Peace on Earth

I know that Christmas is more than four months away but the message of Christmas “Peace on earth, good will to men” (Luke 2:14) is needed more than ever. Conflicts rage all around us. Families are fractured.  Friendships are strained.  Nations are at war. Hate groups are active.

The absence of peace is a sign that something isn’t right. We live in a fallen world; a world broken by sin, and many times innocent people are caught in the crossfire. So peace is needed more than ever _ peace with people and peace with God.

Scripture is very realistic about the church’s role in the quest for peace on earth.  The writer of Hebrews said: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy…”  (Hebrews 12:14) Paul says in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Unfortunately, even when the church is doing their best to bring peace there are going to be peace-busters at work. So, with this conflict going on there needs to be something or someone that will swing the pendulum toward peace and the good news is that there is SOMEONE that can do what seems impossible for us.

The peace of God comes when there is a right relationship with God and that comes through Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what the angels proclaimed. It’s also something that Jesus promised His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27) Now that is one extraordinary promise, and one that everyone can have.

No one will ever be able to please everyone, but do what you can to do what’s right. You may be dealing with a strained or broken relationship but don’t let your imperfect relationships with people deprive you of enjoying peace with God

I don’t know the full circumstances of your life however, I assume that some of them are not so good. You may be facing a health problem or a financial problem or a relationship problem.  You may be living with an inner ache that comes from the death of loved one, or the death of a dream or the devastation of a personal betrayal. Life can deal out some pretty tough stuff. The Lord told us that we would all have trouble however, He also told us that in Him we would find peace, as we focus not on our troubles but on our Savior. (John 16:33)

So church, let’s be peace agents by proclaiming Jesus in all we do and say.

 

Where Are You Headed?

Jesus calls everyone into a personal relationship with him. It begins with that call and leads to salvation, and then it continues through the rest of a journey called life. It carries on until we see Jesus face to face. Jesus wants you to encounter him, to know him, to experience him, to become like him. He wants to fill your life with meaning.

I hope you will be on a quest to know Jesus as you’ve never known him before _ to follow him more closely than you ever have before _ to love him more deeply than you ever have before _ to have a close encounter of the very best kind.

No matter where we are at in a relationship with Jesus it always seems to begin with a decision about whether to follow him or not. For two brothers that we read about in the Gospel of Mark it was that way. “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:16-18)

Now their decision about whether or not to follow Jesus wasn’t that much different than ours. He called them like he calls us today. It is when we answer yes to that call that we fully discover who Jesus is. When all we do is read about Jesus we will only see him from a distance and chances are that we will only know him casually. We get to know him intimately by following and serving him. Jesus’ invitation wasn’t come learn about me _ it was come follow me _ do what I do _ go where I go _ live how I live.

We really like the idea of golden streets and no more pain or suffering or death. However, we don’t always like the path that leads us there. I challenge you on this day to leave whatever it is that takes you where you want to go and to follow Jesus wherever it might take you. Oh, and by the way Jesus promises to make the walk with us. He also promises to fill us with the Spirit of God to help us along the way.

So I ask,  where are you headed and who are you going to follow?

We Can Do It!

In 1926, by an act of Congress, inventions were put up for sale that had been accumulating in the patent office for over 125 years. They sold things like an adjustable pulpit for preachers. It was supposed to automatically lift the speaker up or down so that he could be seen. One preacher in Ohio was supposedly using the adjustable pulpit while preaching a hellfire and brimstone sermon. He was really into it when he slammed the pulpit with his fist and shouted, “What about you, where will you spend eternity?” Unfortunately, the slam also triggered the device and down he went!

Inventors have always dreamed about the great potential for their contraptions but, what about the dreams _ the goals _ the hopes for your church? The good news is that we don’t have to rely on gimmicks to reach our potential. We simply need to use what God has already given us. So I wonder: What does God have in mind for your church? How can it be accomplished? How can it be paid for? Who will do the work? How is the power of Christ being unleashed? How do we fit into God’s plan for making our church a great church? What will we do when opposition arises?

Those are questions we ask because the church has been given a huge responsibility _ go, make disciples, baptize, teach _ summed up _ prepare people for The Day. That is quite a daunting task especially when there are so many who stand opposed to the church. In the face of such opposition sometimes it’s tempting to throw in the towel and quit.

When Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of England he was asked to speak to a kindergarten class. After a long introduction, the Prime Minister stood _ went to the podium and gave this great speech: “Never give up _ never, never, never!” Then he sat down _ he had said all that needed to be said.

Sometimes we need to be told the same thing. Now if you don’t think Winston Churchill is the right person to quote then how about the Apostle Paul? “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) And so, I ask: Are you living up to your potential _ as a family, as an individual, as a church? And, a second question: If you aren’t then why not? There are all kinds of excuses: shyness, fear, lack of resources, lack of ability, not enough time, someone besides the person we looked at in the mirror this morning is not doing enough _ on and on it could go. Well church, those excuses just won’t cut it.

When Joshua was about to lead the Israelites across the Jordan and enter the Promised Land God told him: “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:5-7) Does that sound familiar? It should. When Jesus gave the great commission to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach He said this: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) So, when we get knocked down, and we will get knocked down from time to time we must get back up, brush ourselves off, and get after it again and while we’re at it we may as well throw the excuses in the dumpster.

Church, stand strong, follow the Lord’s lead because as it says it in Exodus 15:6, “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” And in Isaiah 41:13, “I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” And nothing is too difficult for God.

What’s Your Goal?

There have been countless books and articles written about leadership and the need to set specific goals. It’s been said that without goals there can be no achievement – so we’re encouraged to make a detailed list of everything we want, from professional achievements to material acquisitions to church offerings and attendance. The problem with this way of thinking is that it often gets us focused on the wrong thing. Now I’m not saying that goals are wrong _ what I am saying is that we become successful not only by eyeing the destination, but also by tending to the details of the journey.

One reason goals shouldn’t be defined merely by the target is because the target can’t be controlled. Targets tend to move when you least expect it and that’s why goals are often missed. But even though we may not be able to control the target _ we can control the process _ the steps we take to achieve the goal.

Let me show you what I mean: A salesman on commission can’t control his income, but he can control how many calls he makes and how well he knows his product and how well he makes the presentation and how well he listens to the customer. An athlete can’t control the final score, but she can control how well she listens to the coach, how hard she trains, how she gets ready for the game and how hard she plays. Parents can’t control the decisions their grown children make, but they can control the amount of time, love, patience, and prayer they pour into their children’s lives. We can’t control the results of our ministry but we can control what we put into it _ the amount of time, the type of effort, the quality of work, the amount of prayer we pray, how much time we spend hanging out with God.

Theologian Henri Nouwen summed it up this way: “We cannot make it rain, but we can see to it that the rain falls on prepared soil.” So whatever endeavor we are taking on our job is to get the soil ready _ the rest is up to God. The Apostle Paul gave Timothy the key to spiritual success: “If you keep yourself pure, you will be a utensil God can use for his purpose. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21)

We need leaders in our homes, in our schools, in our workplaces, and especially in our church whose goal is to do great things for the glory of God. That means that we need leaders who are focused on what they give, not what they get _ leaders who are willing to serve without recognition when necessary, who are willing to sacrifice and pay the price when necessary, and who are willing to put the needs of others first. My prayer is that God will fill us all with a desire to be that kind of leader.

 

Walking With Jesus

One afternoon a man named John walked into a bank to finalize a business transaction. The teller told him that the officer he needed to see wasn’t in _ that he would have to come back the next day. John said OK and asked the teller to validate his parking ticket. The teller informed him that, according to bank policy, she couldn’t validate his parking ticket because he had not completed a financial transaction. John asked for an exception since he had come to the bank intending to do business but he couldn’t because the appropriate officer wasn’t in. The teller didn’t budge. She said, “I’m sorry; that’s our policy. Rules are rules.” So, John decided to make a business transaction: he closed his account. John’s last name was Akers and John Akers was the chairman of IBM. Now the account he closed had 1.5 million dollars in it. Since that qualified as a financial transaction the teller was required to validate the parking ticket.

I know this story has made the rounds and I don’t know if it’s true or another email legend, but it teaches us some things we need to learn:

  1. Training is learning the rules.
  2. Experience is learning the exceptions.
  3. Leadership is knowing which to apply when.

As Solomon said, “Every prudent man acts out of knowledge.” (Proverbs 13:16) I hope we will become so grounded in God’s word that we will see clearly in every situation we face in life how to accurately apply truth in wisdom and righteousness. The question is: How can we do that?

Max Lucado’s book Just Like Jesus begins with this question: “What if for 24 hours Jesus wakes up in your bed__ walks in your shoes _ lives in your house _ assumes your schedule? _What if for one day Jesus lives your life with his heart?”

Have you ever thought about that? Let’s do that for a minute. As your day begins how would it be different? If Jesus was living his life inside us would our daily routine include more prayer time _ more Scripture time? Would we be more patient with people _ would we be kinder _ more considerate?

If Jesus was in your shoes how would he speak to your family? Would he be on time for work? How would he perform your job? What would his attitude be when wronged? How would he spend your money? Imagine what it would be like to live one full day to complete perfection: No mistakes _ no blunders _ no regrets.

I realize that we will never, at least this side of heaven, be completely perfect, but we will certainly get closer to perfection as we follow Jesus’ example _ as the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

 

Get Over It!

 

There are 3 verses in Colossians 3 that make a huge statement about God’s people living in harmony with one another. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

Right in the middle of those verses Paul reveals something that at times people find extremely difficult… Get along with one another _ forgive one another _ and the one we struggle with the most, do it like Jesus does it.

It’s inevitable that you will be mistreated. Mistreatment can be the catalyst for God doing something great, or it can be the catalyst of your undoing. How you respond to mistreatment determines whether or not you experience God’s peace and joy. The sooner you begin living by these principles, the sooner you’ll overcome the effects of mistreatment. Recognize God’s hand, and trust him to turn the curse into a blessing. Release the offender, because in doing so you release yourself. Repay them with kindness when the opportunity presents itself. Finally, re-invent the relationship to make it what it should have been all along.

That is exactly why Jesus came _ to re-invent a broken relationship between God and people _ and He did it. It took a great sacrifice on His part but He felt the relationship was worth it. The same is true when it comes to repairing broken relationships we face.

So, church forgive, forget, and move on.

 

Why Should I Bother Reading the Bible?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 offers this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Here are 38 ways that can play out in our live. It’s…

  1. The only source of divine truth.
  2. It’s God’s Holy Word.
  3. It tells us where we came from.
  4. It tells us why we are here.
  5. It tells us where we are going.
  6. It shows how to be saved.
  7. It shows the plan for Christ’s church.
  8. It gives a description of Heaven.
  9. It gives a description of Hell.
  10. It alerts us to Jesus second coming.
  11. It gives the signs of the end times.
  12. It acquaints us with the Father.
  13. It acquaints us with the Son.
  14. It acquaints us with the Holy Spirit.
  15. It informs us about the angels.
  16. It reveals the tools to accomplish God’s work.
  17. It describes the work of the ministry.
  18. It presents the message to be preached.
  19. It reveals God’s priorities.
  20. It describes the work of the elders.
  21. It describes the work of the deacons.
  22. It describes God’s task for women.
  23. It describes God’s task for men.
  24. It gives instruction for children.
  25. It explains what marriage should be.
  26. It gives the blueprint for the family and the home.
  27. It gives instruction on how to raise children.
  28. It teaches the importance of forgiveness.
  29. It teaches and demonstrates what love really is.
  30. It gives warnings to be heeded.
  31. It gives commands to be obeyed.
  32. It gives promises to be received.
  33. It gives instructions to be followed.
  34. It gives principles to be applied.
  35. It gives prophecies to be fulfilled.
  36. It’s the final authority on earth.
  37. It’s the most important book in the world, there is no other like it.
  38. It’s God’s revelation to His creation.

So, I would say it is a book worth reading, studying, mediating on, and using as a life-guide. The question is, are we going to do it? As for me and my house it’s YES!