October 22, 2014 – stone

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read 1 Peter 2:1-10

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…

More thoughts for meditation

Peter’s letter alternates between affirmation and exhortation. He not only wants to remind the new Christians living in hostile territory of their commonality with Jesus, but he also wants to help them live like him. In this section, he uses the metaphor of “living stones” to do both.

Stones are normally stationary and cold but Jesus is a different kind – a living one. The only secure foundation to build one’s life upon is not a cold proposition but a Person. That’s the good news: for God so loved the world that he sent a Person, Jesus. Peter then challenges them to be the good news in their hostile world in the same way – as living stones who are being built into something together.

The phrase “being built” reminds me of the psalmist’s description of being “knit together in my mother’s womb.” Just as God knits a single person together, so God is building a people together who will form one, interdependent unit. The present progressive tense of “being built” implies that this is an ongoing action, already in process. We are to become so built into each other’s lives – sharing decisions, money, hope, and struggles – that we are like interlocking bricks of a house.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Jesus, show me how I’m necessary in this spiritual house you are building. Help me to give and receive even more.

One of the most basic ways we practice “being built” together is through sharing our lives and our stuff in cells. Picture your cell in a circle and pray for each person – that they would feel valuable and responsible. Ask God if there is an opportunity for your cell to share more of themselves or their resources. Plan to tell your cell that you prayed for them, and what came to mind.

 

October 21, 2014 – holy

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read 1 Peter 1:13-21

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…

More thoughts for meditation

Peter’s main intent in this letter is to encourage new Christians (5:12), and it’s under this motivation that he brings up holiness. Unfortunately, the call to holiness can make us feel intimidated rather than inspired. One reason for that is because we forget what real holiness looks like. As Francis de Sales said, we are bombarded by “phantoms of devotion,” spiritual people portrayed in the media as judgmental, self-righteous, boring, and sexually repressed. That doesn’t sound like Jesus at all, and that’s who our holiness is supposed to look like.

In Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard offers a more-down-to-earth description of holiness: “Disciples of Jesus are those who are with him, learning to be like him. That is, they are learning to lead their life, their actual existence, as he would lead their life if he were they… they are learning how to walk with Jesus and learn from him in every aspect of their individual lives.”

Suggestions for action

Pray: Jesus, you see me and know me. I want to learn to lead my life as you would lead it. Walk with me and teach me, so that I can be holy.

Reflect: What aspect of your life has Jesus been focusing on lately? What is he teaching you?

Sing: I want Jesus to walk with me.

 

October 20, 2014 – identity

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read 1 Peter 1:1-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth…

More thoughts for meditation

Peter is writing to Christians in the early church who are experiencing:

  • doubt (does this persecution mean we are on the wrong road?),
  • disorientation (where do we belong?), and
  • desire (we want to stay true to Jesus, but how?).

In order to encourage them, Peter wants to remind them of their “new birth” in Christ. But instead of presenting the idea to them as if in a lecture, he writes to them from the get-go as if they were already living in their new identities. The first three sentences of his letter alone are full of teaching, dignity, and empowerment. This is what discipleship is like — we are invited to cast out, put on, and come and see -- not just listen and learn from a distance.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Help me to live out of my identity in You, and give me courage to unmask the other sources I rely on.

Optional 10 minute exercise:

1. Write down a few ways that your generation tries to define themselves or find their identity. Circle the ones to which you relate.

2. Read verses 1-9 and make a list of what a special identity in Christ looks like. Here are a few I saw from just the first three verses:

“New birth” means I can:

  • Be an apostle of Jesus
  • Be obedient to Jesus
  • Be known, chosen, and used for something
  • Have grace and peace in abundance
  • Be changed by God’s mercy
  • Have hope that “lives” and doesn’t die

3. When you’re done with the list, circle three of them: one that you already know or have experienced, one that you need, and one that feels out of reach. Talk to God about them.

October 19, 2014 – foreigner

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read 1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout…

More thoughts for meditation

1 Peter is a general epistle, written not to one specific church, but to several churches throughout Asia Minor. One thing these churches all have in common is that they are made up of Christians living in exile – both literally and symbolically:

  • Some are actually foreigners in that they left their hometowns and moved to these districts in order to be part of the church.
  • Many others would feel like foreigners because they were formerly gentiles who became Christians, which was one degree stranger than a Jewish person following Jesus.
  • Jewish believers felt foreign too, because the whole movement was viewed with a high degree of suspicion, misunderstanding and persecution by the Roman world in which they all grew up.
  • Lastly, they were all “foreigners” in the sense that they now possessed “dual citizenship” as they tried to live in God’s new, unfolding world, right in the middle of their situated lives.

All in all, they didn’t feel at home. They had to navigate the confusing and painful position of not knowing where they belonged. They saw themselves as a people on the move, rather than a group that had reached its destination. For how different we might think of ourselves from “the exiles scattered throughout” – we too experience the tension of living in two different worlds, while we share in Christ’s work of bringing the Kingdom of God into ordinary, everyday, human life. Of all yokes to bear, that’s the one for me. But as Peter’s letter will detail, the life of the foreigner is not without awkwardness, uncertainty, suffering and longing.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Jesus, help me walk with you in all the different roles I exercise and worlds I live in.

There are some areas of my life where I want to cross more boundaries and become less strange – like opening up my home, cell, and church’s doors to the other. Then there are some ways I want to become more foreign – like the way I find my identity in Christ and not in what I have, look like, or know. Let’s look for both today: an opportunity to be more strange in the face of the world’s lies, and less strange when it comes to loving someone new.

October 18, 2014 — blessing

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore.

More thoughts for meditation

I learned two things about this Psalm this week:

1)     The precious oil likely refers to the anointing oil that God taught Moses to prepare (Exodus 30.25), which he poured onto the head of his brother Aaron (Exodus 29.7, Leviticus 8.12), and the heads of his sons and successors, to signify that they were set apart for a special function, designated to be intermediaries between the Hebrew people and God.

2)     Hermon is a great mountain between Syria and Israel, to the north of present-day Israel. Zion refers to the site of an old fortress that became the nexus of David’s capital city, Jerusalem, in the south of present-day Israel. For generations, the Hebrew nation was split into a Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom. Even though the kingdoms traced common ancestry to the twelve sons of Jacob, the kingdoms had separate royal families and even war between the “brothers.” Even so the Psalmist envisions dew rising from Hermon and refreshing Zion.

Suggestions for Action

Pray: Lord, we await your gift. May we be one, and may our unity form a conduit for your eternal blessing.

Reread the Psalm, slowly. Imagine the blessing of eternal life, springing from the unity of kinfolk.

It’s easy to love each other – to be in unity – until you try to do something hard together. Perhaps you are facing a Moses-Aaron situation – someone is asking you to set apart some of your gifts, time, energy to be on a team, be on mission – or you are asking the same of others. Pray for honesty and courage, enough to enter the joy set before you. Perhaps you are facing a Divided Kingdom situation right now – either hot or cold, you are fighting with some sort of kin. Pray for the gift of reconciliation. Perhaps you are feeling alone, not enough part of a body to feel a kin-based relationship. Take an action that draws you closer to people whom God is forming.

Pray again: Lord, we await your gift. May we be one, and may our unity form a conduit for your blessing.