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Peace with Others

person in red sweater holding babys hand
 
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
 
“Peace for our time” became one of the most ironic quotes in history following Hitler’s invasion of Poland and continued aggression less than a year after these words were spoken by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. While Chamberlain, and so many others in Europe, hoped and even prayed for peace, they severely underestimated their enemy.
 
Now, almost eighty years later, peace seems no more possible for our time than it did when Hilter invaded Poland. Recent events around the globe remind us how fallen our world is. Watch the news or read the paper and you can’t miss it. You can’t help but wonder if it will get worse before it gets better.
 
But peace is not just an international concern. This lack of peace often becomes very personal in our lives as we experience confrontations with others at work, school, or even in our homes. Look around at your life. Where do you see tension or even hostility? Are all of your relationships “peaceful”?
 
As people approach the end of life, one of their great desires is to “make peace” with everyone. This is especially true of family members. No one wants to leave behind hard feelings and regrets. This is especially true for Children of God. Because of our peace with God, our hearts have been changed and we now seek peace with others, especially within God’s family.
 
So why wait until the end of life? Consider again Paul’s encouragement to us today, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
 
Make today the day that you live out this encouraging word by God’s grace. Pray that He would lay on your heart those who you need to reconcile with and begin rebuilding a relationship. As the Holy Spirit dwells in you, the fruit of peace will begin to bear.
 
Holy Spirit, work in me to be an agent of peace. Whether it is a member of my family, my school or workplace, or within my community, may I be the first to work for peace and in so doing show Your love and grace to others. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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Bold Enough to Share Our Hope (Part 2)

grayscale photography of crucifix

Acts 2:22  (Peter said) “Men of Israel, hear these words:  Jesus of Nazareth…you crucified and killed.  God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.”

Really?  Peter said that?  It was the day of Pentecost and something amazing happened.  As the Holy Spirit’s presence was demonstrated in wind and flames and speaking in tongues, the most important effect of Pentecost was seen in Peter’s message.  The Spirit had equipped Peter and the rest of the Apostles that day with understanding and boldness.

Remember Peter on Maundy Thursday night?  There he was, standing in the courtyard of the High Priest while Jesus was on trial inside.  Numerous people approached Peter and suggested that he was a follower of Jesus.  And on each occasion, Peter figuratively hid from these accusers by denying that he ever even knew Jesus.  But now look!  It’s Pentecost and Peter seems very different.  Far from hiding, far from denying, Peter spoke openly, boldly, confidently about what was the heart of the Christian message.  “Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.”  There was no shirking back from the message on that day.  Nor would there be much hesitation on his part or of any of the disciples after that.  From Pentecost on, they were bold to share their hope.

We have the same Holy Spirit as Peter and the Apostles did.  That Spirit equips us now.  In Baptism the Holy Spirit came to us and gave us faith.  Throughout our lives, the Spirit has continually taught us and assured us through the Word that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  So that now we, like Peter, may boldly proclaim the hope that is within us.  Our boldness comes from the Spirit’s work in us and our confidence in the true Word of God.  We don’t back down, even if society wants us to.  But lovingly, certainly, we are like Peter on Pentecost, pointing to what matters most.  Jesus was crucified for us and for our forgiveness, and then rose from the dead so that we may have eternal life.  May we be bold about this, by the Spirit’s power!

Gracious Lord, because you have given to us the Holy Spirit, we know Christ and we know Your Word.  May we be bold to proclaim it lovingly so that others may know the hope that we have.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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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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