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

With authority

They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.

Luke 4:32 (NIV)

At any given time, it is important for believers to send out a message with authority. This time of year, as Easter nears, it is even more important.

Across North America churches are popping up. They are hip and trendy. People from all walks of life flock to them because they are made to be comfortable no matter what their background. Pastors are superstars. Worship leaders become rock stars. They send a message, alright, but where is the authority?

These words in Luke were spoken of Jesus just after he’d been run out of his hometown of Nazareth. He’d spent forty days and nights in the desert being tempted by Satan. Upon his return, it was his turn to read from the book of Isaiah.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Luke 4:18-19 (Isaiah 61:1-2) (NIV)

Jesus then went on to proclaim that this scripture had been fulfilled in the hearing of all those present. The people were amazed, but it didn’t take long for them to get over their amazement and rush Jesus to the nearest cliff with every intent of throwing him over.

In his time on earth, Jesus was loved and he was hated. He spoke his message with authority wherever he went whether his words were accepted or not. Was he trendy? No. Did he make people comfortable? Obviously not. Was he one of the popular crowd? I don’t think so.

So why are we, the church, trying to be all of these things?

I believe that it was the power of the Holy Spirit on Jesus that allowed him to accomplish all that he did in his short ministry. And it is the same power that has been provided for us.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

We weren’t called to bring a comfortable, trendy message to the world. We are called to make disciples and teach them to obey Jesus. And I’m not certain that we can do both of these things together. Jesus certainly wasn’t comfortable when his own friends and family turned against him. And his entire message was counter to the culture of the time.

I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with churches using available resources and technology to bring people in, but when those things become a greater focus than delivering the message of Jesus with authority, we run a great risk of being disobedient ourselves.

What is the message you are sending? Do you send it with apology or with authority? Are you speaking it to be popular or to be obedient? We are all ministers of the Gospel, and as such, need to take these questions into account. But take courage. Just because a message isn’t popular doesn’t mean in can’t still be effective.

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Mark 16:20 (NIV)

Read: Joshua 11-13, Luke 4:1-32

It doesn’t matter

In a world where everyone wants something to matter, there are a few things that don’t matter at all when it comes to our Commission as believers.

1. It doesn’t matter where you are.

Matthew 14:13

Bono had it right when he penned these words:

You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it

We can get so caught up in our doing that we don’t notice that Jesus has gone somewhere else and we’ve failed to follow. The crowds that followed knew that Jesus had something they needed. It didn’t matter that he was in a boat and they were on land. They followed.

There are times that we may be hesitant to leave what we’re doing because we have so much time, energy, and resources invested. But is it really worth missing Jesus? We must all learn to keep our eyes on him and follow at a moments notice.

2. It doesn’t matter how you feel.

Matthew 14:14

Jesus had just received news that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded in prison. He wanted to be alone. Yet the crowds followed him and, even in his grief, he had compassion, ministered to them, and healed the sick. Whether we feel like it or not, our call to minister doesn’t go away or get put on hold. Jesus didn’t say, “When you feel like it, maybe go across the street and tell someone about me.” He said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

How we feel is not included in our call. In the following verses we will see that, even in one of his darkest moments as a man, Jesus was able to perform a great miracle and reach thousands of people. Perhaps by going ahead, especially when we don’t feel like it, God is able to accomplish more through us.

3. It doesn’t matter what is (or isn’t) in your hands.

Matthew 14:19

If you’re a pastor or a leader in your church and 10,000 people show up one Sunday and want to stick around all day, what would you do? Feed them or send them off with an invitation to return and hope they’ll come back? If the disciples had their way, they’d have sent away the crowds. Their hands were empty. Jesus had been performing miracles all day and the men who were closest to him still didn’t see that just because their hands were empty, it didn’t mean they had nothing.

Whether we feel qualified or equipped to fulfill the Great Commission is irrelevant. What’s in our hands doesn’t matter. It’s probably even better if our hands are empty because then we have no other recourse than to depend on what’s in Jesus’ hands.

When Jesus handed off the bread and fish to the disciples, they then handed it off to the people. And then it came back—far more than what they’d started with. Every hand that touched the food was a part of the miracle and as more people handled it, the greater it became.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NIV)

The message of Jesus is completely counter to our culture. We cannot maintain popular ideals and still be effective in ministry.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 4:30 (NIV)

Don’t shoot the messenger

We all have people in our lives that we’d rather not have in our lives. An annoying coworker. A nosy neighbour. That weird uncle that only shows up at holidays. We avoid these people at all costs and even begrudge them when something good happens in their lives. We hold on to our dislike—hate even—like a security blanket. So long as that person keeps doing the things we dislike, we can grip our sense of superiority over them.

Jonah experienced a similar feeling when God brought him to a certain city in a rather roundabout way. Jonah finally made it to the city of Nineveh by way of fish. It probably wasn’t the most popular mode of transportation in his day, but it did the trick. Jonah was finally where God told him to be—surrounded by people he didn’t like. Not only did he have to be there, he had to share a certain message.

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”

Jonah 3:4 (NLT)

Still believing himself to be above the people in the city, Jonah shared his message with a great sense of satisfaction and then found a prime spot to watch the promised destruction. Yet that destruction would never come. Because, in spite of his hatred for the people of Nineveh, they had received and embraced his message.

The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they decided to go without food and wear sackcloth to show their sorrow.

Jonah 3:5 (NLT)

I doubt this was the response Jonah was expecting. In a city he hated, Jonah was forced to watch as his reluctant message was acted upon. Repentance ran rampant.

What all the saints make a matter of joy and praise, Jonah makes the subject of reflection upon God; as if showing mercy were an imperfection of the Divine nature, which is the greatest glory of it.

Matthew Henry

The account of Jonah is not merely a story of delayed obedience. It is a story of attitude, of mercy, of grace. And it is an account that show us that, even if our attitudes do not reflect our message, God can still work in the hearts of even the greatest sinners. But, unlike Jonah, when our message is received, our hearts should rejoice along with those who have received the gift of grace.

It is the neighbour we like the least that needs the most love. Hesitation on our part to share the Gospel is like shooting the messenger before he even has a chance to tell his story. We do ourselves and our neighbour a disservice by holding on to our hatred and dislike. We want to show our superiority while God wants to show His grace.

Immediate obedience to God’s instruction is far easier on our egos than waiting until the last possible moment.  Let us share in the glory of God’s grace rather than hoarding our own personal comfort.

Daily Bible reading: Jonah 1-4, Revelation 9

Message received

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered some books. I was pretty excited at the time to place the order and was impatient to receive my parcel. Then I ordered a few more things and those parcels arrived in my mailbox. I had forgotten about the books until someone else ordered the same books and told me they’d received a message that they’d been sent. I could recall no such message in my inbox. So I went back to check and found only the purchase confirmation. So, 15 days after my initial purchase, I followed up.

Sometimes, I think we forget about our prayers like we do our parcels. New ones come along and take the place of the old ones and they get lost. We forget to follow up. We made the initial effort and investment, but after a while the outcome doesn’t seem so important.

We have a better example to follow than my forgotten parcel. Let’s take a look at Daniel. In chapter 9 of the book of Daniel, the man receives a vision from the angel Gabriel. It has to do with the exile of Israel. Having already been in prayer about the sinful nation, Daniel decides to seek further understanding about what he’s seen. So he starts to fast and he starts to pray. Three weeks later, a heavenly being who looks like a man appears in front of him and, like a sack of potatoes, Daniel drops to his face.

Then he said, “Dont’ be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come to answer your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia.

Daniel 10:12-13 (NLT)

Now, I don’t know if my parcel has actually been sent out or not, but the process was started the moment I clicked complete my order. I could sit at home twiddling my thumbs hoping that the package comes before I need the books, or I can go after my purchase and be sure that it end up in my hands.

What Daniel was looking for was far more important than a couple of books. And he didn’t even get the handy confirmation email that his first prayer had even been heard. He didn’t pray once, brush off his knees and go about his business. He kept praying. He remained in a state of humility until his answer came. I wonder if he’d have ever met the one who looked like a man if he knew he’d been sent the first day. Would Daniel have been as fervent in his prayer if he knew the answer was already dispatched? Would the answer have even made it if Daniel had stopped praying?

Here’s what we can learn from Daniel: prayer and humility dispatch an answer. Continued prayer and humility ensure the message is received.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 9-10, 2 John1

That is the way to know

I believe that there’s more wisdom in Disney movies than we give credit for. In the 2007 movie, Enchanted, the displaced Giselle breaks out into song and dance with That’s How You Know—a song all about how you can tell if a man truly loves a woman. In the end (and after a lot of lyrics), the gist of the number is that he’ll find a way to show the girl.

You’ve got to show her you need her
Don’t treat her like a mind reader
Each day do something to lead her
To believe you love her

Imagine that. The way to make sure that someone knows that you love them and that you belong to them is to do things for them—to show them.

And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments. If someone says, “I belong to God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth. But those who obey God’s word really do love him. That is the way to know whether or not we live in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did.

1 John 2:3-6 (NLT)

As Christians, we should never have to go around telling people who and what we are. Our actions, our obedience to the Word of God, should give us away. While God knows your every thought, He shouldn’t have to read your mind to assure Himself that you belong to Him. Your words and actions should tell the world.

What words? What actions?

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.

1 John 2:7 (NLT)

There is no excuse a believer can make for living a life outside of love. For if God—who is love—lives within us, there is no room for hate. And if we hate while claiming to love, we are liars because both darkness and light cannot exist in the same space.

You either love or you don’t. You either belong to God or you don’t. There is no place in between. No grey area. You’re one or the other and that is the way to know whether or not we live in him.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 1-2, 1 John 2

Silence the fools

It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who make foolish accusations against you. You are not slaves; you are free. But your freedom is not an excuse to do evil. You are free to live as God’s slaves.

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NLT)

The best way to prove a fool wrong is by your actions—not with malicious intent, but by simply living contrary to their foolish accusations.

The church is one of the most accused groups out there. It’s full of hypocrites. They just preach that prosperity stuff. The preachers all holler and spit. It’s only a place where weak people go.

The best way around all of those things is to live the exact opposite. Live with integrity. Preach a balanced message. Whisper and try not to drool. Be strong. Let the way you live exceed the expectations of others.

Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world.

1 Peter 2:12 (NLT)

If you’ve ever tried to argue your point with a fool, you know that it is a fruitless waste of time.

Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible.

Proverbs 10:23 (NLT)

The best response to a foolish accusation is to live a life above reproach. In living wisely, not only can we find pleasure and honor, but we silence the fools.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 34-35, 1 Peter 2