Friday, May 27, 2016

A Chosen People

For the past three Sundays, we have been learning from the letter of 1 Peter. The first week we talked about hope. Last week we talked about holiness. Holiness is more than religion; it is a lifestyle. If you eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts all week long, drinking a Diet Coke is not going to help you. If you’ve lived apart from Jesus Christ all week, showing up at church is not going to fix you. Coming to church can be a start, but attending a religious service is not going to solve your problem. Through Christ, you need his holiness for that.


When Peter wrote this letter to Christians who lived in at least five different provinces, he reminded them that they were all a part of one “house,” the Church. Each local church is distinct, but we have a unity that comes from belonging to Jesus Christ. We belong to each other because we are all in Jesus Christ.


Each group of believers has to come to understand God’s truth, but we all should be mature enough to disagree without hating each other. My challenge to the Church is that we might move beyond the name calling, elitism, and traditionalism. Instead, let us understand who we are as God’s people. Let’s show others that Jesus came seeking, saving, and serving others.


1. You are a living stone in a spiritual house.

1 Peter 2:4-8 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”


“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.


The Church is a unique, spiritual structure that God is building throughout the ages. Jesus is the only Savior. The Church is the one spiritual building or house of refuge in this world. Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone of the spiritual building; he is a “Living Stone.”


Even though Jesus is the cornerstone, he was rejected by his own people, the Jews. Jesus was not the kind of Messiah they were expecting, so they stumbled over him. How could the Messiah die on a cross? Jesus is also rejected by the world. Even though Jesus was rejected, he was exalted by God.


People today stumble over Jesus as well. They refuse to submit to his rule and reign. They do not obey his teachings. They do not submit to the Christ of the cross.


1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.


For those who do believe, they become a stone in the building of the Church.


“Each time someone trusts Christ, another stone is quarried out of the pit of sin and cemented by grace into the building. It may look to us that the church on earth is a pile of rubble and ruins, but God sees the total structure as it grows.”[1]


Each believer is a stone in the building. Each stone is unique. Each stone is a living stone with its own shape, color, and size. Jesus treasures every single stone. We are all precious to him. 


Unity does not take the place of diversity. Just as children in the same family are different, people in the church are different. We can differ and still get along. Not every issue is a “right or wrong” issue. Sometimes we are called to work alongside those who are different than us. We have one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism, but many personalities and approaches to life. We need to learn to get along with each other.  After all, we will spend eternity together in Heaven.


John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.


St. Augustine said it perfectly: “In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”


Just like any house, the Church must be maintained and lived in for it to retain its structural integrity. The pervasive effects of sin and the fall on the people of the church can eat away at the framing of the Church, just like termites in the wall of the home. Unresolved conflict, like a leaky roof, can cause rot and decay in the Church. Lack of biblical knowledge, like an unlocked door, can let a thief into the house undetected. Apathy, like dust, can ruin the appeal of the Church. The Church must be filled with those who take care of her integrity.


2. You are a priest in a world seperated from God.

Ancient Israel had a class of professional priests. The priests were from a tribe of Israel called the Levites.  The Levitical priests took care of offerings. They said prayers. The priests were living reminders that the whole nation was to be unique among all the nations. Peter reminded the Church that now that Jesus Christ has died, he has given us the Church the responsibility of being a new kind of priests—spiritual priests.


1 Peter 2:9-10  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.


Not only are we a living Temple, but we are also a royal priesthood and a holy nation. We are set apart and are called to live holy lives.


It is my job to take care of the dishes. I don’t mind, because I hate to cook. I know what leaving a dinner plate, pot or pan will do. Leaving the food and mess on the plate will make it hard to clean in the morning. I know this from experience! An alternative to scrubbing is getting the dirt off immediately. We are much easier to “clean up” when we don’t let the contamination of this world stay on us. We need to go to the Lord quickly and seek forgiveness when we sin.


As “priests,” we are distinct from the world, but not in isolation. We serve God by being mediators of the message of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him. As priests, we can come before God personally without someone else having to go on our behalf.


God wanted Israel to become a Kingdom of priests, a people of influence on the surrounding nations. The priest’s responsibility is to represent God before the world and the world before God. Priests teach the people God’s way of life for them. Priests help people with their ultimate problem, their sin problem. Priests are the first line of defense for support and help when a person’s life has been shaken and turned upside down.


Exodus 19:6 And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.


Instead of being a positive influence, Israel turned against God. They became influenced by the ungodly, instead of being an influence upon others. Israel became contaminated. They failed in the mission. I do not believe God is finished with Israel. To the contrary, God will fulfill his promises to them in the future.


The people of God have been chosen to be set apart as priests. This does not mean that we wear clergy robes or perform rituals. We are to call those who are far off from God to join us as God’s people. We are a kingdom of priests, bring the lost to Jesus Christ, who saves. We are set apart to be God’s special people who offer our service and lives instead of livestock or other burnt offerings.


You are a Holy Priesthood

·         You can go to God directly to confess and receive forgiveness for sin.

·         You are called to live a holy life representing the holy God before a sinful world.

·         You are called to praise God in word and action as a spiritual sacrifice, since animal sacrifices are no longer needed.

·         You are called to study God’s Word and teach it to others.


The reality that each person here can go to God on their own in prayer and worship does not mean that we can be selfish or isolated. Too many believers suffer from “individualism.” People become selfish about their feelings and preferences, and this drives wedges into the church. The Christian life is not about “either” a personal relationship “or” involvement in the Church; it is about “both/and.”


I heard the story of a little girl who was the only child for two years. She knew nothing about sharing because there was no competition. No competition for attention. No competition for love. All the dresses were hers. All the toys were hers. All the affection was hers. It was all about her until the second child was born. When the second child, a girl was born and brought home from the hospital, things had to be shared. Attention had to be shared. Love had to be shared.


One day, the father of the two girls walked into the nursery to find the older daughter standing and yelling over the new baby girl as she slept in the cradle. And then she did it. She took her hand and slapped the little baby! If a little girl can be that sinful at two years of age, imagine how sinful people are at twenty-two, thirty-two, or fifty-two—especially when they’ve learned to be pros![2]


Needless to say, there are those who like all the attention in church. They don’t want new babies in the family. They don’t realize how disappointed the Father is when he sees us looking at the church as a place where our individual needs for attention and affection are met. We are called to serve together, in the family. We are not in competition.


Peter suggests that we, the members of the Church, are priests together under the covenant of Christ’s blood. We are serving the same High Priest—Jesus, serving in the same Temple. Worshiping the same God. There is only one High Priest and heavenly Mediator, Jesus Christ. We have a personal relationship with Jesus, but we do not have a personal relationship while neglecting the rest of our Christian family. We are called to serve together.


3. You are a citizen of a holy nation.

Now, it is up to the Church to be what Israel was meant to be. Now, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are a city set upon a hill which cannot be hidden (cf. Matthew 5:13-15). We are a chosen generation. Jesus chose us to be his special people.


John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.


Jesus chose us to be his holy nation.


Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Having a calling comes with privileges and preparation. The preparation is like the butcher shop. When I worked as a meat cutter, I would take cuts of beef and pork, upon request, and run them through the meat cuber. For those who wanted their sirloin  prepared so that you could cut it with a fork, the cuber was the way to go. In the same way, a person has to be softened up with pressing for a little while to be ready.


This calling and set of privileges come with a responsibility: We are to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ who called us out of this dark world into marvelous light. Each one of us is called to be a representative, an ambassador for our great God! We are living witnesses to the mercies of God; he delivered us from sin, death, and Hell.


Our prayer is that in the darkest of hours in our day and age, the Church will be the brightest of lights. We are called to be the greatest resource of truth for those who are troubled. We are to be faithful ambassadors who exemplify the hope of Jesus Christ.


Our world misunderstands God. Christian author and theologian, Lewis Smedes, included this haunting anecdote in his book, Forgive and Forget: “A tailor prayed, ‘Lord, I cheat on pieces of cloth; you let babies die. But I am going to make you a deal. You forgive me my little sins, and I’ll forgive you your big ones.’”[3]


People are struggling out there! People are struggling in here! We live in a world full of painful realities that pat answers won’t solve. That’s why God called us to represent him to those who need his love. Only faith can guide us through this dark world. It is our responsibility to live out the faith, communicating the hope of the Gospel in words and actions.


We are the “Christian firemen.” We run toward those devastated by the flames of a fallen, evil world. We head into the burning building when everyone else is running away. When we see people in need, we must do everything we can to serve. We minister to those around us. We are priests. We are citizens of Heaven. We are a chosen people.

[1]Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), 401.
[2]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 28.
[3]Lewis Smedes, Forgive and Forget, (Nashville, TN: HarperCollins, 1984), 111.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Set Apart: What Does it Mean to Be Holy?

Around AD 65, Peter wrote to believers who were facing persecutions and challenges. He called the scattered, persecuted church to live in hope in 1 Peter 1:1-12. In verses 13-25, he emphasized living in holiness. Hope and holiness go together.


If we conducted a poll in the parking lot as people came to church asking, “What is holiness?” we would get at least a dozen answers. One decent response to the question is that holiness is spiritual purity.


“In a hospital, cleanliness is critical. In fact, the closer you get to the operating room, the more important it is. Doctors in an operating room are very concerned that the scalpel not only is not rusty but that it’s not even blemished with any foreign substance. The slightest impurity contaminates the procedure. Great effort is made to sterilize the equipment so that all contamination is removed and no infection sets in.”


“If human doctors go through great detail in an operating room to make sure that the environment is entirely free from contamination, then ought it shock us that God Himself demands holiness? Human doctors recognize you can’t do surgery with contaminated instruments; then it ought not to make us too upset that God doesn’t do the surgery on our lives that He wants to do with sterilizing our lives.”[1]


The root meaning of the word “holy” is “different.” A person who is holy is not necessarily “weird,” but different. A holy person has a quality that causes him or her to stand apart from the crowd. A holy person lives differently now than he did in the past. A person’s holiness may seem strange to those who are not believers in Jesus Christ, but should not be strange to other Christians.


Out of the gate, let me give you an example. A Christian sexual ethic is that intimacy outside of marriage is not honoring to Jesus Christ and not an option for a believer. This includes sex outside of marriage, sexting, viewing pornography, homosexual or heterosexual behavior, and lust of all kinds. These aren’t traditional values; these are biblical values. Cultures or politicians cannot claim these as their own original ideas; they belong to Jesus Christ.


Those who do not regard the Bible as authoritative in their lives believe that such restrictive views are scandalous. Many think that Christians are preoccupied with keeping people from pleasure and that the church should soften its views on sex. Some believe that these views keep people from coming to church.


For some who call themselves believers, they want to water down or reinterpret the plain teaching of the Bible to fit the culture. What does this do for the church and believers? It only undermines credibility. Anyone can pick up the Bible and read that God and much of culture do not see eye-to-eye on these issues. To pretend that they do is ridiculous.


We should take care that we do not cast stones. Believers and non-believers alike are tempted by those things that the Bible calls sin. We have to be careful not to look down our noses at anyone who struggles with temptation. However, we do no one any good by deviating from the teachings of the Bible and condoning what separates us from God.


The truth is that many of the denominations and churches that have turned away from holiness and the primary teaching of the Bible have not attracted large crowds. I haven’t noticed any Unitarian or mainline denominational churches that are overflowing. I am certainly not gloating about this. I just believe it proves my point:


People are not attracted to or transformed by a Christianity that ceases to be Christian.


People are too busy for an empty religion that exists for show. They would rather skip church and go to brunch than hear an anemic Christian message that does not call for holiness.


When Peter and Jesus had an important discussion in a little town called Caesarea Philippi, Peter stepped across the line and affirmed Jesus’ uniqueness in the universe. Jesus asked Peter, “Who do people say I am?” The disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (cf. Matthew 16:13-16).


Peter knew that Jesus’ identity demands an appropriate response from every living soul, especially those who claim to be “Christian.” What does it mean to be “set apart” and “holy”?


1. Holiness is rooted in a prepared mind.

Peter told the struggling Christians to prepare their minds for the trials they will face.


1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”


Because of the reality of Jesus Christ’s return for us and the glory that will be revealed, we must live a prepared life; this begins with the way we think. The image Peter uses in the original Greek is of a robed man tucking his garment around his belt so that he can run freely. Our minds are prepared by thinking biblically, critically, and optimistically. Paul said it this way:


Romans 12:2 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.


The reality of Jesus’ return to earth as Righteous Judge shapes our thoughts, behaviors, and actions. Peter said we must set our hope “fully on the grace that will be brought” at the return of Jesus Christ. Our hope must rest entirely on the grace of Jesus Christ—not on anything else. Our mindset is that we are recipients of God’s grace. Thinking about God’s grace inspires gratitude; gratitude inspires hope and optimism.


Don’t you find it interesting that Peter put emphasis on “preparing the mind” and “being sober-minded.” I believe that Christians have always had trouble thinking clearly. In Peter’s day, believers could get off track; the disciples were often slow to understand Jesus’ teachings. In our own time, Christians have trouble knowing how to bring the faith of the church pew to their living room or desk at work. Being a faithful follower of Christ does not involve checking our minds at the church door.


Why aren’t believers engaged in saving marriages, caring for orphans, stewarding the environment, stopping human trafficking, promoting racial justice, and alleviating poverty? For most in the church, people are overcommitted and too busy working or carting kids around to activities. It takes a lot of thought and collaboration for the church to address systemic problems. Most people simply don’t want to take the time to prepare their minds to engage on the deeper levels of addressing human problems and sin.


For many of us, sin in our lives obstructs our view of God’s mission. Let me illustrate my point:


“Many of the old stadiums are being torn down, and new ones are being built in their place. The older ones were okay, but they had architectural features that were not functional. One of the problems is that certain seating had obstructed views of the playing area. The fans were somewhat disconnected from the game. A beam or a post would block full participation.”


“Often, if you were seated in one of these seats behind a column, a fan would ask another person what happened. They would have to get secondhand information because they could not see for themselves. They could hear the action. They see the fans responding around them, but the column kept them from experiencing the game.”


“Many in the church today are here with an obstructed view because of sin. We hear the noise. We see people engaging in their spiritual activities. However, we are getting it all secondhand. We are sitting in a seat with an obstructed view. Sin will keep you from full participation. Sin will keep you from experiencing the reality of God working in your life.”[2]


Sin will block your mind and heart from seeing God at work around you. Sin can even hinder our prayers.


Psalm 66:18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened.


2.  Holiness recognizes a Higher Authority.

1 Peter 1:17-19 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.


Peter mentioned that we are to conduct ourselves with fear during our time of exile in this broken world. The reverent fear of God is the right attitude for Christians who will one day stand before God. We express this reverence before God when we “call on him as Father” through prayer. Prayer is an awesome responsibility that we should not take lightly.  We come before God, repentant of our sin, seeking him.


In the Crain house, we have a basic philosophy about snakes: The only good snake is a dead snake or snake that is one-hundred miles away from our house. I took Jackson on a hike last year. We were walking through the woods and in the corner of his eye, Jackson saw a snake slither beside him and then run away. I have never seen Jackson jump so high in his life as he did when he saw that lethal predator. It was at the moment that I knew Jackson shared our family philosophy about snakes.


There is no such thing as a good sin. If we could only run from sin the way Jackson ran from that snake! Regarding sexual immorality, Paul wrote:


1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.


Peter wrote that we are to “call on the Father, who judges . . . our deeds.” We communicate with reverence in prayer with our Father, who will judge our actions. Standing before God, the Perfect Judge is a serious thought! Our sins nailed Jesus to the cross, and we will have to stand before him! Paul mentioned this reality:


2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.


The reality of standing before God reminds us of how blessed we are that our sins were judged on the cross when Jesus died for us. Jesus Christ bought our salvation. He did not purchase our salvation with gold or silver or anything else this world considers valuable. Money cannot buy salvation. Good deeds cannot obtain salvation. Our salvation cost Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, his life on the cross.


Most of us talk about sin in terms of consequences to be avoided. However, we should think and speak of sin and judgment with more seriousness. We need to talk to one another as believers with a prophetic voice, knowing that God doesn’t take our sins lightly. Our sin is the reason that God sent his only Son, Jesus, to this world to restore us to a proper relationship with him.


Since our sins were judged on the cross, what will God, the Righteous Judge, be judging? He will judge our works! God will search our motives and examine our hearts. We will give an account for what we have done for Him. God blesses us with many gifts and opportunities in life; but, he holds us accountable for these blessings.


Luke 12:48 Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.


Jesus’ death on the cross was a divine appointment, not an accident.


It is great to know that God has a plan for us. This plan included the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus shed his precious blood to purchase us out of the slavery of sin and set us free forever.


3. Holiness acknowledges a divine plan.

“Providence is the hand of God in the glove of history. It is the work of God whereby He integrates and blends events in the universe to fulfill His original design for which it was created. It is God sitting behind the steering wheel of time. Providence refers to God’s governance of all events so as to direct them toward an end. It is God taking what you and I would call luck, chance, mistakes, happenstance, and stitching them into achieving His plan.” [3]


In God’s providence and plan, he purposed to send Jesus to the cross for our sins.


1 Peter 1:20-21 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.


Before God created the universe, God chose Jesus as the complete revelation of God to all people and the Messiah who would be revealed at the right time.


Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.


Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse a person from sin and provide eternal salvation. Many religions believe that religious acts or ceremonies cleanse us. These rites and rituals do not cleanse a person of sin; they only remind us of the futility of religion without Jesus Christ. Only the grace of Jesus Christ can save. 


The salvation that Jesus brings to us is more than a future in Heaven; he provides each believer with the opportunity to live obediently in the here and now. Obedience is demonstrated when we love our Christian family with a pure heart. When we live in obedience, we are giving evidence of a heart that is being transformed by Jesus Christ.


James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.


I find it humbling that God, before the foundation of the world, loved me enough to plan to send Jesus to redeem me from my sin. Just think! In 100 years, no one will remember my name—even the people carrying my genes within themselves. But, thousands of years ago—even millions—God thought about me. He wanted to make me an heir in his Kingdom! In the next trillion years, I will be able to look back to the cross and empty tomb, knowing that it was there that my destiny was transformed.


4. Holiness yields a transformed life.

1 Peter 1:22-25 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.


The world is made of things that will not last. However, the truth revealed by God in his Word and Jesus Christ will endure without destruction. Not only will the Word of God last, but it also has life-giving properties. When at work in a person’s life, the Word of God brings new birth and transformation.


Jeremy Howard wrote in his book After Easter: “All of us are born spiritually dead. Infants don’t understand right from wrong, but the fallen-ness is in them from the start, an automatic inheritance coming down through the generations. Give it a short while and it proves itself, for without exception we make sinful choices as we grow in our moral comprehension. Some hypothesize that we become sinful because we make sinful choices, as if we mark up our pure souls with each wrong act, but the Bible puts it the other way around: we sin because we have a sin nature.”[4]


The sin nature is real! David confessed:


Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.


Howard continued: “Sometimes we think we can outweigh our sin if we pile up more good things than bad. We strive to tip the scales and win God’s approval. This is what almost all religions inspire people to do. The problem is that sin is so abhorrent to God, so counter to his divine nature, that even one sin deserves eternal punishment. Shall the finite creature strike against the infinite Creator and incur no penalty? The standard required by God is perfection, not a majority of good actions. If you stop at every stop sign except one, you still deserve the punishment for running the one. Sin is the same but with infinitely worse consequences.”[5]


Do you think your sins as high treason against God, or do you feel they are simple mistakes and that God will overlook them in the end? If you believe that God does not take sin seriously, then why would he send his Son, Jesus Christ, to the cross? The Bible is clear that that our sins separate us from God and that only faith in Jesus Christ can save us. Only his grace can transform our lives.


The Bible is full of strange things like talking snakes, a seven-headed dragon, parting seas, and blind men who see. To me, the strangest thing in the Bible is the truth that the sexually immoral, murderers, gossips, and thieves can experience a change in their eternal address and receive new life in an instant. People who have been hiding under the veneer of religion can find reality and authenticity. Faith in a Nazarene carpenter-king can take out a heart of stone and replace it with a heart that beats with life.


Just think about it! The next Billy Graham may be strung out on drugs right now. The next Mother Theresa may be leaving an abortion clinic. Life change is the visible power of the good news of Jesus Christ!


We, a changed people, must take the Gospel of Jesus Christ who changes lives to a world in desperate need of change.

[1]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . . (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 150.
[2]Evans, 286.
[3]Evans, 240.
[4]Jeremy Royal Howard, After Easter (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2015), 12-13.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Living in Hope

Of the 84.5 million mothers who live in the U.S., many struggle with feelings of hopelessness.[1] Consider the findings of a recent poll of moms by the polling firm PSB in March 2016.


·         Moms are concerned about the education of their children. A majority of mothers, 83 percent, said they would likely support a political candidate who is for expanding quality early childhood education programs in the U.S., which they believe is critical to America's future.

·         Two-thirds of moms believe their children are less safe than they were as children. Mothers rank declining moral values (35 percent), violence in schools (33 percent), sexual predators (27 percent) and bullying (26 percent) at the top of their list of concerns for their children.

·         More than two-thirds of working millennial moms said that the American business culture had made it "nearly impossible" to balance family and work, compared to less than half of older moms in the survey.

·         Overall, many moms are weary and overwhelmed. Most are living paycheck to paycheck. They say the leading causes of stress in their lives are paying their bills on time and being a good parent.[2]


“While there’s life, there’s hope!” That ancient Roman saying is still prevalent today. However, it is not the “fact” of life that brings hope; it is the faith of life.  Peter wrote about the faith of life. Because of faith in Jesus Christ, we can live in hope.


Peter, arguably the most vocal and leader-like of all the disciples of Jesus, wrote this incredible letter. Peter was called “unlearned and ignorant” by the Jewish religious establishment (Acts 4:13). Peter’s lack of professionalism turned out to be positive. He was able to communicate to the masses. Peter did not speak as a member of the religious elite. He spoke as a man who had experienced God in an extraordinary way!


Many people seem to think that hope is wishing for something you are never going to get. However, hope in Jesus Christ is yours today for the asking. Let’s look at God’s Word and find hope in Jesus today.


1. You were created for a purpose.

1 Peter 1:1-4  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.


Peter wrote to those he called exiles. Christians were called exiles because they live in the world but their standards and values are different from those who live around them. Christians, in Peter’s day, were “strange” and “scattered” around because of persecution and trials. Peter’s letter came at the right time to those early Christians.


This Scripture and many others address the hope of Jesus Christ in times of suffering. One of our favorite verses about God’s purpose in our suffering is Romans 8:28.


Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.


A pastor told the story of a lady who fell and broke her leg at church. She said, “Pastor, I know God wanted me to be here, but I don’t see why this had to happen! I don’t see any good coming from me falling at church!” Wisely, the pastor responded, “Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that we see all things working together for good. It says that we know it.”


Faith means that we follow Jesus Christ and obey his Word even when things look challenging or are difficult. Some wonder, “How do we grow when we are going through tests and trouble?” We grow during times of testing the same way we grow in the good times: We stay faithful in feeding on God’s Word.


Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.


Our relationship with God grows stronger as we continue to read and apply truth from the Bible. It is a simple principle that we should spend lots of time in personal Bible reading when we go through a challenging season or when Satan is tempting us.


2. You are kept safe by God’s power.

1 Peter 1:5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.


The words of this letter are relevant today for those who are being persecuted for their belief in God. In these later days, Christians are going through trouble and tribulation. Some are being killed for their faith.  In desperate times, moments of crisis, we become more receptive to hear about the essentials of our faith. Our hearts hunger for what is true. We find these truths here in God’s Word.


In our culture today, our only safe, secure place is in Jesus Christ. We experience his protection through faith. Jesus reminded us of the limits of those who wish to harm us.


Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.


No one can touch our soul. Our eternal destiny is safe and secure in Jesus Christ.


Our faith in Jesus guards us, according to the Bible. We trust in Jesus Christ by faith. We cannot always trust our feelings. Our feelings and emotions can change in an instant. For example, you may go to see a scary movie with evil aliens. You know that the aliens are not real. However, you still feel afraid.


The filmmakers are skilled at what they do. With the cinematic score, computer graphics, and video production they manipulate your mind so that you begin to believe in a reality that does not exist. You know in your rational brain that space aliens are not real. However, you get scared. Feelings cause us to react. Having faith is not the same as having feelings. The fact for the Christian is that Jesus Christ is our hope and salvation, no matter how we may feel.


So many are letting their feelings come first. My dad, for a while, was a long-haul truck driver. The cargo did not control his truck. He controlled the truck by sitting in the driver’s seat and turning the steering wheel. When we let feelings control our life, it’s like allowing the cargo to control the truck instead of the driver at the steering wheel. Faith must be behind the steering wheel.


1 John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.


3. You are tested for a reason.

1 Peter 1:6-7  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.


God’s Word teaches us that our tests are used by God to refine us for the praise, glory, and honor. Also, these tests bring about a testimony.  For many of us, our story is that we would have never known that God could be so real to us had we not experienced the pain of certain trials in our lives.


Knowing that the tests have a purpose help us endure the pressures and hardships. A woman bears the pain of childbirth because she knows that something wonderful will result from the pain of childbirth. She can take the pain because at the end she will share in the new birth of her child. She goes through the suffering believing that there will be joy in the future. It is through the trials and suffering that we face that God does his greatest birthing.


The Apostle Paul mentioned that he could endure the suffering because he knew that it would lead to God’s strength working through him.


2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


4. You are blessed with joy that is inexpressible.

1 Peter 1:8-12 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.


The salvation we are waiting for is the return of Jesus Christ! Jesus’ coming again for his people has been God’s plan from ages past. The Old Testament prophets wrote about this return. They saw the suffering of Jesus on the Cross hundreds of years before it became a reality. They did not understand how to connect the suffering of Jesus and the triumphant return of Jesus. We see the connection here beautifully in 1 Peter.


  When Jesus was born on earth, the Jewish rabbis were looking for a king who would conquer their enemies instead of a suffering Savior who would give his life as payment for our sins. Even Jesus’ own disciples were not clear on how Jesus could be the conquering King while having to suffer death on a Roman cross.


If you look closely at the Bible, you see that the prophets of ancient times saw the cross where Jesus would suffer and die hundreds of years before it became a reality.


Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

    and with his wounds we are healed.


They also saw Jesus’ glorious return for his people.


Zechariah 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one-half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.


Peter said that these truths are so compelling and powerful, even the angels want to study them!


For every believer, there is a glorious salvation that awaits us! When we believed in Jesus Christ, we were prepared for a glorious future. As we follow Jesus, even experiencing trials along the way, we are being developed for this future. When we love Jesus, trust in him, and rejoice in him, we can have a taste of that glorious future in the here and now! Joy unspeakable!


I have seen a lot of caterpillars this year. Butterflies are caterpillars that have been transformed. Caterpillars are ugly, slimy, and slow. I don’t find much redeeming value in caterpillars. Most of the time, I find myself accidentally stepping on them.


Once the caterpillar converts to a butterfly, all of a sudden, something new is born. Something old and ugly, something that was rejected, something that could be stepped on, now begins to change. The process of change is a little uncomfortable and a little inconvenient.


For a while, it looks like things are getting worse rather than better. That’s because something is changing on the inside. After the cocooning process is over, and the shell flips open, all of a sudden the thing that used to be grounded can now fly. The thing that used to be a parasite now pollinates. Something beautiful has come out of something that was ugly. The seed was already there for it, but it just had to wait for development.


Now, a butterfly is not a fixed up caterpillar. A butterfly is an entirely new creature that was birthed out of a caterpillar. But it’s not a caterpillar. It is a brand spanking new being.[3]


Transformation is the glorious hope of the Christian.


2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.


Satan wants to use our challenges to bring out the worst in us. God wants to bring out the best in us. If we love Jesus Christ and hope in him, we can experience glory and transformation. The joy that we experience in Jesus Christ is so deep and powerful that we cannot even express it. Words fail us!


[1], (Retrieved on May 2, 2016).
[2], (Retrieved on May 3, 2016).
[3]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . . (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 267.