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

Mighty warrior

If you have to go into a fight, who are you taking with you? Who is going to lead you and your army into battle? You’re going to pick the biggest, strongest, meanest guy you can find. The guy who inspires (or terrifies) people to follow him. He’s the guy who can flip your car. He’s the guy who simply whistles and everyone falls into line behind him. That’s the guy you’re taking into a fight with you.

Israel has a big fight ahead of them. God needs to pick the guy who will lead them. Gideon was that man.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judges 6:12 (NIV)

This guy must be something special if an angel of the Lord is calling him a mighty warrior. Gideon must be big and strong and well-able to lead an army.

“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Judges 6:15 (NIV)

So… Gideon isn’t a big, strong leader. He’s the runt of the litter.

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Judges 6:16 (NIV)

Many of us disqualify ourselves from our calling saying that we’re not enough. We’re not big enough. We’re not strong enough. We’re not smart enough. We don’t have what it takes. But that’s the point.

Not only did God pick the least consequential person from the weakest clan, he took an army from thirty-two thousand down to three hundred and won the battle. God isn’t nearly as interested in brains and brawn as He is in obedience. He is not looking for greatness, but humility.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

Luke 9:48 (NIV)

When God takes the least and leads them into victory, there is no doubt as to whom it belongs. If we were capable of accomplishing the will of God on our own, He would never receive the glory. But because He calls the weak and the wounded, His glory shines through. No one is disqualified from the call.

Gideon wasn’t a mighty warrior on his own. It was because God was with him that he became a mighty warrior. Maybe you’re not called to lead an army into battle, but God has called you to do something great. Don’t count yourself out because of what you can or can’t do, but rather count on God because of what He can do.

Read: Judges 6-7, Luke 8:1-21

Honey

Read: Deuteronomy 26-27, Mark 15:1-26

Find a controversial news article—any one about politics this days will do—and scroll through the comments. You’ll find several things:

  1. The Lemming: This is a person who agrees wholeheartedly with whatever is set before them. They tend to be ignorant of actual facts, but fully prepared to jump on any bandwagon that passes by.
  2. The Tyrant: This person is angry at everything. It doesn’t matter if they agree with the issue or not, they’re mad about it and they will tell you about it.
  3. The Prayer Warrior: Responding only with phrases like, “Dear Sweet Jesus, come and heal our land,” this person garners distaste from believers and heathens alike. A great prayer, but relatively useless as a comment.
  4. The Peacekeeper: While neither agreeing or disagreeing with the matter at hand this person generally keeps a calm demeanor while attempting to rationally debate the issue.
  5. The Schmuck: This person doesn’t really care about much of anything but the number of responses they can attract. They argue for the sake of the argument, nothing more.
  6. The Minister: Like the Prayer Warrior, this person speaks fluent Christianese, but rather than “praying”, they quote scripture, speak of hellfire and brimstone, and then try to make converts of the Schmucks and Tyrants all while taking scripture out of context.

I’ve actually had to stop myself from reading through comments on stories I read. It gets me riled up and I could find myself in any one of these camps. But I don’t want to be associated with any of them. I don’t want to be a blind follower. I don’t want to be the person who is angry all the time. I don’t want to be the person that is so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. Keeping the peace is all fine and good, but I don’t think anyone has ever accomplished that online. I don’t want to be a schmuck (even the name sounds gross), and internet ministry has yet to start any revival that I know of.

This is not an article about being an internet missionary. This is a call to all Christians to take a look at the idea of how we are perceived by the unbelieving public. Even as a Christian, when I read comments from other well-meaning Christians, I often find myself scoffing—either at the fluff they spout or the anger they incite. A lot of what we say and do as Christians doesn’t translate well in text only. It’s not what we were called to do. And, even if the internet was around in Jesus’ day, I doubt very much that he would have set up all of his disciples with iPads at the bar top in a local Starbucks where they could troll news sites and reply to comments.

Lately, in response to some of the big issues that go against the core beliefs of Christianity, I have heard a great call to arms. A battle cry. But the problem with Christians who believe they are called to fight in the front lines is that they are, plain and simply, wrong.

A Bible school teacher of mine said this, “The greatest fight to faith is learning not to fight.”

Our fight is not against our fellow man, but against our spiritual enemy. Fighting against someone who disagrees with you will never win them to the faith. But if you fight that battle on your knees ahead of time and then go in peace, the results could be very different.

As you read through the Gospels, count how many times Jesus led a battle charge. I’ll give you a hint—none. (I don’t count the overturning-the-tables-in-the-temple because he was simply cleaning his house.) Jesus wasn’t interested in fighting. His ministry was one of love.

Even as he stood before Pilate accused of treason, he made no argument for himself.

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Mark 15:5 (NIV)

Jesus didn’t argue. He didn’t have three points with which he would overturn Pilate’s rule. Jesus didn’t make converts of those in power. Instead, he created a counterculture with the very lowliest of the low. He met the basic needs of the people. He touched the untouchable and loved the unlovable.

It was in concerning himself with the masses that Jesus became a concern to the leaders. He didn’t fight those in charge, but became a friend to those who weren’t.

If a Christian is someone who emulates Christ, the Church as a whole isn’t doing a very good job. When our focus shifts to fighting, we’ve lost our purpose and mission. If we Christians were known more for our love than for our arguments, perhaps more people would like to become one of us.

As the saying goes, you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

The Lord your God

Read: Deuteronomy 8-10, Marik 12:28-44

On the eve of Israel’s move to the Promised Land, Moses takes a few moments to set some reminders for his people.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV)

Israel had a terrible habit of forgetting about God and the covenant they had with Him. In the morning they’d be picking up manna and by the afternoon, they’d be complaining that God brought them out of Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness. Moses knew he’d been leading a stubborn group of people. They only existed because of his intercession on their behalf. After all the trouble he’d gone through, he wanted to be sure they got things right once he was gone.

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Deuteronomy 9:6 (NIV)

The Promised Land was not a reward for good behavior. If God were to reward His people according to what they deserved, He’d have to send them back to Egypt. But because of His covenant and Moses’ prayers, Israel would take possession of the land promised to their forefathers.

This possession was not without its trials. God had already let the people know that they would have to fight. And it would be a long fight. The land would only be cleared of its inhabitants as Israel was prepared to occupy it. God would fight for them, but they still had to go into battle. God would make them prosper, but they would still have to do the work.

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to you forefathers.

Deuteronomy 8:1 (NIV)

The promise to possess did not come without conditions. God wanted the obedience of Israel and He wanted their love.

When asked which was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus replied:

Mark 12-30-31.jpg

I believe that we, too, need the reminder, like Israel did, that the Lord is our God. And, if the Lord is our God, we should love and obey Him. Twenty-four times, Moses used the words the Lord your God in Deuteronomy 8 through 10. It must have been important. Important enough for Jesus to used the very same words when speaking of the greatest commandment.

If Israel remembered the Lord their God, loved Him, and obeyed Him, all would go well for them. The very same goes for us.

And we know that in all thing God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

Snatch

There are times when our focus as the Church can be so outward as we try to seek out and save the lost, that those within our own numbers can be lost. We may not notice that one person who keeps moving further and further to the back of the auditorium, disengaging themselves from the daily life of the church. We cannot assume that, because a person attends church most Sundays, that all is well. It is our responsibility to go out into the world and increase our numbers, but it is also our responsibility to maintain the numbers within our own body. We must be watchful so that our own family members are not lost while still ensuring that we ourselves to do not fall away.

Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren’t contaminated by their sins.

Jude 21-23 (NLT)

Like throwing a lifeline to someone who has gone overboard from a ship at sea, the rope is only so long and you can only go so far before you begin to risk your own safety. That is why it is important to remain watchful so that we can rescue people before they drift too far.

It is the reason why relationships within the family of God are so vitally important—no matter how big or small a church is. If a personal has made no personal connections within the local church, they are far more likely to be set adrift and lost. We must be secure in our faith and secure in our place within the local body.

But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit.

Jude 20 (NLT)

If we do not fight to maintain our faith, the battle will be forfeit and we will find ourselves in a place we never planned to be. Jude writes that we must contend for the faith (verse 3). If you find yourself in a place where you are not fighting to keep the faith, you have most likely already drifted away. It takes time and effort to keep faith. Maintaining it takes effort and determination on our part. Anything less and we allow ourselves to be drawn away to places where there are no longer brothers and sisters in the faith ready to snatch us from the flames of judgement.

It’s better to be the one who does the snatching than the one who needs to be snatched.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 1-4, Jude

Your name here

As we read the Bible, we should always take into consideration the context in which the verses were written. Who wrote them? Who are they talking to? Are they talking about a specific event or period of time? Is it culturally relevant? There are many variables that can change the way we perceive the Word of God. As Pastor Morris Watson put it in his message Do You Know What You’re Asking For?, not everything in the Bible is meant for us personally. But that’s not to say that we can’t take some of it personally.

There are those who like to take scripture and insert their own name into it. I’m not usually one to make a habit of it, but since today’s portion of scripture already has a name in it, why not try inserting your own name in place of Timothy’s?

But you, (insert your name here), belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love,  perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for what we believe. Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you, which you have confessed so well before so many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)

Paul has been writing to Timothy about avoiding many of the pitfalls the Jewish nation was prone to. We’re pretty much in the same boat as the Jews were at that time. The world pushes against us trying to force us into their way of thinking and holding on to the truth becomes more and more difficult.

So today, if you find your faith being pressured, remember these words. Insert your name here and remember that you belong to God. Follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life. All of these things that Paul encouraged Timothy to do still apply to us today.

Take these words to heart. Take them personally and then you and I can fight the good fight for what we all believe.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 17-19, 1 Timothy 6

Bound to be free

 

Obedience is not a word we all love. In fact, most of us likely cringe at the idea. Because along with the idea of obedience comes the issue of discipline. The two generally go hand in hand. If you don’t do the first, you’ll be exposed to the latter. But as the latter becomes less excessive, the first becomes something to be rebelled against. We want freedom! We can’t have freedom if we have to follow rules!

But what if, instead of rebelling against the very things that were intended to hold our society together, we sought to understand them? What if, instead of rallying against a perceived wrong, we learned the original intended purpose behind the law? Instead of spewing hateful rhetoric against the rules, what if we learned to love them?

Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful miracles.

Psalm 119:27 (NLT)

Closed ears and open mouths make for a bad combination. We come up with our own ideas regarding rules and the law based on our own experience or the opinions of others.

Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your law.

Psalm 119:29 (NLT)

The writer of Psalm 119 uses phrases like: teach me, give me understanding, give me an eagerness, make me walk, turn my eyes, reassure me, help me. These are not words of rebellion, but of a longing to know and understand the meaning behind the law.

While we are no longer under the Mosaic law of the Old Testament, we the Church, are under the law that Christ gave to us—the law of love.

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14 (NLT)

God’s law, as well as the laws of the nations (I reference here Canada and the United States), are not there to stifle us or bind us. They are there to set us free. It is a privilege to live under law for without it, there is nothing but anarchy.

For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:13 (NLT)

If instead of clinging to our own selfish and sinful desires, we would cling to the Word and promises of God, we would truly see the world change. The law of love that Jesus placed before us is not something we must follow, it is something we have the privilege of following. In love—and only in love—will we discover the freedom so many people are fighting to find.

Freedom is not in the eradication of rules and laws. It is in the complete submission and obedience to the will of God.

I will walk in freedom,
for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

Psalm 119:43 (NLT)

Binding ourselves to a law seems like an odd way to be free, but that’s the point.

Stop fooling yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you will have to become a fool so you can become wise by God’s standards.

1 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 119:1-48, 1 Corinthians 3