Men of the Bible – Peter

The following is an article I wrote for the “Men of the Bible” section of the January 2017 issue of the Scroll. It features Peter.

Men of the Bible – Peter

Name: (Simon) Peter

Meaning: Rock

His Work: Before becoming a disciple of Christ, Peter was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee.

His Character: Peter could be described as brash and impulsive, but he possessed a strong faith.

His Sorrow: Peter’s greatest sorrow was that he denied Jesus three times.

His Triumph: Peter was one of the leaders of the disciples and one of the inner circle of Christ. Because of his faith in Christ, he had a name change.

Key Scriptures: Gospels; Acts; 1st and 2nd Peter

Simon, who would later be called Peter, was one of the first disciples of Christ. Peter was residing in Capernaum when his brother, Andrew, introduced him to Jesus. Peter followed Jesus closely. He saw firsthand the miracles that Jesus performed during His ministry. But Peter saw more than that. He was part of the inner circle of disciples (with James and John) that were closest to Jesus.

He was one of the three disciples who witnessed Jarius’ daughter being raised from the dead, saw the transfiguration of Christ on the high mountain, and saw Jesus’ sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane. From that viewpoint, he had a clearer understanding of who Jesus was than most. Perhaps this is why Peter had the insight to proclaim that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Peter was bold and blunt. When Jesus explained his death to the disciples, Peter cried out (what was probably in all their hearts) in denial. Peter walked on water with Christ. Peter, who at first refused to have his feet washed by Christ, corrected his error and asked to have his hands and head washed as well. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.

Peter’s walk with God was not always stable. His faith was solid, yet at the same he was shaken by adversity. He confessed to be committed to Jesus, yet he denied Christ three times. He boldly taught the Good News to Jews, but he struggled with accepting Gentile Christians as equals. And perhaps that paradox in nature makes him relatable as we struggle with duplicity in our own natures.

From the beginning of their relationship to the end, Christ’s direction to Peter was simple: follow me. And Peter did just that. He wasn’t perfect in his path, but he stayed his course. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He isn’t looking for perfection from us. He knows that we will fall. What we learn from Peter is that with all of our flaws and imperfections, we can be transformed by Christ.

Peter is credited as the author of two epistles, 1st and 2nd Peter. In the first letter, he admonishes believers to continue in their faith during suffering and persecution. Peter knew about suffering for the Gospel’s sake. He was beaten and jailed. In the second letter (believed to have been written three years after the first letter), he warns believers about false teachers and cautions against division in the church.

In the end, Peter followed Jesus into martyrdom. It is believed that he was martyred under the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero. It is believed that Peter was also crucified, but he requested to be crucified upside down.

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PCC Scroll – Men of the Bible – Elisha

For “Men of the Bible,” I wrote about Elisha.

Name: Elisha

Meaning: God is salvation

His Character: Elijah was the son of a wealthy man, but he walked away from that comfort to be a prophet of God. He was a man of integrity who had great vision.

His Sorrow: As a prophet, he foresaw all Israel would suffer under the hands of the Syrians.

His Triumph: Elisha inherited a double portion of his mentor and spiritual father’s anointing.

Key Scriptures: 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:1-14, 4:1-7, 8-23, 3:21

 

While Elisha was plowing his father’s field, he was called by the prophet Elijah. Elijah went to Elisha, and Elijah threw his cloak on Elisha’s shoulder. This is symbolic. A cloak was a very important piece of clothing that could be used for protection against the weather, as bedding, as a place to sit, or as luggage. By Elijah placing his cloak on Elisha’s shoulder, Elijah was naming Elisha as his successor, and Elijah became Elisha’s mentor and spiritual father.

Elisha walked with Elijah, and Elisha learned and gained power to do what he was called to do. When Elijah was taken to heaven, Elisha received a double portion (a blessing or inheritance typically given to a firstborn son) of Elijah’s spirit and became Elijah’s successor. Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, a symbol that Elijah’s ministry was passed down to him, and walked on. Elisha spent his ministry focused on showing God’s power but also focused on God’s willingness to take care of those in need. He also spent a lot of his time living and interacting with other prophets.

Elisha recognized that with God there is so much more to life. Elisha was able to see beyond his natural eyes. Because of this, he was able to change the viewpoint of those he came into contact with.

In 2 Kings 6, we learn that the king of Aram was at war with Israel. The king of Aram would devise an attack, but Elisha would hear from God and warn the king of Israel. The king of Aram was convinced he had a spy in his midst. When the king of Aram learned of Elisha’s role, he sought to capture Elisha.

Elisha and his servant woke up one morning and there were enemy troops, horses, and chariots surrounding them. The servant was scared, but Elisha was not. Elisha saw something with his spiritual eyes that the servant and enemy did not see. Elisha told the servant not to be afraid, and then Elisha prayed that God would open the servant’s eyes. The servant was then able to see the army of heaven. Once the servant’s eyes were open, his viewpoint on their situation changed. He knew that God was protecting them.

Elisha was able to see beyond the appearance. He saw beyond what was visible to the human eye, which was his role as a prophet. Even in the midst of being surrounded by enemies, he was able to see the army of heaven with horses and chariots of fire along the hillside and be at peace.

Sometimes our difficulties can overwhelm us. But with faith, we have to realize that God is working on our behalf, beyond what we see with our natural eyes. There are spiritual resources that we need to learn to tap into. God’s power is there.

Meditate on the words of Elisha found in 2 Kings 6:16, “Don’t be afraid…Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

 

Men of the Bible – Nehemiah

This is an article I wrote for the Men of the Bible section of the newsletter.

Name: Nehemiah
Meaning: Jehovah has comforted
His Character: Nehemiah was a leader who had the courage to see out his vision. He was a planner who was able to organize and motivate the people to accomplish what seemed impossible. Nehemiah also understood the importance of prayer.
His Sorrow: Nehemiah was deeply troubled by the state of Jerusalem. Although he never had previously been there, Nehemiah longed for where he knew was home.
His Triumph: Nehemiah accomplished what seemed impossible. He accomplished what he felt was his call, which was to rebuild the wall surrounding Jerusalem.
Key Scriptures: Book of Nehemiah

Nehemiah was a Jew living in exile in Babylon. The Jewish people had been defeated by the Assyrians and taken as slaves to the foreign land. The Assyrians were conquered by the Persians. Nehemiah was the cup bearer, adviser, and escort to Artaxerxes, who was the king of Persia. In his position, Nehemiah was the food taster for Artaxerxes and had the trust of the king and with that came influence.

As a Jew exiled in Babylon, Nehemiah was concerned about the present and future of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s story picks up 70 years after Zerubbabel rebuilt God’s Temple and 13 years after Ezra had returned to Jerusalem to deal with the spiritual needs of the people. Nehemiah learned of the poor conditions of Jerusalem from his brother, Hanani. Hanani told of walls that had been torn down and gates that had been destroyed by fire. Nehemiah mourned this information and fasted and prayed.

Nehemiah saw a problem, and he sought God’s help in being part of the solution. Nehemiah’s prayer, found in verses 4 – 11 of chapter one, was a sincere plea asking for God’s guidance. His prayer thanked God for who He was, confessed his shortcomings, reminded God of His promises to His people, and asked for God’s favor and power to make a difference.

Nehemiah was able to use his position with King Artaxerxes to gain clearance and the material he would need for his assignment. Rebuilding the wall seemed like an impossible task, but like Nehemiah, we serve a God who can do the impossible. And remember Nehemiah started his task with prayer.

Nehemiah started with prayer, and he prayed throughout his assignment. He understood the power of prayer. Nehemiah was a leader who rebuilt the wall quickly and efficiently despite opposition and resistance. Nehemiah faced the opposition and resistance calmly with faith. Even the enemies of Israel recognized God’s favor over His people.

Nehemiah’s accomplishment also caused a spiritual awakening in the people of God who had been living in sin. The success was another reminder of God’s favor over them and His never-failing mercy toward Israel. After the wall was rebuilt, Nehemiah focused on social and economic issues. Nehemiah worked with Ezra to lead the people in worship and Bible study. Nehemiah also helped form a needed sense of community.

Nehemiah is an example of how God works through us. He places us in strategic positions. Through these positions, we develop relationships with people whose resources and/or influence help us to accomplish what seems impossible. God uses our gifts, talents, personalities, experiences, and backgrounds to serve His purpose, with each seemingly random twist preparing us to fulfill His purpose.

Nehemiah is also an example of the importance and power of prayer and walking with God. Interestingly enough I had shared with Sister Crystal how I needed to focus on my prayer life. Reading and writing about Nehemiah has inspired me and is another example of God’s perfect timing in all things.

We must begin all things with prayer. In your prayers, talk to God and also share your concerns, fears, questions, dreams, and feelings with Him. He knows already. Our prayer lives will lead to us walking closer with God as we live out our lives and fulfill our purposes, even those that are seemingly impossible, through Him.

Men of the Bible – Cain and Abel

The Men of the Bible section  from Volume XV Issue II of the PCC Scroll. The issue continued with the calendar year’s overarching theme of “Walking Out Your Purpose” with a theme of “Being a Good Steward.”

Name:Abel
Meaning:Breath
His Character: Abel knew what God expected, and he willingly offered the best of what he had to God.
His Sorrow: He was murdered by his jealous brother, Cain.
His Triumph: Abel was a shepherd who took care of the flocks. Since Abel offered his first and best fruit, his sacrifice was accepted by God.
Key Scriptures: Genesis 4

Name: Cain
Meaning: Smith, spear
His Character: Cain did not do what was expected by God. Then he reacted defensively when his offering was not accepted. He reacted to his disappointment by lashing out at his brother instead of taking responsibility for his own lack.
His Sorrow: Cain found the punishment of his actions to be severe. He was forced to leave his home and became a wanderer.
His Triumph: Cain was a farmer by profession and tended the land. Although God placed a curse on his livelihood, God promised to protect him from those who would attempt to harm him. He had a second chance, and he experienced God’s grace and mercy.
Key Scriptures: Genesis 4

Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam of Eve. Cain was the eldest, while Abel was younger. It is very probable that Adam and Eve shared their encounters with God with their sons.

Although Cain and Abel were brothers, they were very different. Both knew what was expected of them. Abel was obedient and gave God what was expected – the first fruit of his labor. Cain, on the other hand, withheld his best. He was then affronted when his offering was rejected by God. What is interesting is that God gave Cain a chance to do what was right. God told Cain he would be accepted if he did what was right. For whatever reason, Cain decided to not do it.

Instead of correcting his attitude or offering, Cain became angry with his brother and slew him. Cain denied any knowledge of Abel’s whereabouts when confronted by God. He was then banished, and his punishment was to become a wanderer. In God’s mercy, God did place a mark on Cain to protect him from retribution from man. Though the earth that Cain once worked would no longer yield any crops for him.

Cain did have a chance to start over. He married, and he started a family. His first son and city were named Enoch, which means consecrated. Although he had to live with his sin, he must have marveled at the grace and mercy of God.

I think it’s easy for us to become jealous or envious when we feel others are accepted more than we are or that others are being elevated and we are not. Cain is an extreme example of the harm that comes from reacting with anger, hatred, or malice. In this case, it led to murder. When we plant seeds of discord against our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are doing the same thing. Any actions out of anger or jealousy always lead to serious harm.

Abel is certainly an illustration of someone who would hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Like the servants who increased their talents, Abel multiplied what God gave him. He was listed in the Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, and God approved of the gift he offered.

When we offer the best of our gifts and talents, it must come from our hearts. Abel offered his first fruit and the best. Cain offered to God, but he kept the best for himself. Let us learn from this lesson and be sure to offer God our best. Our time and efforts for God should not be secondary. Like Abel, it should be from the best in us.

Volume XV Issue I: Men of the Bible

I wrote about Simeon for the “Men of the Bible” section of Volume XV Issue I edition of the PCC Scoll.

Name: Simeon
Meaning: Hearing
His Character: Simeon was a devout man who spent much of his time in the Temple.
His Sorrow: Simeon waited patiently and long to see the Christ child.
His Triumph: Simeon lived to see the Christ child as was promised to him by the Holy Spirit.
Key Scriptures: Luke 2:22-38

We do not know much about Simeon’s life. We do not know about his family (was he married and did he have any children) or from which tribe he was descended from. The Bible does, however, describe Simeon as righteous and devout. According to Luke 2:25, he was eagerly awaiting the Messiah’s arrival and rescue of Israel. The Bible also says that the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and had promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. This is a promise Simeon held on to even in his older years.

Simeon’s story picks up in the second chapter of Luke at the Temple in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph had brought the baby Jesus to the Temple for the purification offering that was required by the Law of Moses after the birth of a child. Simeon was led to the Temple that day. So we know that unlike Anna (who is featured in “Women of the Bible”) he did not live in the Temple.

When Simeon saw the baby Jesus, he took the baby from his parents and into his arms and began praising God. He said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” Simeon’s song is often called “Nunc Dimittis.”

Mary and Joseph were amazed. Simeon affirmed to Mary and Joseph that their child was a gift from God to the world. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Messiah who was the light of the world. Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph. Simeon went on to say to Mary, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Simeon’s prophetic words to Mary spoke of the polarizing impact of Jesus’ life and ministry, which is evident even in the days that we live in. There seems to have never been any neutral ground. People have either embraced and accepted Christ, or they have rejected Him.

Simeon is an example of living in expectation for the promises of God. Even though very old, Simeon never lost his hope that he would see the Messiah as promised by the Holy Spirit. I am sure there were times when he wondered, ‘How long, God?’ But he held on to the promise, and he was able to bear witness to the baby Jesus being the expected Messiah. As a Jewish elder, Simeon would have been respected, and his words would have carried extra weight in his proclamation of the baby being the promised Messiah.

Simeon is also an example of the importance of hearing and listening to the wisdom, advice, and experiences of those who have walked dedicated and prayerful lives with God.

Men of the Bible: Mordecai

Name: Mordecai
Meaning: Dedicated to Mars
His Character: Because Mordecai adopted his cousin, we can assume that he was a man of compassion. His refusal to bow down to Haman lets us know that he had a strong faith and belief in God.
His Sorrow: Mordecai went into mourning when he learned of the decree to kill the Jewish people.
His Triumph: Mordecai was able to expose a plot to murder the Jews, and he became the prime minister of King Xerxes.
Key Scriptures: The book of Esther

Mordecai was from the tribe of Benjamin. His family was among those who had been exiled to Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. He had a cousin who was very beautiful named Hadassah, who was also called Esther. Esther was orphaned, and Mordecai adopted her into his family. He raised her as his own daughter. Mordecai was able to instill in Esther confidence as well as knowledge and respect for her Jewish heritage.

When the young women were sent to the king’s harem, Mordecai would visit Esther every day and counsel her. He instructed her to not tell anyone her nationality and family background. After Esther became queen, Mordecai became a palace official.

It was in this capacity that Mordecai was able to save King Xerxes’ life. Mordecai overhead a plot to assassinate the king, and he told the plot to Esther, who told the king. It was also in this capacity that Mordecai gained an enemy, the king’s prime minister, Haman. Haman was enraged because Mordecai refused to bow down to him. While willing to serve the king, Mordecai was not willing to worship Haman. Haman then plotted to have the Jewish people in the empire killed. Mordecai learned of the plot and was able to enlist the help of Esther.

It was during this time that the king remembered that Mordecai had not been rewarded for exposing the plot to kill him. The king ordered a banquet to honor Mordecai. His enemy, Haman, was tasked to oversee the procession. Eventually, Haman’s plot to kill the Jews was discovered, and the king ordered Haman’s execution.

We can take several lessons from Mordecai’s life. One is that when our enemies plot against us, we have a God who causes them to be caught in their own web. The very instrument that Haman had plotted to kill Mordecai with was the very instrument that Haman himself was executed with. Even when we cannot see it, God is acting on our behalf! Mordecai was then elevated to the role of prime minister, the very role that Haman once held.

The other lesson is that our well doing will catch up with us in due season. The king’s timing of realizing that Mordecai had not been rewarded for saving his life was in God’s timing, and God’s timing is perfect. Our rewards may be delayed, but they will came. Do not be weary in well doing.

Mordecai turned his challenges into opportunities. He was able to instruct and counsel Esther and help save a nation. Both he and Esther had been placed in their positions for such a time. The same is true for us today. God is opening doors and giving us opportunities to make a difference in our worlds.

Walk in the opportunities that God gives you. Believe and know that God is weaving the events of your life for your best. Even when you cannot see how any good could come from your current situation, know that God will work everything out. He will turn your challenges into opportunities.

Men of the Bible: PCC Scroll Volume XIV Issue III

It may be that my favorite section to write is Men of the Bible!

Name: Samuel
Meaning: Name of God or God hears
His Character: Samuel was a righteous man and a reliable judge. He spent his life in service to God.
His Sorrow: Samuel’s sons did not have a close relationship with God. He was also unhappy that the people wanted a king to rule over them.
His Triumph: Samuel was an effective judge of Israel. Despite his apprehension, he was able to help Israel transition from judges to kings in which he anointed the first two kings.
Key Scriptures: 1 Samuel

Samuel was the answered prayer of his mother, Hannah. Hannah prayed fervently for a child, and she promised to consecrate a son into service to God. She kept her promise. As a toddler, Samuel was given back to God. He was taken to be raised by the prophet Eli in Shiloh. His parents, Hannah and Elkanah, would come to Shiloh once a year to worship. Each year, Hannah would bring Samuel a robe. And each year, Samuel’s favor with the people and God increased.

Samuel grew up assisting the high priest, Eli, in the tabernacle. When Samuel was still a boy, God revealed Himself to Samuel. Before God spoke to Samuel, God’s voice had been rarely heard and there were few visions. From the moment God spoke to Samuel, it was clear that he was a prophet. His first words to God, “Speak; for thy servant heareth,” were true for all of his days. He was a person who wanted to hear God’s voice. Samuel had two-way conversations with God. He could pray, and he could listen. Because he was faithful in little things, he was later trusted to greater things.

Samuel called for the children of Israel to turn away from pagan worship, to repent, and to serve the one and true God. Samuel heard God’s voice and spoke God’s words even when it was to rebuke a king. Samuel won victories over the Philistines. He was a reminder of God’s faithfulness and a reminder of the importance of obedience to God.

During Samuel’s life, Israel moved from being ruled by judges to being ruled by kings, which the people wanted. Samuel was not too keen on a king, but Samuel’s sons did not follow his lead. They were wicked, and the elders of Israel were not satisfied and demanded a king to rule over them. Samuel saw it as a rejection of himself. When he went to God in prayer, God’s answer was a surprise. Even though Samuel warned the people of the impact of a king, they still wanted one. Samuel anointed the first two kings, King Saul and King David.

God was able to use Samuel because Samuel was dedicated to God (and literally was from the very beginning). He was a man who listened to God’s direction, and he did not have his own agenda. Samuel’s faith and service to God resulted in him being listed in the Hall of Faith, which is found in Hebrews 11.

Samuel played many roles in Israel. He was a judge, a priest, a prophet, a counselor, and a man of God. He gave himself over to God. In our lives and many roles, we too must give ourselves and our wills over to God. Samuel was able to accomplish so much because of his strong relationship with God. Since he was shaped by God, he was able to live out his authentic self in service to God. From his beginning, he lived out God’s purpose.