Wednesday, October 31, 2007


"11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."
--1 Peter 2:11-12

I hate vegemite. Nothing more clearly and succinctly reveals that my dad and I were brought up in different worlds than our relationship to vegemite. I hate it. He loves it. I am an alien and a stranger to the world of vegemite. In the same way then that I feel alienated and estranged from the world of vegemite, so am I to feel estranged from the world of sin. The world covers its life with sin like an Australian covers his bread with vegemite and cannot fathom why we abstain from such a delightful treat. We once were sons of darkness but now we are sons of light--New birth into the new world which makes us strangers from the old. But do I hate sin as much as I hate vegemite? Have I been fully born into the new world or am I still a son of my earthly father?

Friday, October 26, 2007


"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
--1 Peter 2:9

Lord, I am called to declare the praises of you who brought us out of darkness and into your wonderful light. But today, your wonderful light doesn't feel so wonderful. There are days when your wonderful light seems to be blocked by clouds, and darkness prevails. Today, for me, is one of those. I see people around me in desperate need of your light. But who am I to point them to You? What am I to proclaim your light when darkness prevails? But I know you will return. The Israelites sat in Jerusalem in darkness as the Babylonians surrounded their walls. And so I will join in with Jeremiah who in the midst of their despair declared "Great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:23)

Thursday, October 25, 2007


"The priesthood of all believers" was a central tenet of the reformation. We don't need a mediator through whom to communicate with God other than Christ. So we can each one of us approach the throne of grace with confidence. There is a dangerous misinterpretation of this principle which we can fall into, because it fits American individualism so well. This is the idea that we really don't need anyone else involved in our relationship with God. If I'm my own priest, why do I need a church? I can go to God on my own.

But the principle speaks of a "priesthood," not a bunch of individual priests. One cannot be a priest if he or she is not part of the priesthood. The priesthood is a house, and we are the stones that make up this house.

It's hard to be a stone. It's hard to find the right place in the house to fit in. You might for a while find yourself in a spot that isn't quite right. You're helping to hold up the house but it's a strain-- you feel wedged in. So you try other slots. You move from the living room to the basement to the kitchen. Eventually, you'll find your spot.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
--1 Peter 2:1-3

How many of us really desire to become good people? Not because we think we need to be good to get into heaven or because we want to be people pleasers--not because others want us to be good but because we really desire to be good. Generally speaking, the five vices listed here all stem from an insecurity in identity. In particular, deceit and hypocrisy are carried out as an attempt to cover up who one really is or what what really does. Envy stems from an unhappiness with one's self or place in life. Slander is a way of bringing others down to one's own self-abased level.

There is an interesting grammatical translation issue which I believe drastically affects our understanding of this verse. Some translate the word for "rid" in a manner that reflects its participial Greek construction. In this view it serves to modify the main verb "crave" in verse two. This is how the KJV, ASV, and NASV translate it. This communicates the idea that these vices hinder us from drinking the pure spiritual milk we need. This line of thinking would reflect well Hebrews 12:3 "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles [in order that] we may run the race set out for us." But participles are often used and should be translated as main verbs, which is how the NIV, NRSV, and ESV translates the verb for "rid" in this verse. With this translation, verse 1 and 2 may be two independent thoughts, but more likely verse 2 becomes the means by which we are able to rid ourselves of these vices. I'm inclined to go with this latter interpretation. Growing up in our salvation is the process (viewing it negatively) of ridding ourselves of these vices which can only come through the drinking of pure spiritual milk.

Perhaps the most intriguing word in this verse is the word "crave." It is an imperative verb form. We are being commanded (perhaps to strong a word) to crave God's word (cf 1:23). Generally we think of our actions as being the result of one of two motivations-- either we do it because we want to, or because we have to--either because we desire to do it or because we've been told to do it. But here we are being told to want something. Bonnie Rait says "I can't make you love me." We can't be commanded to like something. But that seems to be what we are being told here. This leaves us with the mystery of desire. Where does it come from?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Matrix

"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you.
--1 Peter 1:24-25

A Dave Matthews song says, "Strange evolution how people have come to believe that we are its greatest achievement when really we're just a collection of cells overrating ourselves. Oh God I'm avoiding the truth." The thrust of what this is saying isn't all that different that what we find in verse 24 of this passage. It has an Ecclesiastes feel to it. "Generations come and generations go. . ." (Ecc. 1:4) "For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered, in the days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!" (Ecc. 2:16).

Some seem to be ok with this. Eat, drink, and be merry is the remedy for meaninglessness. And we are a society that has this way of life down to perfection. Some may dabble in religion here or there--a tool for finding satisfaction, but no different than a fork that brings tasty food or a cup that delivers delicious drink. Who cares if it's "true"? No one cares or debates about the truth of a glass of lemonade. Whether it refreshes is not a question for philosophers but for each one of us to answer on our own. To debate about absolute truth is as silly as debating about whether or not a glass of lemonade is "absolutely" tasty. If you don't like it, order something else.

It's all about expectations. Religious people simply set the bar too high and only set themselves up for disappointment. They either find God or find despair. But we take the middle road. We don't expect anything to last. Why get married? 15 years from now we'll just hate each other. "Sorry babe, you're just not stimulating enough norepinephrine in my brain any more." And there are plenty of ways to get our neurotransmitters firing. Hopefully one day it can be like in the Matrix and we can just lie in bed all day with an IV and a catheter with wires hooked up to our brains giving us all the stimulation we could ever want. Playstation 77.

"You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end." -Amos 6:4-7

During the concurrent reigns of King Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel the Israelites had all their neurotransmitters firing. If they were ever to find the life that God intended for them, he was first going to have to awaken them from their drunken stupor. "The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father, the son he delights in." (Prov. 3:11) Are we due?

"The word of the Lord stands forever."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Free Refills

"22 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. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."
-1 Peter 1:22-23

The coffee shop I'm sitting in used to have free refills. But now, I've got to savor each sip. War is waged over a scarcity of resources. When you think what you've got is going to run out there is a tendency to hoard it. You live thinking that you'd better suck every moment out of life while you can because eventually you will lose it. It will be taken from you, you'll miss out.

It is difficult, with this way of thinking, to truly love others. (Get your own coffee.) To love, to serve, to give goes against everything in us. To give will only bring us a quicker loss of the limited.

Unless what we have is unlimited--unperishable. Peter is telling us that we can love deeply and freely because it is impossible to lose that which is infinite. This is the living water, the well that never goes dry. Whatever we give up we will receive back 100-fold--Money, dream job, dream home, dream whatever (Mk. 10:30). Do we actually think that thing we want so much is really what we're after and not just a dim reflection?

There are free refills in heaven.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Reverent Fear

1 Peter 1:17-21

I have a number of friends whose parents immigrated to America and made tremendous sacrifices to ensure a better life for their children. What is common among these friends is a "reverent fear" for their parents. It is a reverence however that waxes and wanes and sometimes they forget about the hardships their parents endured for their sake. Often the hardships are difficult to understand. What's it really like to leave behind the security of familiar culture and plunge into a new world where even the simplest things like learning how to ask where the bathroom is become a daily struggle?

How much more then do we struggle to comprehend the magnitude of the sacrifice God made on our behalf? Really, I do not know how we are supposed to wrap our minds around "the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." And so often, we downplay the unexplainable. But it is the centerpiece of our faith--and I have no doubt that the more we get it the more we will live in reverent fear.

P.S. "He was chosen before the creation of the world." What do I even do with that? In one sentence he makes Newton and Einstein seem like little children.

Friday, October 12, 2007


1 Peter 1:13-16

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action. . ." It sounds almost like the end of a half-time pep talk. The first half went a little rough. They suffered many trials. And so the coach is reminding them what the game is all about. He's reminding them why they started playing in the first place. He's reminding them of the glory of the game. And now it's time to get back at it. It's time to step back onto the field.

I find it quite revealing that the first thing he mentions will be necessary as they start the second half is self-control. Central to the Christian life is self-control. I'm not very good at it. It goes against my nature and against my culture. It is a mindset that is completely antithetical to how our culture tells us we should live. If you like it, do it. If you want it, get it. If it feels good, touch it. If it smells good, eat it.

A hedonistic (that's for you Dave!) lifestyle is an indication of ignorance. Giving into unbridled desire is not only sinful, but it's stupid. We know this. How many times do we give into temptation because it offers immediate satisfaction only to regret it later on? So once again, "be holy, because I am holy" is not the command of a picky and anal God, like that annoying roommate who gets mad if you leave the cupboard open or the lid off your toothpaste, rather it is an invitation to the good life.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


1 Peter 1:10-12

We all love stories. Stories give us a birds-eye view of life. In 5 or 10 minutes we can hear of an adventure--the beginning, the struggles, the climax, the ending--that mirrors or is a microcosm of the adventure of life. I've told stories to my niece and nephews, and though they are usually very attentive listeners anyway, nothing draws them in more than when they find themselves in the story. If the rabbit with the cape or the talking dog has their name it takes on a whole new level of excitement. "Tell me a story and put me in it" is the cry of a child's heart.

And it is our cry as well. It is a cry that the Christian faith answers. Christianity is not a philosophy, though from its very inception when it was birthed at the great intersection of Jewish and Greek culture we have tried to make it one. Christianity is a story. "Tell me a story and put me in it"-- We all have a role to play in the unfolding of this great drama.

The problem is, we all want to be the main character. But the hero has already been cast. And it's not you or me. In fact the roles we play may often seem rather minor. As this passage indicates, the prophets were told quite frankly--"the story is bigger than you. You are only in the first act." But minor roles can play major parts. Serug, Peleg, Shelah (Luke 3:35)- had no idea that their great, great, great. . . grandson would be the Savior of the world.

So God tells us a story and puts us in it. Though for most of us the roles are very small. But when we see that the goal of our faith is the transformation of who we are, and that in fact the very unfolding of this story is what makes this transformation possible, we become happy to play whatever role God may have for us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Becoming of Salvation

1 Peter 1:9
". . .for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

Do I take the job in California? Do I go for the PhD? Do I marry xxxx? All great questions. These answers will all determine where you will end up. "He will go far in life"--this means he will make it to the top. But this verse reorients everything. The goal of our faith, indeed the goal of life, is the salvation of our souls. Now, unfortunately, we can secularize this goal and approach it in much the same way we approach everything else. If life is about where we go, or where we end up, then we can view our faith through this lens as well. Faith becomes about getting "saved." Faith becomes about getting into heaven. Now, I certainly yearn for the unfathomable beauties of the next life. But this verse is talking about something that we receive now. "Receiving" in the original has the sense of an ongoing process. Salvation here is not simply a matter of where our soul goes, but what it becomes.

There is incredible freedom in the understanding that this life is not primarily about where we go but who we become. The question then is not "what great things will I do for the Lord in my life" but rather "will I become the kind of person who naturally does great things for God?" Will my branches strain and bend at the weight of the fruits of the Spirit? Will my words and actions be apples and oranges to a hungry and thirsty neighbor? This is the salvation of my soul. And such a soul will fit in well in heaven.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pleasure and Pain

1 Peter 1:4-9

Pragmatism is the philosophy of our age. Which means that philosophy is dead, because philosophy is the investigation of truth. And pragmatism doesn't care about truth. It cares about pleasure and pain. The question isn't "is it true" but "does it feel good." Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain certainly seems like a good idea. The problem is that it's too near-sighted. So when Peter says that in the Christian life we may have to "suffer grief in all kinds of trials" we begin to wonder if full surrender is the way to go. In fact, says Peter, these trials, it seems, are brought upon us intentionally as a way of testing our faith. Will we like Job be proven genuine followers of God? Will we praise Him in the midst of storms? Will we "love him when we don't see Him?"

There are certainly times when I can only wonder if my faith is genuine. Pastors have very pragmatic pressures to keep up the faith. So there can be a myriad of reasons to believe, none of which stem from a genuine faith. So we need testing. We need to be beat down. Our faith needs to be refined so that no impurities steal from the beauty of true faith. True, genuine faith gives what pragmatism cannot even dream of--"an inexpressible and glorious joy" that transcends both pleasure and pain.

This might at first sound almost Buddhist. But to transcend pleasure and pain in Buddhist thought is to extinguish desire and longing. Christian faith does not seek to minimize or extinguish desire and longing but rather to embrace both pain and pleasure head on--to praise God for the glorious ways in which the material world can stimulate us and in the midst of trials to draw strength from Him who does not even remove himself from pain but willingly identifies with us in our suffering.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Second Chance

1 Peter 1:3 "Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,"

I never do things right the first time. So when Eminem says "you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo" (Can you hear me rapping?) I get nervous. Unfortunately, he is often right. There are those moments that come in life that may never come again, there may be no second chance. That interview that you blew. That catch that you dropped. That missed phone call. That time when you forgot the lyrics to a love song you wrote for 60 tri-delt girls. . .

But Peter is telling us here that God is a God of second chances. The Greek for "new birth" is literally "second birth." A second chance. This is a substantive difference between the world order and the kingdom order.

I find an important tension at work in the life of a believer. On one hand every moment is a moment given us by God to be used to extend his kingdom. Our days our short and we should take advantage of every opportunity. Carpe Diem. And yet at the same time we can rest in the peace that we don't have to live wondering and worrying if we've blown our only chance at the life we were supposed to have.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Grace to Obedience to Peace

"To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throught Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood. Grace and peace be yours in abundance."
-1 Peter 1:1-2

I am chosen unto a life of obedience. I am chosen unto a life of obedience to Jesus. Who wants to be obedient? I thought when you turned 18 that was when you got to stop being obedient? But a child's obedience is for his own good. If he's got good parents, then his obedience is for his own good. The difference between a child and an adult is not that an adult doesn't have to be obedient any more--it's that he realizes that obedience is for his own good. That's what it means to grow up and become mature.

We are all a bunch of children who still don't get that obedience is abundance. Lord, I don't know how to be obedient. At every turn, in my mind, my heart, my actions I want to rebel. I can't do it.

"Grace and peace be yours in abundance. . ." Grace because I need it to be obedient--abundantly--peace, the fruit of my obedience. May the sanctifying work of Your Spirit move me to obedience.

Peace means harmony. All systems go. Everything in me operating in sync with myself and with the world. I feel so disjointed. So does the guy serving coffee. He must be new here. I asked for a cup of decaf and a cup of water. Not a hard order. But he needed me to repeat myself. He seemed rattled. Disjointed. Not at peace. He was really trying to be nice and I could tell he felt really stupid for not remembering my order 3 seconds after I ordered it. He's racing around right now filling coffee cups, smiling, trying to figure out the register. Lord give him grace that he might experience peace. Peace is the fruit of grace--give him both abundantly.

Friday, October 5, 2007


So I used up all the pages in my last journal. this is quite an accomplishment because I usually lose my journal before I finish it. I lose everything. My brother bought each of my family members a pen that he thought fit them well. For me he bought not one pen but a box of bic pens simply because he knew that if he bought me a nice pen--I'd lose it. Actually, he did buy me a nice pen once--a gift for being the best man in his wedding. I bought him a nice pen too, and so we had a talk about whether or not we were going to use the pens with the risk of losing them or if we'd lock them in a safe and never touch them so as to ensure their protection. We opted for the former, agreeing that whoever lost their pen first, the other person wouldn't get mad. He was true to his word--but he'll never buy me a nice pen again. Anyway, all of this is to say praise God for myspace, because now it's no longer my responsibility to keep track of my journal. I'll try this blogging thing out--sometimes I'll make them private and sometimes public because if you saw everything that went through my head it might scare you.

I'm embarking on a project today-- to read through 1 Peter devotionally. I expect that all bible reading should be done devotionally-- but what I mean is that my central purpose is not to simply "understand" what Peter is saying but rather for my reading of the text to draw me into the presence of God and for that encounter to change the way I think and act on a daily basis. No doubt the latter cannot be done without also doing the former. But, I imagine that there will be times when my reading of the text will stir up something in me which is not directly related to the concerns which Peter is addressing, and I'm not going to worry too much about it if this happens.

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. . ."

Who am I? Am I a musician? Am I a pastor? Am I a Worship pastor? Am I a Christian? Am I an American? Am I a Dave Matthews fan? Can I be so bold as to say that anything defines who I am? Or am I a random collection of biological and cultural influences? When I meet someone on the street I tell them that my name is Kevin. And that's it. "Hi, I'm Kevin." I suppose that's the normal way of greeting someone--but really, as I read this passage I realize that the way I greet people is pretty lame. What does that person know about me after such a greeting? I don't know what "Kevin" means. . . wait--let me look it up on google, I'll be right back. . .

. . .Sweet!!! p.atheresa from Yahoo Answers says that Kevin means "beautiful or handsome." Of course, when I go to introduce myself to someone they are already going to know that, so there's no need for me to rub it in!!!! "Shawna" from Yahoo Answers says that Kevin means "gentle or lovable." Am I? This seems like the kind of title that can only be given to someone after the fact. I mean really, when I was born my parents had no idea what kind of perosn I'd be--gentle or lovable--maybe dumb, mean, arrogant--how were they to know? Maybe we should start naming people not when they are born but when they die. Or at least we could have people vote at our funerals as to whether or not we lived up to the meaning of our name or if maybe we should alter it on the epitaph.

But I digress. Peter totally shows me up on how to do a greeting. Using only a few more words he is able to communicate the very heart of who he is. He is an apostle-- a messenger of Jesus Christ. That's who he is. That defines him. That's what his life is all about. Being a messenger implies of course that you have something to say. You have a message. This is very dangerous today. Nobody is supposed to have a message. It's arrogant to have a message. It's arrogant to assume that you know something that someone else doesn't. I wonder if that's what Peter means when he says that we are "strangers in the world." Already, from the get go, simply with his greeting he has shown himself to not be of this world-- certainly not of the relativistic world in which we live today.

Am I a messenger of Jesus Christ? Can I legitimately make that a part of my greeting? Does that define who I am? What will that look like today? I don't mean "today" like "in this day and age." But I mean TODAY. October 5, 2007. I'm at City Dock right now. At the very least, maybe I'll smile when ever I make eye contact with someone.