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

Do you believe?

I have a special corner of my house that I use almost exclusively for reading my Bible. There’s a comfy couch, pillows, and a blanket from Mexico. Surrounding said couch is books. Lots of books: Bibles in at least five translations and two languages, dictionaries, concordances, sermon references, and commentaries. I love reading through other’s thoughts on what I’ve read. Sometimes theses books confirm my own ideas. Sometimes they open up a new way of thinking. And sometimes, like today, they are downright disappointing and even disturbing.

I read this today in a popular commentary:

The signs authenticated the faith the early believers proclaimed, not the personal faith that any one of them exercised. In light of this and historical evidence it is reasonable to conclude that these authenticating signs were normative only for the apostolic era.

To what signs is the writer referring?

[Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)

Nothing in Jesus’ commission to his disciples indicates that signs would only follow for a few decades. There is no time frame or limit in this passage. Jesus simply stated that signs will follow believers. Period.

So what happened? Why do we Westerners see so few signs, wonders, and miracles? Ask yourself this question:

Do you believe?

If a well-respected commentary can state that miracles were only for the early apostolic period, imagine what is being taught in our churches all over the world.

Allow me to break this down logically.

Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news. What good news was that? That Jesus had come to save them, to offer a new covenant through his blood rather than the blood of a sacrificial animal. This new covenant would bring eternal life to the spirit of any who accepted it.

Jesus told the disciples to baptize the new believers. Why? Baptism is an outward confirmation of an inward decision. You don’t need to be baptized to be saved, but it is a physical affirmation of a spiritual awakening.

Jesus told the disciples that miraculous signs would follow them.

Observe what power the apostles should be endued with, for confirming the doctrine they were to preach. These were miracles to confirm the truth of the gospel, and means of spreading the gospel among the nations that had not heard it.

Matthew Henry

Here’s my question: If signs and wonders aren’t for today, how is our message supposed to be confirmed? Why did Jesus go around healing people and teaching his disciples how to do the same if he didn’t mean for that practice to carry on? If miracles weren’t needed, why did Jesus bother at all? If the message is supposed to be enough, why is our message getting lost?

I believe in miracles. I have seen them firsthand. I have seen broken bones mend. I have seen stunted limbs grow. I have seen life when there should have been death. And I have seen people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because of those things. Miracles aren’t a sign for believers. They are a benefit to us because we believe, but they are a sign to the unbeliever that there is power in the blood that washes away our sins.

At the risk of reducing the Word to a new low, let me put it simply. You’re watching television late at night and a loud Australian appears on the screen with an incredible new product. He spends ten minutes yelling at you, touting the near-miraculous qualities of the product he’s trying to sell. You stay tuned because you’re moderately interested and oddly enthralled. Then he puts the product to use. You’re sold. You dial the 1-800 number before the five minutes runs out and, for just the added shipping and handling, you will receive a second item for free! It wasn’t his words that sold you, it was the product in action.

The Word of God draws people in. And for some, that’s all they need. But others need that extra confirmation. They need to see the product in action. They need to see what it can actually do. And if the world can’t see our “product” actually do anything, what are we really trying to sell?

God didn’t fill His Word with the miraculous only to stop once Jesus left the stage. His Word is filled with wonders because He is a God of wonders. We do Him (and ourselves) a great disservice by setting the miraculous aside when it was a miracle that brought us where we are in the first place.

So I will ask again, do you believe?

Read: Deuteronomy 29-30, Mark 16

Why wait?

There are many reasons we wait in life. There’s a line. We’re not ready. We’re not prepared. We don’t have the right supplies or equipment. Maybe we’re anxious or afraid or shy. Maybe it isn’t the right time. Whatever the reason, we wait. A lot. Even when we shouldn’t.

Timothy may have be one who had a tendency to wait because Paul gave him this instruction:

Preach the word of God. Be persistent whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

2 Timothy 4:2 (NLT)

I think we’d all like to wait for a favourable time, the right time. And often, waiting for the right time becomes a grand excuse to never really accomplish anything—especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel.

Paul told Timothy to be persistent whether the time is favorable or not.

PERSIST: To continue steadily and firmly in the pursuit of any business or course commenced.

When Jesus commissioned the disciples to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, he didn’t qualify his statement with a time or place. He told them to go. He told them what they could do if they did and then he was gone.

So what are our excuses for waiting to share the Good News? Maybe we’re waiting to be alone with a certain person. Maybe we don’t think we know enough. Perhaps we wait until we’re comfortable.

If you’re not alone, go for it. Maybe someone else needs to hear what you have to say. If you’ve been saved and know Jesus, you know enough. Get your Bible out and read. If you want to be comfortable, good luck. The message of the cross is uncomfortable.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

2 Timothy 4:5 (NLT)

As the body of Christ, we can no longer afford to wait for the favourable time—because there isn’t one. We’ve been given a message. We’ve been given a commission. We’ve been given power and authority. So what are we waiting for?

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 27-28, 2 Timothy 4

 

The gift that keeps on giving

It is a simple thing to accept a gift. And it can be just as simple a thing to set that gift aside and forget about it. If you receive something that you may not use right away or don’t need at the time, but may have use for it later, you can put it away and forget you ever received it.

But you must continue to believe this truth and stand in it firmly. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.

Colossians 1:23a (NLT)

Paul understood that certain gifts can easily be forgotten. This is why he was so adamant that the church at Colosse continue to believe the truth and stand in the assurance they received when they first heard the Good News.

Accepting salvation through Christ is the easy part—keeping that salvation before us and remaining confident in it is where it may get difficult. Like a gift that is received and even welcome, yet set aside for later occasion, our salvation too, can be cast aside. And the longer it remains to the side and out of our direct line of sight, the less aware we become of it. It becomes the forgotten gift, collecting dust, unused.

For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.

Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

Salvation is not a gift that is meant to be readily accepted and then set aside to be forgotten about or only pulled out on special occasions. It is meant to be used all the time. And the more we make use of it, the more we will grow, gain, and benefit from it. This gift of salvation is our assurance from God of even greater gifts to come. Like a kid excitedly waiting for his birthday party to start—with friends and presents on the way, we should be waiting in expectation of what is to come and grateful for what we’ve already received.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 41-42, Colossians 1

Love that builds

We don’t need to grow. We’re fine exactly as we are. Said no church leader ever. No good leader (of anything) is content with status quo. Growth and improvement are the goals we continually strive toward. To be satisfied with the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year is to completely disregard the entire purpose for our gathering together as Christians in the first place.

And then [Jesus] told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

Everyone. Everywhere. Those add up to big numbers. How are we supposed to reach everyone everywhere? It’s a massive undertaking. Knowing the mission is the first step. Knowing the Good News is the next. Knowledge is great. Leaders are learners—and by leaders, I mean anyone and everyone who calls his- or herself a follower of Christ. Our knowledge of God, His Word, His Church, and His will should be ever-increasing. But it can’t stop there. Knowledge alone isn’t good enough.

Knowledge is good and it is necessary, but it is not everything. If we are going to reach everyone everywhere, we need something that is not readily available to the rest of the world.

While knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.

1 Corinthians 8:1b-2 (NLT)

Lennon and McCartney were on the right track when they sang that all you need is love.

We need the love that is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. We need the kind of love that is so thoroughly described in 1 Corinthians 13. Without it, what we build with our own knowledge is no different than the things the world builds. It is love—true love—that sets us apart.

And it is love that really builds up the church.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 132-135, 1 Corinthians 8

Proclaim

I have a difficult time watching or reading the news these days. Gone are the days of unbiased news reports and, just as George Orwell predicted when he wrote his book 1984 (in 1949), everything we do and say is under scrutiny. Social justice warriors demand that everyone fall into line with their opinions and the Church has become one of their largest targets. Much to the dismay of Christians around the globe, there are many churches that have given in to these ludicrous demands. They are allowing the world to change their way of thinking in hopes that they can change the world’s way of thinking. That’s now how this works.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

If the Church keeps watering down its message, soon there won’t even be a message worth sharing. Our message is not one of tolerance nor is it a message of condemnation. But it is is one of joy, peace, and love everlasting. Our message should be as the psalmist wrote thousands of years ago. I leave you to meditate on these words.

Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; bless his name.
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise
He is to be revered above all the gods.
The gods of other nations are merely idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come to worship him.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
Tell all the nations that the Lord is king.
The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst forth with joy!
Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the Lord!
For the Lord is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will just the world with righteousness
and all the nations with his truth.

Psalm 96 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 96-98, Romans 12

Beam me up!

I’m not what one would consider a Trekkie, but I do enjoy Star Trek. I’ve always wanted to be teleported. To be able to say into your com, “Beam me up, Scottie!” and be lifted from one place to another in a matter of moments would be pretty sweet. But long before Kirk was captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, a man from Samaria was beamed from one place to another—without Scottie at the control panel.

The latter portion of Acts 8 gives us the account of Philip and a man we know as the Ethiopian. Philip had been leading a successful ministry in Samaria when an angel came and told him it was time to move along. Now. He needed to be on a certain road at a certain time. No time to waste! Philip didn’t hesitate. He went.

On his journey, he came across the treasurer of Ethiopia. A man of great power and authority. Philip was able to give witness of Jesus and even baptized the man. As soon as Philip had baptized this stranger, he was gone. He didn’t leave. He was just gone. The eunuch never saw Philip again, but still took the Good News with him.

Meanwhile, Philip found himself in another city altogether. He continued to preach the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea (Acts 8:40).

While the fact that Philip was able to minister to this high-ranking official from Ethiopia may seem insignificant, the entire account is not. I don’t believe the fact that the Ethiopian took the Good News with him was even the most important part of this story—I believe Philip’s obedience is.

Perhaps Philip was not the first person God had sent to speak to the eunuch. Maybe, on his journey, the man had come across many believers. But he had yet to hear and accept the Good News. God needed someone to reach him. Philip was maybe not the first one who was told to go, but he was the one who responded. Not only did he respond, but he went immediately. There was no waiting. No wrapping things up in Samaria. No setting up the next leader so that the ministry wouldn’t be without. He left. He needed to be on a certain road at a certain time or the call would have been for naught.

Once that first task was accomplished, God then took Philip to a completely different city. Philip had already proven himself faithful. He’d go where God needed him when God needed him to go.

I am quite certain that if the large majority of us suddenly disappeared from our lives and landed in a foreign city we wouldn’t just continue on our merry way. We’d call home. We’d try to get home. We would be quite livid at having been unexpectedly uprooted. We would have a hard time detaching ourselves from our former lives if at all.

Philip understood that, in ministry, his life was not his own. His life’s mission was to accomplish the will of God in whatever that capacity may be. His faithfulness to the call allowed God to move him from one place to another with no interruption in what Philip was able to accomplish. His preaching never stopped. He didn’t try to rush back to Samaria or send someone to make sure things were going okay. God moved him, so he kept preaching.

How confident are you in your Christian walk that, if God decided to beam you up, you’d just go with it?

Daily Bible reading: Job 13-15, Acts 8:26-40