THE BEST IS YET TO COME

…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. – 1 Peter 1:4

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As the popular saying goes, April showers bring May flowers…but just like desiring the sun after days of rain, sometimes it’s difficult to wait for the good stuff to get here.

The book of 1 Peter was written to encourage Christians who were going through extended brutal persecution by the Romans. Today, we in the United State are not (yet) experiencing this kind persecution, but there are parts of the world where Christians are regularly tortured and killed for their faith. We are, however, seeing political/social persecution… such as being required to support abortion and homosexuality or face fines or even imprisonment. As we live in the “last days,” we should expect to experience increasingly more trouble simply for standing up for what the Bible teaches. But Peter wanted both the Christians of his day (and us) to know that, though they were “distressed by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6), this world was not their real home (1:17b; 2:11a; 5:10) and that they had an inheritance in Heaven that no one could take from them (1:3-5). In essence, he was telling them that the best was yet to come.

The Bible teaches that the days just before the coming of the Lord will be filled with dangers for believers, but we are to hold fast and not yield to the evils and temptations which will grow increasingly stronger (2 Tim. 3; 2 Pet. 3).  The enemy can use these chaotic times to make us fearful.  But remember that he is no match for the Holy Spirit living in us (1 John 4:4) and we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 8:37).  We should prepare ourselves for battle (Eph. 6:10-18), while remembering the battle belongs to the Lord (Prov. 21:31). We are living in exciting times and can have confidence that we have been given the tools to be prepared and victorious. for we know that the best is yet to come!

Fearful in a Scary World

The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear?  Psalm 27:1

Fear

As I watched the news today, I began to become fearful about events going on around the world.  Freedom is being threatened in Hong Kong, the Ebola virus seems to be out of control in west Africa, children across america are contracting Enterovirus that is paralyzing and in some cases causing death, and war in the middle-east.  All of these events are scary and things seem to be getting worse.  Will there ever be an end?  It’s enough to cause great fear for the future of our country and world.  What can we do?

We need to keep in mind that God is still on His throne and in control.  He always has been and He always will be.  In all things He has a purpose in either causing or allowing things to take place.  He is never taken by surprise or caught off guard.  But when our personal “world” is crumbling around us, it’s oftentimes difficult to remember but essential that we do.

We must also keep in mind that God loves us with perfect love and has promised that everything (good and seemingly bad)  that touches our lives will work together for His glory and our benefit (Rom. 8:28).  Jesus was tortured and killed was horrible; but God allowed it and caused it to work for the salvation of the whole world!  Also, we are living in the “last days” before Jesus returns to the earth for His people.  While that’s exciting to think about, it also means that the world is going to get worse and worse as it is being prepared to embrace the Antichrist.

As we live in this scary world, we are to keep on living for Jesus day by day.  We are to keep on loving our families, entrusting them to God.  We should make plans for the future, but we met trust God for that future because He holds it in His hands.  As the world becomes more scary by the day, we must never stop fighting against the enemy in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

We don’t have to be fearful.  God has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).  He holds us in His hand (John 10:28-30) and nothing can remove us from His hand or separate us from His love (Rom 8:39-39).  As an old pilot once said, “When days seem darkest because of the clouds, the sun is still shining.  We just have to climb up higher to be able to see it.  May we climb higher each day as we desire to let Him live through us and bring glory to His name (Gal. 2:20). His perfect love will cast out any fear we have (1 John 4:18)

You can be you…seriously!

I read a blog post by Dan Mancini this past week that communicated an essential requirement for a healthy and growing group.  A safe environment.  There is much discussion that I have about how a safe environment opens the door to community. It’s essential for building connection. But society shapes us to keep our guard UP!  To keep a safe distance between the world and the “real me.”   More than ever, we need a safe environment that we can deal with life’s struggles and hurts.

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What does it mean for an environment to be safe?  Let’s define and create it.

 
Dan put it this way. People who don’t feel safe shut themselves off from what the Holy Spirit might do in their lives through the group. In a safe environment, there are no obstacles and distractions to get in the way of the Spirit’s work. A safe environment is irresistible. We all crave acceptance and naturally gravitate towards the people and places where we feel it. And safe environments are full of acceptance.

 
You have an opportunity to create an environment in your group that makes it a brightly lit place in a dark and often unsafe world. Imagine if your group was a place where your group members could:

  • Let down their guard
  • Feel free to talk about what’s going on in their lives without fear of judgment or criticism
  • Be vulnerable
  • Feel valued and accepted

That kind of environment nurtures the sort of tight community that leads to spiritual growth.  If the point of a small group is to grow spiritually, then we need to help create the environment were that is most likely a reality.

What are some ways to create a “safe environment?”

Growing Pains

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure mild of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  1 Peter 2.1-3

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Is our desire really to grow?

I spend a lot of time burping babies at home…but when I come to church I spend a lot of time burping spiritual babies too.  It’s time for Christians to graduate from babyhood to adulthood in  Jesus!  I learned years ago that not everybody that grows old, grows up!  And that’s not only true emotionally, it’s true spiritually!

So what’s involved in our growing up spiritually?

 
1. PRE-GROWTH

 
Peter says that there are some things that need to be removed and left behind in order for you to spiritually grow up.

 
And until we’re willing to remove them, it doesn’t matter how many sermons we hear preached or how many verses in the Bible we memorize .. we won’t spiritually grow up.

 
Malice is an unforgiving spirit.  Deceit speaks of getting even with somebody who has wronged you. Hypocrites never grow up spiritually, because they are hypocrites.  Acting on the outside what you aren’t on the inside.

 

Most of us are not nearly as spiritual and wonderful as we pretend to be on the outside.  We’ve got to lay aside our hypocrisy if we’re ever going to grow up spiritually.
Envy is resenting somebody who has something good happen to them.  And Evil speaking is the result of being envious.

 
We’ve have been born again to GROW!  And in order to grow up spiritually .. there are some things we must lay aside, but if we don’t … we won’t!

 
2. PRODUCING GROWTH

 
Just as there must be some laying aside of some things … there must also be some things that produce GROWTH that we need to pursue.  In other words .. it’s not enough to simply lay aside these things.

 
YOU WILL NOT GROW APART FROM THE WORD OF GOD.  Suppose you walk up to me and said, “Jonah, I’m so weak, I don’t have any strength and can hardly walk”  And I asked, “Are you eating right?”  And you said, “No, I eat just a little one morning a week.  I wonder what’s wrong with me?”

 
If we are going to GROW, we have to FEED on the Word of God!

 
God’s placed within every baby the desire for milk.  When my children were born, the only desire they had was for milk in order to grow.  God placed that desire in them just as He has placed within those of us who have been born again to desire the pure milk of the word.

 
Be intentional and plan out your priorities. Set a time!  Decide on a place!  And once it gets into you, it will then come out of you giving you the nutrition and wisdom and strength you need to grow up and to stand firm.

 
3. PROMPTING GROWTH

 
Since we’ve experienced God’s graciousness, forgiveness, hope, inheritance, and have been born again to love one another, Peter says that should prompt us to grow.

 
We have tasted (come to experience) that the Lord is gracious.  The Psalmists says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”

 
As we grow, we will be better equipped to lead our groups and lead them grow as well.

A Missional Prayer Strategy

No matter what ministry we are called to, we are all missionaries to our world!  What is our mission?  Our mission is to reach the world with the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ.  If that is really our purpose we need to approach it with intentionality.  As we continue living intentionally,  we must be praying intentionally as well.  Our prayer life is instrumental as we go through life.  Not keeping it a priority is a misstep that I don’t want to take.  These 6 prayer focuses will keep our hearts directed to Christ and His desires for our lives.

 

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1  Pray for receptive and repentant hearts

 

Luke 8:15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

 

2  Pray for spiritual eyes and ears to be opened to the truth of Christ. 

 

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

 

Matthew 13:15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.

 

3  Pray for them to have God’s attitude toward sin. 

 

John 16:8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.

 

4  Pray for the person to be released to believe. 

 

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

 

2 Timothy 2:25-26 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

 

5  Pray for a transforming life. 

 

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is you spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

6     Pray for God to send them into His harvest field. 

 

Matthew 9:35-38 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.