Is Peace Even Possible?

We live in a world of increasing hostilities and aggression. It’s manifest, not only between countries and ethnic groups, but more and more between groups and individuals in the same country and even the same neighborhoods.

It used to be that while people had differences of opinions about a wide variety of issues, actual hostilities were reserved for the concerns that fundamentally affected us in powerful ways. In ways that had the potential to change the basic fabric and structure of our lives.

Somewhere in the post WW II world that all changed. And the speed of change has been propelled at increasing rates by our addiction to social media.

We now live in an age of instant hostility. It takes little to set people against each other.

We seem to take offense so easily and believe that it is our fundamental right to stand up for our cause by any means necessary – even it that involves hostilities, either physical or verbal.

As Christians, how are we to navigate a culture of hostility?

The answer is Peace. Unfortunately, unless you belong to one of the historic peace churches, it’s an issue that we hear so little about.

But Is Peace Even Possible?

Here I’m addressing the issue on a personal level. Is peace possible between people? Between coworkers. Between church members. Between neighbors.

The first thing we have to understand is that the issue of Peace is something that God takes very seriously. He is a god of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33) and He is deeply interested that we be people of peace. A quick check of the Bible, especially the New Testament, will reveal many references to the subject.

The next thing that we need to know is that peace is a responsibility laid firmly on the shoulders of every follower of Christ.

We’re taught to Pray for Peace (Psalm 122:6); make peace (Matthew 5:9); live in peace as much as you can (Romans 12:18); let God’s peace be the ruling factor in our lives (Colossians 3:15); be filled with peace (Romans 15:13); strive to live in peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14); pursue peace (1 Peter 3:11).

If you’re waiting for peace based on the actions of the other person or group of people, you’ve missed the point. God wasn’t talking to them – He was talking to you.

But here’s the real issue: When we ask the question, Is Peace Even Possible? we are asking the wrong question.

The right question is, Does God Want us to be People of Peace?

And the answer to that question is Yes.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Advertisements

The Day of Heroes

There have always been great men and women. Every country and culture has (or at least had) them. Men and women who contributed to their fellowman in ways that shaped the future. They stand out from the rest of us as people worthy of our respect.

They are people like Gandhi, and Marie Curie, and Churchill, and George Washington to name just a few. People who walked with feet of clay, yet managed to elevate not only themselves, but everyone around them. They were the few who could inspire the many. They left the world better than they found it.

They are the people who are immortalized in books and in the memories of not just their countrymen but people around the world. They are the heroes that we look up to.

Unfortunately, the definition – or at least the perception, of heroes has changed. If the posters on the walls (both physical and social) of many teens and I suspect many schools is any indication, heroes today are chosen using a different criterion than in the past. Heroes today are chosen for their entertainment value not for their sacrifice.

The day of true heroes is quickly slipping away.

God too has his heroes. There’s a group of them listed in Hebrews chapter eleven. People like Abraham and Moses and Samson and David. People who stood for God and for righteousness. They are still inspiring people generations later.

The irony of these heroes is that we don’t even know the names of most of them. They are the anonymous heroes of the world. They are the ones of whom it was said, the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:38) of them.

Here’s the thing about these heroes that makes them stand out from all of the great people of history. They were heroes to God.

We think in terms of heroes to men. Men and women who are remembered and recognized as great by the rest of us. But you don’t have to be recognized by people to be a hero to God. What matters is that God knows who you are. That’s what’s really important. To be a hero among men is one thing but to be a hero to God raises it to another dimension.

So, go out and be a hero.

Sure, be a hero to your family and your children. But more importantly, be a hero to God.

The Day of Heroes does not have to end.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Pray for Them

The post this morning on our church Facebook site said, Praying for your friends is so important. Sometimes they fight battles they never talk to you about. Cover your friends in prayer.

So true. We need to pray for our friends. We have no idea what they are going through.

But it goes beyond our friends.

What about the person who sat across the aisle from you at church – you know the one, you know their name but that’s about all?

What about the person at work today that you rarely speak too? Maybe you’re just too busy.

What about the teller at the bank, the clerk at the store, the neighbor down the street?

It’s important to pray for them even though they don’t fall into the category of friend. They are all fighting battles that you’ll never know about. That’s the nature of life. And they all need your prayers, whether they talk to you about their problems or not.

James (5:16) says pray for each other. Yes, James is talking about Christians praying for other Christians, and that’s something we need to do. The Apostle Paul was a great one to pray for other Christians (Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:4 etc.) and he talked about being helped by their prayers for him (2 Corinthians 1:11). But we need to cast our nets much wider than that. We need to do more than pray just our friends.

We need to do more than limit our prayers to those in the family of God. We need to pray for our classmates, the people at work, the people in our neighborhoods, the people in the PTA, etc. We need to pray for people we know and for people that we barely know or don’t know at all.

Jesus even taught us to pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). That puts prayer into the category of don’t leave anyone out.

The truth is – we all need prayer. All of us. And we all need to pray for other people.

You will probably never know the impact your prayers will make in the lives of other people as you faithfully pray for them.

So, Pray. Pray for your friends. Pray for people you know. Pray for people you don’t know.

Pray when you see results. Pray when you don’t see results.

Pray when you know the problems people are going through. Pray when you don’t have any idea of the problems they are going through.

What you know isn’t the determining issue for whether or not you pray or for whom you pray.

You have been invited into the presence of the King of Kings, the Eternal God, the Creator, the Everlasting One, the Glorious All-mighty God and you get to talk to Him about anything or anyone. And He will listen.

Don’t waste the opportunity talking about trivial things. Pray for someone, even if you don’t know the battles that they are fighting.

Just Pray.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Words Matter (A Lot!)

We all know intellectually that words matter, but we also forget – often. This was brought to my attention again this week when my words got me into trouble.

Sometimes we think that only certain kinds of words matter. The truth is that all kinds of words matter. It’s not just the negative words that matter – the positive ones matter even more.

Here are a few examples:

Angry words matter – they wound others.

Sad words matter – they are a cry for help.

Careless words matter – they indicate we a need to be more careful.

Unclear words matter – they can easily be taken in a way we didn’t mean them.

Negative words matter – they can crush someone’s spirit.

Positive words matter – they can build someone up.

Insensitive words matter – they show a thoughtless spirit.

Kind words matter – they will lift a person’s spirit.

Critical words matter – they will stop someone from trying.

Defiant words matter – they indicate a lack of respect.

Diplomatic words matter – they indicate a careful person.

Enthusiastic words matter – they move people to action.

The list goes on. I read a list of 180 different types of words that the author referred to as tone words. IE, words that indicate a certain tone in our voice that gives our words specific meanings and power.

The Bible warns us about the words that we use. Just in the book of Proverbs we read these statements about words.

Proverbs 12:18 – There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 13:3 – Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 16:24 – Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

Proverbs 21:23 – Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

And then this one from the book of James.

James 3:5-6 – See how great a forest a little fire kindles!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

Every so often we need to be reminded – I need to be reminded – just how much Words Matter.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

Former presidents, current leaders and lawmakers and former political adversaries remembered George H.W. Bush as the president who guided America through the end of the Cold War, while dedicating his life to serving his country and doing so with remarkable kindness and class.

So read an article with the headline, Bush remembered by presidential peers, family. You can read the entire article here.

By all accounts, former president George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, was a good and decent man. He is remembered that way by both his friends and political foes.

It’s a nice way to be remembered – as a man with remarkable kindness and class.

Far too few people in today’s world, especially in the line of work that he was in, will be remembered that way. Or even close to that.

So, how will you be remembered? What will they say about you when you are gone?

I can already hear some of you saying, I don’t care, I won’t be around to hear what they say.

That’s true enough. But your spouse will be; and your children will be; and your grandchildren will be; and people who love you will be. And they would like to hear good things about you.

If you can’t be a man or woman of remarkable kindness and class for yourself – do it for them.

And for Christians the reputation you leave behind is even more important. It will not only reflect on your family and friends, it will reflect on your church and more importantly on your Savior.

If you can’t be a man or woman of remarkable kindness and class for yourself – do it for Him.

The Apostle Peter put it this way: Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Have your conduct honorable. Other translations put it like this:

  • Always let others see you behaving properly (CEV)
  • Keep your behavior excellent (AMP)
  • Live such good lives (NIV)

The point is that of all people, Christians, when they die (and we all will), should be remembered as good, decent, kind people.

So, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

It’s not too late to change the perception.

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 6:15).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

The Important Things

There are important things in life and then there are those things that aren’t so important. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference.

I suspect that most of us spend the majority of our time on things that really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. We fight the brush fires – and there are many of them – which doesn’t leave us time to fight the forest fires.

So how do we determine what’s important and what’s not?

Everyone has their own way to measure the relative importance of a specific event, whether it’s shopping for a new dress (or tool!), spending time at work, watching television, reading your Bible, or praying. We always have a good reason for why we do what we do.

But many of our reasons don’t hold up under intense scrutiny. The truth is that we do what we do because we like to do it. Not because it’s the most important thing we could be doing, or even the most pressing thing we need to do. We just like to spend our time that way.

Is there a guide that will help us determine what’s important and what’s not?

I think there is.

Do you remember the bracelets people wore back in the 1990’s with the initials WWJD on them? What Would Jesus Do? It was a good question to ask, unfortunately I think it became more of a fad than a reality – it was just cool to wear them and we all thought we were spiritual giants. Wearing a bracelet never made anyone a spiritual giant.

Determining what’s important in life is similar to WWJD.  Only this time the question is, Is it important to God?

That’s how you can determine what’s important in life and what isn’t.

If it’s important to God it should be important to us.

I read an online article with the title, Whatever’s Important to You Is Important to God. That’s only true in a very restricted sense. Sinful things may be important to you but they’re only important to God as far as He uses them to get your attention and change your behavior.

The title is misleading. Turn it around. Whatever’s Important to God is Important to You.

The prophet Isaiah wrote about the rebelliousness of God’s people, when they refused to listen to the prophets. It just wasn’t important to them. As a result of their dismissal of God’s messages, judgement awaited them.

But the prophet also wrote about another day when God would bring His people back and they would live in peace and in obedience to Him. In that time he said, Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it. (Isaiah 30:21).

In other words God will say to Israel, This is important to Me, do it.

That’s a good message for all of us, not just for Israel.  All that God wants is for you to do what is important to Him.

That’s why we’re here. Not for ourselves but for Him.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Or is It?

We’re entering the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. Time to celebrate!

This time of the year means family, food and football for a lot of people. It means the changing of seasons and the leaves turning the beautiful colors of fall. It means parades, parties and presents. And snow! At least for those of us who live in the northeastern part of the United States.

As the song says, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Or is it?

Not for everyone.

In all of the festivities it’s easy to forget that we are blessed. It’s even easier to forget those who aren’t.

There are so many people around the world who won’t enjoy the holidays the way you do – and some of them are just outside your back door.

The Bible has a lot to say about how we as Christians are to relate to the poor, especially in the book of Proverbs.

He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he (Prov 14:21).

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy (Prov 14:31).

He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished (Prov 17:5).

He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given (Prov 19:17).

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard (Prov 21:13).

Check out James 2:2-9 for a longer New Testament perspective on how we are to treat poor people.

There is a special place in the heart of God for poor people and there should be a special place in our hearts as well.

This holiday season find a way to bless someone who is less fortunate than you. Take a holiday meal to a poor family. Buy some presents for some children who won’t get any presents otherwise. Serve a meal at your local rescue mission.

There are many ways that you can help someone celebrate the holidays who is dreading this time of the year.

It’s not a matter of time – we all have the same 24 hours in the day. It’s not a matter of money (maybe it is for some) – we all have enough. It’s simply a matter of priority.

Make helping someone a priority this holiday season.

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all (Prov 22:2).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve