Ambassador of Reconciliation

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Posted 5/26/14 at 2:53 PM | Diane Castro

What Are the Fruits? Part 2

Second Peter 3 contains Peter’s last written words to us. He wrote both of his letters to stimulate his readers to wholesome thinking and to urge them to recall the words of the prophets and the command given by the Lord through the apostles (2 Pet. 3:1-2). He speaks of the last days (3:3ff), when the heavens and earth as we know them will be destroyed (3:7, 10-12) to make way for “a new heaven and new earth, where righteousness dwells” (3:13). Since the time is coming when all that is corrupt will be destroyed and Christ’s reign of righteousness will be ushered in, we ought to be living holy and godly lives now, as we look forward to that day (3:11-12). We should be making every effort to be found blameless and at peace with him (3:14).

Next Peter refers to “our dear brother Paul,” who also wrote with the wisdom that God gave him (3:15). Paul’s basic message was the same as Peter’s: “He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters” (3:16). Then Peter says of Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (3:16). FULL POST

Posted 5/22/14 at 11:48 PM | Diane Castro

"Nobody cares how much you know...

…until they know how much you care.”1 This statement appeared in the commentary for our Bible study lesson on 2 Peter 1. Peter is coming to the end of his life, and he wants to transmit to his readers as much knowledge as he can. But he understands that knowledge alone is not what really counts. What really matters is that lives be transformed—Peter’s life and the lives of his readers. Peter wants his readers to see how much God has transformed him and how much he cares about them, so that they will be receptive to his message and in turn will be open to allowing God to transform them.

Do you have knowledge that you want to impart? Whether you are a parent, a pastor, a teacher, a boss, a blog writer, a commenter, or a friend, you have knowledge that you want to communicate to others. If you want them to receive it, let them know how much you care about them. You may be intellectually brilliant or theologically astute, but if you come across as arrogant, callous, or uncaring, your words will fall on deaf ears. FULL POST

Posted 5/19/14 at 1:27 AM | Diane Castro

Are You Free?

Second Peter graphically describes the corrupt character of false teachers and sternly warns us about the destructive effects of their life and teaching. One insidious way they deceive is by promising freedom while in reality causing people to be entrapped. As explained in the commentary from our Bible study:

False teachers promise freedom…. Every tyrant and impostor since the serpent’s devious discourse with Eve (Genesis 3) has promised freedom—an appeal to the latent human desire to assert ourselves over God. Not surprisingly, false teachers “promise…freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption” (2 Peter 2:19). Jesus said, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34); “whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved,” writes Peter (2 Peter 2:19). [1]

As I read those words about being a slave, I thought of friends who are smokers. Yes, they are free to smoke, but they are not free not to smoke. The smoking slavemaster can interrupt what they are doing at any moment and force them to put a cigarette between their lips. At the office it drives them outside in the dead of winter just for that precious drag. It holds them in its death grip and doesn’t let go unless met with a stronger power. Willpower alone is seldom enough; as one friend put it, “It’s easy to quit; I’ve done it a hundred times.” FULL POST

Posted 5/1/14 at 11:12 AM | Diane Castro

Three-Minute Theology

If you had three minutes to describe the attributes of God, what would you say? In our study of 2 Peter we discussed this verse:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Pet. 1:3).

Our lesson asked these questions:

What phrase identifies the means by which we can experience everything we need for life and godliness? How would you explain this concept to someone who asked you what it meant?

Peter says that we have everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us. So I asked myself, What is it that we need to know about God in order to live our lives the way He intended?

I believe there are two essential qualities that we need to understand about God: that He is good and that He is sovereign. Our lesson took us to Jeremiah 9:24: FULL POST

Posted 4/29/14 at 4:56 PM | Diane Castro

All Shall Be Well: Boston Marathon 2014

Last year at this time the city of Boston was reeling from the terrorist attacks that left four dead and more than 260 injured. I wrote about that awful day in “Terror at the Marathon,” and about how the city and the world rallied with love and support in “United We Stand.” Many selfless people courageously stepped forward to help the victims right after the bombings, and millions of people worldwide provided support in countless ways in the months following. The One Fund collected over $60 million for the victims in the first 75 days. People were also inspired to reach out and help others with needs of all kinds. For example, my daughter and others came together to do the whole Marathon route carrying 40-pound packs to raise money for veterans. FULL POST

Posted 4/4/14 at 12:33 PM | Diane Castro

Sarah Obeyed Abraham, Calling Him Lord

As we have been working our way through 1 Peter in Bible study, I have been taking a closer look at familiar passages in hopes of finding what God wants me to learn this time around. I have been both encouraged and challenged—sometimes comforted and sometimes made very uncomfortable.

The instructions to wives in 1 Peter 3 can be a stumbling block to women of the twenty-first century, particularly verse 6, which says, “Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” I have often heard this verse explained with reference to Genesis 12 and the similar story in Genesis 20, where Abraham told Sarah to say she was his sister, not his wife. Abraham’s plan is generally seen in a negative light. The explanation of Genesis 12:11-13 in the ESV Study Bible notes is typical:

Fearful that his life will be endangered because of Sarai’s beauty, Abram devises a ruse, based on a half-truth (see 20:12). Abram’s selfish actions imply that he thinks God is unable to protect him. Yet when the plan backfires, it is the Lord who rescues him (12:17). FULL POST

Posted 4/3/14 at 10:08 PM | Diane Castro

What Is Your Favorite Easter Hymn?

As Easter approaches it would be a good time to share our favorite hymns of the resurrection. Music has such power to drive home the message of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death and help us lift our voices in praise and adoration to Him. I invite each reader to share in a comment your favorite hymn(s), along with a link to the soundtrack if possible, and perhaps telling why it is meaningful to you. I will put the lyrics into the body of this post for others to be blessed. Here are three of my favorites—one very old, one a hundred years old, and one contemporary:

Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today
Charles Wesley, 1739

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia! FULL POST

Posted 3/24/14 at 11:11 AM | Diane Castro

Do Not Repay Evil for Evil

This week in Bible study we are on 1 Peter 3, where Peter first discusses husband-wife relationships and then gives exhortations about relationships in general. The lesson also took us to passages in Luke, Ephesians, and James for more instruction about how to treat others, particularly with our words. I would like to share these passages without commentary; they need no exegesis—only obedience. I will quote them from The Message, in hopes that a modern paraphrase might help us to see them with fresh eyes and to be open to being humbled and convicted by the Holy Spirit.

Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.
Whoever wants to embrace life
and see the day fill up with good,
Here’s what you do:
Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
run after peace for all you’re worth.
God looks on all this with approval,
listening and responding well to what he’s asked;
But he turns his back
on those who do evil things (1 Pet. 3:8-12). FULL POST

Posted 3/15/14 at 11:02 AM | Diane Castro

Resurrection, the Series

I was intrigued by the title and the clips in the ads for the new ABC series, Resurrection. Only one episode has aired so far and I don’t know where the producers are going to go with it, but I think it taps into a deep-seated human longing to be reunited with loved ones. Who can watch a boy who died decades earlier being restored to his parents without at least a little leap of joy in their heart? Who wouldn’t imagine what it would be like to have one of their own loved ones come back from the dead?

Of course, we know that it’s just fantasy. Nobody comes back from the grave after being dead and buried. It’s just delusion or wishful thinking to believe that someone might be raised back to life.

But wait! Jesus did come back to life out of the depths of the grave, and He makes us alive together with Him (Col. 3:13). How? Through faith in the powerful working of God:

You have been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (Col. 2:12). FULL POST

Posted 3/12/14 at 6:07 PM | Diane Castro

By the Righteousness of One

The epistle reading in church on the first Sunday of Lent was Romans 5:12-19. It made me take a closer look at the whole chapter to see what Paul is trying to communicate in this pivotal passage. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (v. 2), and what it is we are proclaiming when we celebrate the Resurrection.

In a recent post I explored the question of whether God loves everybody or just the elect or just those who love Him and keep His commands. Romans 5 reinforces the conclusion that God indeed loves the whole world (Jn. 3:16), that is, all humanity, and that Jesus died for the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2).

6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Rom. 5:6-10). FULL POST

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