Sunday, March 30, 2008

Settle the tongue, settle the heart.

Peace begins in your own heart and it is the heart that transcends the tongue. The heart even transcends the mind, or at least it should. We trap ourselves into believing that if all the smart people in the world cannot find ways to agree, the simpletons must surely be in real trouble. The sad and contrived rhetoric is that peace can never be achieved by the witless. That is our trap. Do me a favor and slam that door shut and let’s start over; today.

I am so tired of hearing anyone who says something along the lines of “I don’t support the war but I support our troops”. Do you have any idea how ridiculous that statement is? Here’s your definition…supporting the war means you are OK with the killing of anyone involved, regardless of their affiliation. You might as well have a gun in your hands and start shooting. Does that sound harsh to you? Please take offense now, or at least relate and pick a side, the people on the fence are getting nervous due to the instability of the fence.

If you are against the war you would like to see people live in harmony and work together for the common good of all mankind, again regardless of their affiliation. I cannot begin to relate to anyone fighting in this war. I can understand their positions but relating is a whole different matter. I can agree with the concept of defending our borders against attack and defending our freedoms against those that would fight to take them away, but kill someone for it?

So where does the idea of supporting our troops come into view? It is the politically correct and often hyper sensitive way to suggest that we want peace but are too afraid to say it for sounding like an anti-war sympathizer.

I have no ill will towards sympathizers of this war and our military. We are all entitled to our opinions, including yours truly. I have had many a long talk with God about this one and trust me, the chat is ongoing. I am constantly at odds with friends and relatives about this subject. God continues to lead me to scriptures that remind me that we were not meant for this world, that we were meant to work together and that war is not the answer, we must “fight” for peace and seek community as a fellowship of believers.

One of my new favorites that God showed me recently is from James. It says, “Post this at the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.” (James 1:19-20)

Every week someone else seems to pop up in my peripheral view as being a promoter of peace. Today I listened to someone else suggest that it is the intent of the heart and that if we are Spirit led we will indeed seek peace among our fellow man. On the radio station I listen to there was a blurb about being a “peacemaker” as Jesus was and prescribed in Matthew 5:9. The relative story was about all the people you come in contact with that are so combative, they want to argue at every chance. We all know someone like that. I used to be like that. I remember why too, it was easy. Most people I came in contact with seemed obtuse and defective. Back then I was living my life for me and no one else. If your opinion didn’t line up with mine, I was ready to take up arms and fight if necessary.

Time and especially my walk with God have shown me otherwise. A life spent being defensive and angry is no life, no one wins and everyone loses. Today we have half a nation of people just like that, maybe more than half. All of them ready to take up arms to “defend” our nation and our freedoms. Back in Jesus’ day, followers of Him were persecuted daily and knew the dangers associated with being a “Christian”. Today we take those dangers for granted and instead say it is our right and a freedom that we enjoy because of so many brave men and women who have died defending our great country. Jesus died for my sins and set me free from those chains, that is my freedom.

The real freedom is knowing you are free to allow Jesus into your heart to change you forever. You are free to speak His name among the masses and know that God smiles when you do. You are free to be a son or daughter of the most high God and as a peacemaker you will be blessed. Jesus said it this way,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5: 10-12)

This will be a constant battle for me I am sure. I pray regularly that the Spirit will lead and direct my thoughts and keep the intentions of my heart pure so that my actions will bring glory to God as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 10:31-33. I have two brothers, a sister and an earthly father that I know do not have a personal relationship with Christ. I think one of those brothers may have been close at one point but now I am unsure based on recent conversations. Peace is the least of their concerns and I see the battles they face daily. Without a proper perspective on eternity all they have is what is in front of them now in this world. It becomes easy to “go to war” to protect what seems precious to them, regardless of its’ earthly origin.

If you are inclined to fight for something then fight for peace, and not with a gun or a knife but with the power of the Holy Spirit as your weapon. In the meantime, pray for your enemies and speak well of them, keep them in your thoughts. This is nothing new but I know how unsettling it is.

The trick is to first settle the heart, then the tongue will follow.

My life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

thank you Jesus

Last Sunday we were treated to a video in preparation for Easter. I was blown away. So much so I had to share it with anyone willing to check it out. This is powerful. Here is the background on the video. This piece is from a well known pastor by the name of S.M. (Shadrach Meshach) Lockridge. The link will take you to Igniter Media Group’s website to view the amazing and powerful video, which also plays the narrative. Check it out here

Following is a copy of the words from the sermon. You can follow along with the video…

It’s Friday
Jesus is praying
Peter’s a sleeping
Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
Pilate’s struggling
The council is conspiring
The crowd is vilifying
They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are running
Like sheep without a shepherd
Mary’s crying
Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’

It’s Friday
The Romans beat my Jesus
They robe Him in scarlet
They crown him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
See Jesus walking to Calvary
His blood dripping
His body stumbling
And His spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The world’s winning
People are sinning
And evil’s grinning

It’s Friday
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross
They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross
And then they raise Him up next to criminals

It’s Friday
But let me tell you something
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are questioning
What has happened to their King
And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming has been achieved
But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
He’s hanging on the cross
Feeling forsaken by His Father
Left alone and dying
Can nobody save Him?
Ooooh, It’s Friday
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The earth trembles
The sky grows dark
My King yields His spirit
It’s Friday
Hope is lost
Death has won
Sin has conquered and
Satan’s just a laughing

It’s Friday
Jesus is buried
A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place
But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!

Sunday, March 9, 2008


bla·tant – adjective
1. Brazenly obvious; flagrant: a blatant error in simple addition; a blatant lie.

Have you ever watched the Miss America Pageant? Or the Miss Universe contest or Miss Teen USA? Ever notice how even the most vacuous contestant can appear indignant when asked what they would do, if crowned, to change the world? Of course the majority of contestants all spew the same blather of wanting “world peace”, even though I doubt very much that a single one of them has the faintest idea of what that really means.

So here’s the question of the day? Do you know what it takes to achieve world peace? Do you even know where to start? What if I told you that you were born with an innate sense of what to do? What if I told you that your own mother and father were grooming you for the proper qualifications to meet the needs of world peace as a youngster?

Most likely you grew up with the golden rule tattooed somewhere near your rear end. Your parents constantly drilled into you the importance of treating others with respect, showing kindness, saying nice things instead of not nice things and so on. “Be nice to your brother”, “don’t hit your sister”, “the cat does not belong in the dryer”, and so on.

In any culture, unless your family dynamic was really messed up, you were raised to respect your elders, to use your manners while also being polite and of course not to take others things. In fact nowhere in the world is it OK to steal, you heard me, nowhere.

So at what point in our development from childhood to adulthood do we make the switch? Does it happen after high school? Does it occur in grade school somewhere? Or is it later on in college? I’m no psychologist but I can tell you this, there are some people out there who have some explaining to do with regards to the raising of their children. It might take a village to raise a child but do me a favor and ban the village idiot from the classroom.

Of course these are rather harsh statements but blatancy works like that. It is brazenly obvious like the definition says above. Over the span of some few thousand years we have fought to define parenting from what it looks like to how to do it right. Hundreds of thousands of men and women with heady degrees have written tomes on the subject, all with the same outcome. We have children out there whose parents were busy spending quality time with the idiot and not with their own kids.

This of course gets me off of topic to some small degree, but I will hastily return us to the important subject at hand, and that is peace.

What I tire of is not just the garden variety apathy of most adults I come into contact with, but their lack of wanton to improve their own lives as well as the lives of their children. The scary thing however is the longer adults procrastinate about the future, the worse it gets for their kids. Once this seed of apathy is sewn, it grows into the hearts and minds of the next generation, which in turn dominoes into the next and then the next…and so on.

When grown mothers and fathers disregard social and lawful rules including being peaceful towards your family, friends and neighbors, we make it socially acceptable for our children to follow in our footsteps. Your kids will grow to steal, cheat systems, lie and cause general unrest within their very circle of society. This dilemma is expensive and quite frankly, our world can no longer afford for its’ citizens to act with this kind of disregard. It is time to act. It is time for peace.

Start today by taking a post-it-note and writing the word ‘peace’ on it and sticking it in your car. Put another one on your computer monitor, either at the office or at home, or both! Put one on the fridge. Put one in your wallet. Personalize your cell phone screensaver with the word peace.

We have an amazing potential you and I to change this world. Even more so do our children, as evidenced by this cartoon… here

It starts with us and it starts now. Seek peace in every circle of influence in your life. I know it is hard work, but imagine the dividends, they shouldn't be blatant.

my life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

missional living

For the last few weeks, our pastor has raised the issue of missional living. As one of the congregants listening to these sermons I am struck with a sense of urgency to respond. For the last few weeks, I have asked many questions not only of myself but also of my God. Mostly I ask Him how He would use me to further His kingdom.

Simply put, I have lost count of how many times I have asked God to use me in a mighty way. With each request comes a simple reply; seek peace, show peace, promote peace, teach peace. The still small voice has been growing into a deafening roar over the last several months and now is a full blown scream. I suppose it is unlikely to believe that God would scream, but for some of us, screaming is the only way to break through the din of this world.

I have been constantly reminded by this noise in my head to search the book of Matthew, primarily the sermon on the mount. Through some studies and commentaries by noted theologians on the subject, I have found this (from Matthew 5);

"First, kingdom people do not try to force God's whole will on a world unprepared for it. Many first-century Jews had begun to think that revolutionary violence was the only adequate response to the violence of oppression they experienced. Matthew's first audience no doubt could recall the bankruptcy of this approach, which led to crushing defeat in the war of A.D. 66-73. But Jesus promises the kingdom not to those who try to force God's hand in their time but to those who patiently and humbly wait for it-the meek, the poor in spirit, the merciful, the peacemakers.
Of course Jesus' demand does not merely challenge the bloodshed of revolution. Peacemakers means not only living at peace but bringing harmony among others; this role requires us to work for reconciliation with spouses, neighbors and all people-insofar as the matter is up to us (Rom 12:18)."

In my opinion, it is clear that we are to first seek peace, while at the same time seek to bring the good news of God's amazing story of salvation to the whole world. While we are doing this we are going to be persecuted by people who are cold to the reception of God's word. In that moment we are blessed (Matthew 5: 9-12). However, there seems to be an even larger paradigm here.

By the time you reach Matthew 5: 23-24, there is a pattern emerging for how this cycle of peace works. First, at the start of chapter 5, Jesus proclaims that when there is less of you, there is more of God. Then Jesus says we should show people how to work together instead of compete and fight. However, when we are persecuted for this we are blessed even more! Furthering this, Jesus says we are the light of the world. We are to shine for all mankind to see the greatness of God.

But then Jesus really dives in. First it was all about being in Him and then shining for Him. Next he says not to murder (well duh!). Then it gets real deep. You can't even be angry with your brother for fear of the fire of hell. Whoa! And now Jesus gets to verse 23 which says,
"If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. "

By the time you get down to verse 38, Jesus hits you the hardest. Turn the other cheek, live generously, love my enemies?!! Jesus was considered a radical for His day, but that's radical for this day. Surely He can't be serious, no one lives like that. There must be a way around that one.

Putting chapter 5 in perspective and making it concise for a world that is looking for its next sound bite looks like this....

Be meek so that God shines through you.
Be peaceful towards all mankind.
When (not if) you are persecuted for your faith, thank God for it and you will be blessed.
With God shining through, be a light for all to see.
Love your brother (and your sister).
Let no grudge come between you and a friend.
Make all these things right before coming before the Lord.
Love your enemies.
Pray for everyone, not just the ones you love, but for your enemies too.
Grow up.
Be generous and gracious toward others, the way God is with you.

You could call that a Mission Statement for right living.

And in case you didn't think the secular world was listening and waiting for someone of sound mind to step to the plate to lead this charge, consider these lyrics from a current radio hit from a very popular rock band of today....

Singing Amen, I, I'm alive Singing Amen, I, I'm alive
[Chorus:] If everyone cared and nobody cried. If everyone loved and nobody lied. If everyone shared and swallowed their pride. Then we'd see the day when nobody died.
And I'm singing Amen I, Amen I, I'm alive Amen I, Amen I, Amen I, I'm alive.

This world wants peace, let's step up and show them how.

my life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.