Twisting Scripture

2 Peter 3:15-16

Our beloved brother Paul has written to you about all this, according to the wisdom that has been given him, speaking about these things as he does in all his letters.

There are some things in them which are difficult to understand. Untaught and unstable people twist his words to their own destruction, as they do with the other scriptures.

Scripture is not ours to do with however we please.

Scripture is God’s to do with as God pleases.

Please make it your habit to always approach your reading of the Bible in utter humility, as is only appropriate. And in a posture of open listening, rather than with an eye to simply bolster what you already think.

As we mentioned yesterday with regard to Jesus, your relationship with God through Scripture can also stagnate, and you’ll cease being moved by it.

Oh how much damage has been done through the twisting of Scripture and claims of “ownership” over it!

Relationships Must Grow

2 Peter 2:21

It would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment which had been given to them.

Pete’s got an abundance of nasty things to say about false teachers in this chapter.

At the end of chapter two here, he writes about how terrible it is to become entangled again in the polluted lifestyle you fled from when you turned to the light of Christ.

We all need to be on guard from being enticed away from our First Love (1 John 4:19).

One way is to make sure your relationship with Christ is growing. Like all relationships with people, it must develop and mature if it is to last. Otherwise, it will likely become stale at some point, not as exciting, and we’ll be more easily pulled away by the cares and temptations of the world. Other things will look more invigorating. Even though they can’t come close to a relationship with the One who made you.

Here’s some words that inspired me this morning from Michael Casey:

Our attitude to the humanity of Jesus has to move away from sentimental images that appeal to us at an emotional level to a zone that is deeper, more spiritual, and, ultimately, more energizing. This is to say our attention drifts from the earthly career of Jesus as recounted in the Gospels to his risen life, present in our midst.

Christ is now more present to us in mystery than he ever was in history.

Use it or Lose it

2 Peter 1:3-11

God has bestowed upon us, through his divine power, everything that we need for life and godliness….So, because of this, you should strain every nerve to supplement your faith with virtue….you must make the effort all the more to confirm that God has called you and chosen you.

A man wanted to build a playhouse for his children, but he had no materials, nor did he own any of the tools necessary for the task.

He longed to provide this, not only for his own children, but also for the children of the neighborhood, as there was no good space for them to play, and as a result, many kids got into trouble out of daily boredom.

One day a woman came to the house with a clipboard. The man was sitting outside when she walked up, so he could not avoid her, though he desperately wanted to, having no desire to buy whatever it was she was selling.

“Someone would like to provide you with all the materials and tools necessary to build an amazing playhouse for your son and daughter.”

“What…?” the man said, stunned.

The lady just smiled.

He started to ask, “How did you even—”

“All you need to do is sign here,” she interrupted, “to let us know you accept.”

“Yeah right,” the man replied. “Very funny.”

“Well, perhaps tomorrow. Have a nice day, sir!” she said, smiling genuinely.

Sure enough, she returned the next day with the same offer, and the man gave the same response. “That was really weird”, he thought.

When she came back a third day in a row, the man started figuring she had some sort of mental disorder, and began to pity her.

The following day there was knock on the door, this time during family dinner. The man’s wife asked him to go see who it is. “How inconvenient,” the man muttered under his breath.

Opening the door, he saw the woman yet again, clipboard in hand, smile on face.

“Hello sir!”

“What is this?” he asked, partly to her, partly to himself.

“Just everything you need,” was her odd reply.

The man chuckled in a manner that conveyed both confusion and curiosity, and then said, “That’d be nice.”

“So you’ll accept?” she said with joyful anticipation.

Something inside the man made him want to sign, but he couldn’t explain or understand why. “May I see that?” he nodded toward the clipboard.

She handed it to him.

It was the shortest “contract” he’d ever seen, if you could even call it that.

“I ACCEPT” was all it said, in all capital letters, with a line after it.

“Are you kidding me?”

“I know, right!” The lady’s face was almost glowing as she said it, she was so excited. “Oh, and also, you’ll receive detailed instructions, of course, as well as–this is the best part–a retired playhouse designer and builder available to you everyday should you have any questions or need any help!” She was giddy.

The man couldn’t help but smile, and thought he had nothing to lose, and maybe–as crazy as it sounded—something to gain. And perhaps this mysterious woman would stop coming to the house everyday.

So he took the pen and signed it, saying out loud as he did: “I accept.”

“Yay!!!” was her exuberant response.

“Thank you for your generosity. And persistence.” Even though he felt kinda foolish, he could not help but be polite to her, for she was so enthusiastic that it was infectious.

He kept thinking about the encounter as he fell asleep, smiling.

The next morning he walked to his car and stopped mid-stride as he saw it all—their small yard full of building materials. “No way.” Opening the garage door he saw next to his car every tool imaginable one would need to build just about anything.

Wondering if this was for real, it was difficult to leave and go to work. Yet, at the same time easier than ever, due to the joy overwhelming him.

Getting home at the end of the day, his family couldn’t get over it. His wife saw the instructions on a table and showed him. There was also a business card with nothing but a phone number and the name “Ray”.

He started reading and decided to begin building. He truly had everything he needed. When he got to a confusing part, he called on Ray, who showed up immediately to help explain things in a simple way that made sense. They got to know and cherish each other deeply.

A little into the project, the man’s wife joined in the effort, as did many of their friends. Even the children helped.

After considerable time, and much focused, strenuous effort, the playhouse was built. The man’s children absolutely loved it. The kids from the neighborhood loved it, and played there all the time, no longer feeling it necessary to find trouble.

Over the years, as the children “outgrew” the playhouse, its function began to change. The man and his wife found themselves using the space for times of prayer, and later, worship. They invited others in to share in the experience of a dedicated prayer and worship space.  People from all around heard of this sacred space where many were deeply moved, and came to participate in the goodness that flowed there.

Never did the man imagine that this little structure would be used for so much beyond a playhouse for his children for a few years.

Whenever the man performed routine maintenance, or made improvements on the playhouse, he often reflected on how grateful he was for that strange offer from the persistent woman years ago, and how glad he was that he accepted it, received so much, and that he actually used the tools and materials to build something incredibly beautiful and useful, instead of just letting them sit around.

And perhaps best of all, was the rich friendship that blossomed and grew so deeply between him and Ray.


There is no “Fail”

1 Peter 4:12-13

Beloved, don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is coming upon you to test you, as though this were some strange thing that was happening to you.

Rather, celebrate! You are sharing the sufferings of the Messiah. Then, when his glory is revealed, you will celebrate with real, exuberant joy.

Everything molds you into me.

There is no “fail”, only, “Did you listen?”

One of my favorite scenes from Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is when Yoda tells Luke,

“The greatest teacher, failure is.”

Failure is only really failure if we fail to learn from it and make adjustments.

But if we use it to be better, and help others, it is the greatest of instructors.

Yoda was also telling Luke that we are to pass on what we have learned—strength, mastery—yes. But also weakness, folly, and failure. Failure most of all. Because it is such an effective teacher. To ourselves, and also to others.

Growing up, my friend Joe and I always said we wanted to learn from others’ mistakes as much as we can, so that we don’t unnecessarily repeat what we see leads to darkness. We’ll make plenty of our own mistakes, why make others’?

Learn from others’ failure, yes, but also teach others from yours.

Jesus can use every single little thing in your life—good, bad, painful, joyful, traumatic—to mold you into His image and make you into Him.

That is called theosis.

Stay Connected

1 Peter 3:9

Don’t repay evil for evil, or slander for slander, but rather say a blessing. This is what you were called to, so that you may inherit a blessing.

May I hear and listen to only that which is outside my own head, so that I may be a greater blessing to others.

This is a pure form of listening—listening to that which lies outside my own thoughts.

Difficult, but not impossible.

Listen in order to actually learn what you don’t already know.

Or think you know.

1Peter 3:12

For the Lord’s eyes are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

I’m only as good as I am filled with the Spirit, connected to the Vine.

In other words, the more filled and connected, the better I am. And vice versa—the less filled with Spirt and the more disconnected, the worse I am, not living into my full God-given potential.

1 Peter 3:15

Sanctify the Messiah as Lord in your hearts….

No other gods.

Nothing else, no one else, deserves as much as attention as You, my Lord!

Attention in the form of time, thoughts, money, work….Love.

May we give Christ, deserving of all because He gave all, way more attention than, say, politics, or people we don’t particularly like.

War & Peace

1 Peter 2:11

My beloved ones, I beg you—strangers and resident aliens as you are—to hold back from the fleshly desires that wage war against your true lives.

See fleshly desires for what they really are—war wagers.


1 Peter 2:16

Live as free people (though don’t use your freedom as a veil to hide evil!), but as slaves to God.

Being a slave to God is the ultimate freedom.

For God “demands” so little, when you think about it.

And what God desires is very, very good…for you…for the world.

Stay close.

Necessary Purgation

1 Peter 1:6-7

Yes, it mat well be necessary that, for a while, you may have to suffer trials and tests of all sorts.

But this is so that the true value of your faith may be discovered.

A couple months back I practiced lectio divina through 1 Peter, which is a meditative form of reading consisting these four parts:

Reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation.

If you’d like to read more about this practice, you may do so here.

So I thought I’d share some of what I heard as I went through 1 Peter in this manner. And I will say that this is the way I read Scripture most all of the time now because of how deeply it is allowed to sink in to my heart, as opposed to gathering more information for head knowledge.

OK, here we go…

To know the true taste of your faith, and experience its nourishment, you may have to drink the cup of suffering–of trials and tests.

To see something, whatever obstructs its view must be cast aside.

The idol of comfort is burned away in the fires of purification. Comfort sedates, anesthetizes. Purgation enlivens, sharpens focus, molds us into the Son.


Suffering’s Bad Rap

James 5:11

When people endure, we call them “blessed by God.” Well, you have heard of the endurance of Job; and you saw the Lord’s ultimate purpose. The Lord is deeply compassionate and kindly.

Some of the best yet strangest advice I ever received came from a pastor of mine about twenty-five years ago.

He said that when you’re going through a trial or suffering, the first thing you need to do is thank God for it.


My initial thought was the words of the great Rocky Balboa: “You’re mentally irregular.”

But it is mentally irregular, isn’t it? Yet it is proper, and upon reflection, the only real sane response to suffering. Trials can always work to build our endurance and character. We may not always allow it to do so, but it is the way patience and character are forged. It just is.

As followers of Christ, our thoughts on suffering needs must change at some stage. It is not just pointless pain. I like how C.S. Lewis said that pain is God’s megaphone. It is, isn’t it? If we can muster the focus to listen for a minute.

(Now to be clear, I do not pretend for two nanoseconds to know the why of each suffering instance, if God inflicts it, allows it, commissions the satan to carry it out, if it’s a natural consequence…but we do know that we are called to endurance in Scripture, to perseverance, and that we inevitably will have trouble in this world as Jesus told us straightforwardly. And that trials can/do produce these qualities in us quite effectively.)

So I believe our thoughts toward suffering need to transform.

First, when suffering or trials arise, immediately thank God for the trial. Sounds crazy, but I can’t tell you how much better of a mindset it has put me in when I force myself to do this.

Second, keep in mind that God has an ultimate purpose. Again, you don’t need to understand it all, or fret over your theology with regard to what is happening. Simply keep before you that God has ultimate purposes for earth, humanity, for you, and that these purposes are good and nothing will thwart them.

Third, never stop believing that the Lord is deeply compassionate and kindly, no matter what. The devil tries hard to persuade us the think the opposite. And if we think everything should always go our way, we can fall to that evil thinking rather quickly.

You don’t naturally connect the story of Job with God’s compassion and kindliness, but as we are conformed to the image of Christ, as our thinking is molded into God’s thinking, we are able to make that connection, accept what is before us, and be thankful that our endurance is being strengthened.


One Thing

James 4:4 & 8a

Adulterers! Don’t you know that to be friends with the world means being enemies with God? So anyone who wants to be friends with the world is setting themselves up as God’s enemy.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

I always love a verse that starts out with “Adulterers!” It’s like, “Listen up!!!” I’m gonna start using this when I really want to get someone’s attention…probably not at home so much.

One aspect of this message which speaks to me is how the world asks (demands?) so much of you, way more than one person can handle, but God asks really just one thing.

The world instructs you to look like this, have a perfect house, stay young no matter what, make sure your kids do what makes you proud, do nothing embarrassing, sound smart, live here, show no weakness, drive this car, have this phone, read all these posts, care about these causes, and on and on and on.


Not to mention, stupid.

But God, in God’s gentle, peaceful way, asks just one thing. For what really matters. Simply to draw near to him.

“Only one thing matters”, Jesus told Martha (Lk 10:42).

Be with me.

“Abide in me” Jesus told his disciples, and asks still of us today.

I looked up that Greek word for abide the other day, and found many wonderful explications of its meaning—to lodge as someone’s guest, to remain, to stay, spend time, remain in someone’s company, spend the night.

Jesus asks one not-so-confusing thing of us, knowing that everything else will then be as it needs to be, for it will be seen and done through the lens of abiding in Christ’s Presence.

The world on the other hand, asks so much of us, demands to keep up with such an insane volume of meaninglessness, that there is simply no room left over for God. Then we’re “forced” to try to squeeze God in where we can make him fit.

I love Michael Casey’s thoughts on this: “We don’t find time to pray, we make time to pray.”

If we’re going to draw near to God, some things have to go. That’s just how it works. We can’t do it all, there’s literally not enough time or energy.

As the old comedian Steven Wright said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”