Before the foundation of the world

1 PETER 1:10-25

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

REFLECTION

  • What has been something you have eagerly anticipated? What made it something you were looking forward to so much?
  • What does Peter say is the thing that the angels longed to see? Does that change or add to your understanding?
  • Peter is connecting the words of prophets of the Old Testaments to the work of Jesus Christ. Is it at times hard to connect the Old and New Testaments? Why or why not?
  • This connection is all part of a plan that started when? And in what way are we connected to this plan?
  • Finding our hope and faith in God leads us to do what? What is Peter’s charge to the reader?

ARISE & SHINE

In this passage we see that the Old Testament is connected to the New Testament. We also see that it all comes together and is fulfilled in Jesus. This was not a surprise for the prophets spoke of it—even if they didn’t know it at the time. And even before the prophets, even before the world was made, this has always been the plan of God.

Peter then wants the church to know that we are a part of this! Before the foundations of the world we, too, were chosen in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4). This magnificent, cosmic, eternal plan that is fulfilled in Jesus is also a plan so intimate and personal that it has a place for us. Know that his plan is not through yet, so place your hope in the one who has the power to see his plans out to the end.

To those who are elect exiles

1 PETER 1:1-9

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

REFLECTION

  • From just the first (long) sentence, what is Peter telling you about the recipients of this letter?
  • Peter talks of a “living hope.” What do you think of that phrase? How is our hope better described as a living hope?
  • What is described as more precious than gold? What tests and refines this precious thing?
  • Our living hope and our faith rest in Jesus Christ. Peter says the church has shown that they love Jesus, even though they haven’t seen him. How difficult is it to love like this? What are ways we can love Jesus ourselves, even though we do not see him?

ARISE & SHINE

The openings of New Testament letters can be difficult to read as they are full of dense and long sentences. But if we are patient, we can see how rich they are. We see that we have much cause for rejoicing, knowing we are kept and guarded by God. He has prepared an inheritance—unchanging nor diminishing in any way—for us that is kept safely in Heaven.

Patience is again needed as we live in anticipation of all God has done. We may face trials and persecutions, but Peter reminds us that the only way forward is to remember who we are in Jesus, and whatever we may face today our tomorrows are securely in God’s hands.

Feed My Sheep

JOHN 21:15-19

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”

(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

REFLECTION

  • The last hours before Jesus’ death were marked with three denials by Peter. Now after the resurrection, how do you think Peter would be feeling?
  • Jesus asks him “do you love me more than these?” What could “these” refer to? You may need to read more from John 21 to answer.
  • We may be able to answer the question of so we love Jesus, but do we love him more? More than our friends, more than our work, more than the life we are accustomed to and comfortable with?
  • Three times Jesus asks Peter to affirm his love. Why do you think he does that?
  • What is the job Jesus has for Peter? In what ways do you think Peter was well-suited for it?

ARISE & SHINE

Jesus did not die for us and then come back from the grave to seek out more chances to condemn his people. Jesus died to take the ultimate condemnation on himself. Therefore he can find Peter and offer reconciliation.

Three times Peter denied Jesus and three time Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to affirm his love. Jesus comes to restore Peter, and he even puts him into a place of leadership in the early church. Surely the church was blessed to have the influence of Peter who knew deep down that he was forgiven.

We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a place for us. In fact knowing our mistakes, owning up to them, and seeking Jesus’ forgiveness for them puts us in a better place to serve others who need forgiveness, too.

 

Write this song and teach it

DEUTERONOMY 31:16-22

And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.

“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel.

REFLECTION

  • Here we see that Moses is near the end of his life. What is one of the last instructions that God gives to him?
  • God knows that his people are about to turn away. Why is a song part of God’s plan to guide Israel?
  • Have you ever used songs to learn something? Do certain songs call to mind a particular time in your life?
  • What sacred songs about our God do you remember? Has God been able to use music in your life to help you remember what he has done?

ARISE & SHINE

We all can have extraordinarily short memories, but music has a way to stay with us. While we may have an endless amount of worthless jingles from commercials stored in our brains, God has something better in mind. God wants us to use music to store up and remember all that he has done for us. Life can distract and hardships can create a fog that makes it hard to remember and believe the good news of Jesus Christ. But let the wonderful story of Christ come through with the wonderful music that the church has crafted and passed down through the centuries. That way what can “live unforgotten in our mouths” is that we are not forgotten by our gracious God, who always has us on his mind.

I Have Called You By Name

ISAIAH 43:1-7

But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

REFLECTION

  • What sort of names have you been called in your life? How did you get these names?
  • Did these names affect your and the way you felt or the way you saw yourself? Were any particularly hurtful or encouraging? Did it matter who it was that was calling you something?
  • Were there names OK for some to use but not others? Were some names all the more special if used by certain people? Why?
  • How does God call us in this passage? Why does he call us? How does he view us?
  • What does it mean to you that God calls you the way that he does and values you the way we see here?

ARISE & SHINE

The names we are called can greatly affect how we see ourselves. The beauty of a passage like this is we discover that we are called by God himself. He knows us intimately and calls us each by name, and even more, he says that we are his. This is not insignificant. To call us his own comes at a price. In Jesus Christ, the price was ultimately paid on the cross to make us God’s very own people, a precious and honored people.

I AM the Resurrection

JOHN 11:17-26

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

REFLECTION

  • It may have been a tense meeting when Jesus came upon Martha, who was in mourning over her brother, Lazarus. How do you imagine she sounded in saying, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died”?
  • Martha had great faith in what Jesus could have done. But perhaps she was bitter at what he had not done. Do you ever ask God why he did not act a certain way or why some prayers seem to go unanswered?
  • Although Lazarus has died, Jesus promises that he will rise again. What do you think Martha thought Jesus was saying?
  • Jesus often goes against expectations in how he responds, and certainly does so when he says, “I am the resurrection.” What do you think Jesus means when he says that? What is resurrection?

ARISE & SHINE

While there was debate on the topic, some Jews believed that there would be a bodily resurrection of the dead on the last day. It was a distant hope that Jesus draws miraculously into the present. He reveals his power in raising Lazarus from the dead, but the truly wonderful event is when Jesus himself was raised from the dead, defeating death in the process. His resurrection secures for us the life he has promised. Jesus is what Paul calls in 1 Corinthians the “firstfruits.” His resurrection comes first, and all who are in Christ will share his future, too.

I AM the Vine, Abide in Me

JOHN 15:12-17

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

REFLECTION

  • How would you describe the ways that Jesus showed his love for his disciples?
  • When he asks us to love as he loves, does he mean to only love those who are our friends?
  • How did Jesus love the whole world? What makes it difficult for us to love in this same way?
  • How does Jesus help us in this difficult call?
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus, the Son of God, chooses to call you “friend”?

ARISE & SHINE

Earlier in John 15, Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” He wants us to realize our need and to remain close to our savior. As a branch draws its nourishment from its vine, our abiding in Jesus transforms us, provides for us to follow the call, and gives us a fellowship with God that helps us to remember and believe that we are greatly loved. To continue to abide—to pray and study and walk in his ways—is not a chore, but an invitation to deep friendship with Christ.

I AM the Good Shepherd

JOHN 10:1-21

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

REFLECTION

  • What sorts of responsibilities does a shepherd have over sheep?
  • What are all the differences Jesus lists between his being a Good Shepherd and all others (robbers, thieves, hired hands)?
  • In what ways can we, as sheep and his flock, seek to follow Jesus?
  • Do you think sheep always know where the shepherd is going? How much trust is needed?
  • What is the greatest thing Jesus will do to show his love and care for the sheep?
  • What do you think about the reactions to Jesus? Have you ever been so perplexed by someone, where you couldn’t believe what was being said, yet you couldn’t stop listening?

ARISE & SHINE

Jesus chooses this powerful image to describe the way that he is Lord. Shepherds were not highly esteemed nor well regarded. They were practically outcasts from the ancient society in which the disciples lived in. But a good shepherd was one who did everything to care for the sheep, and the sheep flourish under such care. So Jesus wants us to see him in this way—to recognize our need, to trust his guiding voice, and to understand that he loves us so much that he lays down his life for us.

I am the way, the truth, and the life

JOHN 14:1-7

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

REFLECTION

  • Jesus says he does not want his followers’ hearts to be troubled. What sort of things tend to trouble you?
  • What does Jesus want for us instead? What does he say to bring his disciples peace?
  • How can believing in God and in Jesus Christ affect our troubled hearts? Have you experienced ways in which your beliefs affect your life?
  • What does Jesus say he is doing right now? Does such work give you any comfort?
  • Jesus says he is the only way to the Father. How is this good news? What must we do to go to the Father through Jesus?

ARISE & SHINE

Many religions and philosophies are about how we need to find a way ourselves to reach God or find truth. The burden is placed on us. But the good news of Jesus Christ is that he is the way, the truth, and the life. We don’t have to worry about finding a way to God ourselves. Jesus says that not only has he gone to prepare for us, but he will personally come and take us there himself. Believe in him and let your troubled hearts find rest.

Who can forgive sins but God alone?

MARK 2:1-12

And when [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

REFLECTION

  • Why was Jesus so hard to reach? Can you list all the things the men did to get their friend close to Jesus?
  • When you face struggles in your life, do you tend to try to deal with alone first? Or do you first seek the help of those in your life that could be like these four friends?
  • Do those four friends heal the paralytic? What is their role? How can we seek to take on that role for others? How can we carry others to Jesus?
  • The scribes, leaders of the Jews, objected to what Jesus said about forgiving the sick man’s sins. They said, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” How does Jesus choose to respond?
  • Jesus can heal and forgive because he is God—God the Son. Even though we know that, do we still have problems that we think are too big even for Jesus to fix?

ARISE & SHINE

Sometimes we may be one of many helping hands; a friend to someone in need. Other times we may be like the one on the stretcher, needing others to carry us when we cannot walk. But we can never be Jesus in this account. Jesus is the only one who can heal, as well as forgive our sins. There is nothing the paralytic does to heal himself, for it is entirely the work of Jesus Christ, who heals, forgives, and then sends this man out. Likewise, we were as good as dead in God’s eyes because of our sin, but Christ has made us alive! Now the greatest thing we can do now is get up, walk, and carry others to Jesus. He has the power, and to him goes the glory.