VIDEO How Peculiar!

But ye are…a peculiar people. 1 Peter 2:9

Many of the older translations of the Bible used the word peculiar to describe the people of God. In the King James Version, for example, we learn that Israel is to be God’s “peculiar treasure” (Exodus 19:5) and that Christians are to be a “peculiar people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Newer versions update the language, telling us we are a special people. Peculiar now has a different connotation.

And yet…

A. W. Tozer wrote, “A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passes knowledge.”

How special we are!

Be not afraid to possess this peculiar character, for though it is misunderstood on earth, it is well understood in heaven. Charles Spurgeon


Longing for the Word (1 Peter 2:1–9)

The Forecaster’s Mistake

Let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. Jeremiah 23:28

At noon on September 21, 1938, a young meteorologist warned the U.S. Weather Bureau of two fronts forcing a hurricane northward toward New England. But the chief of forecasting scoffed at Charles Pierce’s prediction. Surely a tropical storm wouldn’t strike so far north.

Two hours later, the 1938 New England Hurricane made landfall on Long Island. By 4:00 p.m. it had reached New England, tossing ships onto land as homes crumbled into the sea. More than six hundred people died. Had the victims received Pierce’s warning—based on solid data and his detailed maps—they likely would have survived.

The concept of knowing whose word to heed has precedent in Scripture. In Jeremiah’s day, God warned His people against false prophets. “Do not listen [to them],” He said. “They fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:16). God said of them, “If they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people” (v. 22).

“False prophets” are still with us. “Experts” dispense advice while ignoring God altogether or twisting His words to suit their purposes. But through His Word and Spirit, God has given us what we need to begin to discern the false from the true. As we gauge everything by the truth of His Word, our own words and lives will increasingly reflect that truth to others.

By:  Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

What’s the standard you use when you decide whether something is true? What in your attitude needs to change toward those who disagree with you?

Loving God, so many claim to speak for You these days. Help me learn what You really have to say. Make me sensitive to Your Spirit, not the spirit of this world.

The Affliction of Paul

People’s problems may be different, but God’s response is the same: His strength is enough

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

It’s easy to assume that problems in biblical days were nothing like ours. So, what can a first-century missionary possibly teach us about the adversity we face in the year 2022?

Though Paul’s culture was quite different from ours, some things were the same—like temptation, hardship, and sin. Satan was a threat then as he is today. Therefore, when the apostle wrote of being burdened beyond his strength, he had experience to back up his words.

Though Paul may have “despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8), he believed God would sustain him during difficult seasons. As Jesus taught, divine strength can overcome worldly tribulations (John 16:33). That isn’t to say believers can avoid all sorrow and pain, but we know the Lord will meet our needs in every heartache and trial (Philippians 4:19). Our faith grows stronger when we trust Him in times of affliction. 

God’s strength is available to all believers who confess their weakness and inadequacy. Sometimes a troubled soul has only enough stamina left to admit, “Father, I absolutely cannot. If You don’t, it is simply not going to happen.” And that’s okay because in this mindset, we surrender ourselves to God. And as we wait, we’re in a good position to watch Him keep His promise. 

Lazarus and the Rich Man

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.” (Luke 16:22)

Many scholars believe that the episode reported in Luke 16:19-31 actually happened, that it is a true story. If it is a parable, it is not identified as such, and it is the only one in which the name of a participant is given. Christ related the story as if it were true. But whether history or parable, we can learn much from the contrast between these two dramatically different men, their deaths and destinies.

The rich man, of course, surrounded himself with luxury (v. 19) while Lazarus struggled each day just to survive until the next poverty-filled and pain-wracked day (vv. 20-21).

No one can escape the grave, however, and in the passage of time both died. But, rather than reducing those two different individuals to the commonality of death, their differences actually are heightened. The rich man, “being in torments” (v. 23), was aware of the comfort of Lazarus in “Abraham’s bosom” (v. 22). The interchange between the rich man and Abraham, and the timeless instruction Christ gave, are well known.

Note also the contrast between “carried” and “buried” in our text. The beggar’s body was no doubt unceremoniously dumped into a pauper’s grave, while the rich man’s corpse was placed in a costly sepulcher and his funeral attended by many friends and mourners. But look beyond the earthly spectrum. While the rich man begs for mercy and relief from torment, the poor man’s eternal spirit is “carried” (literally “carried off” or “borne away”) by a convoy of angelic beings into the presence of God, where “now he is comforted” (v. 25). For Lazarus, and indeed for all who die in the Lord, “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). JDM

Detached or Attached?

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. —Genesis 5:24

Enoch was a spiritual rebuke to his own generation. He fought off the wiles and the temptations of the devil. He purposed within himself: “I will walk with God by faith even if that means that I must be detached from my generation.”

Are you really detached from your generation because you resist the devil and walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Am I? That is a very personal question, and we dare not try to answer it for each other.

Our generation in this world system claims that there is no personal devil, no enemy of our souls. Yet, all the while, Satan is busy. He is using a successful, age-old tactic with many people. He is assuring them in a variety of ways that there is no urgency in the matters of faith….”Put off a decision until you feel you are ready.” That is the devil’s urging to those who are lost. As a result, millions have waited. And in waiting, they have never come to God in repentance and faith. JAF026-027

As of old [Christ] hung on Calvary between two men that represented at once both heaven and hell, so still it is true that the cross of Jesus is the dividing line between lost and saved men. CTBC, Vol. 3/322

Why Many Slip and Fail

If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.—Psalm 66:18

A Christian woman begged God to deliver her from an unforgiving spirit, yet deep down in her heart, she held onto it because of the way in which it served her unconscious purposes.

I want to suggest that you read the next sentence carefully, for in it lies the secret of the failure of many Christians to walk with “hinds’ feet” to the high places which God has prepared for them.

If you harbor resentment or hatred toward just one individual in the world, by that much you are separated from God Himself.

By just that much do your rear feet fail to track with your front feet and, in the pursuit of God, you are in danger of slipping over the edge to spiritual failure. Let me put it even more clearly—if anyone has sinned against you and you have not forgiven them from the depths of your heart, then your attitude of unwillingness is a sin against God.

Listen to what the Apostle John says about this: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen” (1Jn 4:20).

The very first thing we must do if we are to climb higher with God is make sure there is no bitterness or resentment lingering in our hearts. If you have not done so before, turn now in thought to all those who have trespassed against you, and forgive them—fully and completely.

Prayer

God, once again I plead for the insight and courage to see myself truly, for I may be cloaking my resentments with garments of piety. I would harbor no dangerous Trojan horses within me. Help me to be free of all resentment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

1Jn 4; 3:14-24; Jn 15:12

What was Christ’s commandment?

Try memorizing 1 John 3:16 today.

God’s Ways

He revealed His ways to Moses,

His deeds to the people of Israel.—Psalm 103:7

Are you satisfied with merely knowing the acts of God, or do you also want to know His ways? There is a difference. This difference is illustrated in the lives of the children of Israel as compared to Moses. The Israelites witnessed the miracles God performed; they walked across the dry Red Sea just as Moses did. They ate the manna and quail from heaven even as Moses did. They were content to receive God’s provision without ever knowing God Himself. Yet Moses saw beyond the provision of God to the person of God. Others, such as the Egyptian magicians, might perform miraculous acts, but no one else did things the way God did (Exod. 7:11–12). The way God acted provided a window into His nature. If Moses had been content with only God’s power, he could have accepted the presence of an angel and been victorious in his efforts (Exod. 33:15). But Moses wanted to experience more. He wanted to experience God Himself, not just God’s activity.

Some today, like the Israelites, are content to experience God’s activity without ever coming to know God. They are the recipients of answered prayer, yet they never come to know the Provider. They are blessed by God’s providential care over their families, their homes, and their jobs, yet they are satisfied not knowing the One from whom the blessings come. They benefit from God’s protection, yet they never become acquainted with the Protector.

Have you come to know God more personally as a result of your experiences with Him? As you observe the acts of God, look beyond them to the revelation of His character (Gen. 22:14; John 6:35).