, really good over the last 200 years. We have had the privilege of worshipping and carrying our faith in the public square with little to no problems at all. However, we are seeing that change rapidly now. Christians are now seen by many as being narrow-minded, bigoted, unloving, discriminatory and hateful because we hold to the teachings of Jesus Christ found in the Bible.

My thoughts have been, “Well, Kevin what should you expect! The rest of the world has been living like this for the past 2,000 years.” And it’s true! Persecution and hardship are the norm for Christians throughout the world. This is why Peter said to the dispersed and persecuted Christians of the first-century that they should not be surprised at what was happening to them:

1 Peter 4:12

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

This is instruction is becoming more and more appropriate for our day in the 21st century, don’t you think? But, instead of feeling defeated and shocked by this “new normal,” we should rejoice!

1 Peter 4:13

13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

We are simply sharing in what Jesus endured and suffered. And you know what? This will actually make us long for His appearing (when His glory will be revealed).

You see, for centuries, most Christians longed for heaven. We long for vacations, Christmas, promotions and our kids’ graduation. Heaven? Not so much. We have been spoiled and because of that we’ve grown soft and weak. Therefore, when the persecution comes, we start singing the blues and have the tendency to want to tuck our tails and run. Yet, that’s not to be our reaction.

1 Peter 4:14

 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Did you see that? When we are insulted for the name of Jesus we are BLESSED! Really? Surely that can’t be right! I thought we were blessed when there was plenty of money in the bank. Everybody in the family was well and healthy and all the cars were running. I thought we were blessed when everything was going just swell. But, that’s just not true! Not as believers in Christ. We are blessed when we are insulted. Hard to fathom isn’t it? But, it’s true. In fact, the blessing comes in that the Spirit of glory rests upon us.

This means we have the supernatural power of the Spirit of God to comfort us and sustain us. Do you remember this scene from Scripture?

121227stone5That’s the stoning of Stephen from Acts 7:54-60. Stephen was covered by the Spirit of God and He saw Jesus standing in heaven at the right hand of God. You see, there is supernatural power available to us given to us by the Holy Spirit when we face persecution and difficulty. Remember, God’s grace is sufficient for all of our circumstances. There is nothing that’s going to be too hard for us.

Think about the worst set of circumstances you can imagine for your life. Think about severe physical illness or even severe persecution. Think about it. No matter what it is that you have in your mind, it’s not too hard for God and those circumstances can’t escape God’s covering of mercy, grace and love through His Spirit. You are going to be cared for and you WILL get through it one way or the other (even if it means death) with the help and provision of the Spirit of God. Yes, Stephen was stoned, but even in that, he had the help of the Spirit of God.

Our circumstances of difficulty and persecution can’t outrun God and they never will. We are more than conquerors in Christ. So, keep your chin up today. No that God’s mercies are new each and every day (Lamentations 3:19-25) and He will sustain you. No that what’s likely coming to Christians in America has been the norm for Christians for centuries and we can overcome in Christ! In the end…we win!!!

Kevin

When Holiness Meets the World’s Hostility

What To Do When Holiness Meets Hostility

1 Peter 4: 12-13

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 

For many of us, as Christians, we love to claim the promises of God that offer strength, peace, protection, and provision… But how many of us claim the promise for persecution? Suffering? Trials?

The world is always watching us, trying to figure out what we are all about. They know that we can preach our convictions, but they want to know if we can practice them. Therefore, they not only allow our persecutions, they participate in them. And, yes, sometimes because they want to see us fail.

And because we are being watched, Peter encouraged us, earlier in his letter, to do good… He instructed that we be loving, non-retaliatory, compassionate, etc. Because, normally, those are attributes and behaviors that even the world will encourage and respect. But, what about when they don’t?

What about the times when our good works are not only unappreciated, they are condemned? When our holiness comes face to face with the world’s hostility? When our goodness meets the world’s grievances? When we are good and kind to others- and they still decide to slander us or marginalize us. That just because we believe in God, we should suffer for it!

How do we respond?

We must not run. But we must not become hostile in return. We must not think that something strange, or unexpected is happening to us. Christ was the essence of holiness. He was the embodiment of all things good, yet he was hated, despised because of his goodness. Yet, so many of us have the audacity to be offended that we are being required to endure persecution in our society.

We have two viable options as Christians: We can do good, and not be harmed or persecuted… or we can do good, and BE HARMED or persecuted.

What should we do when we start to see that the later outcome is becoming more likely in our culture? Do we cease doing good? Do we go all gloom and despair? Do we respond with anger? Do we form political movements? Do we start a “revolution?”

I don’t think so. And for many of you that is hard to grasp. In the midst of our culture, so many evangelical Christians are beginning to care more about being a political reformer than a Gospel reconciler… Yes, we are called to stand in the public square for Christ, but at what point do we draw the line and begin to see that we are not called to be political ambassadors, but Gospelambassadors?

The point is simple… When our holiness meets the world’s hatred… we continue.

We continue to do good. And we continue to rejoice.

We continue to love others. We continue to rejoice in the coming victory of Christ. The same as we do when the former option is the case. Our circumstances should not determine our joy… rather our commitment to Christ does.

I see, witness, and hear a great deal of Christians right now voicing disappointment and frustration that Christians are now becoming the maligned minority in our society.  That we are now becoming the outcasts while evil is celebrated, and goodness is reviled. They are beyond hurt that our culture can celebrate abortion, condone homosexuality, endorse and encourage hedonism- all while shaming those that are trying to live Godly lives.

Well, Paul made Timothy a promise: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12).” So, while it is normal that we feel frustration, and even disappointment… we should not allow ourselves to be offended or feel as if something strange is happening to us.

When Peter wrote this letter, Christians were being burned on poles throughout the streets of Rome! And we think we are having to endure a fiery trial?!!

Newsflash: We were not promised equality in Scripture. We were not promised freedom to practice Christianity or its convictions. We were not told to expect that our beliefs and convictions be appreciated as we sit on our comfy pews in an air-conditioned building. You want to know what we are promised? Peace in the pain. Provision in the persecution. Comfort in the crucible. And God’s steady hand upon us as we suffer unimaginable hatred from our kinsmen and fellow citizens.

Christ was not given equality. He was not granted respect. He was not gifted freedom. Rather he was bonded, he was spit upon, and he was hated.

So, we must draw a line between disappointment and entitlement. We must not allow our minds to convince our hearts to feel slighted at the great changes unfolding before us. We must not feel as if we are entitled to a cushioned life while we preach our Biblical convictions. We must expect the opposite. We must know that opposition will meet us as we carry the truths of God’s word.

We must see this as an opportunity to exhibit the Lord Jesus in a way that we have previously been unable, or unwilling to. And in that, we will give a fuller, more complete, reflection of who Jesus is and how truly mighty to save He is. The Church will thrive, and people will be impacted once again by the holiness of the Church in a hostile culture.

So, what do we do when holiness meets hostility? We do good. We love. And, most of all, we rejoice. Because while our holiness is met with hostility for now, one day, our eternity will meet the beauty of our savior as we receive our promised inheritance from Him. And, on that day, each and every suffering will be worth it. After all, he suffered the unimaginable for us. He suffered greatly, even in the midst of our hostility, insults, and hatred.

Caleb

How Now Should We Live?

In 1976 Theologian and author Francis Schaeffer wrote a book called “How Should We Then Live, The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture.”  Then in 1999 Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and the daily radio program named Breakpoint, wrote a book called “How Now Should We Live” with Nancy Pearcey.   Each of these books were written in reference to the increasing belief of moral relativism and as the culture seemed to be sinking to lower depths of moral decline.  We are definitely seeing the effects of this decline. As Francis Schaeffer spoke more to the sign and evidences of this moral decline, Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey, spoke to how do we live the lives of followers of Jesus Christ in such times.   The conclusion would be in a lot of ways no different than what Peter is telling these persecuted Christians.

Peter has detailed out that as we live our lives for Christ, those who are living the lifestyles that seek their own human passions will malign us. But he said for this very reason the Gospel is to be proclaimed and lived out.   But as we look at these next verses I believe Peter brings out a point that we may need to step back and do a little inspection in our own lives.

1 Peter 4:7-11 – 7The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

Jesus Christ prophesied of his second coming several times to his disciples.  He also warned to be prepared as written down by Matthew in Matthew 24:42 – Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

They did not know and we do not when Jesus may return, but it is approaching.  Did they believe Jesus could return during their lifetime?  I am sure they did.  Well, so do I! So Jesus, as Peter has, was speaking towards us having an urgency in our lives of proclaiming the Gospel and being obedient to Christ’s commands.   We are to be an Ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and to be Jesus’ witnesses in all the earth (Acts 1:8).

So how should we live?  To begin with Peter uses two words, self-controlled and sober-minded.   This means we are to “be in one’s right mind” so to be under control and not allow the sins of the flesh to control us. To be spiritually discerning so that we are being obedient to Christ and not be influenced by Satan’s lies.  What it comes down to is we are to be holy as Peter referenced back in Chapter 1 verse 15, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”

We at Mt. Pleasant have put a real emphasis on prayer recently.  We are really seeking God to work in our lives and to do great things around us and in the world.   As I was reading and studying these verses I thought this was quite timely.  Because Peter, being led by the Holy Spirit, writes that we are to be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of our prayers.  Prayer is our line to God, prayer is our power to see God move. But God can’t bless our mess.  We can’t live like the world and think like the world and expect to have that relationship of closeness with God.

In Romans Chapter 12:1-2 Paul begs the followers of Christ to be transformed and conformed to Christ.

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This all starts with the understanding we are all “called” to service and to ministry for the Lord.   God’s call for service is upon our lives.  We are all missionary’s and God has given us each gifts to use for his service.  This is evident by the next few verses and it all starts with love.  The Greek word for love is the “agape” or unconditional love that God has for us.  We are to have that same type of love for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and for all those around us.   As good stewards of the grace God has given to us through salvation, we are to use that grace in complete service to others.  God’s grace is not a license to sin or to live however we want.  It is given to serve others that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ and that many will be saved.  Read these next few verses and go serve our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Blessings this wonderful day that God has given us!

Dale