Thursday, November 26, 2015

Touching Base, Part 288

Series: Living in the Margins
Part 9 -
Suffering: The Pilgrim’s Progress
1 Peter 4

During our series, Living in the Margins, based on the book of 1 Peter, we are going to be turning our Touching Base into a prayer guide. This aligns with how we want people to be growing at Bethel. Being prayerfully engaged is one of the marks of a disciple, it characterized Jesus’ life and ministry and is essential as we learn to walk with Jesus. We encourage you to use this prayer tool in your Life Groups, and in your personal prayer time.

Perhaps you used last week’s TB as a prayer tool in your Life Group or in your personal prayer time. Well, this week’s TB might help you walk out some of what you prayed into last week. Peter moves into the next section with, “therefore”, in other words now that I have said what I have said, here are some of the “so what’s”! Here are some ways you can flesh this out. In other words the WHO, referring to God and all He has done (v.3-12) needs to make a big difference in HOW you and I live. FAITH HAS FEET, and Peter is about to get somewhat specific in what that can look like. Use Peter’s instruction to help shape your prayer time and discussion time this week.

Sharing with others when we are suffering can be difficult and it is important to not make any assumptions about peoples’ experiences, either OF suffering, or what suffering is. It is also a very vulnerable thing to share with others. Discuss with the group how you would like to discuss this topic and confidentiality. Below are a few options for beginning the conversation.

- Perhaps you trust each other enough to share something that you (and your spouse, if applicable) struggled through.
- If that feels too vulnerable, maybe begin by discussing what gets in the way or hinders people sharing suffering.
- Different Types of Suffering (using the list below as a springboard, it is not exhaustive nor as clear-cut as each category)
1) Suffering that happens as a direct result of sin & disobedience.
2) Suffering that happens as a result of living in a broken world (sickness, natural disasters…)
3) Suffering that doesn’t make any sense (to us), but just happens. Think Job.
4) Any others?

This passage is particularly addressing those who have suffered BECAUSE they are living their life in a Christ-like way. To use Peter’s words: you are STRANGE to the world and they will mock you for it. Can you think of any examples where you have suffered or been mocked, made fun of, excluded, or marginalized for your faith?
- BE SPECIFIC HERE (it helps build traction with what those choices look like)
- If you have not had this experience, be open with this as well (and non-judgmental with others as they share) and maybe file this question away for further contemplation

READ 1 PETER 4 - Notice anything that draws your attention? Take a minute or two and share questions or observations.

Opportunities for Prayer:
1) Purpose. What is the purpose of suffering, specifically for those who are Christ followers?
“Therefore, arm yourselves with the same purpose…” Notice in our passage how Peter starts off his discussion on suffering, using a military expression AND creating intentionality toward it. Another way of saying this would be: prepare yourselves with the same way of thinking, or the same attitude”: “make yourselves ready with the same intention.” Cultivate the thinking and the expectation that you will suffer. To quote one commentator: “Like soldiers preparing for battle, believers should prepare themselves for suffering.”

What do you think Peter’s command to be of “the same attitude of Christ” meant? Name specific characteristics of Christ that His disciples can imitate that are different from the world. (Use 1 Peter 4: 7-11 as a start.) Have each individual share situations in which acting out of this character might apply and then have someone (or a few pray in the following way)
- thanking and praising Father, Son & Spirit for those specific characteristics
- asking with specificity (by characteristic) and BY NAME that each individual would become like Christ

2) Posture. What is our attitude to be in suffering?
Recall the verses from Proverbs 3, “Trust in the Lord, and lean not on your own understanding.” We may struggle with the WHY of suffering, or how to interact with God when we are suffering. Rather than share with one another the questions that suffering provokes in you, I’d suggest the following:
- Read Psalm 22 OR 62 OR 38 OR 86 (whichever resonates more deeply)
- Pray out of the psalms – putting into your own words for God the questions that come up for you as you think about sufferings or hardships in your life.

3) Practice. How do we live this out?
- Within the body of Christ. Peter spends some time in verses 7-11 reminding the readers of the behavior
- As we live in the world. What decisions and actions that we as Christ followers make can make us different from the world? Use this time to pray for courage to act like Christ.

4) Praise – comes through purpose (intention to suffer as Christ did), which changes our posture (to TRUST in God’s character & purposes, even though we don’t understand) by addressing our mind and affections, which results in a changed practice of living (the way we live with each other and in the world), and that is the praise (glory) of God.

It is only with the Spirit’s help that a suffering human finds him or herself praising God in a time of fiery trial. End with a worship song together, or praising the names and qualities of God.


Excellent books for further studies:
• Keller, Tim. Walking with God Through Pain & Suffering
• Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Touching Base, Part 287

22 Nov 15
Series: Living in the Margins
Part 8 - Did You Draw the Sword this Week?
1 Peter 3:8-22

During our series, Living in the Margins, based on the book of 1 Peter, we are going to be turning our Touching Base into a prayer guide. This aligns with how we want people to be growing at Bethel. Being prayerfully engaged is one of the marks of a disciple, it characterized Jesus’ life and ministry and is essential as we learn to walk with Jesus. We encourage you to use this prayer tool in your Life Groups, and in your personal prayer time.

Relationships are complicated at times, yes? Relationships play such a pivotal role in our sense of peace, happiness, joy or anxiety, stress and frustration. In our text today, Peter reminds his audience that regardless of the context, Christ followers are to respond in grace, not power. I want to encourage you to pray through this text today. You can be pretty-much guaranteed that there is some relationship out in your personal galaxy that needs a little grace, perhaps a touch from the grace-giver Jesus.

Text: 1 Peter 3:8-22
Big Idea: The greatest and most powerful Christian distinctive is not the exercise of power; it is the offer of grace (grace not power)

To see where Peter probably learned this lesson in a powerful way, check out John 18:1-11. You can also check out Luke 22:47-53 for more detail.
Note the contrast of responses:

Peter – Power – he drew the sword, self-determined, self-protecting, giving to someone what they deserve, hasty, impulsive, visceral.
Jesus – Grace – showing favour, good will, acting in a contrary way – meaning opposite in nature, direction or meaning.

Anybody wrestle with this?

Question: How do I draw on grace, not the sword?

1. Let God do His work in you (v.8) (maturity)

There is just no way that we can act in grace unless we have experienced God’s grace in our own lives. A grace response is a supernatural response. A power response is a very natural response. Note the operating assumption of v8- it is that God is at work in their lives deepening and maturing their unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender heart and humility of mind. The ask of v9 will seem ridiculous unless God is at work in their hearts.

Ways to pray
- Pray through these characteristics of healthy relationships that Peter lists.
- Add to your list as you pray.

2. Embrace your calling (v.9) (calling)

Go back to the scene in John 18. Who repaid evil for evil? Who did what was contrary (meaning opposite in nature, direction or meaning)?

How comfortable are we with this calling to bless others?
How does this play out in 2015?

Peter is not saying grace is giving the other person permission to do “whatever” to you. Grace is not repaying evil for evil, reviling for reviling. It is not saying roll over and let yourself be the center of someone’s bullseye. Your tender heart, humble mind, brotherly love are to shape your posture - grace.

Have you ever seen two Christians that don’t understand their calling to bless draw the sword on each other? How does that escalate the problem?
How does drawing on grace de-escalate the problem?
Think of our relationships with non-believers. When they draw on power against us and we draw on grace what is the contrast? What is the difference?
Pray into the need for healing in relationships where both sides have drawn on power and drawn blood.
Pray for Jesus to clean up the mess (like he did for Peter) that we can make when we forget our calling.

3. Watch your words and works (v.10-17) (integrity)

Read through these verses and note references to words and references to works (behaviour). Sometimes all you need to see or hear to understand if someone understands their calling and the big idea is to hear their words and see their works.

Are your words and works in alignment with your calling (i.e. to bless by drawing on grace not the sword)?
I don’t know about you but my words and works are most vulnerable to looking more like Peter than Jesus when someone else has drawn the sword.
Pray that your words and works will line up with our calling to bless.

Some in the group may need to take some time to repent of toxic words they have spoken over people that have been anything but a blessing. I bet Peter had a few choice words that lined up with his works when he did a little cosmetic surgery to Malchus.

Some in your group may need to be prayed over because toxic words have been spoken over them either by other brothers and sisters or non-believers. Our words and works need to be in line with our calling to bless.

4. Keep Jesus in full view (v.18-22) (model)

J.M.E. Ross wrote that verse 18 is “one of the shortest and simplest, and yet one of the richest summaries given in the New Testament of the meaning of the Cross of Jesus”

Note how contrary (means opposite in nature, direction or meaning) Jesus acted. I got to think that Peter not only thought of the cross but he thought of the ear incident when thinking about Jesus’ contrary behavior.

“We Christians must seek to communicate in a way that is shaped by the One who sends us, and therefore by the pattern of the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Holy Spirit. The manner in which Jesus was sent should shape the manner in which we are sent and the manner in which we speak.” (Christianity Today, Oct 2015 edition)

For comments on verses 19,20 see below. Yes, there is great mystery in why Peter inserts this here. I might ask him when I see him.

Notice the reference to baptism in v.21. Why mention baptism here? Baptism represents a complete break with one’s past life. As the flood wiped away the old sinful world, so baptism pictures one’s break from her old sinful life and her entrance into new life in Christ and a whole new way of living- not drawing the sword/power but grace. We are called to bless!

How to pray? We need to think about WDJD (what did Jesus do) to fully grasp the radically contrary way we are to respond to our broken world.

The more I think about what Peter is saying, the more I realize that grace is power, the Kingdom-of-God-kind of power that redefines how we impact the world around us. Remember the ultimate act of grace - the cross - was the ultimate act of power - “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:24)

Go bless the world!

Mark Kotchapaw


There are two primary views to this passage:

a) The first view speaks of Christ ministering through Noah, as he spoke to the rebellious men during the flood. Noah was said to be a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet 2:5). Support for this interpretation is seen in 1 Peter 1:10–12 as it says the Spirit of Christ ministered through the former prophets.

This would encourage the saints who were suffering for righteousness because Christ was rejected even through Noah. Only seven were saved by his preaching and that was Noah and his family. Therefore, what is happening to Peter’s audience has happened since the beginning of time. God saved those who were righteous, Noah and his family, and judged the lost and rebellious. Though persecuted for righteousness, the Christians Peter wrote to would ultimately be saved and the unrighteous judged.

b) The second view is that Peter is talking about Christ visiting Hades during his three days in the grave. In the spirit, Christ went to Hades, the abode of the dead, while his body was in the grave. While there, he spoke to the spirits in Hades.

Evidence for this view is the word spirit is not typically used of humans but of demonic spirits or angels. It would seem that Christ is there declaring victory over those spirits who had worked in leading the world astray in the days of Noah (Gen 6:2). Also, another evidence is the fact that Christ immediately went to Paradise, not Heaven, after his death (Luke 23:43). Paradise in the Old Testament was part of “Sheol”, where all the dead were located, both the righteous and the unrighteous (Luke 16:22–26).

Many would say these spirits are mentioned in Genesis 6 as angels who cohabitated with women during the time of Noah, creating giants, or Nephilim, in the land that conquered the societies (Gen 6:1–4). Other Scriptures seem to support that these demons were judged and kept in the prison of hell (a compartment in Hades) unlike other demons that roam the earth. We see support for this in Jude 6 and 7. Therefore, Christ would have been proclaiming a “public” victory over these demons that were active during the early stages of earth (Colossians 2:15).

This would have encouraged the saints because even though evil permeated the early world through the work of demons, the ultimate victory was in Christ. He defeated all powers and principalities in his death and resurrection (Eph 4:8–10).

Christ proclaimed his victory even to those who persecuted the righteous in the days of Noah. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15).

Therefore, these believers could trust that even though they are suffering, the ultimate victory has already been won in Christ.

(Source - 1 Peter: How to Live as Pilgrims in a Hostile World, Greg Brown)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Touching Base - Part 286

During our series, Living in the Margins, based on the book of 1 Peter, we are going to be turning our Touching Base into a prayer guide. This aligns with how we want people to be growing at Bethel. Being prayerfully engaged is one of the marks of a disciple, it characterized Jesus’ life and ministry and is essential as we learn to walk with Jesus. We encourage you to use this prayer tool in your Life Groups, and in your personal prayer time.

Think of a relationship where you do not have power or a position of influence but you want to have an influence for Christ. For some it might be a marriage, others a friendship, a family dynamic, a work-related context. You actually might have power and position, but because of your faith, your views are disregarded, your faith perhaps mocked and you feel very much in the margins. How can you get people to take your faith seriously? How can you have influence?

In our text today, Peter is addressing a particular situation where the wife of a non-believing husband is in the margins, no power or position of influence in that culture for the wife, yet Peter is encouraging her to have a spiritual influence. In fact before Peter raises the issue of marriage he has already addressed the Christian’s relationship with the government and in the work place. These are all contexts where they can have influence for Christ but have neither the power or the position - in other words they are in the margins. Guess what? We can find ourselves increasingly in the same situation. In the margins wondering how can we have influence?

How do people without power or position have influence? Influence for God! We encourage you to pray and discuss your way through the following principles that Peter outlines.

Big Idea: Tune In For Influence

1. Tune in to your audience for influence v1.2 (Mark)

Note that in all three scenarios, government, work and marriage Peter encourages them to be subject. This is a tune-in word. The idea is that we subject ourselves to the wishes, rules, desires of those we are in relationship to. If I am subjecting myself to the government I am tuned in to the laws of the land that have been set before me and I live in accordance with those laws. If I am in the work place, Peter says we are to be subject, tuned in to our bosses, subject to their expectations, the job description laid out for me. In this third context, the wife of a non-believing husband is to be subject to her husband. Tuned into his frequency, love language, understand his temperament. The woman might say- “ this is what I would like but I will submit myself to Him and do it his way.”

- What is the objective in our text? (v1,2)
- How challenging can it be to tune in to the person we are trying to influence?
- Here are some questions to ponder as you think of the context you find yourself in.
- How do they receive love?
- If you know them well enough you might know what their love language is.
- Do you need to step down from being the moral police for that person and let the Holy Spirit do His job?
- Have I prayed intentionally for this relationship?
- If I were that person I was trying to influence would I want to follow the Jesus they see in me?
- How hard is it in these kinds of relationships to lay aside my rights or preferences and subject myself to the ways and wishes of the person I am trying to influence for Christ?
- How hard can it be to “bite” my tongue and just demonstrate in conduct my love for that person?
- When is it appropriate to speak up? Note 3:14,15

This was no small task for the woman in this context. Dominant among the elite was the notion that the woman was by nature inferior to the man. Peter is saying if you want to have influence for Christ, it won’t be because you have power or position but because you have related in a way to your non-believing husband that helps them see, and experience the love of Christ.

Note - You will see in v.7 that Peter addresses the perfect context. My notes are at the end of this TB for further reflection. Of course none of us are in that perfect context; we live in a broken world, where influence for Christ does not come easy.

Take some time to pray into this principle of influence. Pray specifically for the people you want to have a spiritual impact on. Pray for understanding and insight into who they are and how you can relate to them in a way that will demonstrate the love of Christ.

2. Tune in to your heart for influence (v3-6) (Rhonda)

Said another way, this is the principle of influencing from a hidden place. Read the text - Peter is addressing women who not only influence from the margins in society, but who also face the huge challenge of influencing from the margins in their own homes.

Why do we need to tune in to our hearts for influence, and what exactly does that mean??

Verse 4 says “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.” Peter is challenging his audience to influence people for Christ, to attract people to Christ, not through external means, but rather to influence and attract them to Him because of the life that comes from within. To attract them (unbelieving husbands) but also to remember that this principle applies to everyone, to attract them by the adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit.

What is "letting my adorning be the hidden person of the heart, the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit?” Here are a few phrases I gleaned from several different commentaries about this passage - words/phrases like

In submission to the will of God
Not insistent on one's own rights
Not pushy
Not selfishly assertive
Not demanding one's own way

In contrast they used words/phrases like:


One commentary drew a connection between a gentle, quiet spirit and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 – 23):
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

Would you not agree that this kind of inner health and attractiveness is to describe both men and women in all of our relationships?

The ‘beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit’ is about being in a place of surrender to God so that He has permission to live His life through me without hindrance. To be so surrendered to Him that I don't get in the way of Him loving through me; that I don't get in the way of His fruit being seen in me. So surrendered that my pride, my selfishness, my vanity, my agenda, my "rights", my demands, my anger gets set aside so that Christ can be seen in me and others will be drawn to Him because I lift Him up with the way I live my life. Jesus calls us to let Him live His life through us so that the fragrance of His Spirit in us is beautiful, is attractive, is like adornment; HIS adornment.

I want to quickly ask, "How effective will I be in influencing someone (spouse, child, grandchild) for Christ if my inner person is (insert the opposite of what it should be) Even if I say and do the right things, if my heart isn't right, (pride, anger, unforgiveness), my influence will be compromised.

Take some time as a group to pray for heart health in our relationships where we want to make a spiritual impact. What do I need to repent of that could be hindering my witness?

Tune in for Influence!
Mark and Rhonda

V.7- Comments
This is a Christian marriage where the gospel has impacted both parties.
Notice the counter-cultural way the husband loves the wife- showing honour. In the first-century context such honour was typically unidirectional, flowing from those with lower status to those with higher status. Given this reality, the call for a husband to honour his wife would have struck a countercultural chord. Such behavior on the part of a husband toward his wife would have questioned the status systems that were assumed and defended in first-century Greco-Roman culture. Even further, the author states that for husbands to neglect this kind of behavior is to run the risk of their prayers being hindered (1 Pet 3:7). There are hints in this text of mutual submission that Paul talks about in Ephesians 5.

Note – “weaker vessel” - While in Hellenistic culture such weakness was taken as a description of a woman’s nature, moral and intellectual as well as physical, the point here is not to highlight women’s spiritual or moral weakness — 3 :1–2 counters such an idea — but rather their lesser social and physical capacity. In keeping with Christian tradition, that meant that they must be given the special consideration accorded those of lesser social and physical capacity, since they too are precious in God’s eyes.

(For further info, see The Church In Exile, Lee Beach)