Peacemaking (Part 5): Righteousness and Peace

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. (Psalm 85:8-10)

Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order—in short, of government. (Albert Einstein, On Peace)

Righteousness and peace are intimately connected. We see this in every dimension of society: from the upper echelons of government to every citizen’s daily challenge to contribute to the harmony of his neighborhood. Where there is order, and when people’s hearts are united within that order, peace has a fertile place to grow. Where there is disorder, peace has a very low chance of being prominent on any large scale.

As human beings created by God, our order, our government primarily stems from God himself, impressed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The name of this government is the Kingdom:

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:7)

Our own earthly governments are just a shadow of God’s government, and while we may achieve some level of peace here in our nations, peace’s ultimate fulfillment is found in the Kingdom of God. That being said, we can do much to bring peace to the world around us if we live from God’s heart and establish justice in our earthly systems.

We must be secure in our own morality, even when society does not agree. We cannot control society or popular opinion, but we can influence. God’s ways are always going to be better than any lesser ways. Demonstrating the merit of those values and practices, practically, scientifically, psychologically and sociologically, will go a long way to promoting peace in our world.

Living our lives individually and collectively in right standing with God, bearing the fruit of self-control, love and peace in community through the gospel: it is all a witness, a vision of hope, a gift to the world around us. We demonstrate love in relationship, and forgiveness within conflict. We get to show the world that the Kingdom works, in whatever context we’ve been placed.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”–Matthew 5:9

Christ, the Head of the Body

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You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. —Colossians 2:20-23 (NLT)

I never want to idolize the wilderness. At times, I’ve approached fasting and weeping as if they were ends unto themselves, gold star ultimate expressions of devotion to God. But weeping is simply a right emotional response to a tragedy, a loving response, something that God feels even deeper than we do. Fasting is simply a laying aside of distractions, a focused time of longing for God. In both, the point is to connect with God’s heart. They are precious realities, never human accomplishments of which to be proud. Without Christ as the Head, these things are meaningless.

Just having rules and systems set up against immorality does nothing to bring freedom to the ones trapped in it. For instance, from a worldly point of view, Humanism and Communism are great ideas. They’re even based in Biblical principles! Humanism attempts to follow the second great commandment, but it ignores the first. Communism is an attempt at Church and covenant community, only without God. The rules and morals may be “right,” but without Jesus as the Head, they are doomed to abuse and failure. Without faith, there is no substance.

Like Paul, we can “do all things through Christ.” No matter what the circumstance, we can rejoice, for we have the Spirit of power, love and self-control. When our minds are set in eternity, laying down our lives is a joy. We may live weak lives, chaotic, unorganized, or not. The wilderness doesn’t define our identity. Neither do disciplines and rules. Only Jesus, our Creator and Friend, can do that. We do strive for holiness, not because of guilt or pride, but because He is holy, and we love Him.

Article originally published in “Unlocked Words,” June 28, 2015 -JH

Of Leaves and Souls

Another Easter has come and gone,
Another day to celebrate Your death and resurrection.
You were the ultimate Passover lamb!
Your blood was shed so that death would pass us by,
And we are new creations in You.

Isn’t it amazing that the spring season,
Celebrated by the world with baskets of bunny eggs,
Is the very season You brought new life to the world?
Even the seasons speak of Your glory.
Each new leaf speaks of souls won.

I just saw my son born.
He’s weak and small, but he’s so alive.
I imagine that’s how You see us.
You enjoy us, even in our weakness.
You celebrate every bold new step we take.
We’re Yours now, loved now,
And nothing could ever make us otherwise.

Thank you for our new lives, Jesus,
The ones You bought with blood.
Please teach us to grow.

White-lilac

“For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”–Job 33:4

Peacemaking (Part 4): the Pursuit of Peace

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears… What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?… Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:4, 12, 14)

Peace is a thing to be pursued, to seek after and to find. It is not a static entity. Peace is a moving, living reality, because the God who creates it and defines it is the Living God. This is a living earth, with living creatures, and in the context of this planet, peace exists. But where is it to be found? How can it be acquired? A great answer is found in Psalm 34 verse 4. To paraphrase, “Seek God, and He’ll get all the fear out of you.” When fear is gone, peace flourishes. When peace enters, fear flees. The two cannot coexist. So, first of all, look for God. He is the provider of peace.

Secondly, we must have a long-term, positive outlook on life. In order to steward peace well, we need to love life. Don’t get me wrong: peacemakers may not live very long, and there is risk involved. Many peacemakers died as martyrs at a very young age. But martyrdom is never our goal. Our goal is a long, happy life, not only for us, but for all the people around us. We want to see good things happen, and we love celebrating them when they do. Jesus said this:

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10)

If you ever find yourself hating your life or hating the people who surround you daily, please stop and evaluate yourself. We have no excuse for bitterness. Peacemakers, like Jesus, have a purpose. We want to give all people a rich and satisfying life.

Lastly, the pursuit of peace requires a desire to bring change, and that change starts with us. As humans, we all have the ability to do good or evil things. When we do evil, just like “the thief” in John 10, we bring destruction and decay to ourselves and those around us. It’s only our partnership with God’s Spirit, our alignment with Righteousness, that brings peace to the world. If we want to be peacemakers, we must learn to confront our own degraded minds every day, get up, lift up our heads and do something good in the world. We are powerful people. And God answers prayer, if we are bold enough to ask and obey.

Something Spiritual

Have I forgotten, then,
What has made me great?
A life’s genesis, once begun,
Pressed ever forward by fate.

Something, something spiritual,
A wind, a whisper, a fire,
Not by those things was I conquered,
But by a love, a heart filled with desire!

I have not forgotten,
Nor will I ever forget that face,
The eyes, the gaze, the lips speaking
Freedom, an invitation to the chase.

And fervently I follow,
My heart spinning with limitless zeal,
This life, no solemn march, but a run!
Wild, lovely, rapturous and tangible and real.

Reposted from “Unlocked Words,” January 11, 2015.

Peacemaking (Part 3): God’s Declaration

“Fear not.”

How many times in the Bible do those words come out of God’s mouth? I used to get discouraged over how difficult that command was to follow. Think about it; if we are gripped with fear, right in the middle of it, then how are we supposed to be able to obey those words? I realized this truth much later: every command, every call to obey and follow His example is infinitely simpler when His Spirit is empowering us to act. God is the first peacemaker, and His words carry breakthrough. If we are willing to listen and obey, then His command to “fear not” will not be a further source of anxiety. It will be a comfort for our souls.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
    for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
    but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    that glory may dwell in our land.–Psalm 84:8-9

As we read the verse above, notice that God’s word of peace is not only received by individuals, but also by the land. This is such an important part of peacemaking to understand. We the saints are blessed with peace for a greater purpose than just our own peace of mind. The community around us will be blessed as well. Glory will dwell in our land when we hear and believe God’s spoken word of peace to us.

Peace starts with God Himself, is planted deep inside of our hearts and manifests in the world around us. When we are faithful to walk in God’s ways (and “not turn back to folly”), we act as peacemakers ourselves. That is our identity. As surely as I call myself a Christian, I can call myself a peacemaker, because that is a dimension of Christ’s character. What a privilege it is to follow His lead and carry peace to my generation.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”–Matthew 5:9

Peacemaking (Part 2): Living From a Posture of Peace

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”–Matthew 11:28-30

I am so incredibly thankful that our God is humble. He is the great Creator, Lord, Master of the Universe, and yet, He chooses to relate to us as a friend and as a father. We call Him “Lord,” but He doesn’t loom over us like a taskmaster. He draws us close in intimate relationship. As we seek to walk out our faith as peacemakers on this earth, it’s good to remember that God doesn’t want to punish us, judge us or be angry with us. He actually invites us into a place of peace and rest.

In the Biblical tabernacle days, there was the practice of the peace offering. The Levitical priests would take and slaughter goats or sheep, offering them as the representation of good will between God and man. Then Jesus came as both the Great High Priest and the Lamb of God, forgiving sin and forging a bond of friendship. He took the low road, met us in our mess and made us free.

As we walk in the Spirit today, God’s peace flows from our hearts. In the face of that peace, all fear and anxiety has to leave. We don’t fear the power of people, because we know our Jesus is much more powerful. We cannot fear our own sin or even death, because Jesus has conquered them both. All He asks is that we come to Him, learn from Him and follow His lead. We live glorious, impactful lives, tied at the heartstrings to Jesus, secure in the loving relationship we have with Him.

Reposted from “Unlocked Words,” October 19, 2014.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”–Matthew 5:9

Peacemaking (Part 1): the Name of God

Starting with this post, I’m beginning a series on peacemaking. In the Sermon On the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I fully believe that I am a peacemaker at heart, so I want to find out everything I can on the subject. The Bible has a whole lot to say about it, and I’m excited to explore the many dimensions of what it means to be a peacemaker.

With any study of a Godly character quality (progressing into Godly action), one of the best ways to start is by looking at His Names. These Names are given to God by the Biblical heroes, prophets and even by God Himself. They reveal incredible truth. They are a declaration of God’s character by His people, the ones who have received incredible revelation of His nature.

In Judges chapter 6, we read about a scared farmer named Gideon. He was scared of the community around him, scared of the occupying armies of Midian, scared of his own father, scared of God. But one day, an angel came to him and declared, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” After giving Gideon a sign by burning up some meat and bread with fire, God Himself spoke, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” In that moment, the fear in Gideon’s heart was confronted, chased out and replaced with supernatural peace. So overwhelming was this peace, that Gideon did this:

“Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.”–Judges 6:24

He declared a Name of God never before uttered in the Bible: The Lord Is Peace. When that peace entered Gideon’s heart, he accepted the mission to which God had called him. He was empowered to do it, because he knew that he was going with the almighty power of God. No army, no neighbor, no family member could strip him of the fellowship with God into which he had just entered. God had given him a gift of peace. We read in the following chapters that Gideon continued trusting God, ultimately delivering Israel from its enemies through God-decreed action.

When the prophet Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah (the Lord Jesus), he mentioned a very similar Name:

Isaiah 9:6-7 “For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah called Jesus the Prince of Peace, because that is who Jesus is. Jesus came to break the walls of division between humanity and God, to bring salvation, redemption, life! As we continue in this series, remember this first: intimate relationship with God is the most peaceful place on earth. He Himself is the definition, and we discover what peace is by looking at Him and listening to His voice. Join me for the next part of this series!

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”–Matthew 5:9

Words

I’m not worthy to be called Yours, and yet,
That is what You call me. You say, “My own,”
And the very words are true, because You said them.

What is bone and flesh, joint and ligament,
Even thought, unless Your life-breath makes it true?
I have tasted Your flesh and drunk Your blood. You are altogether good.

One word, one brush-stroke, one ink-blot–
Each is a finished work.

inkThe unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.“–Psalm 119:130

 

 

Highlights

I first read through the Bible cover-to-cover when I was nineteen years old. I’d been a Christian since I was four, baptized in water at twelve, but I’d never read the entire Bible before. My campus pastors encouraged me to carve out devotional time every day, and so at nineteen years old, I set out to do just that. I read four pages a day out of my thousand-page KJV Bible, so it took me two hundred fifty days (about nine months) to finish.

It was during this period that I experienced something that I never had encountered before. As I was reading, the Holy Spirit highlighted specific verses to me that impacted my heart–so much so that I had to write them down on index cards and keep them close. I didn’t really know what to call the phenomenon, so I labeled the first one “Prayer Card,” since the verse was about prayer. I knew that it would fuel my prayers as I reread the verse in the future. By the end of that first read through the Bible, I had three prayer cards. They are verses that continue to grip my soul, and I’ve read and reread them countless times. Here they are for you to read:

“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”–Matthew 9:37-38

“Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; because I Myself am with you, and no one will assail you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.”–Acts 18:9-10

“How then shall they call on Him whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!'”–Romans 10:14-15

I encourage you in this: when you encounter the Holy Spirit impacting your heart through the Word, remember those times well. God may be laying out the foundation of your calling. These verses have stuck with me through trials and joys, both the mundane and the glorious times. The words still burn in my heart. Read, and let His Word burn in yours, too.

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