Monday, August 28, 2006

Contemplation #187
Like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. 1 Peter 2:2

Peter says something notable about our salvation – that it is a state of being, but not a static condition. The believers he is writing to are saved, but they are encouraged to grow up in the salvation which they have received. Having received the gift of redemption from our hopeless condition as sinners, lost and without meaningful direction in this life, we are now saved and set on a clear course of godliness. To realize that we need to grow in our salvation is not to dispute the sufficiency of the gift through Christ, but we acknowledge that being brought into a state of salvation is not the same as becoming mature in that grace.

Contemplation #188
Like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. 1 Peter 2:2

Peter’s encouragement is for us to strongly desire spiritual nourishment. But what is this spiritual food? Because we are children of the Age of Reason it is easy for us to associate instruction, learning, and knowledge with spiritual food. Yet when we read Peter’s words which precede and follow this encouragement, he seems to be talking about “being obedient children” (1:14), “obeying” (1:22), or “disobeying” (2:8) the “word of the Lord” which stands forever (1:25). He doesn’t look at God’s message to us as a matter of understanding, but of practice and action. To strongly crave spiritual food is not to have an intellectual hunger for knowledge, but a personal desire to be nourished in the practice of God’s Word.

Contemplation #189
Like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. 1 Peter 2:2

The imagery of a newborn baby craving milk is powerful for us. A newborn has few other waking desires, except to receive milk. We should be as ardent in craving only one reality. Having received salvation, we are to be singularly focused on aligning ourselves to the way of God in all things. According to Peter, we have two complementary but opposite practices: to rid ourselves of all types of evil such as malice, deceit, hypocrisy, and slander (2:1), and to develop a sincere love for others, a deep love from the heart (1:22). Our spiritual food is the way of God, as spoken to us and practiced by us.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Contemplation #184
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 1 Peter 4:7

To speak about the “end” can bring different thoughts to our minds. Perhaps we think about a cataclysmic end to be feared, one involving destruction and judgment. If we think of end in this sense, then Peter is warning his readers about dangerous times. However, the end can also be understood as the completion, or fulfillment of history. We are drawing nearer toward the purpose to which everything is moving. With this understanding, the end is not something to be feared, but what we anticipate with great joy . . . the realization of the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. The glorious culmination is near, because the Christ has come and the Spirit has been poured out!

Contemplation #185
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 1 Peter 4:7

Prayer is encouraged as a way of anticipating and embracing the end of all things. Perhaps this does not mean that we pray because everything is so evil, so corrupt, and destruction is at hand. Maybe we pray because the glorious conclusion of all God’s working is near, and this new reality we enter and join through prayer. Praying out of fear and praying out of eagerness are two entirely different prospects. It is clear that Peter’s readers were enduring suffering, and Peter points not dismally at impending doom, but hopefully toward the end or goal of all history. The nearness of this beautiful end was what would move his hearers to pray.

Contemplation #186
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 1 Peter 4:7

Two inward disciplines are encouraged as important to the practice of prayer: clear mindedness and self-control. Our clearness of thought must be directed by God, so that our own foolish and misguided ideas are discarded and we focus on the ways of God. A correct understanding of life begins with the realization that there is an end to which our world is headed, and this end is in all being united in perfect communion with God. All which is not in harmony with God, ultimately will be removed, and all that is oriented toward God will be perfected. Being self-controlled is really allowing the self to be controlled, not by our will, but our willfulness submitted to the Spirit within. When we are focused and submitted, are prayers become the discipline that prepares us for God’s end.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Contemplation #181
I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Paul’s way of fighting Satan, in this instance, was to forgive. Aware that Satan is trying to entrap us, and knowing how he can do this through anger, bitterness, resentment, and grudges, Paul disarms his spiritual enemies through the humble act of forgiveness. To engage in spiritual warfare one ought to understand the nature of the conflict, and the means of victory. Fidelity to the simple and humble way of Jesus, of love, peacemaking, humility, mercy, forgiveness, and grace is how the battle is won. Our preparation for this task is most readily achieved through prayer – not the prayer that asks God to act as much as the prayer that shapes us to the way of Christ.

Contemplation #182
Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1:14

Paul seems to be speaking in reference to the gospel, urging Timothy to keep what he’d been taught. As in all things, what we are instructed to do cannot be done on our own strength. We should always remember, as Paul is quick to add in this passage, that even holding to what gospel that saves us and calls us to a holy life (1:9) requires the work of the Holy Spirit of God. We are dependent on God to strengthen us to be true to what we have received. Combating Satan, or even guarding what we’ve been given, must be an act of submission and reliance on God. The practice of faith is the essence of spiritual warfare.

Contemplation #183
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and he will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. 2 Timothy 4:18

Paul speaks with a confidence that is astounding for a man who’d been through so much, and now sits in prison expecting to be executed. Some confidence is born out of foolishness. The secular mindset that reduces our struggle to a conflict of ideas and rationalities is hopelessly naïve about spiritual realities. This confidence is a boldness based on the denial that evil attacks are anything real. Paul’s confidence is based on faith in God. He knows that there are evil forces that attack him, and yet his trust in God through faith keeps him from falling prey to the fear of what is arrayed against him.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Contemplation #178
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

The goal of obedience, and the purpose of purification, is love for others. We obey so that we learn to participate in God’s nature of love. Obeying the truth is summed up and fulfilled in loving one another deeply, from the heart. This also redefines ‘truth’ to be all that leads us to and culminates in the love we have for others. Obeying the truth of God will never lead to anything other than love for others. No one can claim to have obeyed the truth who does not love others deeply, for whatever they are imagining to be the truth is not the truth that comes from God.

Contemplation #179
But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. 1 John 2:5

Obedience to what God teaches means that one grows to share in the completeness of God’s love. We can only conclude that God’s instructions and commands are all designed to usher us into the experience of his love and the practice of the same to others. What God is telling us it how to love – even though sometimes we do not see the connection. We should look at every instruction from God and practice each as a way of coming into the divine love of God. Those who obey, love . . . not in some mechanistic way but as the fruit of where obedience has led them into communion with God.

Contemplation #180
and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:22

So often people seek to know the meaning of verses that promise that God will bless . . . that He will respond to our requests. They look diligently for a key to what assures us of answered prayer. John makes it clear that God will do whatever we ask because we are obeying, and in the next verse he identifies that obedience with believing in Jesus and loving one another. Obedience leads us into lives that are shaped by God’s love. We become people of his love. When we are people of love, then whatever we ask will be done because our requests will be in tune with God’s own will, for God is love.