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22. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Don't Be Afraid!

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A pilgrim's journey through an increasingly hostile world is not easy. All the encouragement and instruction given by Peter to the believers scattered throughout Asia and Palestine was valuable. But without a doubt there were moments of fear and worry that would have plagued the followers of Jesus even though they had their eyes fixed on home, on the incorruptible treasure waiting for them. The determination to stand for their faith would meet opposition again and again. It might result in more loss than that which they had already suffered. Concern would turn to worry, and worry turn to fear.
So Peter writes these words in 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 
Anxiety is an overwhelming consumer of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resources. I would like to say that it is like a vacuum cleaner sucking up everything around it, except that my vacuum cleaners are not nearly as efficient as all that! But you get the idea.
Peter do…

21. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Pride, A Boulder in the Path

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Submission would be whole lot easier if 1 Peter 5:5b was always true.
"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another…"
As Peter ends his letter to the believers of his day, men and women had been forced to scatter throughout their world because of persecution, he addresses for a moment those with spiritual authority. He encourages them to be true shepherds, examples, imitators of the Great Shepherd, Jesus. As he finishes that brief word he tells those younger to submit to their spiritual leaders. Some exult at that instruction; others resent it. Few read, or dwell, on the phrase that follows.
"In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. ALL OF YOU, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…"
I wonder if Peter was thinking of a certain discussion that took place just before Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to His death? An ambitious mother came to Jesus to ask Him to make her sons His right (and …

20. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Trouble At The Top

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This is not a post I enjoyed writing, but then again pilgrimage is not always pleasant. Dealing with the experiences triggered as I looked at 1 Peter 5:1-4 has been a reminder to fix my eyes once again on watching my step in the "here-and-now," putting behind me the "then-and-there," and focussing on the "coming-soon-to-an-eternity-near-you." 
Peter now addresses the possibility of abuse of spiritual authority among those to whom he is writing. Such abuse can take many forms. Here is one scenario.
It begins with a promise, seemingly heart-felt, to ensure that you will be valued as you deserve to be valued. That sounds good until you realize that there is a price attached—unquestioning obedience and a blind eye to evil. That's manipulation.
When you are told to do something or ignore something that you know is wrong, and begin to ask questions, you are met with threats. You are to do what you are told, or else. They are the leaders. They are right. Th…

19. Pilgrimage to Paradise: The Discipline of Suffering

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The media seldom reports on the persecution of Christians around the world. If we search the internet for information on the subject we come up with a number of organizations that speak for those who, for the most part, are not able to speak for themselves. The Bible League Canada estimates that there are as many as 100 million Christians suffering persecution. Open Doors USA says that 1 in 9 believers experience some form of persecution. One site posts that every day some 300 people are killed for their faith in Jesus. Perhaps the best known agency, The Voice of the Martyrs, offers a variety of ways by which those of us who know little of being persecuted for our beliefs, can help those in places where being a Christian is a death sentence.
The pilgrims of Peter's day understood persecution in a way that few of us can. In 1 Peter 4:12 to 19, Peter encourages them to rejoice in their suffering. What an odd thing to say!
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal …

18. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Until He Returns

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Frequently I hear other followers of Jesus comment on the desperate state of the world, and express their certainty that the Lord must be going to return soon to put right all the things that have gone so horribly wrong. 
We long for that day.
Two thousand years ago (and counting) other believers also longed for that day and were certain that it had to be close at hand. After all, how could things get any worse for them? As Peter writes to the persecuted and scattered pilgrims of his day he says: "The end of all things is near." (1 Peter 4:7a)
But Peter does not suggest that they climb up the nearest hill and wait for Jesus' arrival, ignoring the journey they have not yet completed. There is work to be done.
"Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, a…

17. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Trusting in the Promises

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"How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." So writes the psalmist in Psalm 84. 
Being a pilgrim, a stranger in a land growing more foreign to the follower of Jesus every day, is not easy. The desire to reach the end of the journey, to be at last in the court of the Lord and in His presence, is acute.
But the journey isn't over. The pilgrimage has not reached its end and strength must be found to endure the strangeness, the darkness, the evil of the valley that must be passed through on the way to Paradise.
We understand the darkness of the death valley to which we hope to bring just a little bit of life as we pass by. But it is hard to live in that darkness. Those who read Peter's letter also understood the challenges. He writes to encourage them to resist the pull from the dead, even though it might have been difficult.
"Therefore, since Christ s…

16. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Nuts are Not Good

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In 1902, E. T. Cassel penned this song:
1. I am a stranger here, within a foreign land; My home is far away, upon a golden strand; Ambassador to be of realms beyond the sea, I’m here on business for my King.
Refrain: This is the message that I bring, A message angels fain would sing: “Oh, be ye reconciled,” Thus saith my Lord and King, “Oh, be ye reconciled to God.”
2. This is the King’s command: that all men, everywhere, Repent and turn away from sin’s seductive snare; That all who will obey, with Him shall reign for aye, And that’s my business for my King.
3. My home is brighter far than Sharon’s rosy plain, Eternal life and joy throughout its vast domain; My Sov’reign bids me tell how mortals there may dwell, And that’s my business for my King.
Obviously this was written long after the pilgrims of Peter's day had received his letter encouraging them to remain strong and faithful despite the difficulties of their lives in the face of privation and persecution. But the message was the same—they w…