Peace On Earth…?

Peace…the elusive desire that we all have.

We long for peace within, peace in our world, and…for those who are believers…peace with God.

Yet, it seems ever-elusive.

At times, we sense it getting close, only to find it slip away.

Like a mist, it vanishes into the air. Like a liquid, it slips through our hands. The harder we try to hang on to it and keep it within our grip, the more likely it is that we squeeze it between our fingers.

People try to ‘manufacture’ peace.

Some tell themselves that inner peace can come from meditation or ‘centering’ themselves. Others try to control everything they can, plan for every circumstance, and then rest peacefully, hoping they’ve thought of everything.

Yet, personal peace remains elusive.

Interpersonally, we try to ‘compromise’ our way to peace. I’ll give a little and you give a little, and in so doing, we can reach a place of ‘equilibrium’. It’s not really ‘peace’ per se, but it’s as close as we can consistently hope to get.

Politically, world leaders try to ‘ negotiate’ for peace…we hope that IF rivals would lay their weapons and agenda’s down, and seek a ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ solution, that it will come. Some try new strategies, others try new leadership…all in pursuit of peace.

Yet, for all the money and time spent on those negotiations, ‘peace’ continues to be elusive. Wars, rioting and unrest continue.

Against all this, we have the Christmas story, where God intervenes in human history by sending his Son, Jesus…that baby…in a manger. He was announced by the angels when they said. “Behold, I bring you Good News of great joy, which is for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

In announcing this birth, the Angels said “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

Jesus was–and is–the ‘ambassador’ of peace.

Peace with God.

Peace within.

Peace with others.

Peace in the world.

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us… Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” (Ephesians 2:14-18)

HE–Jesus–is THE means of Peace with God.

HE–Jesus–is THE means to peace within.

HE–Jesus–is THE best, most consistent way to peace with others, and

HE–Jesus–will be THE only way to real peace in this world. He will establish it in His own perfect timing, but it will not be because men–no matter how well intentioned–decide to pursue peace.

Only in and through Jesus will real ‘peace’ be found. Not politics, not negotiation, not contracts, not mediation, not intimidation, not legislation…

Jesus. THE Prince of Peace.

HE is the means, Period.

…and that’s why the promise of Peace is so important…because it only comes by embracing the ‘Christ child’ and giving our lives, our future, our relationships, our causes–everything–to Him.

That ‘good news of great joy to all people’ is for you…and me.

Receive His peace today, and give Him the praise He deserves…at Christmas, and always!

Are You a Pioneer, or a Settler?

For most of us, one day is very much like the next, and today is very much like yesterday.

Things continue, for the most part, very ‘steadily’ from one week to the next.

At times, if we’re not careful, we can get into a rut.

The ‘sameness’ can feel like a prison…IF we have no purpose.

If we have no ‘meaning’ behind the things we do, and no ‘vision’ for where these actions are taking us, then the walls definitely start closing in.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Prov. 29:18, KJV)

Very often, circumstances can exacerbate this problem. Even the weather can make a difference.

If you combine the ‘routine’ with no Vision, so that it feels like a ‘rut’, then you combine that with the clouds, cold, rain and snow of most Novembers…and the darkness of the winter in the northern states like Michigan, where you go to work in the dark, then get home from work in the dark too…then you’ve got some real potential for discouragement and demoralization!

But we still know this: When Jesus said “I have come to given them life, to the full”–(John 10:10), He was talking about the promise of LIFE–Eternal life, and Full life–that is open to His followers.

That ‘full life’ cannot be sidetracked by clouds…it cannot be derailed by the sun going down earlier in the winter!

God’s ‘fullness’ is a promise, year-round! He wants us to experience it always!

So…why don’t we?

It could be this: It could be that You have taken such a ‘passive’ role in life that you’ve given up the Purpose and Passion that God wants for you. It could be that you’ve gotten so distracted by the ‘stuff’ of this life that you’ve forgotten the REAL Meaning of the everyday in the loving hands of the Father.

A friend of mine challenged me to think about people of faith as either ‘Pioneers’ or as ‘Settlers.

Pioneers are ready to ‘go forward’ with God, striking out on new adventures, new roles, new challenges–all while serving Him and His purpose with passion and ‘gusto’.

Settlers, on the other hand, are content with the way things are today. They get comfortable. They put down roots, set up walls, and put up decorations. They choose not to go any further–with God, or in life.

Therefore, they lose heart.

 

Maybe You have become a ‘Settler’.

Perhaps you have ‘unplugged’ or ‘disconnected’ from His Purpose and the Vision that He has for you, so that it no longer gives direction and meaning to your day-to-day life.

…and that is a problem!

Thoreau said that “The mass of of men lead lives of quiet desperation” because they have no ‘purpose’.

 

You and I were meant to live ‘on purpose‘!

We are meant to live for ‘eternal significance‘!

You do have meaning, and this world needs you to tap into that meaning and live it out!

 

So, what can you do if you’ve ‘lost sight’ of it?

1st, Reconnect with Him!

Go to God in prayer, confess your sin, your apathy and your distraction to Him.

2nd, Ask His forgiveness, through Jesus, for ignoring Him, and

3rd, Recommit yourself to HIS purposes.

Finally, Seek Him and His will in all you do…ask Him to show you the meaning and purpose He has for you (usually found in His Word).

 

 

Be sure of this: If you are in a ‘rut’, with no purpose, vision, or passion, that is not how God wants you to live.

Rather, He invites you to join Him–or to Re-join Him–in His Eternal purpose, to adopt His fulfilling Vision, and to go at it with the Passion that He supplies.

The offer is there for you…He’ll help you find it!

Let’s go!

 

Whatever You Want!

The 1980’s hit movie, The Princess Bride has made a bit of a comeback. In this movie, ‘Westley’ (the Farm Boy) loves ‘Buttercup’ (the Princess), and he shows her by doing whatever she wants, and using the key phrase, “As You Wish”. Whatever Buttercup wants, Wesley does…and it’s a great story!

However, when a person–say, a toddler and his or her parents–try to apply that to life, things can get…messy.

You can just imagine the scene in the toy store, where a child demands a toy, and the parents try to say ‘wait’, or ‘not now’. If raised with this ‘As you wish’ mindset, what is that child likely to do–calmly and rationally walk away saying, ‘ I respect you, mom and dad, and I will submit my desires to you’? Of Course Not!

Rather, that child will throw a tantrum, scream, cry, run away, maybe even assault mom and dad until they capitulate and sames something like, ‘As you wish‘.

What we can (and unfortunately do) easily see within a child–especially someone else’s–we are blind to within ourselves.

 

We see this increasingly in our culture in adults. Increasing numbers of adults expect to be able to ‘get what they want, when they want it’, and don’t handle it well when they don’t.

Just look on Facebook. Watch the news.

Increasingly, we expect others–those who know and love us, and those who don’t–to say ‘As you wish‘, and not only that, We expect them to cheer us on!

Whatever path we choose, whatever behavior we embrace, we expect everyone to line up and cheer us on, and we get offended when they don’t!

Even if we’re making unwise choices, and they love us and want the best for us, increasingly we’d rather they just say, ‘As You Wish‘, or “Whatever Makes You Happy“. It seems as though we–adults–are increasingly acting like that toddler, asking others to say ‘Whatever you want’ and cheer us on!

 

But what if that ‘thing’, (or that person, or that job, or that money, or whatever…) is not what we should have? What if it would be harmful toward us in some way? Is it still my role–as your friend–to say ‘As long as you’re happy’ and cheer you on?

Of course not!

What if that habit you’re embracing is actually–empirically–bad for you?

What if that person you want is already married?

What if that job you want means putting your marriage and family in jeopardy?

What if that hobby/recreational sport you choose will negatively effect your relationship with God and His Church?

 

Increasingly, that doesn’t matter. The mindset is, ‘You should want whatever makes me happy, and this would make me happy’‘.

Pitiful.

Rubbish.

Even worse, I believe we increasingly treat our relationship with God the same way!

We say something like, “God, I want ____. Please give it to me.”

(Usually we don’t say it that bluntly, but sometimes we get pretty close. We end with ‘in Jesus’ name‘, so it sounds        good.)

Yet, what happens when we don’t get it?

Very often, we act in some form like that toddler.

We get frustrated. We get sad. We get angry…and we throw a spiritual temper tantrum!

We begin to ‘question our faith’. Why?

Because God did not say ‘Whatever you want….As You Wish…Whatever makes you happy.’

 

This is no small problem.

Judeo/Christian society can’t continue if this mindset is allowed to grow within the Church. After all, one of the keys to faith is willing submission to His will. If I refuse that, and ask Him to willingly submit to My will, and if my church and other churches embrace the same mindset, then we’re in deep trouble.

Come to think of it, none of this should surprise us.

It was predicted, in Paul’s teachings…

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

This is the mindset of our culture, and increasingly, it’s finding it’s way into the Church because it’s being embraced by ‘Believers’.

What is the answer?

Repentance and Transformation!

“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:14-20)

*NOTE: He ‘knocks’ on the door of the Church, which has shut Him out!

As to the culture, we can only hope to influence it to the extent that we–Believers in, and Followers of Jesus–live this out.

And that starts with our own hearts, our own lives, our own faith.

We need to willingly, worshipfuly embrace Him and His will for us!

He’s ‘knocking’…will YOU let Him in?

What is ‘Rest’?

This past Sunday here at Kalamazoo Community Church, Pastor Jeff challenged me.

I’m not sure he intended to, but he did.

He brought up an idea that is foreign to our culture, our way of life…and my own lifestyle.

The idea: Rest.

He said that the ‘Sabbath’–a day of rest…is commanded by God. It’s put right there in the Decalogue–the 10 Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)

Actually, this is one of the Commandments that God, Himself expounds on… Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:9-11)

God says, in essence, I did all my work in 6 days then rested…therefore you should too.

Jeff brought up a great point: It wasn’t because God was ‘tired’ that He rested. He didn’t need  a ‘break’.

Rather, He did this as a pattern for us.

Here is where Jeff encouraged US–in the United States of America, in the year 2017–to reaffirm the need for rest. Jeff gave several practical suggestion…and they were convicting to me because I know that I, when I have a ‘day off’ or an unscheduled period of time do everything possible…to Fill it!

Why? Because in the USofA, in this day and age, we think that ‘rest’ means ‘laziness’, and we can’t be caught ‘resting’.  (Don’t get me wrong, I know there are increasing numbers who seem to ‘specialize’ in ‘resting’…I’m not talking about them.)

However, it challenged me because, IF I believe (as I say I do) that following God’s revealed will is key to the “Full Life (John 10:10) that Jesus promised us, then REST has to be part of it. If not, then I’m essentially telling God, ‘I know better’…I don’t need ‘rest’. I can handle it!

…and that, for the record, is wrong!

But it got me thinking.

I don’t think it’s only about ‘resting’.

Otherwise, my falling asleep on Sunday while watching the Lions would count.

I think it’s more than that.

Exodus 35:2: “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord.”

What is resting “to the Lord”, or as the old versions used to say “rest as unto the Lord”?

This is not just a ‘coffee break’. This is not just binge watching on Netflix…this is more.

This is worship. This is surrender. This is acknowledging Him, and my need for Him. This is humility.

This is saying to God, ‘Lord, I’m going to put ‘sabbath rest’ back into my life because I want to acknowledge You. I want to acknowledge that I need YOU, more than anything. YOU are the key to my life. YOU are the key to my success (not 7 days per week working); YOU are what I need to fill me up (not a schedule crammed with ‘recreational activities’).’

Rest ‘as to the Lord’ stops and acknowledges HIM. It worships. It surrenders. It obeys and worships some more.

THIS is the kind of ‘rest’ that God wants from us…and for us!

HE knows best, and He knows that it will be for His glory–and for our good!

Let’s get some ‘Rest as Unto the Lord’ back into our lives!

We’ve All Got a Sickness…and There IS a Cure!

There are no shortage of disturbing things in our world today.

But none are more disturbing than man’s ability to be cruel to fellow man, and the willingness of many to be vessels of evil toward others.

The Las Vegas shooter killed 58 people, and injured hundreds.

Chicago, Illinois has seen over 560 murders–so far this year!

To date in America, approximately 60 million abortions have occurred since 1973.

White supremacists seem to be yelling more loudly then they have in years, while ‘Antifa’ groups and other militant leftists protest in increasing violent ways.

Yesterday,  2 shootings at churches killed 27 people and injured dozens of others.

That’s right…I said CHURCH shootings!

 

These things can certainly leave you wondering…what’s going on? Where will it end? What can we do to stop it?

Certainly, each of these circumstances has their own specifics, but I believe there is a general reason that all of these kinds of things are happening. I believe there is a general ‘shift’ going on–and it has been for some time–away from love of others and respect for life, and substituting in its place a love of self and the deception of the evil one.

Yes, I did it…I went there…I linked all of these up to the evil one, satan. The devil. The enemy of our souls.

He has been active from the beginning, deceptively using ‘self interest’ to drive a wedge between God the Creator and mankind. (see Genesis 3) Jesus called said of him…“He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

Here’s the thing: satan doesn’t advertise himself this way. Rather, he attracts people to his message and his mindset by promising power, freedom, and self respect. After all, no one (well, very few) would literally ‘sign up’ to follow satan…but if a message came along that said you could ‘Stand Up’ and ‘Demand your rights’ and ‘take what’s yours’,  many would sign up for that…and many do.

Unfortunately, at the same time this message has been spreading, our nation has witnessed a corresponding rejection of the message of God: Worship, Love, and self-sacrifice.

We, as a nation in general, have rejected God and His influence, choosing the promise of ‘freedom of choice’ above His will. As a result, the love of others, respect for life, and willingness to sacrifice self for the good of others has become increasingly rare. Why? Because those things come from God, and we–as a nation–have rejected Him. We’ve pushed Him and His Word out of schools, entertainment, family, education, economics, relationships, etc….all in the pursuit of ‘self’.

…and we’ve played right into the enemy’s hands in so doing.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy…” Jesus said (John 10:10)…and he’s been busy. There was a time when our country–even those who weren’t ‘believers’ in Jesus–were somewhat sensitive to evil, to the point where our society was generally turned against those things. However, those days are long gone. Now we not only ‘tolerate’ evil…in many ways, we embrace it.

And the enemy of our souls just laughs, while he continues to spread this sickness.

Meanwhile, Jesus offers us an alternative: “…but I have come that they might have Life, to the Full (emphasis mine).

Choosing the Lord…choosing to worship and follow Him does lead to Life, and it does lead to ‘fullness of life’.

It takes self-denial, however–because we open ourselves up to Him. We surrender to Him, worship Him, obey Him and submit our will to His.

…and we find LIFE as a result.

So…what is the solution?

It still lies in God, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It still lies in letting Him work through us, helping us to choose LOVE instead of hate, Love instead of self, and Love instead of vengeance.

And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other… Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:10, 12-13)

We must choose to keep loving!

We must choose to love Him first, and others second!

We must push back the tendency toward self, anger, hatred…and choose faith, worship and love!

This is tough! It cannot be done in my own strength–I simply do not have it within myself. That is part of the sickness.

It must be a work of God in my life.

…and that means I must seek Him–in worship, prayer and and surrender.

Only then will there be hope.

HE is the Cure!

 

What Are You After?

Do you know that everything you do…literally everything…has a reason behind it?

Think about it: Every single thing you choose to do has a reason–a ‘Why’.

Everything from eating your breakfast, brushing your teeth and getting dressed in morning (so that you can be ready to engage your day) to paying bills, putting gas in your car, literally everything you do has a point…a goal…a ‘Why’.

Most people live most of their lives without thinking about it…so they think that they are ‘wasting their time’ or ‘spinning their wheels’ doing what they’re doing. Therefore, they approach it with boredom, apathy, listlessness, and eventually, resignation or even in a depressed state.

After all, if there is no ‘goal’, no direction and no ‘purpose’–no ‘Why’–there is no hope.

But if we put our hope…our goal…our ‘why’ for everything we do in the Lord, then we do have hope…a hope that remains constant.

“In you, Lord my God,
    I put my trust…

Show me your ways, Lord,

    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.
    But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (Psalm 25:1-5)

Each of us functions with a ‘why’.

The only real question is, ‘What is my Why’?

Why do you invest your time in the things you do?

Why do you have the crammed schedule that you do, or the chaos in life that you do? Why do you invest in the relationships that you do, or have the job that you do?

Believe it or not, you are accomplishing…or on your way to accomplishing…the real ‘goals’–the ‘Why’s’ you set for yourself.

Let me explain:

When I was a kid, I hated vegetables…of all kinds.

My dad, in an effort to help us stay at least a little bit healthy, would make us take 1 spoonful and put it on our plates at dinner. We’d have to finish that spoonful before we could leave the table.

The corn, I could take…and maybe cooked carrots (with lots of butter), but the broccoli? The PEAS? Seriously? UGH! I’d let those sit there and torment me all dinner! 

Eventually, I’d choke them down–cold, stiff and funky.

Later, as I grew, I realized that they were less bad when they were warm, so I learned to eat them first.

It wasn’t until much later–as an adult–that I started to understand the powerful nutrition in vegetables, and how good they are to fuel my body and mind. It was then–finally–that I started to enjoy them.

Why? 

Because finally my ‘What’ of “obey or else” was replaced by a good ‘Why’ of good nutrition. 

For many of us, the ‘What’s’ that our lives are filled with–our job, our school, our responsibilities, etc. are lived out as if they are a trap…something we have no choice in. We don’t see the bigger picture–the Why.

What if we realized that every one of these things is a ‘means to an end’, and that the Lord is with us (IF we are believers in Jesus) and He has a purpose and a plan for each of these things?

How would it change our outlook and attitude if we finally realized that God is doing something in these circumstances–or that He wants to, and we simply need to join Him in His purposes. This, in turn not only gives these things meaning, but also direction. That direction, in turn, can give us energy, commitment and passion to follow through on these things–these ‘whats’–with renewed passion.

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” (Romans 5:1-5)

The truth is that the Love of God, if applied, can change our attitude and opinion about everything we ‘have to do’ in life. When we start to realize that His purpose in our circumstances is for our good and for His glory…those circumstances take on new meaning.

My Hope…and yours…is in Him!

This enables our ‘Why’ to give life to our ‘What’s’.

…and that changes everything!

Eyes on the Prize

There are many things we get ‘worked up’ about in this world.

Politics. Sports. Religion. Taxes. The NFL and the National Anthem.

So, here’s a question for you: As a Christ follower, how do I know what I’m ‘supposed’ to get ‘worked up’ about, and what I should let go?

This is a serious question, because any follower of Jesus who lets themselves get consumed by the drama found in our culture will, in so doing, be taking  our eyes off of Him, the Kingdom of Heaven, and ‘living for eternity’ in the here an now.

Certainly, our world is crying out…DEMANDING attention. Personally, I believe this to be one of satan’s most effective strategies: to get Christians so worked up about here-and-now stuff that we forget that we are called to be about ETERNAL stuff!

You simply can’t stay ‘up on’ the latest scandals, headlines, and ‘breaking news’, and at the same time be living out your purpose and destiny as a child of God.

You and I are called to ‘rise above’, and to call other believers to the same focus.

In one of His most powerful parables, Jesus told a story of a farmer who went out to ‘sow seed’. and the seed fell upon 4 different types of soil. One of those soils had lots of weeds in it too…and the seed that fell there did not fare well. The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.” (Luke 8:14)

The ‘cares and riches and pleasures’ of this life are interesting, dramatic and all-consuming–IF we focus on them. This is spiritually dangerous for us, and for others whom we are called to influence.

King David reminds us:

Psalm 37:1-9:

“Don’t worry about the wicked
    or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
    Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
    and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
    or fret about their wicked schemes.

Stop being angry!
    Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
    it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
    but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.”

 

True, you may define the ‘wicked’ differently from others. In some readers’ minds, ‘the wicked’ are Donald Trump, and anyone who supports him. Others may view ‘the wicked’ as Colin Kaepernick, and those who are ‘kneeling’ with him.

Most of us would agree that the Las Vegas shooter was one of the ‘wicked’…yet, some seem to be working hard to lump their political ‘opponents’ in with him.

My main point is this: As Christ followers, we are to RISE ABOVE this junk and fix our eyes on Jesus, and spread the news about Him. We are to live for His glory, above all…and to live according to the Kingdom of God.

Here’s a good way to check yourself, and see whether you’ve been ‘losing touch’ with what’s really important, and put your eyes on the wrong thing:

  1. Do people know more about my view of politics and the drama in our culture than they do about my eternal beliefs?
  2. If I somehow got EVERYONE to agree with my point of view, would it change the eternal destiny of ANYONE?
  3. Would Jesus characterize my heart as ‘good soil’, where His Word finds root and grows, or ‘thorny soil’, where the cares of this world are choking out my ‘life’?

Think about it…and fix your eyes on the (right) prize!

PastorDaJo