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

JOY!

JOY: The gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration or spirits.

I believe that there are some, or even a lot, of Christians who are under the impression that joy is not something we should feel or express on a consistent basis. Maybe someone who is struggling will be offended by our joyful mood. We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable by being happy all the time. It’s weird to always be in a good mood.

This is another occasion where I have not been able to find scripture to back up a pervasive idea that has invaded so many churches and Christians. There is nothing in God’s Word that would suggest that Christians must be a somber folk, not given to smiles our bouts of laughter. Everything I’ve discovered would indicate the exact opposite.

What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What joy awaits us
inside your holy temple.

Psalm 65:4 (NLT)

We should be joyful because God has brought us near and that joy doesn’t even have to wait because we are His holy temple. Joy should be an overwhelming experience that saturates every day of our lives.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)

Joy isn’t just an experience or an emotion.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Joy is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit being active in our lives. According to Proverbs 17:22, a cheerful heart is good medicine. Nehemiah 8:10 tells you not to be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Our joy should be contagious, infectious, making us stronger.

By allowing ourselves to experience a gift that God has given us, we not only strengthen ourselves, but we then have the opportunity to pass on that joy and strength to others. Google a video of a baby laughing and see how long you can keep a straight face. Joy is meant to be shared.

When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

John 15:10-11 (NLT)

Joy is simply the overflow of the love of God in our lives. Try spreading a little joy today. Smile at a few strangers. Laugh with a friend. Take note of how you are affected. See if you can improve someone else’s day.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 65-67, Romans 2

Better blind than guilty

It is said that ignorance is bliss. To a point, it’s true.

“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”

John 9:41 (NLT)

There is a grace to be had in blindness. You can run right into someone and, as soon as they discover your handicap, you’re forgiven. You can get away with a lot more simply because you aren’t as aware of your surroundings as those with sight.

But if you can see… You’re on the hook for everything. You no don’t have the luxury of being able to run into someone and holding up your white can as as free pass. You are completely accountable for your actions whether they were intentional or not.

Sin is like bumping into someone. For those who are completely unaware of their actions, there is a measure of grace. But for those who have heard the truth—whether they accept it or not—there is accountability.

In a later verse, Jesus went on to say this:

They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father.

John 15:22-24 (NLT)

As Christians, there will always be those who doubt, hate, and mock our faith. Even in Jesus’ time, those who saw his miracles refused to believe the Truth. They hated [him] without cause (John 15:25). When we encounter those who claim they can see, but are truly spiritually blind, it is not up to us to set them straight. We can speak the Truth, but only the Holy Spirit can open their eyes.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 14-16, John 9:24-41

Grace

What is grace? To some, it is the Get Our of Jail Free card because, after all, God will always forgive me, right? It would mean that we can do anything and, as long as we ask forgiveness, we’re good. But if you’re never truly repentant, can there ever be true forgiveness?

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)

The doctrine of grace is this: we are born into sin because of Adam’s sinfulness in the Garden. Because of that sin, we are ever separated from God and can never be reconciled with Him. Grace is what we have been offered through Jesus’ blood as a way to come to God. One of my Bible school teachers put it this way:

Faith is our grip on God.
Grace is God’s grip on us.

Grace is not an excuse to sin, but rather an excuse to stay away from sin. We can either be alive in Christ and dead to sin or alive in sin and dead to Christ. We cannot be both alive to sin and alive in Christ. If Christ, the light of the world, be in us, darkness cannot also dwell there.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 75-77; Romans 6