Book of 2 Peter

Nazareth is the capital and the largest city in the Northern District of Israel.
Nazareth is known as “the Arab capital of Israel”. The population is made up predominantly of Israeli Arabs, almost all of whom are either Muslim (69%) or Christian (30.9%).
In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.

If you were dying but had the opportunity of writing a final letter to friends, what would you say? That’s a heavy question, but it helps us understand 2 Peter.

Knowing his remaining time was short, Peter wrote this letter, probably from Rome, as he neared the time of his martyrdom.

Had you been Peter, what would you have written? Perhaps you’d want to give a reminder of your core beliefs, then you might leave instructions about a critical issue, finally you’d focus on the joy of Christ’s return.

That’s exactly what Peter did in the three chapters of his letter.

  • In chapter 1, he affirmed that God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness, and we must diligently grow in these virtues.
  • In chapter 2, he warned us against false teachers who speak with great swelling words of emptiness.
  • He concluded with chapter 3 devoted to the Lord’s return, when heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat.

In light of this what sort of people ought to be? We should be people who are known, Peter said, by our holy conduct and godliness, as we look for and hasten the coming of our Lord.

Key Thought:

While awaiting our Lord’s return, we must stand on His great and precious promises, which provide all we need for life and godliness.

Caesarea Philippi: remnants of the temple of Pan with Pan’s grotto. The white-domed shrine of Nabi Khadr shows in the background.

Key Verse:

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet 1:10). 

Key Action:

“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Pet 3:14).

Book of 1 Peter

Nazareth is the capital and the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. Nazareth is known as “the Arab capital of Israel”.
The population is made up predominantly of Israeli Arabs, almost all of whom are either Muslim (69%) or Christian (30.9%).
In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.

If someone had the capacity to retain everything he read, of remembering every fact and date, of summoning to mind every particle of learning; if he could tell you the answer to every question on every exam and provide every statistic known to man, he still would have nothing valuable to say without one other component, experience.

That’s why we read 1 Peter with such interest. Simon Peter was one of our Lord’s original followers and he experienced every dimension of discipleship, both good and bad.

  • He’d been on the mountaintop with Christ,
  • Had walked to Him on the water,
  • Had fled from Him at the cross, and
  • Had served Him in the early Church.

In 1 Peter, the old fisherman drew from a lifetime of experience to tell us how to conduct ourselves as pilgrims and strangers in the world.

Peter hit several themes in his letter, including:

  • Our conduct,
  • The power of grace,
  • The importance of submission and
  • Separation, and the role of tribulation in life.

Much of his letter is written with suffering in mind, teaching us how to respond when grieved by various trials. We’re to commit ourselves to God, to follow in the footsteps of Christ, and to give others an answer for the hope within us.

Nazareth Illit (“Upper Nazareth”) is built alongside old Nazareth, and had a Jewish population of 40,312 in 2014.
In 1954, 1,200 dunams of Nazareth’s land, which had been slated for future urban expansion by the municipality, was confiscated by state authorities for the construction of government offices.
In 1957, for the construction of the Jewish town of Nazareth Illit. The latter was built as a way for the state to counterbalance the Arab majority in the region.
In 1958 May Day rally where marchers demanded that refugees be allowed to return to their villages, an end to land confiscations, and self-determination for Palestinians. Several young protesters were arrested for throwing stones at security forces. Martial law ended in 1966. As of the early 1990s, no city plans drafted by Nazareth Municipality have been approved by the government (both the British Mandate and later Israel) since 1942.
In the 1980s, the government began attempts to merge the nearby village of Ilut with Nazareth, although this move was opposed by residents from both localities and the Nazareth Municipality.
In 1991, Ilut was designated by the Interior Ministry as a separate local council.
In 1997, permission was granted to construct a paved plaza to handle the thousands of Christian pilgrims expected to arrive. A small group of Muslims protested and occupied the site. Government approval of plans for a large mosque on the property triggered protests from Christian leaders.
In 2002, a special government commission permanently halted construction of the mosque.
In March 2006, public protests followed the disruption of a prayer service by an Israeli Jew and his Christian wife and daughter, who detonated firecrackers inside the church. The family said it wanted to draw attention to their problems with the welfare authorities.
In July 2006 a rocket fired by Hezbollah as part of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict killed two children in Nazareth.
In March 2010, the Israeli government approved a $3 million plan to develop Nazareth’s tourism industry.

Peter’s letter is a reminder for Christian pilgrims to look at their passports occasionally so we’ll remember we’re citizens of another kingdom, purchased by the blood of Jesus, and headed toward an inheritance that can never fade away.

Key Thought:

Suffering is an opportunity to walk in our Lord’s steps and live as pilgrims in a pagan world.

Key Verse:

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet 4:12-13). 

Key Action:

 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet 3:15).

 

 

 

Book of James

Capernaum was a fishing village where Jesus lived as an adult. It was established during the time of the Hasmoneans, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It had a population of about 1,500.
Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues built one over the other. A house turned into a church by the Byzantines is said to be the home of Saint Peter. The village was inhabited continuously from the 2nd century B.C.E. to the 11th century C.E., when it was abandoned sometime before the Crusader conquest.
This includes the re-establishment of the village during the Early Islamic period soon after the 749 earthquake.

Most of us know the value of a wise pastor to whom we can go for advice and counsel, someone whose biblical messages give us daily nourishment and practical guidance, who cares for us and speaks wisdom to our circumstances.

Capernaum was a fishing village where Jesus lived as an adult.  It was established during the time of the Hasmoneans, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

It had a population of about 1,500. Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues built one over the other.  A house turned into a church by the Byzantines is said to be the home of Saint Peter.

The village was inhabited continuously from the 2nd century B.C.E. to the 11th century C.E., when it was abandoned sometime before the Crusader conquest. This includes the re-establishment of the village during the Early Islamic period soon after the 749 earthquake.

Well, all of us have a pastor like that whenever we read the book of James.

As the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, James was a respected leader in the early

Church; and he became the head of the church in Jerusalem.

In that role he wrote these five chapters to fellow Jewish Christians outside Jerusalem, to those scattered abroad.

James spoke to them as though he were their pastor, giving commands, warnings,

wisdom, and instruction.

As we study this epistle, we become equal recipients of its message. In some ways, the book of James resembles Proverbs. It’s pithy, practical, and full of everyday wisdom, and its advice we need.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (Jas 3:17).

Capernaum synagogue, view from Peter’s house, present day. Today visitors to Capernaum are impressed by the white limestone remains of an ancient synagogue.
Archaeological excavations indicate that this synagogue was built over the remains of an earlier synagogue dating from the time of Jesus. Thus we can say with some measure of confidence that this is the place where Jesus healed the demon-possessed man (Mk 1:21-28) and preached the sermon on the bread of life (Jn 6:25-59).

True faith, he wrote, is wise and translates into daily action.

If you need a regular dose of wisdom from a beloved pastor, read the book of James and listen to his instructions about dealing with trials, caring for widows and orphans, taming your tongue, and managing your money.

The more we know of this little letter, the more the wisdom of our ways and the integrity of our walk will increase.

Key Thought:

The wisdom from above, God’s wisdom, teaches us how to deal with trials, care for the needy, control our temper and tongues, and glorify God by the integrity of our daily lives.

Key Verse:

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas 1:22).

Key Actions:

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas 1:27).

 

Book of Hebrews

Bethlehem is a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank, Palestine, about 6.2 miles (10 km) south of Jerusalem. Its population is approximately 25,000 people.
It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate. The economy is primarily tourist-driven. The earliest known mention of the city was in the Amarna correspondence of 1350–1330 B.C.E., during its habitation by the Canaanites.
The Hebrew Bible, which says that the city of Bethlehem was built up as a fortified city by Rehoboam, identifies it as the city David was from and where he was crowned as the king of Israel.

The president of a Christian university was famous for telling discouraged students: “It’s always too soon to quit.” Those words ring true for all of us, because life is difficult and we sometimes want to give up.

Hebrews was written to tell us to persevere, to keep going, to focus on our great high priest, and to run with patience the race before us.

According to background given in chapter 10, Hebrews was addressed to some Jewish Christians facing renewed challenges.

Though they had confessed Christ as Savior and been faithful in the past, they now faced a new wave of persecution. Some were in danger of reverting to Judaism.

The writer of Hebrews, whoever he was, exhorted them to remain strong in Him who is greater than anything or anyone in the Old Testament.

Jesus is truly our great High Priest, who instituted a new and better covenant and who ever lives to make intercession for His people.

Words like better, more, great, and greater appear about forty-five times in this book, making Hebrews a book of superlatives about Jesus, who is superior to all the angels, prophets, writers, systems and sacrifices of Old Testament days.

While most of us don’t have a heritage steeped in Levitical tradition, we all face discouragement. Hebrews tells us to hold firm to our faith, keeping our eyes on our

Great High Priest, and to persevere, never giving up. With Christ on our side, it’s always too soon to quit.

Key Thought:

We must never yield to discouragement, for our Great High Priest is supreme over-all and sufficient for all.

Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus and it was destroyed by the Emperor Hadrian during the 2nd century Bar Kokhba revolt; its rebuilding was promoted by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who commissioned the building of its great Church of the Nativity in 327 C.E.
The church was badly damaged by the Samaritans, who sacked it during a revolt in 529, but was rebuilt a century later by Emperor Justinian I.
Bethlehem now has a Muslim majority, but is still home to a significant Palestinian Christian community. Bethlehem’s chief economic sector is tourism. It has 30 hotels and 300 handicraft workshops.

Key Verse:

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” (Heb 4:14). 

Key Action:

Persevere!

Book of Philemon

Colossae was an ancient city of Phrygia in Asia Minor, and was the location of a Christian community.
Writing in the 4th century B.C., Xenophon refers to Colossae as one of six large cities of Phrygia. It was populated by peoples of Greek and Hebrew origin (Antiochus the Great having relocated there, two thousand Jewish families from Babylonia and Mesopotamia), as well as other cultures and ethnicities, as it was an early center of trade given its location on the Lycus (a tributary of the Maeander River) and its position near the great military and commercial road from Ephesus to the Euphrates.
Commerce of the city included trade in wool—the dyed wool collossinus was named for the place—and in the products of weaving and other trades. It was also known for its fusion of religious influences (syncretism), which included Jewish, Gnostic, and pagan influences that in the first century A.D. were described as an angel-cult (a matter addressed by the Pauline letter). The city was decimated by an earthquake in the 60s A.D., rebuilt independent of the support of Rome, overrun by the Saracens in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D., and then destroyed, ultimately, by the Turks in the 12th century, with the remnant of its population relocating, among other places, to nearby Chonae.
As of 2015, it had never been excavated, though plans are reported for an Australian led expedition to the site.

There are two things we seldom see nowadays, a personal handwritten note; and someone who says to us, “Put that on my bill.”  In this little letter, a man named Philemon received both.

This is one of the most personal stories in the Bible and it provides us with Paul’s only piece of truly private correspondence in Scripture.

Paul wrote it from prison, addressed to a wealthy man named Philemon who lived in the Turkish town of Colosse.

Philemon possessed bondservants, one of whom, Onesimui, had run away and fled to Rome. It’s likely he had robbed Philemon.

There in the capital city of Rome, Onesimus crossed paths with the apostle Paul who led him to faith in Christ.

The young man found new life, and Paul took this boy into his heart like a father to his son, mentoring and discipling him.

But the day came for Onesimus to be sent back to Philemon with this slip of a letter, an appeal from Paul to Philemon regarding Onesimus.

“Receive this young man as a brother,” said Paul, and “if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account” (Phil 1:17-18).

Onesimus left a runaway slave; he returned a dear brother, and we’re left with a book that teaches us the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.

We can’t claim to experience God’s love if we refuse to forgive others. Christian forgiveness knows no boundaries. Christ put our sins on His account that we might be both forgiven and forgiving.

Key Thought:

Being members of God’s family obligates us to attitudes of forgiveness, reconciliation, and mutual respect, one for another.

Key Verses:

“That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Phil

1:10-11). 

Key Action:

Receive, respect, and refresh your brothers and sisters in Christ.