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Putting in the Work

15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,
16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,
18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
2 Peter 3:15–18 (emphases mine) (All scripture from NAS)

A big danger in the church today, as it has always has been, hence the warning from Peter, are unstable, untaught men (and women in some cases) who lead and teach us. If you read the bios of those who have recently strayed, one cause may be they lacked the rigidity of steel forged in red-hot fire with repeated blows on God’s anvil.

First, the general principle is this. Paul instructs the church not to elevate a new believer to the post of elder.

6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 1 Timothy 3:6

This has nothing to do with the genuineness of the person’s salvation or sincerity or potential. It’s just that a person bound for leadership or for a role teaching God’s word needs intense preparation and testing to produce the stability and reliability required to withstand the slings and arrows of the enemy.

17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Galatians 1:17

The Apostle Paul spent private time in Arabia to be taught by the Holy Spirit and retool from his pharisaic past. Moses was off the grid for 40 years. Joseph spent some time in prison. The disciples had three years hearing the Words of God and seeing his amazing works. Even Jesus waited 30 years to commence his ministry. Because of the “subject matter” to be covered in order to be “stable” and “taught,” the process takes some concentrated time and tutoring.

For example, no physician can practice medicine without years in the classroom, internship and residency. If a budding surgeon, additional “fellowship” years are tacked on to hone the skills required to heal someone with a scalpel. So too, a preacher or teacher needs seasoning and observation to be deemed trustworthy (stable, well taught, principled).

What I see today oft times in the church are preachers who have not completed an in-person seminary experience. The apprenticing on the local level appears to largely include getting tossed in at the deep end with some on-line courses thrown in. What’s missing are the rigors of intense Bible study with a focus on the original languages.

Those given the responsibility of proclaiming truth need to have spent ample time immersed in the Word and its words, and at the feet of men who can dispense sound doctrine and inculcate the disciplines necessary to avoid future errors. The word for “error” here (v. 17) means to wander. Here’s what a reliable Bible dictionary has to say about the Greek word:

plane (πλάνη, 4106), lit., “a wandering,” whereby those who are led astray roam hither and thither, is always used in the NT, of mental straying, wrong opinion, error in morals or religion. Vines

We hear today of far too many men (one’s enough) who have wandered away from the faith. All too often they’ve lacked a firm foundation, been elevated too fast, are fueled by ambition and adulation, and are not prepared for hand-to-hand combat with Satan. When the going gets tough they “get going.”

Not everyone bound for the ministry can set aside the time or has the funds necessary to sequester for hours upon hours of instruction in hallowed halls somewhere, but is it not vitally necessary to force some kind of Arabian experience in before the launch?

A garage-band bassist (like me) desiring to hone his (or her) skills at Juilliard will lose his electric bass for four years. He’ll be handed an acoustic bass and be expected to practice it for four years for 10 hours a day. He won’t be performing, but learning basic music theory and how to read music. At the end, he’ll finally give a recital and be ready to commence his career. Why the pragmatism? Because from graduation day forward he’ll not look back, but be immersed doing the work of the “ministry.” Why should it be any different for a man of the cloth?

I had no such opportunity to spend the prep time in the practice hall, but learned on the job, using poorly developed technique, putting enormous pressure on my poor ears, not able to read a lick of music, lacking any knowledge of chord structure or the many scales. Looking back, I’d give my eye teeth for just a few years of good solid practice time and sound instruction. Yet, I’ve been playing at a high level for nearly 50 years, but wandering all over the fretboard!

What saves us all are our principles. If you’re unprincipled, there’s not much hope for anyone anywhere. But the principled know their limitations. They pray more. They study more. They work harder. They’re more careful (they measure twice before they cut). They’re more humble. They know that, “But by the grace of God go I.”

(We all need to strive for that stable place where we have a working knowledge of scripture and follow sound practices to determine the meaning of the Word before exclaiming it, or putting into practice. We should live as principled sober people wanting not to take a wrong turn, or to take others with us.)

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Pep Talk

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Isaiah 40:28–29 (NASB)

Down here we constantly need to remind ourselves of the constancy of God. He is everlasting. Nothing on this earth can be trusted every millisecond of every day but Him.

We also need to be forever reminded of the power and thoroughness of God. No detail of the earth’s creation was overlooked. He is the God of perfection.

He also possesses boundless energy. He is never spent. He rests only to contemplate the goodness of what he has wrought, not with hands on his knees, gasping for air.

His understanding is unfathomable. He is the God of mystery and of all knowledge. We can’t figure Him out, nor predict his response. But He always keeps His Word.

Our God is not stingy, but shares his strength and power with us. I am strong because He is strong, because He has chosen to make His abode within me! Fathom that!

One who possesses this God of constancy, of power, of energy, of all knowledge, of mystery in his or her soul, is surpassingly formidable, indefatigable and unstoppable.

Rest assured, as with God, he or she will be inscrutable in the eyes of the world.

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Time on His Side

8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8–9

You’ll not find a reference to billions and billions of years in the Bible. Not even millions and millions. You’ll find eternity though. God’s been on the clock for a relatively short time compared to forever. So this explanation is not to free up evolutionists everywhere, but to make a point that God has time on his side.

Further, he respects it only when he has committed to it. First, he got his creative work done in six days. That’s debated by some, but the word in Genesis 1 (yom) is the term for a physical day. I say, why not six days and a rest day, he’s God! When he placed the Southern Kingdom into captivity for 70 years, the sentence was served. When he talks about a future millennium, we can bank on it happening. Same goes for the preceding seven years of wrath. What about the three days before his resurrection?

There’s also a date certain when that final person is saved, and when Jesus comes back to earth a truiumphant king. Perhaps he keeps pushing that date out to allow just one more soul to enter his kingdom, before hope springs eternal! (3:9)

We get ansy when time seems to be standing still or when it’s waning. God doesn’t. He is the author of time. One last thing, whatever time we have on this earth, it is in His hands.

“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.” Psalm 31:14-15

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The Word is Out

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. 2 Peter 3:1-2

I wonder why Peter waited until Chapter 3 to disclose why he was writing. This doesn’t conform with the formula of telling your readers what you’re going to tell them in the introduction, telling them what you want to tell them in the body of the work, and concluding with a summary of what you just told them. Answer an essay question in this fashion and you’ll always earn points with your professor, even if you have only one point you can remember, especially if he or she’s grading a pile of blue booklets. But it does fit with his objective to provide us with one last reminder.

With Peter’s final words to us (literally) he reminds us to remember all his previous words, and all the words of the prophets, and the words of the Lord recalled by his apostles, even Paul’s that were pretty heavy, so that we might be stirred up to action, assuming that we are sincere in our pursuits of God, ready to react and respond in obedience.

We’re told why in verse 3 and following; the mockers are coming with their mocking. He was expecting his readers to react obediently as Joseph did to the news of Mary’s untimely pregnancy, to marry her straightaway. The word in the Greek for “stirring up” (diegeiro), or to stimulate, was in fact used in Matthew 1:24 to describe Joseph’s immediate response to the angel’s stunning news.

It’s interesting to note that by the time Peter wrote his swan song, some 19 books of the New Testament had been written, including his first letter. From his comment on Paul’s writings, the word must have gotten out. This is not to mention the entirety of the Old Testament.

All the above is to say this. There’s no excuse to not know the word. There’s no excuse to be caught flat-footed. We have been warned. Know this for certain, that mockers mock with lies and twisted statements. They lie through their teeth. To retain our peace of mind, and to confront them face to face, we need to know and use the truth. When Jesus was mocked, what he did offer up was the truth, and it stung. It may evoke a philosophical response like Pilate’s “What is truth,” but it’ll get them thinking. What we say might be “pearls before swine,” but we’ll have done our jobs. In any case, the truth, our truth, will set us free.

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No Other Gods

“Besides me there is no God” is repeated in one form or another at least nine times in Isaiah 45, enough times to catch my attention. I’m reminded that something similar is found in Exodus 20:3, leading off The Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” This theme prompts me to ask myself, “What other gods do I put before me, other than Him?”

The first I almost immediately thought of is the god of comfort. I want nothing to rob me of it, or to disturb it. Yet in God is all comfort. He does not ask me if I’m comfortable, like flight attendants used to do, but he does say he provides, and in fact, embodies comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3

The next is the god of certainty. I don’t want risk in my life. I want to always bet on a sure thing. There are many who live on the edge, but not me! What’s for certain is that there is nothing that is known for certain. But I’ve got to know, so I try in vain to cover my bets!

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! Romans 11:33

Third, is the god of security. I will do everything in my power to keep myself and my family secure, physically and financially. I study all the angles. I try to batten every hatch. I spend an inordinate amount of time watching my backside, and game-planning every eventuality. Perhaps I should say such wargaming is an obsession. From security systems to weaponry to FDIC backing, I need constant shoring up, or at least I think I do. But we will eventually, undoubtedly, be exposed in some facet of our lives. There’ll be a chink in the armor. Some breach in the wall. A break in the dam.

While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Finally, and there are surely more, is the god of life. I go to great extents to keep myself alive. Nobody gets in the way of my cycling time, but they do, and it aggravates me. I worry that failing to ride on the appointed day will cause me to lose my enviable under-50 BPM heart rate. Worse is the constant worry about any “novel” malady that comes down the pike, and the fear of the ever-lurking COVID-19 virus. Avoiding illness—to stay alive—can be become an illness. Both the pursuit of endorphins—to feel alive—and the fear of sickness—to stay alive—are gods to which I tend to voluntarily bow the knee.

Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life. Matthew 6:27

The truth is, there is a capital G God of comfort, of certainty, of security, of life, and everything! He’s got this. All of it.

There is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these. Isaiah 45:6–7

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The Nation’s in an Uproar

1Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? 2The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3“Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” 4He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Psalm 2:1-4

To say these are tumultuous times is a gross understatement. The nations—our nation—is in an uproar. Collective veins are popping out of necks and vileness is spewed, if one has not been de-platformed (a new word in our society). This meant quite another thing for those daggling from a noose!

In a sense, there will be a turnabout, and it will be fair play for an Almighty Righteous God. He hears them rile and rage against him, and that is what they are doing, because He stands for and is all goodness.

He has let out the line and they are running with it, but his hook is deeply implanted in their jaws. These fools sense some gained advantage, a false sense of freedom, and in their rashness exploit every conceivable opportunity, and create new ones, only to be still tethered to God, who sets the hook even deeper. He laughs and scoffs as He reels them in. They will thrash about in a final spiteful fit, but they will be swiftly gaffed, brought aboard, and ultimately consumed with fire.

While the world reviles, roars and rages, we watch and wait and pray. We are on the right side.

In the meantime…

Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him. Psalm 2:11-12

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Just Say the Word!

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3:3-7

When things seem to be falling apart in this world, and when does it not, the prognosticators come forth from the woodwork to exclaim that the coming of the Lord is near. On cue, there are those who will chime in saying, “I think it’ll have to get much worse before He does.” Both are wrong. It has never had to reach a certain degree of badness for God to have had enough and dispatch his Son back to earth. It may, in fact, be more accurate to say that a certain degree of goodness needs to be reached for Him to come back! (2 Peter 3:9)

Paul and other writers wrote of the imminence of Christ’s return. It’s a part of basic sound doctrine.

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Romans 13-11-14

This discussion is academic among those who read eschatological tea leaves. The bottom-line assumption is that the Lord will return someday soon. On this there is no material disagreement.

Peter takes issue with those who don’t believe in God’s plan, or his existence for that matter, and mock the sky watchers, placing them squarely in the “kook” category. Peter reminds us the world came into being by a spoken word, then was destroyed by water on the utterance of another, and annihilation by fire awaits, with permission to ignite perhaps on the tip of the Almighty’s tongue.

There’s a lot of reality to ignore to waltz merrily through life with no theological underpinnings, without awareness of the obvious. The presence of an inscrutable world populated with higher forms of intelligence, clear evidence of a previous worldwide deluge (if one merely looks out one’s airplane window over God’s sandbox), and a resilient nagging group of Cretans called Christians carrying around their precious bound Manifestos euphemistically called “The Word.”

Truth is, the truth is all about “the Word.” Deny it and you’ll become charcoal, so says Peter. Believe it, and you’ll be part of the Lord’s triumphant arrival to set things straight.

One last thought, a little more than 2,000 years ago God met with his Son in heaven and said a word, and the rest is history, that’s if you’re into that kind of thing. Scoff if you’d like, but His band of merry men were said to have “upset the world” with this story (Acts 17:6), which ended tragically with the Son’s death, and miraculously, quickly thereafter, his resurrection. It was then said in an account by the reputable doctor (Luke in Acts), in the presence of many eyewitnesses, that the Son ascended into the clouds, with angels pronouncing that He’d return in the same manner someday.

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

This “someday” has always been soon, but apparently delayed long enough for the mockers to come to their senses.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

Say “the word” and be saved!

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On False Prophets and Teachers—Part 2 (2 Peter 2)

Peter starts his letter with a pathway to sacrificial love:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

All these attributes, if possessed and increasing, render a person useful, fruitful (1:8) and stable (1:10) in their Christian walk.

But then he then discusses at length the ways of the false teacher (Chapter 2). It is ironic that some start an authentic spiritual journey hearing the words of a false teacher when they know nothing better, while their “guru” in secret wallows in sin. Tuck that away for now.

We need to understand that Peter addresses both the obvious, and, what the Lord sees (or perhaps the “spiritually appraised” sees, see 1 Corinthians 2:15). What the Lord wants in his servants is the constant process of searching their souls for any “hurtful ways in me,” as David put it in Psalm 139:24. The problem with the false teacher, he never invites the Lord to search his heart, but consciously exits the spiritual grid.

An unmasked false teacher is a pretty despicable and a sad sight.

These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 12-13

Here are the road signs on the road to perdition laid out by Peter. I’ll stick with masculine pronouns as I go down this road, but there’s equal opportunity here. The road only descends by the way.

First, there’s greed for fame and fortune (v.3). Soul winning takes a backseat to sole possession.

Then comes all the “a” words (if you check out all the Greek words behind these, they all start with the prefix “a” similar to “un”): ungodly (asebon) (v. 5-6), unprincipled (athesmon) (v. 7), unrighteous (adekous) (v. 9), and unreasoning (alogos) (v. 12). Here are the definitions: ungodly (living without regard to religious practice or belief), unprincipled (lawless), unrighteous (unjust), and unreasoning (brutish, absurd).

The false teacher is marked by liberal, lavish, loose, lustful, licentious, and lawless behavior, only thinly veiled by an the air of piety.

Here’s the final few chapters of the down-spiraling former “man of the cloth.”

It’s a slippery slope when you go there. Only one false step can bring about a free fall. The false teacher living on the wild side is characterized by daring self will (v. 10).

Second, the false teacher’s life is marked by reviling, reveling, and self-destruction (v. 12-13).

Third, the false teacher has eyes full of adultery. While in this vicious downward spiral, the eyes are “full of adultery that never cease from sin (v. 14).

Normal men are bent toward frequent thoughts of the opposite sex, but false teacher-types (as Peter describes them) have abandoned themselves to wanton full-on adultery in their minds, and, if at all possible, in person.

Who are the victims?

For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error. (v. 18)

“enticing unstable souls.” (v. 14)

Enticing by “fleshly desires” can be best captured in the work “lure.” The vulnerable or “unstable” are weak and changeable in views and attitudes.

Imagine the cunning it requires to shield from public view or the knowledge of a dutiful wife a torrid escalating affair! The lies begin early answering the question, “You’re not yourself, what’s bothering you?” Soon, the creeping around and control of communications becomes lax. You can’t remember your last lie. Then the crushing fall into bitter reality.

Fourth, “madness,” “black darkness,” and a dry spring (v. 16-17) await the false teacher. It’s only a matter of time.

Fifth, there’s arrogance, vanity and corruption (v. 18) in and around the false teacher. Despite the hole he’s in, the false teacher doubles down in his attempt to bring others with him, who are lucky (a non-biblical term) to “barely escape” his grasp.

The false teacher, while promising freedom to the masses (v. 19), is an abject slave of corruption, “entangled,” or interwoven, in a much worse state than at first, because he’s seen the other side, yet dimly (v. 20), but not gone there. He would have been better off if he never knew the ways of Christ. Sadly, he’s been paid in full for the wrong he’s done (v. 15).

To think about: How to spot heresy: Does the teaching destroy unity? Does the teaching deny Christ? Does the teaching lead to a decline in morality? Alliterated, does it destabilize doctrine. dilute the Deity and/or deemphasize purity? Be on the look out for all these things!

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On False Prophets and Teachers

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Peter 2:1

False prophets of old and the false teachers of Peter’s day preyed on the people’s ignorance of scripture. Both brought heresy alongside truth (their own choices, opinions). Both purposely introduced what they wanted to see in the future, and in scripture, to acquire power or wealth, or likely both. Both said things to tickle the ears. And nothing has changed since then.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires. 2 Timothy 4:3

Know this. False prophets fail the test of time. Only authentic prophets of the Lord utter what will be proven true in the future. And it’s important to understand in this day, the office of prophet or gift of prophecy is the act of pronouncing canonized scripture, nothing more or less. For example, Peter was writing and transmitting “2 Peter.” He had nothing more to add after that, or else there would have been “3 Peter.”

As for teachers, only God’s truth withstands close scrutiny. Sound biblical teachers cut it straight. What is taught is “healthy.”

We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming. Ephesians 4:14

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

To spot heresy, you must first be a student of sound doctrine.

In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 1 Timothy 4:6

Practically, be on the look out for the words, “I think,” and for opinions and interpretations contrary to the “verily, verily” statements of Jesus Christ (that is, “truly, truly”). For example, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. John 6:47

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 1 Timothy 6:3-5

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