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Do you want to know more about the Bible, but don’t know where to start? Maybe you’ve started, but have problems sticking with a daily Bible study routine? Are you tired of the same old devotionals and ready for something deeper? Swim in the Deep End invites you into the adventure of studying the Bible for yourself. It answers questions that many people have about Bible study: How do I find time? Where do I start? How do I understand what it means? How do I apply it to my life? And what should I do if I get out of my devotional routine?

This book contains practical answers to these questions and emphasizes relationship with Christ rather than religion. It also has thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter, making it useful for both individual and group study. The last chapter gives several study plans on topics such as the attributes of God, the will of God, suffering, anxiety, and conflict. It is a great tool for new Christians or anyone who wants to freshen up their Bible study routine.

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Approaching the Throne of Power and Grace

“…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” 1 Peter 3:22

“…according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Eph. 1:20-21

“Having disarmed principalities and power, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15

I think these are some of the most encouraging verses in the Bible!  Jesus is alive, and He’s enthroned at the right hand of His Father God.  Through His resurrection, He disarmed and conquered every single principality and power.  Having incapacitated them and rendered them powerless, He marches them through the universe, shaming and embarrassing them in their defeat. Like a proud hunter who uses the skin of his kill to make a new ottoman, they are subjugated to serve as His footstool, showing His complete domination.

What is most encouraging to me is the sheer scope of His victory.  Paul has to get his thesaurus out to make sure he gets the point across:  Jesus is far above all principalities.  And in case you’re not sure what he means by that, he adds, Jesus is superior to all power.  Not sure what all power means?  Everything that has any might at all.  And just in case you don’t get the picture, He’s also over all dominion and every name that is named.  Everyone. Everything.

But wait, Paul–do you just mean all principalities, powers, might, and dominion that we’ve heard of?  NO!  He means everything we’ve heard of and everything we haven’t yet heard of.  Things we don’t even know we should be scared of yet.  Everything in this age, and everything in the future has been subjected to Christ.  Not just some, but all.  Not just now, but forever.  No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes!

This includes not only spiritual principalities and powers such as angels, demons, and sin, but also things that go by the more familiar names of:

  • world leaders and governments
  • depression
  • racism
  • addiction
  • anxiety
  • loneliness
  • terrorism
  • that awful boss of yours
  • chronic pain
  • disease
  • painful memories
  • shame
  • eating disorders
  • an unfaithful spouse
  • panic attacks
  • grief
  • futility
  • despair
  • a bad temper
  • abuse
  • pride
  • lust
  • insecurity

Every name that is named.  Whatever controls you, Jesus has control over it.  And He invites us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Light_on_door_at_the_end_of_tunnel

Day 18: “Wives, Submit to Your Husbands”

As promised, today we will be discussing the command for wives to submit to their husbands in 1 Peter 3.  This is a loaded topic, which is why I chose Cross-Reference Wednesday for this discussion.  We must interpret it in the context of Peter’s entire letter and the Bible as whole.  I challenge you to check out the Scripture references for yourself, although this is a lot of info at once, so take your time.

Back on Day 5, we established that Peter was writing to Christians who were undergoing intense persecution.  Let’s take a closer look at what that was like for them. Before they became Christians, they conducted themselves in lustful partying, drinking, and idolatry (1 Peter 1:14 and 4:3).  When they believed in Christ, they left their old ways behind to “be holy, as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15).

The non-believers around them thought it was strange that the Christians no longer wanted to party or drink with them (1 Peter 4:4).  They started speaking evil and spreading rumors about the Christians (2:12, 3:16).  While many people assume 1 Peter 5:8 is talking about Satan himself, the word “devil” means slanderer.  Peter could have been referring to one or more non-believers who were persecuting the Christians by spreading lies about their conduct, beliefs, and integrity. Throughout his letter, Peter says that the non-believers reviled the Christians. Likely, this negative perception was affecting their interactions with the government, with employers, and within their homes. For instance, imagine this scenario playing out in the workplace:

“Oh you think you’re better than us now because you’re a Christian?  Well if you don’t want to party with us tonight, you can just stay late and clean out all the donkey stables.”

Or a non-believing husband to his wife:

“If you think you’re so much better than me, then why did I hear you gossiping about Mary last week?”

Peter gave his readers a three-fold strategy for reacting to the reviling and slander of non-believers.  First, they were to continue in their holy conduct and not return to their old ways.  1 Peter 2:1 encourages them to lay aside all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking.  By persevering in their good works, in time they would prove the slanderers wrong.

Second, they were to follow the example of Christ, who, “when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten.” (1 Peter 2:23).  Peter applies this call to suffer in three specific social areas, the first two of which are found in chapter 2:

  • 2:13-17— So the government is oppressing you?  Submit to their authority.
  • 2:18-25–Your master just assigned you to manure duty again?  Do it cheerfully.

Then he continues by saying, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear (the word “fear” in 3:2 has the connotation of reverence here as in 2:18).  If their unbelieving husbands reviled their faith, slandered them, and treated them harshly, they were to respond with kindness, gentleness, and longsuffering, while maintaining an attitude of honor, respect, and deference.

It is important to note what Peter was and was not saying.  He was addressing a specific situation:  an unbelieving husband persecuting a Christian wife because of her faith.  In this situation, he asked the wife to suffer willingly, responding to his reviling with meekness for the specific purpose that he might also come to believe.  Peter was not saying:

  1. That all women should submit to all men (“wives, submit to your own husbands”)
  2. That wives should always submit to their husbands, even if they tell them to sin (Peter’s own behavior shows that when it comes down to obeying a human or doing what God commands, we always choose God–see Acts 5:27-29)
  3. That wives with abusive husbands should continue to stay with them. Regrettably, Christians have a bad record of misusing this passage against women who are being abused by their husbands.  That is bad interpretation and also sinfully disregards the responsibility that we have to help the oppressed and confront evil: (Isaiah 1:17;  Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1).

Finally, the third prong of Peter’s strategy for dealing with persecution was to entrust themselves to “Him who judges righteously,” (1 Peter 2:23; 4:19), trusting that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12)  They could be reassured that in time, God would punish their persecutors (1 Peter 4:5).

Submission: “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”  Note the word voluntary!  Submission is not something that can be taken by force.  It can only be offered by the one doing the submitting.  Peter was asking them to voluntarily give up their earthly rights for a time because their inheritance in Christ was worth so much more in eternity.

By returning good for evil, the Christians would be acting in a way that would surprise their persecutors.  When their harshness was repeatedly met with patience and gentleness, they would be forced to ask, “what has gotten into you?!?” (1 Peter 3:15)  Which is why Peter told his readers to be ready to explain the reason for the incredible hope that was in them.  Through this, God would be glorified.  The road to glory, for both Christ and the believer, goes through suffering (1 Peter 4:13).

Peter was addressing a specific situation (persecution) with a specific strategy (submission) to a specific end (making new believers and bringing glory to God).  However, this does not mean we are off the hook as far wives submitting to husbands, because there are other places in Scripture that give more general commands as to what a godly marriage looks like, and it includes submission.

In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul says that marriage is a reflection of the relationship between the Christ and the Church.  Christ laid down His life, in selfless, sacrificial love, to save His bride, the Church.  The Church responds in obedience to Christ.  Therefore, husbands should be willing to lay down their lives in selfish, sacrificial leadership that has their wives’ own best interest at heart.  Wives, in turn, respect and follow their husbands.  Paul’s argument is not based on cultural, time-limited household codes, but based on the timeless truth of Christ’s relationship to the church.  Therefore, I believe that this is still relevant to modern-day marriages and is the design that God intended.  While this design doesn’t always work because of our own sinful nature, that does not mean the design is flawed, only the execution.  Personally, I find it liberating to submit to someone who has my best interests at heart.

Other faithful Christians disagree that the male headship/ female submission model is still relevant today.  In fact, tomorrow I will feature a post by someone I respect who holds the egalitarian perspective.  So keeping in mind that we will hear from another viewpoint tomorrow, what do you think?

How does the context of 1 Peter affect your interpretation of 1 Peter 3:1-2?

How does the rest of Scripture shape our understanding?

How does this work out in your own marriage or in other marriages you observe?

Thirsty, Not Guilty

We are halfway through our study of 1 Peter, and if you are anything like me, I suspect you could use some encouragement!  If you’ve fallen behind or missed a few days, don’t feel guilty:

Anyone who has ever devoted themselves to studying the Bible has also experienced the inevitable “dry spell.”  It’s inevitable both because of the sin that dwells within us and the crazy life circumstances that occur outside of our control.  Before we know it, we’ve missed one day, two, then a whole week or month of hearing from God through His Word.  Eventually, life reaches a “boiling point” where we get desperate for God, and we dive into a new devotional or Bible study with renewed vigor, starting the cycle over again.  What if, instead of feeling guilty when we got out of the routine, we felt thirsty?

Granted, we are guilty because we are sinners, but Jesus took away that guilt at the cross and declared those who trust in Him to be righteous.  No amount of reading, underlining, cross-referencing, or memorizing can make us more righteous.  No amount of missed quiet times or forgotten prayers can condemn us in His eyes.  So how about we stop with the legalistic guilt trip and call it like it is:  This world is a desert wilderness, and without a constant trip to the stream of living water, we are bound to be desperately thirsty! –Swim in the Deep End

“On the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

Day 1: Open Mouth, Insert Foot

The Gospels read like a blooper-reel of Peter’s blunders.  He’s full of passion, but not much understanding.  Some of his mistakes are rookie-level; others are mega-failures, such as his well-known denial of Christ on the night of His arrest.    Today we will look at Peter’s life from the time Jesus called him until Jesus was crucified.  Please read the following verses and jot down any important observations:

Matthew 4:18-20

Matthew 14:25-32

Matthew 16:13-23

Matthew 26:36-45

Mark 9:2-6

Luke 22:33-62

Discussion Questions:  What would Peter’s legacy have been if the story ended with Jesus’ death?  Can you relate to some of his screw-ups?

FREE study of First Peter and chance to win Chick-fil-a giftcard!

hope

Sometimes everything seems upside down and backwards of how it is supposed to be.  The extent of brokenness in the world has been weighing heavy upon my heart. The only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that this world is not our home.  The letter of First Peter reminds us that we are pilgrims and sojourners, and while we are grieved by various trials for a short time, we can also rejoice with inexpressible joy because of our salvation in Christ.  Through His resurrection from the dead, we are given a living hope that doesn’t perish or fade away, no matter what our circumstances.  Discouragement fades away in light of what is to come.  Peter experienced that in his own life and then wrote this letter in order to encourage others.

But in order to be encouraged, we must dig down deep into the Word.  When we experience disappointments, failures, and affliction, our natural response will not be hope unless we have read about it, studied it, and made it a part of our lives as natural as a heartbeat.  If we want hope that lasts, we must abide in Christ through the intentional study of His word and prayer!

On August 3, I am going to start a 30-day online study of 1 Peter, following the methods outlined in my book, Swim in the Deep End.  You do not need to have the book to participate, as I will be putting everything you need on the blog.  You will need a journal or computer to record your notes.  The study will last 6 weeks with 5 days per week.  Each day will challenge you to study the text and can probably be completed in 30 minutes or less.  If you would like to participate, please click the “follow” button on the right side of the page and enter your e-mail.  Then you will receive each day’s post right in your inbox.

To promote community interaction during this study, I will also be having a drawing for a $15 Chick-fil-a gift card.  To be eligible for this drawing, you need to comment on at least 4 out of 6 weeks of the study.  Comments that qualify will do at least one of the following:

  • Share what you are learning in 1 Peter/ how it applies to your life
  • Ask a question about what we are studying that week
  • Give a thoughtful reply to someone else’s comment or question

Please share this Bible study opportunity with others who could use some lasting hope!  I will see you in August!

How Much is Enough? (+free book download!)

The other day a woman I was counseling asked me a great question: “How much time should I spend in daily devotions?” She confessed that she felt pressured to live up to what other women in her small group were studying and how much time they were spending. I fought the urge to tell her exactly what I do for my quiet times, and instead answered her question with a question: “How much time do you need in order to have a vibrant and growing relationship with the Lord?” When I asked her that question, she was able to come to a reasonable answer on her own. I think a lot of people are unsure about what devotional times should look like, and often have the question, how much is enough? This is a subject that I address in Swim in the Deep End, as you will see from the following excerpt:

The most cited reason for not studying the Bible (according to my unscientific survey) is “I don’t have enough time.”  In fact, I have used this very excuse in explaining to my friend why I hadn’t been spending time in the Word.  Her response?  “We make time for the things that are important to us.”  Ouch.

Now I’m not going to say a specific number, like “you need to spend x amount of time studying the Bible every day” Remember, this is about building a relationship.  God refers to us as “friends” and the even more tender term, “children”  (John 15:15; Ephesians 1:5).  The relationship between Christ and His church is compared to the most intimate relationship of all, husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33).  Can you imagine what my husband would do if I told him, “Okay honey, I can hang out with you every morning between 7:00 and 7:15.  Except on the weekends, when I’ll be sleeping in.  Those days, I probably won’t get around to talking to you at all, except while we’re at church.”  What kind of relationship is that?  I wouldn’t communicate with my husband like that, so why would I do that with God?  While our communication isn’t strictly planned, it is regular and frequent.  Without consistent interaction, we would start to drift apart, immersed in our own worlds.

In the same way, a good relationship with God is a combination of spontaneity and intentionality.  It responds to daily circumstances, but is also comprised of daily discipline.  Some conversations are pleasant and easy; others require hard work and careful listening.

Like what you read? Click here to download the entire book for free now through March 8!