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Peace with God

low-angle photo of white daisy
 
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
 
As the Holy Spirit works in our lives and we grow in sanctification, His work produces fruit that is evident to us and those around us. One of the fruits that will show itself in a maturing Christian is peace; peace with God, peace with others, peace with ourselves.
 
Certainly peace with God should be easy; after all, God loves us! If that’s true (and it is) how could we not be at peace with God?
 
As His children by baptism, we have the peace with God that Paul describes in Romans 5:1. But it was not always that way. Prior to God’s gracious gift of faith, our sinful nature put us in the position of being an enemy of God. The apostle James makes that clear when he writes, “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4b
 
Today we pause and thank God that He has done what is necessary for us to no longer be His enemy, but rather His beloved. We have peace with God. Typically peace is the result of two parties agreeing not to harm one another, to live cooperatively. In the best of cases, peace brings with it mutual support and a beneficial relationship that grows over time. Each party brings something to the table that strengthens the relationship and makes peace desirable by both.
 
But what do we have to bring to God? What can we offer that would cause Him to desire peace with us? Nothing, not a thing. God gives us His peace out of pure love through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Consider the words of Paul later in Romans 5, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:10
 
The peace that we now have with God opens the door for peace with others and with ourselves.
 
Father, thank you for the peace that I have with You through the life, death, and resurrection of my Savior Jesus. Your love for me is beyond my understanding but that makes me all the more grateful. Even in times of trouble, may the peace that I have with You always bring me great comfort for my soul and all that I need to face the day. In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen.

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Bold Enough to Share Our Hope (Part 1)

white cross under blue sky during daytime

1 Peter 3:14  But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as Holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

There are numerous things that turn people off to us as Christians.  In book entitled “They Like Jesus but not the Church” by Dan Kimball, we are offered some obstacles that cause people to be hesitant of our message or us.  We may be perceived as too hypocritical, anti-homosexual, too political, too exclusive.  Let’s take that last one.  One of the things that non-Christians reportedly don’t like about Christians or the church is that we generally insist that there is only one way to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, and that no other way is possible.  How do we handle this?

Peter encourages us to be ready to make a defense for the hope that is in us.  He doesn’t say anything about backing down.  We do not water down the truth of Scripture or compromise it in order to make it more palatable to the unbeliever.  We will make our defense that Jesus is the way to eternal life, through faith in Him.  But as much as we will stand firm on the hope that is in us, we will also not allow ourselves to get in the way of the message.  That’s what Peter is driving at when he tells us to defend with “gentleness and respect.” 

It is possible to stand firm lovingly, and it is possible to stand firm arrogantly or condescendingly.  We strive for the former…and for good reason.  It should be easy for us as Christians to confess the truth of Christ in a loving way, because of the love we ourselves have received from Christ.  We defend the truth not out of a desire to win an argument, but because the truth has set us free, and can set others free as well.  What a glorious hope we have that eternal life has been won for us through Christ.  Far from backing down from that, we trumpet it with all the love and joy that comes with the message.  How privileged we are to be able to do that!

Gracious Lord, may we always be eager to stand on the truth of your Word, with the joy and love that comes from our salvation in Jesus Christ.  Amen.


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Bold Enough to Share Our Home (Part 3)

trees beside white house

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Hebrews 13:1-2

What is hospitality? According to our good friend the dictionary, hospitality is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Hospitality can happen anywhere but we often associate it with our homes. For most people, showing hospitality to our family and friends may be relatively easy, but with people that we don’t know well it may be much more challenging and even a little scary. What if it doesn’t go well? What if it’s uncomfortable? Isn’t it risky to show hospitality, especially to strangers?

Yet that is what the writer to the Hebrews tells us in God’s Word. It might involve some level of risk, but where there is risk, there is often reward. So what might that reward be? Might this person who is a stranger become a dear friend? He or she might, or might not. We simply don’t know the answer when we first meet or when we extend hospitality to them. But we won’t know if we don’t make the effort.

In both of his letters to the Romans and to the Colossians, Paul doesn’t simply refer to us as starting out as strangers to God, no, he tells us that we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). Yet even then, God loved us enough to take a chance on us, to risk being rejected. God cares enough about having a relationship with us that He was willing to put it all on the line through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. And now through faith in Him, we are no longer enemies of God, but we have become His dearly loved children. We have been welcomed into His family and will some day be welcomed into His eternal home.

Take a chance with people. Be willing to show the love of God with others that we ourselves have first received. As we do, the Holy Spirit will be at work and by God’s grace, another stranger will become part of the family.

Most gracious God, thank you for the gift of Jesus who loved us enough to die for us that we might become your children. Make us bold enough to share that good news with others that they too may receive what only you can offer. Bless us in our service to You as we show love to others in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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Rejoice in Hope

silhouette of person standing on rock surrounded by body of water
 
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
 
Sometimes we need permission. We want to do something, but we’re still enough of a child at heart that we need permission. We need someone to say, “It’s ok. Go ahead.”
 
Thinking of permission-giving, I would love if my doctor would say, “Go ahead. Have another cookie. Take two. They’re good for you.”  That’s a dream that’s never coming true. Besides, even if the doctor said it, somehow I would know it’s just not true.
 
But what if we got permission from God himself.  Permission not to eat more cookies, but permission to rejoice.  Our text says, “Rejoice in hope.” We would love to rejoice and we would be glad to have hope. But we don’t want to be foolish or to lead ourselves into a trap of future disappointment. So we’re naturally cautious about joy and hope.
 
Likely because we’re so careful, God needs to give us permission here. Rejoice in hope.  Rejoicing in hope isn’t merely being glad that we’re not as bad off as some people. Rejoicing in hope is more than just saying, “Well, it could be worse.”  Rejoicing in hope isn’t even just remembering the good that has come already.  That would be rejoicing in what we already have. 
 
Instead, God says, “Rejoice in hope.” Look ahead with hope, with the confidence that our Father knows what we need and will provide for us at least as well as he provides for the birds and the flowers. Rejoice in hope, in the certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Rejoice in hope, in the promise that God will raise us out of the grave and hold us with him for eternity. We’re not foolish or wrong to have this hope and to have the joy that comes with it.
 
So here’s your permission. Maybe don’t go for the second cookie, but do have a second and third helping of hope and the joy that comes with it.
 
Our Father in heaven, thank you for giving us hope and its joy.  We need your permission and your promises, but with them, we have every reason to hope. You know us, our needs, and will hold us safely in your hand. Help us to rejoice in this sure hope. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

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Bold Enough to Share Our Home (Part 2)

brown brick house with white wooden door

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.  Acts 16:30-34

The story of the jailer in Philippi as recorded in Acts is truly amazing. Through the words and actions of Paul and Silas, not only did this jailer come to faith in Christ, but his entire family was welcomed into the kingdom of God through the waters of baptism. In gratitude for this precious gift that he had received, the jailer opened his home and his heart to men who were once his prisoners.

I wonder what those who were over this jailer would have thought? It’s unlikely that they would have commended him for his actions. In fact, the jailer probably invited Paul and Silas to his home at great risk to himself, his career, and possibly even his family. But to him, it was worth the risk. He was willing to be bold enough to share his home in thanksgiving for the gift of faith that he had received through Paul’s ministry.

When was the last time that you were bold enough to share the Gospel with someone? Was risk and fear of rejection enough to keep you from telling someone else about God’s love for them? Many times, our timid spirits get the better of us and we choose silence over being bold. But by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can confess Christ in a loving and winsome way even as Paul did. We never know when or where the opportunity will arise, but when it does, may we be bold enough to share.

Father, forgive us when we fail to share with others the love and grace that is ours in Christ. Thank You for welcoming us into Your kingdom even as You did for the jailer in Philippi and his family. Embolden us to share Your saving message with others for Jesus’ sake. Amen.


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