There is no peace

Imagine a soldier returning from war. Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among men and women who have experienced or witnessed a terrifying event. Even in the safety of home, the mind struggles to reconcile peace. The smallest thing can trigger an event. A loud or sudden sound. The sight of a certain vehicle. A word or phrase. On one hand, the mind knows that they are safe, but it plays tricks and wreaks havoc when least expected.

The world is, in a way, experiencing PTSD. The truth really is out there. Peace can be found. Somewhere in the back of their minds, they all know that. But a part of them refuses to accept it. It doesn’t look like they think it should. It doesn’t sound like they think it should sound. They’ve become shellshocked, accustomed to things no one should ever become accustomed to. In some ways, it is easier to remain at war.

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

Luke 12:51 (NIV)

We’d all like to think that Jesus’ birth should have been the advent of eternal global peace. But that’s not why he came. He came to bring peace to those who would accept it. But, while some accept his peace, others find division.

Jesus’ message was revolutionary. Be last to be first. Serve if you want to lead. If someone strikes one cheek, offer the other. It goes against everything our humanity longs for—importance, status, acceptance.

Like soldiers returning to life after war where peace is a foreign concept, the world has grown so used to its carnal ways that anything else is completely foreign. And they fight against it.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John 1:5 (NIV)

Unless there is a revelation of the truth of Jesus’ words, there will always be a fight against them. Human nature cannot be reconciled with spiritual rebirth.

Jesus didn’t come to start a war, but he knew that not everyone would be willing to receive him. But while we work to spread his Good News, he left something with us.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27 (NIV)

Read: 1 Samuel 4-6, Luke 12:35-59

Is anybody listening?

Have you ever heard God’s voice? I mean really heard His voice, not just an inkling in your spirit? I always imagined God to sound like a big black man. Like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. But I’ve never actually audibly hear God’s voice. Truth be told, most Christians haven’t. And almost as many would probably say that they’ve never really felt an unction in their spirit, either. Why is that? Does God not speak? Or are we not listening?

A long, long time ago in a land far, far away, there was a boy who heard a voice. It called his name in the night. The boy got up and ran to his mentor asking what was required of him. The old man told the boy to go back to sleep, no one had called him. Again, the voice called and the boy ran. The old man, once more sent him back to bed. Yet again the voice called the boy’s name and he got up. Finally, the old priest, Eli, realised what was happening. This time, he instructed the boy to respond a certain way when he heard the voice.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)

Many imagine the voice of the Lord to be a terrible thing, shaking the earth and splitting stones. But a sound like that would have terrified a child in the night. Instead, Samuel immediately ran to Eli. God’s voice sounded familiar to him.

In 1 Kings 19:11-12, the voice of God spoke to Elijah. After a powerful wind, an earthquake, and fire, he heard a gentle whisper.

In Isaiah 6, the sound of angels crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” shook the temple, and afterward, Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord calling to him.

In Acts 9, Saul was brought to a sudden stop with a blinding light. When the Lord called out to him, Saul knew immediately who spoke.

No two accounts of man hearing the voice of God are the same, but they all have a couple of things in common.

  1. They weren’t afraid. None of these people feared or cowered at God’s voice. His voice was familiar and, in most cases, gentle. Unlike the angels—who always had to tell people not to fear, God’s voice is nothing to cringe at.
  2. They were listening. In some cases, God had to get someone’s attention. In the case of Samuel, it was the fourth time that was a charm. In the case of Saul, He had to blind him to get him to listen. But they listened.

Close your eyes. Listen. How many sounds can you identify as you sit where you are? At the moment, I can hear the fan of a heater and my computer, I hear the fridge in the next room, there’s a car speeding up the hill near my house, and a clock is ticking on the wall above me. I hear the landlord’s footsteps on the hardwood floor overhead and the house creaking as it settles. Most of those sounds I can’t even turn off.

Our ears and our minds are constantly bombarded with noise and then we have the audacity to claim that God isn’t speaking or that, if He wanted to get our attention, He would. Only in very special cases, like Saul (who later became known as Paul), did God arrest someone to give them a certain message. We allow distractions to fill our heads to our own detriment. Most of us can’t stand the silence. Yet that’s where God’s voice usually is.

We need to make time to listen. We need to block out the noise to hear. I am confident in this: God wants to speak to you.

He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.

John 8:47 (NIV)

Those are Jesus’ words, not mine. If we really, truly belong to God, we’ll make time for Him. We will listen, not for the wind or the quaking, but the whisper.

Is anybody listening?

Read: 1 Samuel 1-3, Luke 12:1-34

It’s in His genes

“You are so much like your mother.” I’ve heard that phrase many times in my life. Back when my mother and I both worked for the same company, I’d answer the phone only to have the person on the other end of the line go into a long conversation about a department I had nothing to do with. Over the phone, I’ve even had my father call me sweetheart—a term reserved only for my mother. I sound just like my mom. I look like her, too. And she looks like her mom. Who looks like her mom. I know exactly what I’m going to look like if I reach my 101st birthday. It’s in my genes.

Jesus had something in his genes. Royalty, for one. After all, he was referred to as the son of David. He came from a heritage of kings. But Jesus had more than royalty in his lineage. He had redemption.

Long before Jesus, there was David. And long before David, there was a woman named Ruth. Ruth was from Moab, but she married an Israelite. When her husband died, she returned with her mother-in-law to the land of her husband.

In Israel, there was a law that stated if a widow was childless, the nearest male relative to her deceased husband would marry her to produce an heir. This man (usually a brother, but not always) was known as the go’el or kinsman-redeemer.

Ruth’s husband’s family had land in Israel. It was a part of the inheritance the family received upon entering the Promised Land. The land would forever belong to the family so long as there was an heir to receive it. Ruth needed an heir. So she offered herself to Boaz—a man of the same tribe as her late husband. After the next of kin declined his duty, Boaz purchased the right to marry or act as a redeemer for Ruth.

Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord give you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Ruth 4:11-12 (NIV)

Who’s Perez? Not Hilton, that’s for sure. Perez was a son of Judah. Judah was also a kinsman-redeemer. When his daughter-in-law remained childless after having been wed to two of his sons, Judah became the man to produce an heir. While it wasn’t the most savoury of situations, Judah was still a redeemer. Judah, an ancestor of Boaz who was a redeemer. Boaz, an ancestor of Jesus who is The Redeemer.

Boaz took on a debt he did not owe by marrying Ruth and providing an heir for her deceased husband. It seems so small in comparison to the debt Jesus paid for us. He became our go’el, taking on himself that which overwhelmed us—our sin.

I don’t think it was by accident that these men in Jesus’ lineage were also redeemers. Without them and their actions, Jesus never could have arrived on scene. David’s line never would have even existed for Jesus to be a part of it. Redemption was in Jesus’ blood. Redemption was in his genes.

Read: Ruth 1-4, Luke 11:29-54

Teach me

Once upon a time, The Lord’s Prayer was prayed in schools across North America. Children learned it and recited it with regularity. And, while there is surely much argument surrounding such a practice, it certainly made our schools and our nation a better place for it.

Because it was something many of us learned as children, we are often wont to think of the words as childish. Something simple, for kids. We lump it into the category of milk rather than meat. But that was not at all Jesus’ intent.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Luke 11:1 (NIV)

Jesus responded to this request with what we have termed, The Lord’s Prayer. There is nothing immature or childish about the method Jesus gave to his disciples. These men were no longer new and immature followers. They had already been sent out on missionary journeys and had been healing and casting out demons in Jesus’ name.

“Lord, teach us to pray,” is a good prayer, and a very needful one, for Jesus Christ only can teach us, by his word and Spirit, how to pray. Lord, teach me what it is to pray; Lord, stir up and quicken me to the duty; Lord, direct me what to pray for; teach me what I should say.

Matthew Henry

I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard believers (not even new ones) say that they don’t know how to pray or they don’t know what to pray. And I can probably count on one hand the number of times someone has offered them the prayer that Jesus offered to his disciples.

Childish as it may seem to us, The Lord’s Prayer encompasses all we need as believers: a reminder of God as our Father and His holiness, the will for His kingdom to come to earth, the request that our daily needs be provided for, the forgiveness of our own sins along with the aid needed to forgive others, and a way out of the temptation we will surely find ourselves in.

Perhaps if we stopped trying to act like we think mature believers should act and start acting as the children of God we are, we as the Church, might find ourselves in a more advantageous position.

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

Luke 18:17 (NIV)

There is no shame in asking for help when we think we need it (and even when we don’t). When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, they were not rebuked, but given words for life. My grandfather, a great minister of the Gospel until the day he moved to heaven, once said in a message that the one word God loves to hear from us is a four-letter word.

H-E-L-P!

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. It takes courage to admit when we are not capable of doing something on our own. And God, in His love and mercy, will always be faithful to come to our aid.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Romans 8:26 (NIV)

So today, if you don’t know what to pray (or even if you do), start with Jesus’ example. Pray the prayer he gave us. Don’t just say it by rote, really pray it. Think about the words and the power within them. Ask Jesus to teach you what it is to pray.

Read: Judges 20-21, Luke 11:1-28

True love doesn’t wait

Back when I was a teenager, the True Love Waits movement took youth groups by storm. All over North America, teens were filling churches, halls, and stadiums making a commitment to stay pure (virgins—gasp!) until marriage. I have no issue at all with saving oneself for marriage. I myself have made the commitment—as countercultural and archaic as the idea may be. What I do have a bit of an issue with is the title given to the movement. It would imply that,you must wait in order to truly love someone. Nothing could be further from the truth!

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

Who is the neighbour in this situation? The original text refers to anyone who is nearby, not just those who live within physical proximity. In this case, anyone and everyone you come into contact with on a daily basis can, and should, be considered your neighbour. J.A. Findlay said that the question is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “To whom can I show myself a neighbor?”

But before we can love our neighbour, we must first love God.

No one will ever love God and his neighbour with any measure of pure, spiritual love, who is not made a partaker of converting grace.

Matthew Henry

It is impossible to truly love anyone without first loving God and allowing our hearts to be changed by Him.

What then does true love look like?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Jesus followed up is explanation to the expert in the law with the parable of the good Samaritan. In this case, his neighbour was his enemy. But that didn’t stop the Samaritan from showing love. There was nothing in it for him, and that is the foundation of true love. As soon as we make the offer of love expecting something in return, it is no longer true.

True love, the godly kind of love, the love that is patient and kind, does not wait. It should not wait. It should readily spring forth from a heart that is overflowing with love for and from God. The act of loving one another is not something for which we need a specific instruction from the Lord. It is something we’ve already been commanded to do. So don’t wait. Love. Love truly.

Read: Judges 18-19, Luke 10:25-42 

His harvest

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Luke 10:2 (NIV)

It takes a lot of pressure off of what we do as Christians, as ministers, doing the work of the Lord when we focus on one simple aspect of this verse. We could very easily take it upon ourselves to do all of the work and bring in all of the harvest while worrying about how to plant, water, and grow it as well. But notice that Jesus calls it his harvest field. It is not our duty to worry about anything but bringing it in and praying for more people to help us bring it in.

Not everyone has had a revelation of who God is—they have not yet heard the Gospel, but according to Jesus, many have heard the Gospel and need help taking that final step toward salvation. It is up to the Church to go out and gather these people so that they may develop a deeper relationship with God.

All these things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Luke 10:22 (NIV)

Jesus chose not to reveal himself to the kings and rulers of the day. He revealed himself to the average person. He did not seek to attain political power, but humbly approached the lowly and simple. In doing so, he changed a nation from the bottom up. By the time the rulers discovered who Jesus was and what he was doing, it was too late to stop him.

There is no reason why our ministry now should not reflect what Jesus did in his time on earth. We should pray for our leaders. We should be leaders. But we don’t have to go out looking for the harvest. The harvest, God’s harvest, is among our peers and those with whom we do life with on a daily basis. It is those people we should be talking to, building relationships with, and showing them the love that Christ has already extended to us and to them through us. The harvest is all around us and we are all the workers God has called to bring it in.

However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:20 (NIV)

As much as we long to (and should) see the power of God in signs and wonders, our greatest joy should be found in the fact that we are the children of God. That joy only grows when we are able to lead others to join us in our heavenly citizenship.

Don’t worry about how to grow the harvest. It’s not yours. Just go out and get it.

Read: Judges 15-17, Luke 10:1-24

The profession of Christianity

Let us try not to join the profession of Christianity, with seeking after worldly advantages.

Matthew Henry

“You’ll never have to worry about anything again!”

“God wants you to be rich!”

“This is the best life ever!”

“Everything is good!”

All of these claims have been touted by Christians, preachers, and televangelists. They have brought untold millions to their knees to pray a prayer that they’ve been conned into reciting. While they all contain a partial truth, they are not indicative of the Christian life.

Jesus had some choice words for some who wished to take care of business before taking up the business of following him.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my Father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62 (NIV)

In order to “close the deal” when it comes to leading someone to salvation, we are often apt to spout the benefits while making light of the cost. The truth is, there are many, many benefits to giving your life to Christ, but there is also a great cost—one that cannot be ignored.

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (NIV)

The benefits come as a result of us doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

It is a difficult road to walk, this life in pursuit of God. On one side, we can be easily distracted by the thought of a reward and, on the other side, we can be so focused on our call that we deny the existence of any reward at all.

Our purpose in serving God should be just that—to serve Him and Him alone. If the reward is all we seek, our hearts are in the wrong place. But that does not mean that we should not be prepared to receive a reward or blessing.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Luke 11:13 (NIV)

If is with a pure heart and pure motives that we must seek after God. Yet, as His children, we must not deny Him the joy of blessing us.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Read: Judges 12-14, Luke 9:37-62