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Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (I Peter 3:10-11 – “Good Days: How to Find Them”)

“Life’s Good Days: How to Find Them”

I Peter 3:10-11, “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.”

This morning, we see morality being stripped from public consciousness, families crumbling, and many other things that can – and do – raise alarms and concerns regularly. Too often in the last several years, I have seen and heard well meaning people – including church members – getting too despondent over the state of affairs. When concern turns to despair, it indicates that faith is beginning to wane. Our faith is one of the strongest weapons we have to honorably fulfill our charge here in this life, and we should not allow the tide of the day’s battle determine how well we wield our weapons. Even in the midst of dark days and crumbling values, we can have more than life (existence). We can have living (enjoyment) as we faithfully go through our courses with the light of His glorious countenance.

Peter here has been building to a point that he is still not to in our study verses. The centerpiece of this epistle (both on the page and in thought) comes in verse 15 about answering the question of our hope and peace. Everything from our position, inheritance, example in Christ, and then virtuous Godly living that he writes about prior to that builds to the conclusion that we should be ready to speak about who we are, how we got there, and what we are determined to do in life as a result of being there. Whether it is being a good church member, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, etc. we should live a life that shows our hope and be ready to talk about it. But what about the verses before us? What is Peter’s point?

Peter starts our study verses with two qualifications of a desired state: loving life and seeing good days. All the commands that flow out from it are exhortations to achieve the two qualifying marks of this desired state. No one in their right mind living today would want something other than good days in their life. Yet, so many times we find ourselves wanting something other than our current position. Some of this is due to being such dissatisfied creatures, but much of it stems from not putting forth the right kind of effort to achieve it. For example, I know of some that have not enjoyed their church experience for a long time, yet they repeatedly fail to read their Bibles or pray for the church and her services. The best way to enjoy church more while we are there is to prepare more for it before we get there. The best way to enjoy life after God’s way is to prepare our hearts to seek Him in thought, word, and deed.

Notice the progression of these exhortations. The first area of ground begins with the tongue, and it ends with full life devotion. Human beings have a bad habit of talking about things that should really just be left alone. Peter exhorts us to keep our tongues in check that we do not allow evil to spill out of them. In conjunction with that, what we talk about should also be free from dishonesty. These two exhortations bespeak of us saying good things for the right reasons. Someone can speak the truth but do so with guile. They can be dishonest when portraying true things, and Peter commands us to not only refrain from evil things but also speak without deceit.

After the exhortation to the conduct of our mouth, Peter then moves into our “doing.” Our actions should mirror our tongue, and according to James, our body will move where our tongues go like a bit in a horse’s mouth or a rudder on a ship. (James 3:1-5) When the words fall in check as they should, the actions proceeding forth will follow in similar fashion. In our doing, there is finally some “seeking” that is commanded. We can become so disoriented at times that we do, do, do without a clear goal or directive in mind. Peter simply states the directive as seeking peace. When that is our heart’s desire and direction, good days can and will be found.

One of the things that I marvel at from time to time is Scripture’s clear and plain direction coupled with our failure to follow it as though it were some grand, complicated thing. People will rationalize not reading the Bible because it is too hard to understand. They will justify not attending church as they do not have enough time or other things came up. In these and other examples that can be cited, they feel justified in their course, and then they seem confused when things go awry leaving them downcast and downtrodden. Scripture – as in these verses – clearly states that to love life and see good days, we need to be speaking, doing, and seeking after this manner.

The Bible is replete with examples of those who saw good days in the midst of the storms of life and were able to enjoy themselves. Elijah enjoyed the food of God daily and then the company of a widow and her son with perpetual care by God’s providence during a 3.5 year famine. Abraham rejoiced to see Christ even on a day that he was called to make the ultimate parent’s sacrifice of his son Isaac upon the altar. Moses went back to enemy territory as a known criminal without fear: knowing that God was with him and would bless his efforts. No matter what is occurring in our lives, we can love our life and enjoy good days with the Lord while engaged as Peter has thus commanded.

These days are not dependent on health, weather, money, government, or any other natural factor. These days – to be good – depend only on the felt presence of the Almighty in our lives. Though He never leaves us, fulfilling these commands garners His attention and felt presence. Sometimes I consider my own life’s course to this point and gravely think of how inept and unprepared I am for battle. Our lives are so easy – relatively speaking – compared to those that have lived in generations past. Yet, our complaints mount to the skies, and we murmur so frequently about things that should be no more than passing thoughts before us.

Though not that old, I have learned that if I want to enjoy life more, complaining less helps. Thanking God helps even more, and remembering what I am through Him and will be with Him one day is tremendous. Heaven will be the best unending day, but glorious and good days can be ours to enjoy right now. May we help one another find these good days and enjoy life together. To do so, we must put away the things that are evil, first in our mouths and finally with our actions and desires. Peter’s words for this course are “eschew” and “ensue.” These words do not allow any wiggle room for self justification and rationalization of our decorum. Eschew means to completely avoid, while ensue means to completely follow. Evil is not something that can be played with and eschew it, while peace is not something that can be found while halfway looking for it. To love life, we must wholeheartedly follow after and pursue with fervency those things which make for good days here in this life. In other words, we find contentment in Him no matter the season or place or changes of life.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (“Duty of Man” – I Peter 2:17)

“Duty of Man”

I Peter 2:17, “Honour all men.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honour the king.”

This morning, people spend tremendous sums of money for professional help to answer basic questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”  There are doubtless cases when people are truly confused about the meaning of basic things in life as psychiatric depression is as real an illness to the mind as diabetes or cancer is to the body.  However, many today look for an “out” for not doing something they know they should do, and some want to smooth over and cover their laziness.  Society today almost fetes laziness sometimes hiding behind the curtains of “I just didn’t know.”  Sadly, God’s children can fall victim to this mindset as well.  True story: a minister visited a couple on an occasion to talk to them about some behavior in their decorum that could bring a reproach upon the church.  After laying out the problem, the minister was accosted verbally by the wife with, “Preacher, if you would just preach on this, we wouldn’t do it.”  While softly trying to express that these concepts were declared and expounded regularly from the pulpit, the woman got madder and madder as her “cover” for their slackness was falling to pieces.  Our duty is not a hard concept to understand, but regrettably, we fail to accept and follow it a lot of the time.

Our study verse is structured as 4 simple sentences, and when collectively considered, the whole of our decorum can be vividly seen.  While each sentence is a subject unto itself, the collection defines our duty easily and succinctly.  Before we consider these individual parts, we first need to understand that Peter’s main course through this portion of his epistle is to show that our example – Jesus Christ – is supreme in all aspects of decorum.  Verses 21-24 declare our Example’s conduct as clearly as our study verse shows the duties of our conduct.  Therefore, we will frame these individual parts against the backdrop of Him in all things.

“Honour all men.”  Peter’s first declaration is to give all men the respect befitting of our graciousness in the Lord.  The word “honour” here literally means to give value or estimation to something or someone.  Now, it is plain from Scripture that there are people in the world that are not part of God’s family that will spend an eternity in shame and contempt through punishment.  Matthew 25 describes these people as goats that the King will tell to depart from Him.  These people have no goodness in them, and faith is an alien concept, action, or thing to them. (II Thessalonians 3:2) So, if there are people in this world that are not good at all, how could we fix any estimation or value to someone (honour them) as is our duty to do?  Excellent question!  Consider the steps and conduct of the Master.  Though He will one day judge them in righteousness and banish them from His glory and blessings to utter ruin, He still gives them “types” of honour here.

One example would be found in Matthew 5:45.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ encourages His disciples to do good to others, particularly emphasizing those that are evil.  Why?  Even our Father sends natural blessings and honours unto the unjust as well as the just.  They get sunlight every day, rain in due season, and can live in nations that are blessed by the providence of Almighty God.  No doubt there have been goats a plenty living in America since her founding a couple hundred years ago.  Yet, they have enjoyed the liberties and privileges that we as God’s faithful believe come to us by God’s blessing.  If God can so give natural honour and goodness to these men, so can we.  If in need or having lack, we should be ready and willing to provide the blessings we can should the opportunity arise.

“Love the brotherhood.”  Though we should be faithful and honourable to all people and live in peace as much as possible with them (Romans 12:18), there should be something special about certain people in this world.  Peter here calls it the brotherhood, and the term is synonymous with Scripture’s reference of “brethren” or “brother.”  These are considered our kin, and in respect to Christ, the kinship goes beyond and further than natural ties and bonds.  The brotherhood should be the most special people on earth.  Paul showed this contrast in Galatians 6:10 when he exhorted the brethren to do good to all men but especially the household of faith.  While we should be willing to distribute and help our fellowman when he is in need, how much moreso should we do with the brethren?

To put it in the form of a natural illustration, I love children, and though people probably think I have lost my marbles from time to time, I like talking to the babies, toddlers, and young children particularly at church.  Sometimes they laugh at me, sometimes they draw up at my ugly countenance, but I still enjoy it.  However, with other people’s children, I am more reactive in my approach to them.  If they want to ignore me, that is fine.  If they want to interact, that is fine too.  I try not to press it.  However, with my own children, I take a very proactive approach.  If I call them, I expect them to answer.  If I talk to them or ask them something, I expect a response.  Why?  They are my children while the others are not.  When we honour all men, the approach may be a reactive one (if we see something or a need that we can help), but with our own brethren of the kindred in Christ, we should be proactive to them and with them.  Love does not wait to be asked to do something, but rather, it seeks objects of that love.  When I met the woman that would become my wife, I did not wait to talk to her or see if anything came up.  I went after her!  When it comes to Christ’s kindred in this world, our love should go after them to sacrifice ourselves for them as we can.

“Fear God.”  Many times we can get in trouble when we read a word as the same thing every time.  People confuse themselves terribly when they read “saved” or “salvation” the same way in Scripture every time.  While saving is a deliverance, there are many types and situations, which must be drawn from the context.  The word “fear” in Scripture is that way.  Oftentimes, Scripture declares fear as something good that we should do (like this verse, Psalm 111:10, Ecclesiastes 12:13, and others) while it is a bad thing at other times (I John 4:18, II Timothy 1:7).  How do we reconcile this?  Bad fear is literally a mortal dread and anxiety that can grip and paralyze us.  Such a fear we should seek to avoid, knowing that we have a merciful God in heaven that takes care of us.  The good fear in the Bible literally means respect, reverence, and obedience.

The fear of God that we should exhibit as our duty on earth does not mean cowering in the corner hoping He does not kick us on His way by.  That is what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden after the fall.  The fear of Him that gives wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and instruction indicates that we have such respect for Him and His ways that we desire to please Him in all things.  If He commands it, so be it.  If He forbids it, so be it.  This is the same kind of fear that children should learn and show for their parents since the parents are charged with their care and upbringing.  That kind of responsibility deserves and demands respect, and how much more for our Father in heaven for all the care and responsibility that He has taken for us!  Surely one that has done so much and held us so dear deserves all the respect and reverence that our being can display!

“Honour the king.”  One might wonder why this commandment is included as it would seem to be understood in the first command in the verse of “Honour all men.”  Though honouring the king is a subset but included in honouring all men, the Bible will from time to time emphasize something for our benefit.  As fallen, broken creatures, we need reminding about different things and some things more than others.  We could be told to honour all men, but by emphasizing the king, Scripture gives us reason to think that honouring the king might be more difficult from time to time than the general command.  Hence, the emphasis.  Consider that bad rulers have plagued human history, and will likely continue to do in the future.  It would be far easier to help someone in need that you had never seen act poorly than it would be to honour an earthly ruler or magistrate whose sins had been evident for all to see.  We have a tendency to hold and harbor ill feelings to those that we feel personally wronged by.  Ruling over people is difficult in this way even for those that try to rule well.  Your shortcomings are more manifest than others, making you the repeated target of grudges, abuse, etc.

When considering Paul’s openings to his epistles, there is a slight variation between “church epistles” and “minister epistles.”  In all the church epistles, Paul includes “grace and peace be unto you” within the opening greeting.  In the minister epistles, he says, “grace, mercy, and peace be unto you” as Paul well understood that the minister needed a dose of mercy as he tried to lead and guide the sheep of God’s heritage.  In that sense by watching over their souls (Hebrews 13:17), Paul knew that they would come under fire and criticism.  Hence, he begged mercy for them as well as grace and peace.  Whether someone is under the rule of a wicked or righteous magistrate, honour is still the command.  In the last few years, I have heard upset but misguided people say comments like “he is not my president” and “I’ll pray for the office but not the man.”  Whether someone likes their rulers or not, they are still the rulers, and here we are commanded to honour the king not the kingship (man not just the office).  Scripture may emphasize this command for the office’s sake, but the man is to be prayed for.

Friends, much more could be said about each of these commands, as we have mentioned them being whole subjects to themselves.  However, we have tried to skim the high points to line out the fullness of the bounds that Peter here considers.  Against the backdrop of Christ, we see where He honours all men, even those that rose up against Him.  He was willing to heal the ear of Malchus in the Garden of Gethsemane after Peter struck it off even though Malchus was part of the mob coming to arrest Him.  He chose Judas as one of the 12 though He knew that Judas was a devil that would betray Him.  Christ showed the highest order of love to His brethren by laying down His life for them and also by displaying it in every step while He walked this low ground.  Christ showed His Father respect at every turn always doing those things that please Him, and praying to His Father often while doing His Father’s business.  Finally, Christ abode as a good citizen even to the point of avoiding a revolt that would have made Him an earthly king.  He also paid taxes to avoid offending others, while also not assailing the high priest even when the high priest was wrong for trying Him in the kangaroo court brought against Him.  His conduct was pristine, even when those around Him were handling Him wrongfully.  Friends, why should we seek for less?  Let us be up and about in the Master’s good way.

In Hope,

Bro Philip