Sunday Sermon: Of Funerals and Fires…the best teachers I ever had.

November 12, 2016

Last week at Fairview church we explored Ecclesiastes 1 and related  the need we all have to get off the hamster wheel.  So often in our lives we chase things we think we’ll make life enjoyable, or at least more tolerable.  But instead of being another rung up the ladder to happiness, those experiences end up being another rung on the hamster wheel. We expend a lot of energy and emotion and don’t really get anywhere.  Solomon chased every experience possible and discovered every pursuit under the sun, when chased for its own value, is worthless.  Life is best lived when you look beyond the sun. But in all of his experiences Solomon did have some excellent teachers.  Tomorrow at Fairview Church of Christ, we’ll look at Ecclesiastes 7 and see the valuable lessons he learned from Funerals and Fires.  Is it possible…that pain can reveal purpose, or even bring pleasure?  I hope you’ll can join us at 9 am for our Bible classes and 10 am for our worship assembly.

 

picture2By Sascha Grosser – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52988978

Advertisements

An Election Day Prayer

November 8, 2016

Our Father, the one who is enthroned in the heavens, we praise your name and set it high above all others. We honor your name above that of any candidate or any political party. It is you alone who has created us. It is you alone who has breathed life and purpose into us by imparting your Spirit into our hearts. It is to you and you alone that we owe all our allegiance. There is no one beside you and we pledge to put none other above you.
We pray that your kingdom will expand to fill the earth that you have created. We pray that the earth will be as full of your knowledge and glory as the seas are full of water. We pray that your reign will engulf and fill everything that is so that all creation will fulfill its purpose and find its meaning in you. We long earnestly for the day that every knee will bow, both in heaven and on earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord. All this will be to your much-deserved glory.
We pray that your will is done on the earth, just as it is not thwarted in the heavens. Help us to mold our will and bend it to yours so that what you want is what we want in every single circumstance.
Give us exactly what we need to live purposefully for you today. Give us the food that sustains our physical vitality. Give us the resources that help us provide clothing, shelter, and opportunities for our families. We acknowledge, however, that we are not truly sustained by all these things, but by every word that proceeds from you. Nourish our souls into your image so that we display the fruits of your Holy Spirit in our lives, especially in times of uncertainty and hardship. It is not we who take care of ourselves, nor do we trust in any man, any government policy, or any political ideology to advance our welfare. We put ourselves completely in your hands and depend on the strength of your everlasting arms to uphold us.
Please forgive us our sins just as we forgive those who sin against us. We fully acknowledge our brokenness and we are overwhelmed by the grace that you have brought into our lives. We realize that the rest of the world you have created is broken by sin as well. We know that this is not the way that you would have it to be. Help us to be a beacon of light that shines into the fractured darkness. Help us to impart grace and truth of Jesus the Messiah into the lives of those who have wounded us- especially to those who have wounded us deeply.
Father we beg you to rescue us from times of trial! Times of hardship tempt us to rely on ourselves and the things that we can see or possess for our own security instead of relying on you and the unseen power of your Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, we know that you intend to use hardship to be the crucible which strengthens our trust in you so that we may submit further to your will for our lives and allow any last vestiges of our own tiny kingdoms may melt away into yours. May we trust you fully in times of trial; whether the pressure we feel comes from neighbors, government officials, co-workers, employers, teachers, family, or even from fellow disciples of Jesus we entrust our welfare to you.
Deliver us from the evil one! Father he seeks to control the hearts of all our government officials. He also seeks to enslave our neighbors. He seeks even to penetrate your kingdom and turn it into his kingdom. He uses doubt and insecurity to attack us. He tempts us to respond to spiritual problems with worldly solutions. May his work not cloud our judgment and may we respond with wisdom and boldness to his threats. May his tactics and plans be brought to nothing!

img_0647

Image “Capitol at Dusk” by Martin Falbisoner. Copyright 2013. CC BY-SA 3.0 https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capitol_at_Dusk_2.jpg#mw-jump-to-license

We can pray this prayer because all Power and Authority resides in Jesus Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! His reign is your reign! All glory belongs to you forever! And this, dear Father, is just exactly the way we want it to be! Make it so!

An Election-Day Prayer

November 7, 2016

Our Father, the one who is enthroned in the heavens, we praise your name and set it high above all others. We honor your name above that of any candidate or any political party. It is you alone who has created us. It is you alone who has breathed life and purpose into us by imparting your Spirit into our hearts. It is to you and you alone that we owe all our allegiance. There is no one beside you and we pledge to put none other above you.

img_0647

Image “Capitol at Dusk” by Martin Falbisoner. Copyright 2013. CC BY-SA 3.0 https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capitol_at_Dusk_2.jpg#mw-jump-to-license

We pray that your kingdom will expand to fill the earth that you have created. We pray that the earth will be as full of your knowledge and glory as the seas are full of water. We pray that your reign will engulf and fill everything that is so that all creation will fulfill its purpose and find its meaning in you. We long earnestly for the day that every knee will bow, both in heaven and on earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord. All this will be to your much-deserved glory.

We pray that your will is done on the earth, just as it is not thwarted in the heavens. Help us to mold our will and bend it to yours so that what you want is what we want in every single circumstance.

Give us exactly what we need to live purposefully for you today. Give us the food that sustains our physical vitality. Give us the resources that help us provide clothing, shelter, and opportunities for our families. We acknowledge, however, that we are not truly sustained by all these things, but by every word that proceeds from you. Nourish our souls into your image so that we display the fruits of your Holy Spirit in our lives, especially in times of uncertainty and hardship. It is not we who take care of ourselves, nor do we trust in any man, any government policy, or any political ideology to advance our welfare. We put ourselves completely in your hands and depend on the strength of your everlasting arm to uphold us.

Please forgive us our sins just as we forgive those who sin against us. We fully acknowledge our brokenness and we are overwhelmed by the grace that you have brought into our lives. We realize that the rest of the world you have created is broken by sin as well. We know that this is not the way that you would have it to be. Help us to be a beacon of light that shines into the fractured darkness. Help us to impart grace and truth of Jesus the Messiah into the lives of those who have wounded us- especially to those who have wounded us deeply.

Father we beg you to rescue us from times of trial! Times of hardship tempt us to rely on ourselves and the things that we can see or possess for our own security instead of relying on you and the unseen power of your Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, we know that you intend to use hardship to be the crucible which strengthens our trust in you so that we may submit further to your will for our lives and allow any last vestiges of our own tiny kingdoms may melt away into yours. May we trust you fully in times of trial; whether the pressure we feel comes from neighbors, government officials, co-workers, employers, teachers, family, or even from fellow disciples of Jesus we entrust our welfare to you.

Deliver us from the evil one! Father he seeks to control the hearts of all our government officials. He also seeks to enslave our neighbors. He seeks even to penetrate your kingdom and turn it into his kingdom. He uses doubt and insecurity to attack us. He tempts us to respond to spiritual problems with worldly solutions. May his work not cloud our judgment and may we respond with wisdom and boldness to his threats. May his tactics and plans be brought to nothing!

We can pray this prayer because all Power and Authority resides in Jesus Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! His reign is your reign! All glory belongs to you forever! And this, dear Father, is just exactly the way we want it to be! Make it so!

 

Book Review: “The Thrill of Hope” by Bruce Green

November 17, 2014

Last Week I read “The Thrill of Hope: A Commentary on Revelation” by Bruce Green. I picked this book up recently because I am a member of the “Books4Life” club with Start2Finish Books. I’m glad it was sent to me, because I’m not sure I would have picked it up otherwise.

Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is notoriously misunderstood. The apocalyptic style of the book can be rather confusing with constant references to numbers and symbols we don’t understand nearly 2000 years after the book was written. This book is an easy to read reference work on Revelation, which gives it value. It gives the average reader in the church a way to relate to the text step by step without being overwhelmed. Green gives the readers explanation for things that make Revelation difficult for the average reader such as important symbols and numbers. He also does a good job of giving historical and cultural background information which enlightens the reader concerning the worldview of the original recipients of the book. He does not get bogged down in trying to knock down speculative end- times theories. Instead, he keeps the reader focused on the big picture. And I think he gets the big picture right, that is Revelation is about encouraging christians in the late first century to persevere through oppression, looking forward to the day that God will come in judgement on the Roman empire.

"The Thrill of Hope" by Bruce Green.

“The Thrill of Hope” by Bruce Green.

The book is brief and to the point; 226 pages is short enough for anyone who has a serious interest in Revelation to consume without feeling overwhelmed. Also the chapter divisions are short, sometimes only a couple a pages between chapter breaks. If the reader is really interested this gives him or her an excuse to keep going, giving it the feel of a novel that you don’t want to put down because you’re going through chapters at such a rapid pace.

A couple of features in the book I found to be helpful were The “FAQ” sections and the “What Have We Seen” sections. The FAQ sections are where he typically deals with the tough interpretive issues (For example, the meaning of 666 and 144,000) and gives him an opportunity to debunk popular misconceptions without letting it interrupt the flow of the book. The “What Have We Seen” sections are placed at the end of major parts of study and help summarize major points most readers might need to keep in mind as the study progresses.

There are some things I didn’t like about the book. The first that this book is presented as a commentary. If that’s what you are looking for you might be a bit frustrated. The text is handled in a more general way, hitting important/ high points in each chapter. It does not deal with the text on a verse by verse, or even a paragraph by paragraph basis. There are some good illustrations used for the text and at times modern morals/applications are presented. This gave the work the feel of a devotional book in some places more than a commentary.

Though it’s evident that the book is well researched, it does seem that Green relies an awful lot on one author. Generally I think his conclusions are sound and I don’t think it would detract from what the average reader is able to take away from the book.

I found this to be a very worthwhile book that would be especially helpful to person coming to Revelation with limited knowledge about the book. I don’t think it’s especially helpful to people who are looking for deep research and in-depth study.

The author of this work is the preacher for the Tenth Street Church of Christ in Opelika, AL. It’s published by Start2Finish books. $12.99 for paperback. $4.99 for e-book.

Book Review: Esau’s Doom by Michael Whitworth

June 2, 2014

How do you celebrate the failure of evil ideology without glorying in the personal failure of the one who holds it? According to Michael Whitworth, in his new ebook “Esau’s Doom,” there is a subtle, yet significant distinction between the the two. It behooves everyone, Christians and non-christians alike to learn from the failure of the Edomites to treat Israel kindly when she was down and out. It’s an exploration of the age-old adage of “hate the sin, love the sinner” which is so much easier said than done.bkpg-obadiah

In his newest study guide, published by Start2Finish books, Whitworth retains the style that has made his previous work successful. There is plenty of historical background to set the context of the book of Obadiah, which being one of the minor prophets, is usually lower on the priority list of those who have interest in Bible study. It’s a combination of serious, well-researched Bible study and relevant application written in an engaging, conversational style. It’s about 50 pages in length and easily read in one sitting.

Personally, I appreciated the fact that there was a nice summary of the author’s thoughts in the Epilogue. This was something that was present in Whitworth’s first work, “The Epic of God” that was conspicuously absent in his subsequent publications. It was good to see a nice “big picture” summary of the theme and application of the book feature at the end of his most recent work.

At times I found myself wishing that there were some maps published in the book. This was the only noticeable weakness I saw. The author brings out some points that make use of geography and topography in describing Edom’s relationship to Judah/Israel. It would have been nice to be able to see these things graphically demonstrated. But licensing maps can be cost-prohibitive, so I understand why the author didn’t include them. This work is the first in a series of e-books that will be collected later into a print study guide on the minor prophets. I am looking forward to the pleasure of reading future installments.

The e-book is available for a variety of e-book formats such as Kindle, iBooks, and Nook. It’s appropriately and affordably priced at $2.99. You can click on the photo below view the book on amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GTT1JL0/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00GTT1JL0&linkCode=as2&tag=sta2finblo-20&linkId=ACSR3FHUGXVVZ4UI

In the interest of full disclosure I will note that the author provided me an advance copy of the book (though I had already pre-purchased it) with the request that I write this review. He did not ask for a positive review.

So How Come People Don’t Like Christians?

March 4, 2014

Why do you think Christians get a bad reputation in the secular world?  Is it because the world is just too stubborn to see that it’s outlook is wrong and doesn’t like the message we are sending?  Maybe.  Do you think it might be because the world likes sin, has no desire to change and doesn’t like the message we are sending?  That’s probably part of it too.  Do you think they believe christians are hypocrites because they don’t always live up to their own message (and so they don’t like the message we’re sending)?  There’s no doubt about that.  But I don’t think that any of this is the main reason the secular world doesn’t like Christians.  Here’s the problem.

…They don’t think we love them.

Image

Yes, I know what your thinking:  “The world has a chip on its shoulder and it’s just waiting for anyone to disagree so it can take offense!”  I would say to some degree you are correct.  But how many hard feelings could be avoided if we accurately represented Jesus every day?

Sometimes Christians in Western culture take offense when the culture behaves aggressively toward them.  Even though we’re being censured to some degree, we don’t suffer for our faith in nearly in the same way that Christians did in the first three centuries.  But maybe there is some parallel in the Bible.  In his first letter Peter seems to be telling his readers how to handle slander from unbelievers.  In a world like ours there’s definitely a lesson to be learned.  So how do you handle it when people talk bad about you?  Do you respond in kind?  Do you preach a sermon?

Here’s what Peter said you should do if you are persecuted for Jesus; are you ready for it?

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;  16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3:14-16).

First things First:  Make sure Jesus is LORD.  If you do that you won’t compromise your convictions- regardless of the threat.  Only then can you be ready to  give a reason for your hope; to tell someone who is skeptical why you believe what you believe.  But how you behave yourself in these situations is just as important as what you say.  So Peter says to use gentleness and respect.  When I’m gentle I’m kind, warm, and friendly.  I disagree with someones lifestyle or worldview without being disagreeable.  When I have respect I let others know that they are valuable and worth something.  I may not agree with them, but I care about them.  The old saying “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” really does mean something, but we can’t afford to give people in the world the opinion that its just a slogan we use.  We don’t want them to think it’s just a pretense for being hateful.

Of course, how we behave toward those who are outside the church is just the starting point.  There’s also a strong impression that is made when outsiders look into the church to see how we treat our own.  Do they see us being patient with each other and our inevitable moral failures?  Or do they see us devouring one another?  I’m reminded of Paul’s encouragement:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. , lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1).

I don’t mean to insinuate that all Christians are guilty of not being loving.  I also don’t think that everything that outsiders believe is unloving or demeaning really is.  But we have to remember that someone’s perception is his or her reality.  And there is no doubt that some, maybe even most people who call themselves christians have some room for improvement in this regard.

It all comes down to this:  others will know we’re genuine in our faith when we show them how much it means to us, even when it causes disagreements.  They’ll know we are convicted if we’re willing to suffer for our convictions without compromise.  And they’ll know we’re genuine when we show them we care, even though they disagree.

“The Derision of Heaven” by Michael Whitworth

September 3, 2013

The Derision of Heaven is a study guide for the Old Testament book of Daniel.  If you liked The Epic of God, you will find that DERISION is a suitable follow up effort, following the same style that made EPIC so successful.  Once again Whitworth has made an effort to present serious research in an engaging manner for the average reader, while offering practical application in the talking points at the end of each chapter.

"The Derision of Heaven" by Michael Whitworth

“The Derision of Heaven” by Michael Whitworth

Daniel is a tough book to study because of the way the literature varies within the book itself.  The first half of the book is, for the most part, constructed as narratives told about  the the Jewish exile, Daniel, and his companions. The last half of the book is very apocalyptic.  But Whitworth is able to masterfully tie it all together and show its modern relevance.  His core message is that, much as in Daniel’s day, God’s people today are exiled in an increasingly secular culture.  The only suitable response is to rely on the sovereignty of God, realizing that he causes kingdoms to rise and fall. The church today can be encouraged by the example of Daniel and his companions as we try to make our way in this world as strangers and pilgrims, knowing our citizenship is in a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

I really appreciate the way the author deals with the apocalyptic sections of text.  There are many who get caught up in trying to decode every amazing detail of chapters 7-12.  Oftentimes interpreters read their preconceived notions about end times into the details of the apocalypse instead of letting the text speak for itself and learning the lessons that can easily be known.  Whitworth encourages us to understand the big picture. He gives likely explanations for difficult texts without being dogmatic.

Some of my favorite quotes are:

“Empires and superpowers rise and fall at God’s will. It’s this realization that causes me to be quite concerned about those Christians who seem prouder to be an American than a member of God’s eternal kingdom, one that cannot be shaken (Heb 12: 28).”

“There is something more important than preserving our lives or minimizing our pain, and it’s making much of the One who is present with us in the flames.”

“We build egotistical kingdoms and revel in our self-importance, but if we ascend to a higher plane, the view from above exposes just how small we are.”

“…faithfulness was more important than immediate progress. In God’s way of working, progress and success often occur so slowly that they are unobservable. ….If you can cultivate a heart that seeks faithfulness, not flash, you will enjoy the longevity Daniel did in service to your King.”

Regarding prayer he says, “Too often, we regard this weapon as a last resort, something to which we turn when we’ve exhausted every other option—“ All we can do now is pray”— as if we could do anything greater? Especially in times of crisis and persecution, Christians’ greatest weapon against tyranny and oppression is not the use of force or the consolidation of political clout, but prayer.”

The Derision of Heaven is available in paperback from the author’s website, www.start2finishbooks.com and Amazon.com, and from selected Christian bookstores (a full list of parter stores is available on the author’s website).  It is also available as an ebook for for Kindle from Amazon.com and for iBooks on iPad. The paperback retails for $12.99 in paperback and for $6.99 as an e-book.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book for free from the publisher and was asked to provide this review.  I was not, however, asked to give a positive review.

Going Traditional to Stay Contemporary?

March 19, 2013

Are the days of the stately traditional downtown church buildings over?  Not too long ago most observers would say “yes.”

For years congregations have been forsaking aging facilities in urban areas to flee to the suburbs to build modern structures.  They’ve spread out on campuses so they would have room to grow.  They’ve planned multi-use structures that would allow them to incorporate gymnasiums, coffee shops, and bookstores into their facilities.  Though these have incorporated elements of pop-culture into the life of the church that in and of themselves may not be wrong, it may be that that they have burdened themselves with too many things that don’t support the mission of the church.

Some who plant churches have simplified and held back costs by purchasing warehouses or renting auditoriums at schools or theaters.  Others are participating in an even newer trend – buying and renovating old church buildings.

Yes, those old, traditional, downtown buildings that were such a hinderance to the experience of a new, contemporary religion are being targeted by those who are starting new churches in urban areas.  Christianity Today reports that churches are deciding to acquire and remodel older buildings for modern use, rather than use more money to acquire land and build brand new facilities¹.

But the move is not entirely motivated by finances.  Mike Connoway, who has just started a new church in the previously vacant Trinity Presbyterian Church building in McKinney, TX says, “All of our 20-somethings love this old building….This reminds them of a time when life wasn’t broken.”  He says that young worshippers are wanting authenticity, so the building, the stained glass windows, the vintage lights, and the  19th century pews are all fixtures that allow them to “lay hold of that heritage.”  He says “the young people—they just get it. Something subconscious in them [says], ‘This is what it’s supposed to be like’.”  So even though the worship style will be inline with the new contemporary popular cultural style, worshippers will have these traditional fixtures around them to make their worship feel more authentic.

The problem is that there’s more to real worship that what you experience.  It’s not about what you feel.  Jesus once told a Samaritan woman that worship wasn’t about whether you were at the temple in Jerusalem or the Samaritan holy place, Mt. Garizim.  He said real worship was to be done “in spirit and in truth” (John 4.21-24).  Worship is more about what you are doing and what is going on in your heart than what is happening around you.

Paul told the Romans that presenting your body as a living sacrifice is “your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12.1, New American Standard Bible).  When he told them that he was speaking of the offering they make of their lives and comparing it to the sacrifices that were made as a part of the tabernacle worship of the Jews.  He said that service of worship was by it’s very nature “spiritual.”  The word we translate “spiritual” can also be translated “reasonable” (and is in the NKJ).  It’s the same word that is the root for our english word logical.  What Paul was saying is that their personal sacrifice was a service of worship produced from deep within themselves.  It was something over which they should ponder.  It was something they should wrestle with internally.  It was something that should be done deliberately.  It was not something that was a reaction to being stimulated by sights, sounds or smells.  Those things are all by their very nature temporary and earthly.  Though they are pleasurable they cannot produce thoughts that are really spiritual.

This is not to say that worship can’t be joyful and full of emotion.  If it’s genuine it ought to be those things just as much as it should be full of reverence.  But that joy, emotion, and reverence can’t be produced by your environment.  It is generated from inside you and it is no more authentic in a 19th century traditional building than it is in a warehouse, someone’s home, a street-corner, or a hospital room.

Remember that the quality of your worship is not something that can be affected by what is going on around you. If you allow your mood to determine the quality of your worship to God, it’s a sign that you may not be a spiritual person.  Be the kind of person who offers praise to God from a genuine, trusting, grateful, or broken heart.

1 Steffan, Melissa. “Flip that Church:  Why Construct a New Building When You Can Upcycle an Old One?”  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/march/flip-that-church.html

The Epic of God by Michael Whitworth

March 8, 2013

Every story has a beginning…and the beginning of the Bible, God’s story, is something to behold.  There are so many twists and turns in Genesis, the book of beginnings, that the story often doesn’t go the way you would expect.  There’s triumph and tragedy.  There’s faith and failure.  There’s rebellion and restoration. This story is radical and amazing.  According to Michael Whitworth, it may be best thought of as an Epic.

front.225x225-75In The Epic of God, Michael has given us a companion study guide that opens us to the world of Genesis by revealing it in its historical context, the Ancient Near East.  By explaining customs, laws, and ancient practices, he transports us into life as the patriarchs lived it.  We better understand what was important to them, how they lived, and the challenges they faced as they struggled to “exchange their fear for faith.”  We see how the faith of the patriarchs allowed them to see past adversity and trust in the sovereignty of God.

At the end of each chapter, the author provides thoughts on modern applications for events that happened thousands of years ago and helps us see that ancient events can enlighten us as we chart a course for a life lived by faith.  He weaves in humor and human observations along the way that help the book read less like a text book and more like a really good novel.  Want to get a better understanding what the ancients thought about the  ultra-bad guy, Nimrod from Genesis 10?  Michael says to think of a Chuck Norris joke and supply the appropriate punch line.  This is just one example of the humor and fresh insight that the author brings to the text.

Whitworth has done his research, which is  what makes the book so useful.  There are all kinds of footnotes for people who want to dig deeper.  But he doesn’t present his research in a  way that it will go over your head.  This book is great for local ministry.  Whether you’re looking for a resource to help prepare a Bible class or sermon on Genesis; or you just want to know more about God’s great epic, this book is what you need.

The Epic of God is published by Start2Finish Books in Bowie, TX.  The cover price is $14.99.  It can be ordered from Amazon.com.  There are also e-versions available for tablets like the Amazon Kindle, Apple’s iPad and Barnes and Noble’s Nook ($9.99).  You can read more from the author on his website, http://michaelwhitworth.com/start2finishblog.

Sharing Your Hope

February 13, 2013

How do you feel when someone laughs at you because of your standards of morality? Have people noticed your a Christian and called you a “Jesus Freak.” How do you feel when you watch the opinion pieces on the news and a commentator condemns your religious viewpoint and refers to those who hold it as “radical fundamentalists.” Those comments sting. And its not an accident. That’s exactly what they were intended to do. So how do we deal with them?

One of the major themes in the first epistle of Peter is coping with persecution. In chapter 3 Peter reminds his readers that Christians should not fear the intimidation of those that oppose them (vv. 13-14). Instead of being fearful or emotionally distraught at facing opposition. Peter tells christians to….

“…Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

The message is that when Christians come under pressure from the world, they have to be able to defend their hope. When Peter uses the term “defense” he is implying more than a formal courtroom defense. Instead, he demands a defense for “everyone asking you to give an account” no matter the time or situation. Our hope is not mere wishing. It is a patient, disciplined, confident waiting and expectation of the blessings God promises. Why are you confident in Jesus Christ? Can you give good reasons for your hope when skeptics rage or honest seekers question? Here Peter gives us the key ingredients that make a good defense.Question Mark

First, he says we must set Christ apart. You have to know the Bible in order to share it. But packing Bible facts into our brains doesn’t mean anything unless it makes a difference in our hearts. We have to put Christ in the very core of our beings and make him the Lord of our lives. At times the world will wage an all out assault. Fear may not be visible in our demeanor, but if it is found in our hearts it can cause us to crumble. If we take Jesus’ Lordship seriously then we won’t have to worry about whether or not we will abandon him under pressure.

Next Peter says we make our defense with gentleness and reverence. The attitude we show is as important as the defense we make. If we respond arrogance or hatred we would offend people who sincerely want to know why we believe what we believe and seriously hold back the cause of Christ. We’re not defending our honor. We are sharing God’s truth. Because of this we do not put down attackers, but humbly exhibit the attitude of Christ. We should always allow reverence for God to be a visible part of the defense of our hope.

Lastly, Peter says to keep a good conscience. A person who is confident in his moral character can make a strong defense because he won’t be afraid to have his weaknesses examined. Peter says that the one who speaks against a Christian’s good behavior is shamed by his own slander. When the whole world can see the life your living is good, there’s hardly anything that can be said to discredit you.

There are times in each Christian’s life when he or she will be ridiculed for faith and hope. Because of the Lordship of Christ in our hearts these times aren’t to be feared, but embraced. When we’re prepared these times don’t destroy our hope, they become the best times to share it.