5x5x5 Bible Reading – 1 Peter

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Dear 5x5x5 Bible readers,  Welcome to 1st Peter this week!  You know Peter – a fisherman, one of Jesus’ three closest disciples, the one who walked on water, also the one who denied knowing Jesus – Peter, the rock, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem after Pentecost.  Peter writes this letter from Rome, late in his life, to Christians who are enduring hardships and persecution across the Roman empire.

1st Peter is a letter of encouragement, speaking into the lives of those who are suffering.  Important themes in 1 Peter are:
– the identity of a believer (reborn into a new family, exiles and sojourners, a royal priesthood, and a chosen people),
– a call to holiness and good character in keeping with the standards of their new family,
– persevering through suffering,
– a living and eternal hope,
– submission and humility, and
– the coming judgment.

I’m actually teaching 1st Peter this fall at The River, and it is such a rich text – full of encouragement in suffering, and reminders of our identity and our future.  As the world seems a bit crazy these days, and many are suffering, the words of Peter are timely.  Be encouraged.

Nehemiah, A Heart That Can Break

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I’m leading a study on Nehemiah by Kelly Minter for the next 6 weeks.  I’ll be sharing thoughts with you as we go along…

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire.”  When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven. – Nehemiah 1:3-4

Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 587 BC and carried off its treasures and young men as slaves for some 70 years.  Familiar names and Biblical stories of Jews in exile include Daniel, Daniel’s three friends and the fiery furnace, Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as Haggai and Zechariah the prophets.

However, way back in Deuteronomy 30:1-5 God had promised to Moses that if his people disobeyed and He needed to send them off into exile that, IF they returned to Him, He would restore them to Jerusalem from a far.

Well, the Babylonians lost their empire to the Persians (remember the handwriting on the wall in Daniel 5:25-31?) and the new King Cyrus was much more accommodating to the Jews.  In the book of Ezra we read that in 539 BC Cyrus agreed to let the Jews return to Jerusalem – which they did in 3 waves.  First Zerubbabel returned with about 50,000 men and the temple was rebuilt over a period of 23 years.  Then, after a 57 year gap, Ezra returned to Jerusalem with another 5,000 people or so and worship was restored in the temple.

And then there was Nehemiah – a Jew, born in exile, serving as the cupbearer to the king in the Persian resort town of Susa.

Nehemiah was concerned about Jerusalem and the reports from his brothers broke his heart.  He sat down and wept.

In Nehemiah we will “discover a man whose heart broke for his people, so much that he walked away from wealth, lavish comforts, and a prestigious position to reach his suffering brothers and sisters by helping rebuild the wall of their vitally important city.”

Nehemiah had a heart that was open to the sufferings of others.  He had a heart that could break.

Kelly Minter writes, “The command to love God and love others is not a science project.  It is a command whereby we are transformed into the image of God, and we surrender our lives back to Him in service.  Christ has made us whole for more than our earthly comfort and pleasure.  Wholeness is not the end but merely the beginning, because wholeness allows us to give much more of our hearts, possessions, time, wisdom, money, friendship, and love away.”

Our lives are to be marked by a concern for others and by service.

Nehemiah wept.  Then he went out and worked hard to fix the problem.

How about you?

Is your heart broken by the things that break the heart of God?

Are you giving of yourself in service to others?