Default Settings for Scripture

Scripture Focus: 2 Peter 3.16
He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. 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.

Reflection: Default Settings for Scripture
By John Tillman

The “default settings” of our mindsets about scripture have a big effect on our ability to make use of them in the ways Paul and Peter intend. Here are three to adopt.

The Bible is not written to us as much as it is written for us.
The Bible is, in one context, written by God to us. Paul tells us all scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3.16) But in another sense, texts are written by their authors to the audience they address. When Paul wrote 2nd Timothy, he was writing to Timothy in Ephesus, not to us. Paul also was not talking about the Bible that we have today. He was referring to the Tanakh and the versions of the gospels and church writings circulating at that time. Paul’s own writing is referred to by Peter as “scripture” so we know that early church leaders considered certain contemporary writings on a higher level than simple correspondence.

The Bible is not so much about us as it is about Jesus. 
We have a tendency to place ourselves in the stories of the Bible as we read them, experiencing them as we would literature. This can be helpful but we need caution and humility when placing ourselves in the story and we tend to overestimate how important our place in the story is. It is far more helpful to understand how the scripture relates to Jesus (as he explained to the Emmaus road disciples) than to understand how it relates to us.

The Bible speaks to us not only about the past, but about our future.
We will consistently misunderstand scripture if we do not labor first to understand its original meaning to its original readers. This means looking to the past. But scripture frequently speaks to us “from” the future when relating promises and prophecy that have yet to be fulfilled. We can look back and forward in the scripture at the same time.

Scripture is not written as much to us, about us, or about the past as it is for us, about Jesus, and about our future. 

These seemingly contradictory mindsets work together in tension. Just as a suspension bridge supports the weight of travelers through the tension between its anchoring points, scripture supports our spiritual journey by the tension between these truths.

May we walk in them.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Mathew 5.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 22 (Listen – 3:53)
2 Peter 3 (Listen – 3:21)

Read more about It’s in the Bible
God has equally difficult work ahead of him to fulfill his purpose in us. We are soaked in and blinded by our broken, post-truth world.

Read more about Keep Drinking the Milk of the Word
Peter, and by extension every Christian, is called to feed a flock, starting with the young. Starting with milk. Milk changes a lamb to a ram.

Sufferings and False Prophets

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 21.3-4
3 At this my body is racked with pain,
    pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor;
I am staggered by what I hear,
    I am bewildered by what I see.
4 My heart falters,
    fear makes me tremble;
the twilight I longed for
    has become a horror to me.

2 Peter 2.1-3
2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you…2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

2 Peter 2.9-10
9…the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.

Reflection: Sufferings and False Prophets
By John Tillman

Peter, in his time, warned of false prophets by looking back in history. We can learn from this method as well. In ancient times and today, when prophets warn of disaster, people often reject the simple, life-saving courses of action they recommend in favor of idolatry, conspiracies, and lies. 

Despite Isaiah’s repeated warnings, and those of his successors Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the people of Judah and Israel remained stubbornly in denial about the coming exile and suffering. 

False prophets of ancient Judah misled the people about the future, maintaining that Babylon would never conquer Jerusalem. They accused faithful prophets of being obsessed with gloom-and-doom. Some were maligned for being unpatriotic or hating their country. Some were arrested, killed, or accused of conspiracy against the king.

The false prophets of Peter’s day twisted the teachings of Christ to endorse radical individual freedom that rejected repentance, responsibility for actions, and personal morality. One of Peter’s main concerns was that the truth of the gospel would be maligned and brought into disrepute by these false teachers. 

False prophets we deal with today may be religious or political in nature but what they have in common is typically telling us exactly what we want most to hear. 

Like Isaiah, in a time of suffering we can set a watch, a lookout, trusting that, in the future, we will see justice done. Isaiah saw the eventual destruction of Babylon, including some of the details of the account of the fall of Babylon as experienced by Daniel. (Isaiah 21.5; Daniel 5.1-5) But rather than joy, Isaiah is physically sick and disturbed by the destruction. He had longed for the twilight of this kingdom that would take his people into exile, but when he saw the darkness fall, he was terrified and grief-stricken. 

We are confident, as Peter assures, (2 Peter 2.9) that God can both save and bring justice.

Like Isaiah, may we see beyond our current sufferings to God’s future for us. May we have confidence in the justice our God will bring on false prophets and the oppressors of today and tomorrow. And when we see their suffering, may we not rejoice, but weep.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “So always treat others as you like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets.” — Matthew 7:12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 21 (Listen – 2:32)
2 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:52)

Read more about Slavery to Maturity
Israel gained political freedom, yet were morally and spiritually fragile and prone to deceptions by Balaams and Ba’als and idols of the desert.

Read more about Blessing and Woes :: A Guided Prayer
Luke adds the woeful warning that when we are treated well, we are like the false prophets of old.

My Cup Overflows :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture Focus: 2 Peter 1.3
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

From John:
This week of Thanksgiving, we have focused on giving thanks, looking at ancient and modern poetry, writings, and prayers, offering praise and thankfulness to our God. May we continue in thankfulness, praying the prayer of joy below, as we approach the first Sunday of Advent this weekend. 

Reflection: My Cup Overflows :: Worldwide Prayer
A Prayer of Devotion from the USA 

My cup overflows! My cup overflows! Lord God you have blessed me so abundantly! You have lifted me up, and loved me, and forgiven me, and blessed me so richly. 

O loving Lord God, continue to bless me, that I might continue to bless others.

O compassionate Lord God, as my cup overflows with love and kindness and all kinds of riches, help me to see how I might share these blessings and your love with the rest of your children. 

O Gracious Lord God, help me to see how extravagantly my cup overflows, and to see how I can direct that overflow to do your work. 

Oh Mighty Lord God, give me the courage and strength to follow Christ’s example, and to share the abundance of my blessings, now and forever.

My cup overflows! Praise God! Praise the Son whose life shows us the true meaning of grace, servanthood and loving stewardship. 

Psalm 23.6
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. — Psalm 65.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 26-27 (Listen -9:49)
2 Peter 1 (Listen -3:06)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chronicles 28 (Listen -4:45) 2 Peter 2 (Listen -3:52)
1 Chronicles 29 (Listen -5:50) 2 Peter 3 (Listen -3:21)

Thank You!
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Read more about How to Know When to Give
If we are so comfortable giving that we barely notice, we probably aren’t giving enough, but giving should not cause you trouble or suffering.

Read more about Work, Ministry, and Generosity
For those who are financial supporters of their churches and other ministries, giving can be a way of bringing greater meaning to the workplace.

The Eighth Day

Scripture: 2 Peter 3.12-13
That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Reflection: The Eighth Day
By John Tillman

Peter encourages his readers about Christ’s second coming with thoughts that closely relate to the Jewish concept of the eighth day that was influential on early Christian belief and practice.

Justo L. Gonzalez writes about this concept in his book, A Brief History of Sunday:

Christians as well as Jews, did not believe that the repetitive cycle of a new week following another, and a new year following another, would be endless. There would be a day when that cycle would be broken, and a new age would dawn. This would be a final Sabbath, an eternal day of joy and rest.

Given their observance of the Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week, and the manner they related that day with the first day of creation, Christians would soon point out that the first day of the week was also the eighth, and that therefore what they celebrated on that day, besides the resurrection of Jesus and the beginning of a new creation, was also the promise of the eighth, the beginning of eternity.

In brief, the first day of the week, most commonly called the Lord’s day—the kyriaka or dominica—was taken as a celebration of the three great events of salvation history.

It was first of all the day of the resurrection of the Lord and therefore the beginning of the new creation.

It was also the very first day of the first creation, and therefore a time to rejoice in the goodness of God’s bounty.

And it was the eighth day of the week and therefore a day of hope pointing to the consummation of all things.

In our vitriolic culture it is easy to picture the second coming like a childish revenge fantasy where our enemies get theirs.

But Peter, despite his description of the violence of the day of the Lord, urges his readers not to gleefully anticipate the destruction of enemies but to dutifully make every effort to prepare themselves for the new creation.

The day of the Lord will be a day of destruction but not annihilation. It will be like the scraping of an old canvas to repaint a new landscape, or the burning and tilling under of a harvested field so a new kind of crop can be planted.

May we allow God’s Spirit to prepare our hearts to flourish, both now and in the new creation.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth to an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine into fresh skins!” — Mark 2.21-22

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 22 (Listen – 3:53)
2 Peter 3 (Listen – 3:21)

Looking Back at Good Friday

Scripture: 1 Peter 5.8-9
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Reflection: Looking Back at Good Friday
By John Tillman

Much of the conclusion of 1 Peter echoes words Jesus said to Peter in the week of Christ’s Passion or in the days following his resurrection.

“Your enemy the devil…looking for someone to devour,” recalls Jesus in Luke 22, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” And “Be shepherds of God’s flock…” is passing on Christ’s post resurrection reinstatement of Peter in John 21, “Feed my sheep…”

On this the last Friday of the season of Easter we also look back to Passion week and particularly to Good Friday, remembering that the Spirit that was to be poured out on all flesh came to us through sacrifice. We do this anticipating the celebration of Pentecost this coming Sunday, 50 days after Christ’s resurrection.

In his book, Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross, Richard John Neuhaus writes that Good Friday should be relived and reflected on beyond its place in the Christian liturgical year.

Good Friday is not just one day of the year. It is a day relived in every day of the world, and of our lives in the world. In the Christian view of things, all reality turns around the “paschal mystery” of the death and resurrection of Christ.

As Passover marks the liberation from bondage in Egypt, so the paschal mystery marks humanity’s passage from death to life.

Good Friday cannot be confined to Holy Week. It is not simply the dismal but necessary prelude to the joy of Easter, although I’m afraid many Christians think of it that way.

Every day of the year is a good day to think more deeply about Good Friday, for Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained.

One of the blessings of the liturgical year is that we cyclically return, again and again, to the most important foundations of our faith. But at times we can allow the dates on the calendar to be storage boxes holding holiday decorations that we only look at when the box is pulled down from the shelf.

That should not be. Let the messages stay on our walls year round and in our hearts throughout each day.

May the love we were shown on Good Friday be carried by us not just on Fridays, but on everyday.
May we stay alert, for the same adversary stalks us as stalked Peter.
May we accept Christ’s forgiveness, reinstatement, and commission, as did the Apostle, feeding and caring for the shepherdless sheep of our culture.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. — Psalm 85.13

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 17-18 (Listen – 3:44)
1 Peter 5 (Listen – 2:11)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 19-20 (Listen – 4:49) 2 Peter 1 (Listen – 3:06)
Isaiah 21 (Listen – 2:32) 2 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:52)

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