September 2, 2019

Today you should read: 1 Peter 3:8-12

Our passage today was written in the context of suffering. The other night I was in the hospital room of a friend from church to pray with them and encourage them in a hard time. This person commented on the encouragement, not only of the staff, but the Connect Group as well. It just happened to be in the middle of Connect Group sign ups and I said, “You know, we fight, claw, and beg to get people into small groups, and what it seems that they don’t realize is that this right here is what it’s all about.” 

When life is going well, you can make it on your own—or at least it seems that way. But God’s Church is not for Lone Rangers. As we remind our daughters constantly, independence is not the goal, our goal should be interdependence. This is where we can depend on one another. For sure, we don’t claim to be perfect at this. But, this is the reason for Peter’s encouragement in our passage today. We not only seek community to share good times with, we need community to be there through suffering—the suffering caused by those outside the Church, and suffering from the natural part of sin in the world, suffering from sickness and death. 

What does it look like to suffer well in community? It starts with unity of mind. If you were in at East campus yesterday, we talked a lot about this. Unity, and especially how we maintain unity through suffering, proclaims Christ. It teaches the world about who He is. Church unity is a major theme of the New Testament (when to pursue unity and when to break it). 

Suffering in community also requires “sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” All these things amount to mentally putting yourself in the shoes of another person. Suffering well in community means coming alongside another person. You can’t encourage from a distance; you must embrace the muck and be willing to get hurt to love people. 

When you are slandered or hurt by others, Peter says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” To be a light you must shine in darkness. Doing this you risk emotional and maybe physical safety, but that’s why we do this in the context of community. (Basically, this is exactly what the last sermon series was all about.) 

Peter goes on to quote Psalm 34:12–16. The Lord loves the righteous and will punish those who do evil. When we suffer, and especially when we suffer at the hands of others, we can trust a good God that will right every wrong and reward those who have suffered for good.

Let this be an encouragement for those in trying times. Also, if you’re missing out on community, let us help you get involved. Finally, as we step out to shine the light of the Gospel to a dark world, let us do so together—no lone warriors.  

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

August 31, 2019

Today you should read: 1 Peter 3:1-7

Today we have before us a controversial yet important passage. Controversial, not as much in the sense of what the Bible is saying, but how it is interpreted in light of our present culture. Of course, we are talking about the uses of “subject” and “submit”, words that our culture views as negative, but that the Bible views as positive.

Peter is encouraging wives to “subject” themselves to their husbands. Basically he is saying that they should show respect to their husbands, with pure character. Peter is saying that it is a good thing when wives show respect to their husbands in this way. Submission, when viewed wrongly, associates itself with images of being walked over, devalued, and as a servant to the needs of the husband. This could not be further from how the Bible views submission. The Bible paints a beautiful picture of a wife who loves and respects her husband, and finds her hope and confidence in God so much that she is free to put his needs before her own, trusting in God’s good design of a husbands role as sacrificial leader and a wife’s role as helper.

Likewise, husbands are called to show love and honor to their wives as well. Peter gives such a high expectation to husbands that he says that failure to love and honor your wife in a godly manner could result in prayers being hindered—that’s serious!

Whether you’re married or not, all Christians should exhibit character that is pure, and show respect to all people. Yes, God has given men and women unique roles in a marriage relationship, but the purpose of these roles is to point to the bigger picture: of Jesus who lovingly and sacrificially gave himself up for his bride, the church. As we exist in this life, relationships between husband and wife, and the church as a whole, finds its purpose in pointing people to the gospel.

How are your relationships pointing people to the gospel?

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Associate

August 30, 2019

Today you should read: 1 Peter 2:18-25

In life it is often difficult to respect those who seem to either treat us unfair or who are not kind to us at all. We may have experienced this through either teachers, bosses, parents, or those in the government. But our passage condemns Christians who do not respect and serve those who are of higher authority even if they mistreat you. Luke 6:32 says, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” This is similar to what is said in our passage (v. 20). We have to be servants to those of higher authority who may mistreat us, because if we serve them with the right motives we can be a witness of Christ. 

Jesus is our greatest example to follow in this (v. 21-25). He never committed a sin, never hurt anyone, never treated anyone wrong, but He was put on the cross by those of earthly authority. Ultimately, Jesus went to the cross to take away the sins of the world (v. 24), but those political and religious leaders were the ones who decided to put Him there. Notice that Jesus never lost faith in His Father: “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Even in the midst of these trials and sufferings, Jesus knew who was in control. 

Do not lose hope in times of trials. Those of higher authority may mistreat you, but take heart and lean on Jesus, because He knows what you are going through. My prayer is that you will use trials in your life as an opportunity to show Jesus to those who do not know Him through your actions and words.

By: Brice Stockton — Student Ministry Apprentice

August 29, 2019

Today you should read: 1 Peter 2:13-17

It’s easy for us, in modern America, to read today’s passage with a sense of gloom. I am quite patriotic, and yet hold a severe distrust for politicians. Yet, this passage holds strong words for God’s Church and how we, as believers, should view and respond to authorities. 

God calls believers to “be subject…to every human institution.” The idea is that we are to submit to the authority of these institutions, which God has ordained; and we are to do so, for His sake (see also Romans 13:1–2). God has established these institutions “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” In our submission, “by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

In our respect for, and submission to human authorities, we honor God and silence the non-believers. That’s a powerful idea. Although we often celebrate rebellion, God’s name is magnified through submission. His name is made great through the honor we give to His image bearers—everyone, and especially “the emperor.” 

 Again, in our modern context, these words can be a hard pill for some people to swallow. The authorities in our life, may not act in the most Christianly way. From political leaders, to our supervisors at work, non-believing authorities are not going to use their authority in a way consistent with our worldview. Does this passage still apply to us when that is the case? 

Peter was likely writing this short book from Rome toward the end of his life. He was most likely writing during the reign of the Emperor Nero. Nero was an evil and wicked person. He had a special hatred for Christians. There are numerous stories of torture and execution. Part of the issue was the great fire that destroyed much of Rome. Nero blamed the Christians for starting the fire, whereas many scholars today suggest that Nero, himself, may have been the one to set the city ablaze. It is rumored that he wanted to rebuild Rome in his own glory. The rising antipathy toward Christians was played out in the Coliseum. It was seen in Nero’s extravagant garden parties as Christians were burned on poles to light the garden. As well as in many other acts of persecution. 

When it comes to issues of the state, how do you act when the state is trying to kill you? This was not a hypothetical question to Peter’s readers—this was everyday life—”Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 

Honor doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything a politician does. However, take a moment and read your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media feeds and ask yourself, “Does my words, reposts, retweets, likes, dislikes, etc. bring honor to authorities, or am I trying to shame them?” Some of you might respond, “I don’t do anything political.” But based on this passage, is that an excuse (this is the pot calling the kettle black btw)? This passage doesn’t call for apathy or indifference, it doesn’t call for rebellion, it calls for submission and honor. How will you respond?

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate