Peace


And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20 

The famous New York City coffee company Chock full o’Nuts uses a marketing tune that refers to their product as “Heavenly Coffee”, and it, no doubt, is quite good; yet, even when brewed with care and perfectly served, there can be no comparison to the rich and full truth about God that John provides for us in these two short sentences. These words are chock full o’life! 

Understanding is the thing that I believe we need most. Ultimately, it matters more than wisdom, for understanding is what directs, focuses, and applies the wisdom that God gives us. Through understanding we are able to pour out love, grant grace, and apply truth in our daily lives. God increases our comprehension of Him and of His ways as we pour our selves out onto His altar of transformation and open our hearts to the filling of His Spirit. Without the unveiling of God’s true self that was accomplished through Jesus, people do not have the ability to fully and completely grasp the totality of God and of His gracious love; thus, the Lord remains a veiled mystery. 

Through Christ our lives are filled with the gifts that God desires for us to have. Among them are peace, joy, comfort, wisdom, grace, purpose, protection, and courage, and by the interaction of Christ’s Spirit in our lives we are granted the great gift of understanding so that these other gifts can be used to truly bless us and the lives of others. Somehow, I think that this is a picture of the true heavenly coffee, and the aroma of this brew can fill the world with the one eternal fragrance.

A post from 2009; used here without edits.

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

Romans 1: 1

This is the opening thought that Paul expresses in Romans, and he states two really big ideas in this short sentence. First, Paul was called by God; the Lord had something in mind for Paul to be doing, and He communicated that something to Paul. Second, in responding to God, Paul was set apart. He was removed from the place in the world that he had previously occupied, and through the miracle of adoption into God’s household, he was granted a new identity and a new purpose in life. Thus, Paul became a distinctly new individual whose greatest mission was to do the will of God.

These same things are true for everyone else who decides to follow Jesus. You and I are also called by God. He has a plan for our lives, and He has given each of us specific skills and granted us certain gifts that He will use in us to answer that calling. Also, God takes everyone who responds to Him, and He moves us out of the view of the world that was ours before and provides us with a new perspective and a new mission within that life. It is not like we are living in some form of fairy tale, however, where the changes happen to us, and we are not really participants in them. God effects the essential change within us by giving us His Spirit; yet, He continues to dialogue with us over the remainder of our lives. He continues to reveal His calling to us, and we are asked by Him to continue to surrender ourselves to being separated from our old lives.

The daily challenge that I face is in listening to God’s call and in humbly giving up control of aspects of my life to Him so that I can respond to that calling more fully. Christ is speaking every day, and He has a mission in mind for us to respond to during each of those days. So, the big questions is this, am I willing to follow Paul’s leading and set aside my own desires and anticipations in order to answer? The gospel calls us into engaging fully in the adventure that is our new life in Christ, and Christ promises the blessing of God’s love, peace, and grace to all who set aside the old life and accept our new being as servants of the King. In Christ, we are each called to enter into that service. Let us follow the Apostle Paul and respond to Christ’s call to leave the world behind and to give up ourselves as servants to our Lord as we respond to Christ’s leading for our new lives in Him.  

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

Philippians 1: 27

This is a description of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the modern world. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the current date is in the first century of the Christian Era or in its twenty-first century. The day, month, and year in which Christians find themselves living is a time when there will be pressures applied upon that person’s faith in Christ and adherence to the gospel so that the ability to stand up in the face of those forces will be in question. This world can be a harsh and a challenging place to live. There are real and highly active forces in it that are seeking to overthrow the gospel of Christ at every turn, and their target for this attempted coup against the King of the Universe is each and every person that gives their life to Christ as Lord and Savior.

In his process of waging war against Christ, Satan attacks both individual followers and the church. So, we must be prepared to stand up to these assaults by virtue of our deep commitment to Christ and submission to His will and by seeking to be of one mind with other followers of Christ as we gather as His church. Now there is no doubt in my mind that any gathered body of people will see many things differently, one from others. Yet, we can know the same Christ, be led by one Spirit, and submit to the singular Word of God. Then our strength comes through the unity that is hard won and thoroughly worked out by the process of living out together the challenges of life. Christ is fully committed to His church, and we are asked by Him to respond by being fully committed to seeking unity by and in His Spirit.

Paul’s joy and pleasure at hearing about the way that people in Philippi and in other places where he has shared the gospel of Christ are living as upright followers of that message of righteousness, love, and enduring faith reflects Christ’s feelings upon the same response in all of His people. Christ, Himself, is delighted when we lean into Him for strength, encouragement, and wisdom as we engage with the powers and forces in our world that are attempting to overthrow our faith and shatter the fellowship of belief that Christ has formed. In Christ we can find the singularity of purpose that overcomes all forms of difference. The Spirit works among us to focus our hearts and minds in on the redemptive message of that gospel and to make our points of disagreement into issues and concerns that can be set aside for the sake of standing together as we live out our faith in the world and before its eyes as a testimony to Christ.   

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body is thrown into hell.

Matthew 5: 29

All people have a right eye. For most of us it is an organ that functions to varying degrees of efficiency and effectiveness to provide us with a visual image of our world. Yet for others, it is either disabled or does not even exist. Still, the right eyed view of the world that Jesus is talking about is one that we all possess. It is that perspective that sees everything with a view toward our own satisfaction and enjoyment. It values power, and it covets after the unobtainable. This right eye can dominate even the most committed of followers of Christ if we allow it to have free reign in our hearts. It leads us into unrighteous anger as it builds up energy in our minds and our hearts that is fueled by our fleshly concepts of personal rights. It sees the sin in our brothers and sisters, and it shows us exactly how that sin is directed at our most vulnerable points.

This right eye is something that we are all doomed to carry with us for the remainder of our earthly life. Also, in the seemingly contradictory manner that God so enjoys, its active presence is a source of great blessing and peace. In my experience of life, it is a truly rare person who does not see things from this right-eyed point of view from time to time. For me personally, I am sorry and saddened to admit that it takes over control of my thinking and of my feelings far too frequently. I don’t even need to be wrong in my thinking for my right eye to impose its sinful will upon me. That is the problem. The sin that is still present in my flesh and the distorted thinking that it brings out in my mind tends to lie very close to the surface of my daily life. It can rapidly take over and dominate my appraisal of situations and my thoughts about other people.

Yet, herein lies the blessing. For Christ knows us humans very well. He understands that this sort of thing, this right-eyed and sin-distorted view of life, plagues us all. So, in response to this common failing, Christ tells us to come to Him. He says that we can trust in His goodness and His love to lead us through a life that is always going to bring challenge, strife, and struggle into our paths. We can cast off the false safety and the uncertain security of our old way of assessing the environment where we live. We can choose to dwell in the peace and the solid security of God’s Word and the truth about life and regarding other people that Christ’s Spirit reveals to us. When this right-eyed vision starts to impose itself, it is apparent; for, the chaos and the death that is found in that ancient garbage heap of Gehenna will try to impose itself on life. Yet, Christ leads us through these times, and He brings us into the light and the grace-filled community of His presence. 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

Isaiah 55: 8

When the things that I am thinking about and the way that I am thinking are different than what God says that I should be thinking, which set of thoughts is right? When the thing that I am doing and the actions that I have taken are focused on what I want or think that I need, how well am I doing at following the example of healthy living that Jesus gave me? It is easy to argue that I know what is required for this moment in life or that this particular situation was extraordinary, and it demanded that I do and say what I did. Yet, those arguments are the same ones that people have been using for thousands of years to justify going against the Lord’s will. God has heard them all, and there is no real creativity that the human mind can utilize successfully in its attempt to rationalize living in ways that are different from God’s design for life. 

There are ways of thinking and ways of living that God has told us will work; there are others that He has clearly marked as bad ideas. The road map to follow through life is universally available. The system even comes with an on board set of helps and an interpreter for those hard to understand situations. All that is required of us is a willingness to join with Jesus, to allow Him into our lives. It is very simple; yet, the decision to let Him in is the most elusive action point in life for many people. There is something in our natures that clings very tightly to a mind-set and a heart-felt determination to live life the way that we think is best. The problem with this way of thinking is that God’s way is proven to actually work, and for every person this is always true.

The proof of this statement is recorded throughout human history in the Bible. The living proof of the fact that God’s ways are superior to anything that we people can come up with on our own is demonstrated in each of our lives. The Lord designed life this way, He made it so that we can look closely at each other, and we can observe the way that other people think and the actions that they take. The challenge for me and for any of us who know God is to examine our own thoughts and our own actions; then, we can to allow Christ access to our hearts and our minds to change us so that we think and act like Him. One way of thinking and one way of acting works; for, one has wisdom, peace, joy, and life sustaining grace driving it. One has the Father’s love flowing out of it. We get to choose to make God’s way ours.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 7: 21

Jesus must have been in quite a mood on this day, for before He was finished, the Lord had laid out challenging words for everyone in the audience, and He left each of us today with similar hard sayings to contemplate. No one escaped this call to live as righteous people, and no one was left out in these broad and sweeping challenges to the ways that we think, speak, and act. A relationship with God should make a difference in the conduct of our days. So, if we claim Jesus as Lord, then people should hear and see Jesus when we speak and act. In fact, it is the way that we live that is the most telling indicator of that relationship, and this is the reason for this particular point of indictment against those that make false claims of faith.

There were people in Jesus’ time that talked a good talk when it came to saying that what they taught and the way that they lived was grounded in and directed by God. Today, the same thing is still true, for people make claims to following Christ; yet, the things that they say and the way that they live are significantly disconnected from the truth of the gospel of Christ. This is often manifest in the manner in which people selectively engage in loving others, caring for the needy, and in the areas of power, greed, and nationalism. Too many people that claim to be followers of Jesus are also people who would promote the cause of violence in our world or that rally to the cry of corporate or national protectionism when those causes, as expressed and executed, bring about suffering and death for thousands upon thousands of our world’s most defenseless people. Additionally, the church and its people have frequently lost sight of what it means to care about and for life as God devises and views it.

All people, from conception through the last natural breath that is drawn on this earth are important and priceless in the eyes of God. So, they should be viewed in the same manner by anyone that claims Christ as Lord. We are to be protectors of those souls, people that use our wealth and positions of power to provide opportunities for life, food and shelter when it is absent, protection from violence, and the grace and mercy of acceptance and understanding. This is a part of what it means to be someone that can call out “Lord, you are my Lord,” to Jesus and have Him respond back that He knows your name. This degree of commitment to living out the challenges of the gospel is what was lacking in many of the so-called religious people that Jesus was confronting, and the situation is the same now. Thus, the challenge for each of us who seek to name Christ as our Lord is the one of living out this radical love, risky engagement with our world, and relentless drive to bring the reality of the kingdom of God into the place where we dwell each and every day.

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be exalted in my body.

Philippians 1:20

Today, we have some questions to consider. Does every fiber of your being shout about its freedom in Christ? If not, why not? When you think, do the thoughts that are generated by the Spirit of Christ dominate, or how about the way that you act, do people see Jesus in His full expression when it is your hands that are touching them? When I answer honestly, my sad response is, “No, not so often, not as much as I might, or not even on the same continent as my potential.”

Yet, Christ’s Spirit of transformation and change reaches into the very deepest and to the smallest bits of our beings; He brings about a state of being that is completely redefined and whose orientation is brought into alignment with God’s. When I don’t face my day with this sense of anticipation of living in the center of the glory of Christ and when I enter into contact with people with a aura of fear and dread surrounding my heart and mind, I can seek the wisdom, truth, and discernment of Christ, and I can also seek to set aside the old-life concerns and my now, through Christ, outdated perspective on interacting with others, too.

When I accept the change, recognize the transformation, and trust the Spirit to direct me, I can and should live in a manner that shows the confident love of God to my world. This life perspective is grown on the inside, in my heart and mind, and as it takes over each and every cell of my body. As I stop holding onto the old and embrace this change, I am filled with a reasoned courage that compels me to engage life in a fresh and a vigorous way. Then every molecule of my being can truly shout with joy at the presence of the Lord.

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Ephesians 2: 17

There are separations, divisions, and animosities running wildly amok in our world today. This is not a profound revelation that has come to me; rather, it is the reality in which we all dwell. I submit that it is easier to identify conditions, situations, and identities that divide us than it is to do the same with those that bind people together. In part, this is true because we are more interested in the tensions than we are in their reconciliation, but it is also the continuing arch of the playing out of the fallen state of creation, itself. This world has been headed in this direction from its earliest days, and it continues to spiral downward; however, it does seem that the spiral is growing ever tighter and the rate of spin is continually increasing. Perhaps we are living in the midst of the death spiral of this world?

The saddest aspect of all of this is the fact that it doesn’t need to be so. God planned and established the way and the means for reconciliation of any and all differences. The Father does not want to see His people caught up in the animosities, hatred, and the violence that stems from them. He would have all of us learn to accept each other, take the risk inherent in peacemaking, and reach across all of our points of division with the hand of fellowship and grace. So, the means that God established for doing this is Jesus and the way is the cross. Christ’s love and grace serve to bring people into a relationship with God that ends our separation from all that is righteous and holy; thus, Christ reconciles people to our Creator. This is a part of what God intends to see happen. The other primary aspect of the Lord’s desire and will is carried out when we seek to reconcile with each other.

It is not easy to love people who are different, care for those who seem to be natural enemies, and enter into the stories of those who make us uncomfortable or who actually frighten us. Yet, Christ calls upon His people to do these things. He also goes with us as we seek to extend that hand of fellowship to others. For as we look upon the cross and consider what it means to join with Jesus in the sacrifice and the commitment to righteousness that is centered upon that torturous implement, all fear and concern should be left behind us. Christ experienced all of the pain, grief, and terror for us during those agonizing hours of hanging upon the cross. In Christ we are not only set free to love those who are different from us, but those differences are, in fact, made to disappear. They become meaningless in the context of God’s newly redeemed existence as citizens of His kingdom come to earth. In Christ and by the sacrifice of the cross, we can know the true peace that comes through loving all people as Christ loves them and from no longer seeing their difference but rather from looking upon them as fellow bearers of God’s beautiful and perfect image.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

            “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

                who was and is and is to come!”

                Revelation 4: 8

These words are at the center of the vision of God’s throne room that was given to John by Christ. John was allowed to see a part of the universe that most of us can only speculate about. He was taken, in this visionary state, into a reality that followers of Christ often dream about and desire to enter at the soonest possible moment. This is the place where death is no more, and the pain that accompanies life as does Noon follow dawn is far off in the past. In this longest part of existence, perfection and peace reign as strife and striving are left to wrestle in the dusty and temporary atmosphere of earth. We can dream of a time when we, too, will join these incredible creatures as we spend our hours, days, and eternity expressing worshipful praise to God.

This idea is a wonderful one. And the hope that its promise provides is useful for us as we face into the challenges of living in this world. However, it seems to me that looking ahead to the day when this heavenly escape will be my own is not what God wants me to focus my sight upon today. Instead of looking ahead to a time when I will be transported into an existence where praising the Lord is the singular focus and work of my days, Christ’s purpose in doing all that He did was to set me free from all that inhibits me from engaging in this same form of worship on an on-going basis during my time of living in this world. Although I do not have six wings, or any wings for that matter, am not all that gifted in sight, and my endurance tends to fail me, I can still spend my hours, days, and years in active and persistent praiseful worship of the Lord. 

As one who has been redeemed from sin and its death by Christ, I am called by my Lord into service to His kingdom come upon this earth. My life is no longer my own. I am given the singular task of worship to pursue for the rest of my life, and I am granted the gift of the capacity and the capability to do that very thing. Every thought that comes to my mind is to be formed out of the truth and the wisdom of God’s Word. Each word that I speak is to be formed out of a vocabulary of love, grace, and understanding, and all of the actions that I take are to be carried out with God’s holy and righteous purposes as their object and objective. This is the central point and purpose of being a follower of Christ. We are to make worship of the Lord the center of our being, and as we do this, God’s presence is made tangible and real to others as His redemption is poured out into a troubled and broken world. 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.

Ephesians 1: 7

God never wanted people to be held in captivity to sin; yet, He knew that we would place ourselves into that state of bondage. So, the Father planned the way and the means of our escape from the self-devised prison that we were to be held in, and He also made it possible for us to be set free on a permanent basis. Jesus is the Father’s response to both of these needs. He is our source of redemption as He is the means by which we are redeemed. In other words, Jesus paid the price for our release from captivity to sin. This was accomplished in His act of sacrifice upon the cross, and it was sealed by the blood that flowed out of Christ’s pierced body. There is nothing left to be paid in order for our soul’s jailer to release any of us. If we choose to follow Christ, we are granted a full pardon and our parole is effected.

The hard part for most of us comes in the choosing to follow Christ. Why should I do this? What do I gain in so choosing? Is this Jesus even real? These are questions that multitudes of people have asked over the long history of the world. From my point of view, it is all very simple. I know, through faith and by virtue of experiencing life that Jesus is real. The narrative that is written in the Bible is the real and the accurate recitation of God’s engagement with His creation with a particular emphasis upon the Lord’s involvement with humanity. I hold this to be true, not because I have absolute tangible proofs or due to some form of exhaustive research, for I have experienced the presence of God in my life, and I know that the best of the person that I have been and that I am to be is found and made known in the commitment of my heart, mind, and spirit to living in a righteous manner after the modeling and the leading of Christ, Himself.

In the conduct of my life I have certainly placed great demands upon the love and the grace that Christ has poured out upon me. Sadly, I continue to do this to this day; yet, the journey has gotten easier as the Spirit has continued to work within my heart and my mind to bring about an ever-increasing level of understanding of what it means to live as a person that loves others, seeks after justice, and desires to share God’s redemptive love with others. Choosing to follow Christ places each of us on that same journey as the Apostle Paul traveled upon. In so doing we enter into God’s will for us, and we find peace with our Creator in the process. This adventure that Christ takes us on will not be easy as there will be temptations to overcome, an adversarial world to confront, and doubts that grab hold of us and attempt to wrestle our hearts and minds into submission. In all of this I have found that Christ is with me. That riches of grace that Paul mentions and the Lord’s abundant love and mercy are truly poured out upon me in a supply that can be described in no other word but lavish. 

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