Monday, September 23, 2013

Escaping Hypocrisy through the Gate of Grace (2 Peter 1:2-7)

Living out grace is not so easy. If I'm honest, I see myself operate by legalism and behavioral modification much too often. I do 'A' and hope that people respond 'B'. If 'B' doesn't happen, I see the ugly side of my heart start to rule my attitude and thought: attention seeking, neediness for approval, the fight for my "rights." It's scary to see what truly resides in my heart, but the Holy Spirit is faithful to continue shaping me in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:2-7). Thank goodness for God's free gift of love as I wrestle with how to apply the gospel of grace to my own heart and carry out the will of God.

Take for example my husband and I. Last night we discussed how to apply both grace and truth to a hypothetical situation. And we got into a fight. I would feel less foolish if it were a real situation. Nope. Just good ol' theory and opinion and self-righteousness. The discussion was based on a hypothetical situation, and we let it divide us for a short time.

It's so easy to want to be heard.
It's so easy to desire calculated responses from people.
It's so easy to demand that I be counted as relevant. (Meaning my husband responds the way I want.)

Ha! Doesn't that last one seem like an inalienable right. I should be affirmed for holding a valid opinion. How dare he! What I didn't mention is that I inwardly rolled my eyes at my husband's perspective and barely listened. I discounted his opinion even before it came out of his mouth because I wanted so much to be right in this made-up-not-real situation. I even confronted him about his "sin" as I fought to be right. I was void of love. But if I word it just right, you'll side with me, feel sorry for me, or start feeling that injustice is in play. I can craftily play the victim and try to get you on my side. I can demand grace without extending it myself and still get others to support me.

Oh the terrible web I wove to look better in my own eyes and in others'! Can you relate?

All it took for me to tuck my tail between my legs was church. I sang about God's free gift of love and His work through Jesus' death and resurrection. I sang about His goodness and melted into the pew, confessing my own sin. Over and over. Not for the sake of more forgiveness, but because even in confession I struggled with defending myself. Waves of grace kept washing over me as God led my heart toward humility. Once home my husband and I confessed our shortcomings and asked for forgiveness from one another.

We, those who love Jesus, have an important role to each other as church family: to remind one another of the gospel and God's wonderful self. Sometimes the best I can do is surrender in my great need for Christ and allow other believers to lead me by the proclamation of the good news of Jesus. And it impacts me anew. Through it my Savior reminds me of the abundant grace already supplied. He invites me to shed hypocrisy--which He hates because it denies His own work on my behalf.

Praise be to our faithful God. Praise be to our wonderful Savior. Praise be to the Holy Spirit who gets His hands dirty in so much ugliness so that something beautiful will result.

Image courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski /

(c) 2013 by Kendra Higgins

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fix Your Hope (1 Peter 1:13)

Pounding the pavement by starlight this morning with friends, I reunited with my inner adventurer. The cool morning air lifted away the usual burden of bearing up under the heat of the day. I thought excitedly about possibilities and chatting rather than fretting over water stops, salty sweat burning my eyes, and how to handle exhaustion. As I fixed my attention on the starry blanket above, I considered the bigness of God and the excitement of being alive and in His will.

It's funny how a little change can affect outlook. Focused upward, I failed to notice that it must have been trash day. Overflowing trash containers lined the sidewalks. Trash bags and heaps of stuff blocked the path. Soon enough my focus was back on earthly things. Headlights warned of oncoming cars. Garbage smells grabbed my focus as I jumped over a trash bag.

Could this be what Peter was talking about?

...fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 1:13, NASB)
I doubt that Peter had garbage bins in mind. But he knew about the daily grind and difficulties that believers faced. Persecution was a real threat in the life of a believer who heard this letter read in the church. Within a decade, Peter himself would be persecuted to death under the Roman Emperor Nero's suppression of the Christian faith. Being fixed on hope was more than an expression of freedom and positive thinking like we American Christians would relate to. Being fixed on hope because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the only chance a believer under persecution had to persevere. They would need to cling to Christ's example of suffering and Peter's words of instruction.
I recently had a friend who wanted so much to give birth naturally, without an epidural anaesthetic. During labor her good friend, who had already given birth naturally, came to encourage her. She was able to say at the right moment, "You're doing great. You're almost done!" Not many could have coached a woman in labor through such difficult pain, except one who had already been there. Her words were a trusted and empathetic guide.
Peter gives Jesus as the believer's example in handling sin and suffering. Jesus is our trusted and empathetic guide. Peter says to look at Jesus and fix your hope on grace. One who loves Jesus will put all eggs in one basket--grace. The believer looks forward to a life with God that could never be earned and is already theirs. Like a starry sky where we fix our eyes, fixing or resting our hope upon God's grace in Christ allows the present suffering to be an opportunity for beautiful obedience and deepened relationship with the Savior.
Today, I am considering two things:
  1. The persecution of Christians is real. Paul's words are given to those who are tasting difficulty, especially persecution because of Christ. I want to be sensitive in my application of this text, knowing that my present difficulties are not so difficult. My life is not endangered by family, community, or a government that despise Jesus Christ. I need to pray for brothers and sisters under persecution. (Want to know more? Voice of the Martyrs / Open Doors)
  2. No matter how much I see and experience the garbage-lined streets of a sinners life among other sinners, hope lives. I need to daily remind myself of the beautiful blood of Jesus that was shed for me (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus is worthy of praise. Have I praised Him today and set my hope on meeting Him face-to-face very soon?
(c) 2013 by Kendra Higgins
Image courtesy of Just2shutter /

Monday, September 09, 2013

Love is Enough (1 John 4:11-12) by Alex Wilks

Hey there, I’m Alex! As a response to God's faithfulness to me, this year I have been asking Him to teach me how to be more faithful. One of the ways He answered my prayer was to allow me to spend 6 weeks in Thailand this summer loving on these precious babies.

1 John 4:11-12  says, “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us” (NLT).

Just sit with that verse for a minute. Have you ever fully digested that? For those of us who have been called by God and adopted into his family this verse says that when we love others God is being expressed through us. What a privilege!

I spent this summer in Thailand doing mission work with a family who welcomes girls into their home who have no one to care for them. In a foreign country, language barriers present a unique problem to encouraging and discipling others. Because I don't speak their language, I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t lead a Bible study or ask these sweet kids questions about what they learned in a quiet time. Talking with my community back home, I was constantly encouraged to simply love them with God’s love. “Sometimes that’s enough,” they would say.
Then I read 1 John 4.

It is enough. What an amazing truth this scripture exclaims: God is love; He lives in me. When I love others, I am expressing God. I am being the hands and feet of Jesus. I am living the gospel. And if you are in Christ, you are too!

I’ve been back in the states for about a month, and I still have moments when I struggle to believe that loving someone might just be enough. I struggle against the need to always find or be the solution to problems. I fight my pride that says, “It is God that they need, but it might be a little bit of me that they need, too.”
So, I am asking God to show me when it is best for me to simply love — and more importantly — what it looks like to love with His love. Pray with me that he will continue to refine us so that when we love, it is purely the love of God we offer and it is only because He loved us first.

I pray that you will have the opportunity to love others today and that when you lay your head on your pillow tonight, you will be able to see how faithful God was to use you as He revealed himself to this world.


Visit Alex's blog:

Monday, September 02, 2013

Never Ending, Unfailing Love (1 Peter 1:6-7a) by Kim Smith

Hi All! My name is Kim Rayfield. I am a wife of just over 3 years to a Navy Supply Officer on the USS Pennsylvania, a submarine, and mother to two precious littles that keep me ON. MY. TOES. Jacob is 2 ½ years and Gracelyn 7 ½ months.

Recently I have been up to my eyeballs in diapers, potty training, rocking to sleep, re-rocking to sleep, boo-boo kissing, and toy picking up—only to pick them up again 20 minutes later. (Why-oh-why do I persist in continually picking them up then?!) The words that primarily come out of my mouth these days are:

“No SIR, sister is NOT for hitting.”

“That’s 3; take a timeout.”

“Dude, put your pants BACK ON…people are coming over!!”
If you’re a mother or have worked with little ones, I’m sure you can imagine how busy home life can be. Quiet time with God has been difficult, even rare, over the past three years.  It’s just been recently that I realized how truly dry I’ve become and how much I am craving the Living Water.  Many times I’ve struggled to connect with God in the same way that I did as a single woman in ministry. Do you ever question how to connect with God in the midst of life’s chaos?  I SURE have over the past three years.  I used to have built-in spiritual retreat days and times AT WORK for quiet time with God.  I spent every day in my Bible.  Now I’m lucky to read it once a week.  And I’ve wondered if God and I can EVER have the kind of connection we once had.

In reading over 1 Peter, verses 1:6-7a just kept hitting me between the eyes over and over, “So be TRULY GLAD. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is FAR MORE PRECIOUS than mere gold” (NLT).


Be Truly Glad.


These past three years have certainly tested my faith and my ability to be “truly glad.” I left full-time ministry, got married and got pregnant over the course of less than a year.  During our 3 years of marriage, we moved to Charleston, SC; Pensacola, FL; Newport, RI; spent a year apart while my husband did school and I waited out my pregnancy in Martinsville, IN; and now to Washington state where we’ve spent the last several months trying to re-integrate as a family. I’ve attended several churches, but never long enough to “plug-in.” 

I could go on and on but let me get to the point.  My attitude has slipped to full on WHINY-HEINEY over the past few years.  I’ve blamed God for our deteriorated relationship and not allowed the daily trials of my life to “show that my faith is genuine.”  Consequently, I’ve felt worn out and insignificant, and not sure what to do about it.

My son has a children’s Bible that we read at breakfast almost daily. And if I forget…it won’t be long before Jacob is saying, “Mama, mama: GOD BOOK!” The writer of the Jesus Storybook Bible is continually referring to God’s “Never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” Seriously, throughout the entire Old and New Testament the writer refers to God’s love for his children in this way. One day, while reading God Book to Jacob it hit me: God is no less present in my life as I wipe bottoms, tears, and yucky hands, as He was when I had the luxury of sitting quietly in a room reading His word and talking with Him.  Our relationship looks DIFFERENT, but it’s no less significant. I may not be able to spend hours in His word but I can invite and welcome Him into every moment of my every day.

Okay, so “be truly glad.” I want a heart adjustment. I LONG for one, and I believe that a heart adjustment is the key for me to connect with God more deeply.  God promises in 1 Peter 1:6-7a that wonderful joy awaits, that the trials will not last for long and that the things I go through will purify my faith. I will cling to these promises in the chaos…in the mundane…in the every day.  I may not be able to spend hours in God’s word…but as I tell Jacob and Gracie about his never stopping love, I can ask God to firmly plant that into my own heart. I can recognize His presence in every moment and be thankful for it!
For more information on the Jesus Storybook Bible, visit their website here. Kim was formerly a Children's Pastor and has a good eye for usable and fun materials!