Friday, December 02, 2016

More from that Facebook conversation on "post-factual world"

A Facebook commenter cited the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts." Words like these are important counsel for a society that elevates feelings and perceptions above questions of fact or truth. I responded:
[It's] [i]nteresting to note that conservative columnist George Will, an avid student of history, called Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, the best US senator ever.

Moynihan was a liberal Democrat who also worked for Republican presidents.

He understood that politics isn't a zero-sum bloodsport, but an endeavor to fulfill the purposes for government as laid out in the US Constitution: "...to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."

And, yes, I love his quote about facts and opinions. I like also the quote attributed to John Adams: "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]


God's Word: Knowing it, living it

From my quiet time with God this morning, what God taught me from Revelation 1:3. That passage reads:
Great blessings belong to the person who reads the words of this message from God and to those who hear this message and do what is written in it. There is not much time left.
Look: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 3:1)

Listen: John has received a revelation, one consistent with the revelation of God given to the ancient Israelites and with God’s ultimate self-disclosure in the crucified and risen Jesus.

He says that the person who dares to read this revelation to the churches of Asia Minor is blessed, or favored by God. One might wonder how favored or blessed the world would regard the reader. John is living an exile on Patmos, an enemy of the state. To be associated with John and John’s witness for Christ would not make someone favored in the eyes of the government or the world.

But then, the Bible always evidences a strange notion of what marks a person as blessed or favored by God.

After the angel Gabriel visited the virgin Mary to announce that she will give birth to the Messiah, Jesus, Mary travels to see her relative, Elizabeth, and says: “...from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:48-49).

Mary speaks here as an ordinary believer, blessed to have the Savior come to her and blessed too, to have the particular role marked out for her by God to be the bearer of God in her womb.

And yet, there were times when Mary would not have seemed, from an earthly perspective, to be blessed. First, there was the stigma attached to being a mother out of wedlock, something with which she would always have to deal.

Second, there was the knowledge that she was raising a Son Who faced certain rejection. When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and her husband Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised. There, they encountered Simeon, a man who had been faithfully waiting and praying for Messiah to come in his lifetime. When he saw Jesus, he knew that his prayers had been answered. But he told Mary: ““Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

To be blessed then, is not to have everything go our ways. It’s about living in God’s favor no matter what unpleasantness, pain, or death we may be going through at any given time.

Paul captures this idea of blessedness when he writes in Romans 14:8: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

Jesus shows just how radically different the state of godly blessedness is from the world’s notions on the subject in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12)
We experience a state of blessedness from God when we are emptied of any dependence on the world’s definition of blessedness or happiness and instead, are filled only with the desire to live lives pleasing to the God Who has saved us by grace through faith in Christ.

Like Christ, we’re called to empty ourselves of concern about ourselves, confident that we belong to God forever and can move boldly to follow and do the will of God, whatever the world may think or say. (Philippians 2:7; Acts 4:29; Romans 8:31-39)

I have not attained this state of blessedness. Too often, I’m like the kids in the “trust experiment”: I trust, but not quite. I think of the radical call in Romans 13:14: “...make no provision for the flesh, to satisfy its desires.”

The public reader of God’s Word mediated through John in the book of Revelation was, John writes, “blessed” because he was following God rather than human beings in boldly daring to share the Word with others. (Acts 5:29)

I want to lead that kind of blessed life.

John goes on to say “...blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it.”  

This reminds me of James’ words:

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed [there’s that word again] in his doing.” (James 1:22-25)

This is no promise that everything will go well for us in this world if we do God’s Word, doing what He commands us to do.

In fact, Jesus promises the exact opposite: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We are blessed--favored by God--when we not only hear His Word, but seek to live it and its implications out.

Listen: It’s too easy for me to turn Your Word into head knowledge for me, akin to all the trivia I have catalogued in my mind, Lord. Too often, I’m a kind of Martha (Luke 10), only I don’t scurry with serving dinner guests...I scurry for the acquisition of knowledge not to be more faithful to you, or a better person, or a better citizen, or a better family members, but just to be more knowledgeable. That’s a worldly game and its vain, both in the sense of pointless and in the sense of being egotistical.

Respond: Help me to live out my faith, to do what You call and command me to do: Love God, love neighbor, make disciples. Help me also to live out my specific callings in life: to serve, preach, teach, lead, to be salt and light in unlikely places.

Help me to seek to really live Your will for my life, even though there are times when, like a horse gone wild, I want to break free and do what I want to do.

Help me to read and live Your Word, Lord.

In Jesus’ name I pray. 
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

The "Post-Factual World" and American Democracy

As a Facebook friend pointed out, "post-factual world" is a term now. She went on to write:
That's how low the bar has been set.

Regardless of party, this should be unacceptable.

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.
I think she's right and that it's a bi-partisan (non-partisan) threat to our country. I responded:
It's all apparently about "feelings" now, irrespective of facts.

This is evidenced in both parties. Anderson Cooper rightly and gently called out one of the CNN contributors last week for saying that millennials feel cheated "because of this electoral college thing."

The electoral college may have outlived its usefulness. But American kids are taught about the electoral college in elementary school. It's a fact of life for now, no matter how a person may feel about it. Nobody got cheated by the system that's been in place since 1789.

Similarly, the "feelings" of people on the other side that crime is up and that every immigrant seeking asylum from oppression and violence in Muslim countries in the US is a terrorist are heedless of facts.

Facts should matter. But in a society that has dismissed the notion of objective truth, entry into a "post-factual" world is, I suppose, inevitable. It's frightening, un-American, and, I might add, un-Christian.

This post-factual world is also abetted by an intellectual laziness that prefers being entertained to learning about things like truth or facts or listening to those with whom we may reflexively disagree.

Democracy is a messy business. As Churchill said, it's the worst form of government except for every other form that's been tried. But unless citizens are "diligent," as you put it, democracy is lost. For some though, life is about being a sated lab rat. They're perfectly willing to let everyone do their thinking for them...as long as they get what they want and don't "feel" violated. (Their feelings being a moving target, subject the their fickleness.)

People seem to want a kind of elected monarch who will act in accordance with their feelings. This is the kind of king Jesus' fellow Jews tried to force Him into being in John's Gospel. He resisted. That was the beginning of people's disenchantment with Him. Their feelings were hurt.

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, someone supposedly approached Benjamin Franklin and asked, "What have we got--a Republic or a monarchy?" Franklin answered: "A Republic, if you can keep it."

An uninformed, self-indulgent, selfish citizenry that ignores and doesn't care about the facts cannot keep a republic.

Time to pray more. And insist on making fact-based, not feeling-based decisions.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Talk Too Much by COIN

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Dialogue Part 1 and 11 by Chicago



This song is as relevant today as when it was first released on the phenomenal Chicago V LP back in 1972.

No matter how we close our eyes to injustice, it still exists. And our chosen blindness doesn't impress the God we know in Jesus Christ.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Into the Night by For King and Country

Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel by Bryan Duncan

This is one of my favorite versions of this great Advent hymn.



[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]


3 Songs

Three songs came up either in my shuffle or on Muzak at restaurants and stores on Monday night. They all evoke feelings of homes with love, I think.

First, Long Haired Lady from Paul McCartney's 1971 release, Ram. Macca did this song with his new wife Linda, mostly at his farm in Scotland, where they were living what he has described as a "hippie life." Though I am the least handy person you can name, I've always liked the idea of owning my own farm. I spent happy hours on a family farm for reunions when I was a kid and my first parish was in a farm community. I love singing along with the opening lines of the title track--"I got a horse, I got a sheep, I'm gonna get me a good night's sleep"--and imagining Farmer Mark going to feed the animals.



Next, Walk Between the Raindrops by Donald Fagen. This is, by contrast, a very urban song, the narrator reveling in the rainy dash through city streets to be with his beloved. I love cities too, big cities: bustling, filled with activity and art and commerce, great restaurants, concerts and plays and parks. Cities can be homey too.



Then, this rendition of the classic I'll Be Home for Christmas by Rascal Flatts. It's a cliche, of course, but home is where your heart is...even if you'll never go there for the rest of your lifetime. This song is one of those Christmas classics that never gets old and, really, gives expression to a longing for home that's more than just the homes we've known on earth. It also, I think, says that home, more than anything, is who you love.

Just saw this tweet and liked it

Sunday, November 27, 2016

How to get ready for Jesus' Advent

Matthew 24:36-44
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The word advent, you’ll recall, means arrival or the coming of a notable person. In Advent, we wait for the coming of Christmas, of course. More importantly, we await the day when the crucified and risen Jesus, the One Whose birth we celebrate just four weeks from today, will return to this world.

Every Sunday, you and I talk about Jesus’ return as we confess our faith through the words of the Apostles’ Creed. “He will come again to judge the living and the dead,” we say. But in the rush of everyday life, we often seem to lose touch with the fact that Jesus, Who has made good on every single promise He’s ever made, will return.

When Jesus does return, the judgment will happen. Those who have trusted in Christ, surrendering their lives and their wills in the everyday places of life, will live with God for eternity.

Those who have not trusted in Christ--who have trusted in themselves, their wits, their money, their families, a false religion, whatever--will be separated from God and from life for eternity.

Jesus says, referring to Himself: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” [John 3:18]

It’s to keep the certain promise of His return--and the need to remain constantly focused on following Him--in the forefront of our minds that Jesus speaks the words that make up today’s Gospel lesson. Let’s take a look at what Jesus says in Matthew 24:36-44.

Verse 36: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”


This may be hard for us to imagine! The main characteristic of any human being is the desire to be in control, what the book of Genesis calls our desire to “be like God.” Yet, here’s Jesus, God in the flesh, saying that even He doesn’t know the day or hour of His return to this world. He’s leaving things totally to the will of the Father, just as He did when He went to the garden of Gethsemane and prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” [Matthew 26:39]

Anyone who claims to know when Jesus will return is placing themselves above Jesus. Speculation about when Jesus will return is nothing other than a human attempt to take control of what rightly belongs in the hands of God.

Go back to the lesson, starting at verse 37, please. “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming [or the advent] of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken [to be judged] and the other left [to live]. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken [to be judged] and the other left [to live].”

Jesus asks us here to remember what things were like back in the days before Noah’s flood. There were two ways to look at those days.

Genesis 6:11-13 tells us how the world looked from God’s perspective: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.’”

From God’s point of view, the people of the world were corrupted by sin and violent in all of their dealings. Evil was so bad that God decided to send the flood and destroy every human being who didn’t worship him.

But, Jesus says, in the days and years leading up to the flood, all but eight members of the human race looked at things in a different light. They went about their business without a thought to the corruption, injustice, megalomania, and violence that characterized them and their culture.

Pre-flood humanity never knew what hit them or why when the waters rose. The flood came, Jesus says, and took them away.

Don’t, Jesus is telling us, get used to doing things the world’s way because, ultimately, every human being must answer to God.

(Notice too, that it's those who are taken away by the flood who go away to be eternal punishment. It's the ones left behind who remain with God, in sync with God, following God, faithful to God, remaining under His reign. According to Jesus, the last thing any believer would want is to "be raptured." We want, instead, to remain with the God we meet in Christ!)

Let's be honest: The world today is just as corrupt, violent, and selfish as it was in the days before the flood.
It turns out that pre-flood humanity has nothing on us in the sin department.

The world today hurtles along with its own agenda, indifferent to others’ suffering, six-billion people baying, “What’s in it for me?”

If the Father were to tell the Son that right now was the moment for Him to return, it’s hard to imagine a more apt time than this one!

Go back to our lesson, please. Verse 42: [Jesus continues] “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

We had our house broken into once. It took us by surprise because, as I’ve told some people before, the thieves didn’t send us a text to say, “We’re breaking into your house next week.” It’s crazy, but I remember thinking, “If I’d only known when they were coming, I would have stuck around the house and they couldn’t have stolen anything.” But the time to get ready for a thief is before the thief arrives, not after. Just so, Jesus doesn’t tell us when He’s coming back, just that He is and that we need to be ready for it.

And exactly why doesn’t Jesus tell us the time of His arrival? That way we could keep on sinning and doing whatever we want and then, just before He comes back or just before we die (assuming He’ll tell us that date too), we could repent.

People who think that way--and many people do think that way--are under the delusion that salvation is a deal we make with God by saying the right words or doing the right things.

Or they think that they'll know the exact moment at which they'll need to be ready, as though God is going to inform them of when Christ is returning or when we're going to die.

But we can’t negotiate with God. We can’t placate Gods with religious acts. And we can't anticipate the moment when the omnipotent Creator and King of the universe is going to draw the curtain on this old creation and usher in the new one with the return of Jesus.

This very day, God demands that we either adhere to His commandments perfectly, which we cannot do, or that we repent and surrender our whole selves to Jesus Christ, Who has obeyed God’s Law perfectly, then taken the punishment we deserve for us.

Then, we’re to live each day in submission to Christ Who brings God’s forgiveness and life to those who turn, each day, to Him.

It’s people daily submitting to Christ who are ready not only for Christ’s return, but also for whatever life may hit them with at any given moment.

No matter what our age or education or wisdom or income level, we cannot know the day or hour at which either our own lives or the life of this world will come to an end. We are NOT in control! I’ll never forget getting the telephone call telling me that the seventeen year old son of friends had died. Moments before his death, he’d been a vibrant young man. A short while later, he ran a stop sign, a car T-boned his, and he died.

A few days ago, I received a text from our daughter asking me to pray for a good friend of her husband. The friend's father had died suddenly unexpectedly of a heart attack the night before.

Events like these aren't recorded in the plans included in our day planners.

Life on this fallen planet is fragile.

But Jesus has died and risen so that death in this world need not be the ends of our lives.

In John 11:25-26, Jesus, the Savior Who could not be kept from living even by death, promises: ““I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die…”

This is a promise not just that Christ-followers will live with God beyond death. It’s also a promise that God will fill us with life, a life of love and direction, hope and peace, even in the midst of the chaos, pain, grief, and uncertainty of this life.

Advent is the season of waiting for our King to come back. But we don’t wait passively.

We await Christ with faith that He’s in control even when our world is unraveling.

And from the certainty of faith, we watch for ways we can love God and love neighbor, fight for justice, feed the hungry, care for the impoverished, make disciples, take care of our families, love our friends, seek reconciliation with those we have hurt.

We don’t do any of this to earn God’s attention or affection. God already thinks about you all the time. (Think of that: God keeps you in mind as an individual, just as He keeps all the individuals who have lived, are living, or ever will live on this planet!) And God already loves you infinitely. I agree with Max Lucado when he says that every time He thinks of you, He smiles. He loves you. He wants you to be with Him for all eternity. His gracious offer of love, forgiveness, and life is standing and guaranteed by the shed blood of Jesus.

The question is whether you and I will receive Him as He comes to us through Christ or not. Will we be waiting to welcome Jesus when He returns?

We await Jesus with active, trusting faith and we watch that sin gains no foothold in our lives for one simple reason: Because we know that God has already saved us through our faith in Christ...because we’re thankful for what God has already done us through the cross and empty tomb of Jesus...because we know God loves us!

And when the sins of the world, the devil, and our sinful selves seem to rob us of our life and zeal for love, we can remember words like those found in Isaiah 40:31: “...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Jesus is coming back! We don’t know when, but when He does, may He find us ready, our lives focused on Him and on our neighbor, brimming over with gratitude for grace, filled with faith, and powered by the Holy Spirit to live the lives of love and purpose for which we were made.

That’s how to be ready for Jesus’ advent!

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This was prepared for sharing during worship with the people and friends of Living Water earlier today.]


Friday, November 25, 2016

After "Love comes to town"

This was a tough Quiet Time with God for me this morning. I hesitated to share it. But I will post it, in hopes that it might help someone else to get real before the Lord.
Look: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21) 
Listen: This is a bracing word!  
It reminds me of what the preacher says in Hebrews 10:26-27: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” 
They warn me and all believers against intentional rebellion against God’s will after Christ’s grace has come to our lives. Acts 17:30 says: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” 
Once “love comes to town,” though, once Christ entered our lives, we could/can no longer claim ignorance of God’s will for us. As beneficiaries of what Christ accomplished on the cross, our desire should be, from simple thankfulness, to seek to live in accordance with God’s will as revealed in His Law. Obedience to the law can’t save me. But obedience to God’s law is the desire of anyone who knows how much God loved and loves us through Christ. One look to the cross should motivate any Christians to seek to live according to God’s will for human beings. Thankfulness should incite me to delight in the law of the Lord and to meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:1-2) 
Deliberate, intentional sin after one has experienced grace is a kind of “repentance from” righteousness, a walking away from Christ, a choice to stand outside the grace of God. It means that one removes the covering of Christ and once more stands naked before God in sin. And the wages of sin are still death (Romans 6:23). 
That’s a terrifying thing!  
And there have been times when I have intentionally, knowingly wandered away from You, God. I have turned to sin I knew to be wrong. I have done things I knew to be displeasing to you. I took Your grace for granted. I took the benefits of eternal life with You from Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on the cross as my right. But I have no intrinsic right to claim life in Your kingdom. That’s a gift given to those who empty themselves of the sin of this world and tage hold of you! (Acts 3:19; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:30-32; John 3:16-18). 
When, knowing Christ and His grace and Your Law, and still knowingly sin, I am, at the least, on very shaky ground.  
And, as one who is called and presumes to teach Your Word, the ground is even shakier when I intentionally defy You. “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).  
Respond: God, in Jesus’ name, forgive me for the contempt I have shown to You and to Your Word. Forgive me for taking for granted Jesus, His painful cross, His humiliation, and His death for sinners like me. Forgive me for sinning knowingly, even as Your Holy Spirit told me, “Don’t do this, Mark!” Forgive me and restore me. I call upon You, Lord, with as much authenticity and humility as a human being is capable of, and I beg You, for Jesus’ sake to forgive these and all my sins. Help me to call on Your name and have my relationship with You restored. Send Your Holy Spirit to come alongside of me and speak Your truth--both Law and Gospel--to me, and help me to listen. Fill me and guide me with Your Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.   
Erase from me all the feelings of hatred and contempt and disdain and all the words and actions that come from me reflecting these sins. Forgive me for my covetousness and help me to be content with You and what You have given to me. Forgive me for the ways in which I have hurt others. Forgive me for stewing over what others think of me. Forgive me for focusing on what’s unimportant and forgetting the important to which You call me. Let "daily repentance and renewal" be a feature of my life, an authentic and repeated surrender to you each day so that my life will express the gratitude I have for the gracious gift of Christ. 
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Begin Forever by Switchfoot



"...Without you, without you, it means nothing, nothing
Without you, without you, it means nothing
Yeah

"It's never too late to try
It's never too late to finally find a way to make you right
Happily ever
I don't need nothing money could buy
I just need you by my side I'm telling you one more time
It's never to late to begin forever..."

Faith Supplements: Living Like We Mean It

Today, during my Quiet Time with God, I reflected on what God has to say through the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1. God especially spoke to me in 2 Peter 1:5-11:
5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11) 
Just before this paragraph, Peter has told his audience that God, by His grace given through Christ to those who believe, has given “all things that pertain to life and godliness.”  
In other words, through Christ, God gives the power of the Holy Spirit to believers to live and thrive in godliness. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to live in ways that are beyond our own capabilities, to live as people made in the image of God, set free from the sinful state into which we’re born. Jesus sets us free to love and live in ways that are foreign to the world and the power for which only God gives. (In fact, Peter uses the verb give, several times in these few verses.) 
Filled with this power, Peter says, pursue the practice of qualities that will confirm--to us, to the world, and to God, I surmise--the presence and power of God’s grace in Christ working in our lives.  
Verses 3 and 4 of this chapter make clear that Peter is NOT saying that the pursuit of these qualities are a means by which we save ourselves. Christ is the only One Who can save us.  
But when Peter says to “make every effort to supplement [some translations say add to] your faith…” with these qualities, I think he means this: The Holy Spirit implants every one of these qualities in believers. They exist latently, like barrels of beer (or, you prefer, soft drinks) waiting for the Christian to tap into and lap up. Or, they’re like blank checks of character just waiting for the Christian to cash and live out.  


Even Christians, of course, who know and trust in Christ, continue to be both sinners and saints. For the Christian not lulled into fatalism by their inborn sinful nature (this is part of what Luther is describing in The Small Catechism when he speaks of “despair and other great and shameful sins”), life with Christ is a constant war between the allurements of the old self, the evil of the world, and the evil laid before us by the devil, on the one hand, and the “narrow path” of life, a life of joy, peace, and hope that only comes from Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14). 


Paul speaks of his own struggle with this in Romans 7:21-25: 
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” 
Christ is the only way to win this battle to be truly human! 
It can’t be won by being virtuous. It can be won by tapping into the virtues that God gives to those who turn to Him daily through Christ.
So, Paul says elsewhere: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 
In other words, quit asking questions like:
Am I happy?
Am I getting enough of the stuff of this life? 
Am I being appreciated?
Am I honored by others? 
Blah blah blah blah! 
If Jesus is all I need, my daily bread, my living water, questions like these are irrelevant. 
My call then is to tap into those qualities with which the Holy Spirit imbues believers in Jesus, to “supplement” my faith by living out the calls of these qualities.  
By pursuing the qualities Peter talks about in these verses, rather than pursuing happiness, others’ appreciation, money, and so on, I will put all earthly things in perspective and I will be on the path of God.  
So, Peter says, pursue virtue. Virtue means moral goodness, uprightness in actions, graciousness toward others. It’s living as the loving person I want, in my heart of hearts, to be. 
Peter says to add to virtue, knowledge. This references both knowledge of the facts and a wise reflection on the facts.  
Knowledge and wisdom are only as reliable as the sources from which they’re drawn, as we’ve learned painfully from the fake news sites that played such an important part in the past presidential campaign.  
The ultimate truth source, of course, is God. Jesus says in John 14:6 that He is the way, the truth, and the the life. And Proverbs 2:6 says: “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” 
If I’m to supplement virtue with knowledge, I must begin (every single day) with God’s Word. I must be steeped in the Bible, God’s authoritative revelation of truth! 
I must supplement virtue and knowledge with self-control. This is an ongoing battle for me. I tend to be a grazer, allowing myself to be led along from one thing to another by what interests me at any given moment, then wonder where the time has gone and why I haven’t achieved what I set out to do, or to mindlessly munch on snacks, then wonder why I’ve gained so much weight.  
But God has given to me the ability to be self-controlled, if I will only tap into the power of the Holy Spirit residing within me as a believer in Jesus! Paul speaks of self-control as a “fruit of the Holy Spirit,” evidence of God having taken up residence in the life of a believer: “...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23). 
Next, Peter says, we’re to supplement our faith in Christ with steadfastness. The idea here is patient endurance.  
This means honoring one’s godly commitments, whether they’re my commitments to follow Christ, stay in my marriage, take care of my kids, honor my parents, doing an honest day’s work, treating my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), respecting God’s ten commandments (all of them), and so on.  
Is there any Christian who has ever gone without breaking at least one of these commitments? No.  
Whether in thought, word, or deed, we (I) have broken them all. But repentance is all about returning to God through Christ and once again living in His gracious power to help us be more conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).  
For an imperfect person like me, part of steadfastness is knowing Who to come home to when I have strayed. I need to remember to come home to Jesus Christ!  
Next, I am to supplement my faith with godliness. This means devotion to and reverence for God.  
When I think of a devoted or reverent person, I don’t think of someone who solemnly worships with liturgical correctness. (Though the liturgies of the Church built on God’s Word, can draw us closer to God.)  
I don’t think either of a person who seemingly floats above the lives of mere mortals, someone who wouldn’t, in the old phrase, “say s--t if they had a mouthful of it.”  
Strong’s Concordance says of someone who is godly: “...[their] inner response to the things of God which shows itself in godly piety…” It says that godliness: “...naturally expresses itself in reverence for God.”  
A godly person is one who seeks to live in accordance with the revealed will of God, who seeks to honor God by living a life of love for God and love for neighbor, including loving God and neighbor enough to be committed to making disciples for Jesus.  
A godly person seeks to wipe out the disconnect between what I confess on Sunday mornings and how I act on Friday night. 
After godliness, I’m to supplement by faith with brotherly affection, φιλαδελφίαν (philadelphian). This is inside baseball--inside the Church--stuff. We are to cherish each of our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Church. 
The reason for this is simple. It is impossible to be a disciple of Christ without a connection to Christ’s Church. Life with Christ only happens when we rub shoulders with other believers in Christ in the fellowship of the Church.  
The Bible calls fellow believers in Christ sisters and brothers, God being our Father. The Church is an extended family.  
In any family, there are bound to be tensions between siblings, including the ones who live in the same house.  
In fact, I think that the family (which Luther describes as “the little Church”) is designed to help form us as disciples capable of loving others even when disagreeing with others or being different from others by subjecting us to the very differences between people which, apart from Christ, would drive us into isolation and self-absorption.  
Just so, God places us in the Church so that we are forced to confront our own sin, our self-absorption, and our lovelessness. Christ puts us in the Church so that there are people speaking for Him who can tell us no, when we need to hear it, and yes, when we need to hear it. 
Proverbs 27:17 says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” God gives us sisters and brothers in the Church to rub us the wrong way when we need it and to lift us up when we need it.  
He does this to form us as disciples, so Christ will be more and more essential to our lives and so that Christ will be more evidenced to others in us.  
The only new commandment Jesus gave has to do with His Church: “"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).  
This differs from the great commandment, which Jesus reiterated but goes back to the Old Testament: It commands us to love others as we love ourselves.  
The new command is for Christians in Christ’s Church: We are to love each other exactly the way Jesus loves us, with a willingness to die for the sake of our sisters and brothers in the faith and for Christ Himself. Without constant turning again to Christ, I am incapable of being a true philadelphian. 
Finally, I’m to supplement my faith in Christ with love. The word in the original Greek is agapen.  
Strong’s says that this word describes love as a moral choice. In other words, love, as the Bible understands it, isn’t primarily about feelings. There may be brotherly affection, as mentioned earlier. But love is primarily the moral choice you make to seek what’s best for others, sometimes in spite of what you may be feeling at the moment or even what's in our own interest.  
Its biggest example, of course, is Jesus on the cross. Jesus had made it clear in the garden that He wanted to avoid the cross. Yet His love for the Father and for sinners like me caused Him to make the decision to take the cross.  
If brotherly affection is inside baseball, this is more about everybody else in the Christian's life. Our attitude and actions toward the world are to be characterized by love, even toward those who hate us. (Even when others force us to war against them, we must retain our love for them. If we allow ourselves to mirror the hatred of those who choose to war against us, we lose our moral grounding. Instead, when others make war against us, we must war back, but not engage in the savagery of hatred that might lead to indefensible acts like the murder of civilians or torture.)  
I can only supplement my faith in Christ with these qualities through deliberately, intentionally, and daily turning from sin and turning to Christ.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]