Tag Archives: peace

How to be a peacemaker (shocking lessons from an “insane” person!)

3 Aug

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All week long, we’ve been looking at 1 Peter 3:8-12 where Peter teaches a very difficult thing to do: when people insult you, ask God to bless them.

Is Peter saying you can never defend yourself?  I would submit that Peter would answer, “No. You can defend yourself. But there is a right way and a right wrong to defend yourself.”

First of all, if you are abused, report it and get safe.  We live in a country where there is legal recourse to deal with abuse.  That is a very good thing.  Not all countries throughout history have been like this.  There are certainly Christians living in places around the world even today where they are physically abused, maybe sexually and emotionally too, and they have no recourse.  Imagine how difficult it must be for them to hear Peter’s words.  They might not be able to get safe.  They too, however, can bless those who persecute them.

Thankfully, ours is a country where abuse and persecution are not tolerated.  But I think here in his letter Peter is primarily thinking about how interpersonal relations in a church family can get ugly.  Meanness.  Unkindness. Gossip. In those cases he is not saying, “Do not stick up for yourself.”

He is saying that there is a difference between aggression and assertiveness.  We do not need to attack back.  It will only make things worse if you attack back.

I once heard Ravi Zacharias say: “When you throw mud at others, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose a lot ground in the process.”  When people are evil to us, or insult us, we are not to get revenge.  Instead, as I said yesterday, if they insult you, eulogize ’em!

Peter supports his argument with a quote from the Old Testament.  Psalm 34:12-16 to be exact. Psalm 34 is a fascinating psalm written by the great poet, warrior, king of Israel David. And it has a wonderful backstory.  The subtitle of Psalm 34 tells us that David wrote this psalm as he was reflecting on a really difficult situation in his life.  At the time he was a fugitive, on the run from his father-in-law King Saul who wanted to kill David.  In 1 Samuel 21 we read that David made the surprising decision, after retrieving Goliath’s sword (the same Philistine Goliath from Gath whom David had killed years earlier), to go to enemy Philistine territory, and of all places the city of Gath.  Can you tell that David was under a lot of pressure and maybe not thinking straight?  He arrives at Gath, and the Philistine leaders there are very suspicious.  In their eyes David was the most well-known Philistine killer.  Not only had he killed their hometown hero Goliath, but in the years following, he had commanded Israelite armies that had killed thousands of other Philistines.  Now he is in their town, hoping for asylum?  David sees their reactions, their doubt, their fear, and he starts thinking “Uh-oh…did I just make a horrible decision coming here?” This would be the Philistines perfect opportunity to get their revenge on David. So what does he do?  He acts insane, to the point of allowing drool to dribble down his beard!  I encourage you to read the account for yourself.  It’s quite a vivid episode in David’s life.  Find out how the Philistines reacted to his insanity ploy!

That is what David was thinking about when he wrote Psalm 34.  The whole psalm is amazing and deserves lots of attention and further study, but Peter only quotes verses 12-16, so that will be my focus here.

I’ll start in Psalm 34 verse 11, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” I see David in Psalm 34 as older man, wanting to pass on wisdom to his grandkids.  Telling them the story of the time he pretended to be crazy, and then saying these words.  And what does he say?

He starts with: “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days…”

You probably don’t have to look hard to find people who love life and desire to see good days. So for those who want that, what do you have to do?  David has some specific instructions.

He says, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Four things that line right up with Peter’s teaching, and can be summed with: control your mouth!  That means not speaking any evil or lies, no matter what has been done to you.  Then do good.  Turn from evil.  Finally, seek peace. Actually pursue it.

David is not just saying, “be a peaceful person;” he is saying the we should be actively pursuing peace.  Seek it out, make it happen. When you pursue something, you strive for it, and it often takes intense effort.

David, therefore, is not just reactive; he is teaching a proactive seeking of peace.  When our seminary president, Tony Blair, spoke at Faith Church a few years ago, he made a comment I’ll never forget, “mature Christians deflate drama.”  Peace-seekers reduce drama.  And that can be hard work, but it is necessary work in the life of a church, family, workplace, or neighborhood.

This does not mean you agree with people all the time.  It means that you handle things in such a way that drama is reduced.  This goes back to verse 9 and choosing not to react back, or fight back against someone who has been evil to you or insulted you.

Finally look at verse 12, where David personifies the Lord.  God is spirit.  He doesn’t have a body.  It’s hard to know how to depict God.  When I illustrated this part of the sermon, I chose a lion for the slide because there are times in the Bible when God is described as lion.  He’s not a lion.  But look at how David uses human body parts to teach us about the Lord.

Eyes – on the righteous

Ears – attentive to their prayer

Face – against those who do evil

What a comfort!  No matter what is going on in our lives, our God knows, our God hears, and our God defends.  That means we can take hope in the Lord and do good, loving those in the church family, even when people are unkind to us.  He knows, he is on the side of the righteous!

If they insult you, eulogize them!  Guess what I learned this week?  I should love eulogies!  I should be eulogizing all the time!

What should Christians do about War and Peace? – On the 15th anniversary of 9/11

9 Sep

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On September 11th, 2001, Michelle and I were in Kingston, Jamaica.  We had been there for a year as church-planting missionaries.  That morning I was down the road at our co-workers house feeding their rabbits.  Our co-workers, the Kay family, were out of town, and we were taking care of things for them.  Michelle called me on my cell phone.  She said, “Go inside and turn on the Kay’s TV, there’s been an incident in New York City.”

I urgently finished feeding the bunnies, ran inside and switched on our co-workers’ TV.  In Kingston, normal cable packages had plenty of American TV, so coverage of 9/11 was easy to find.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  What was going on?  I realized I was alone, and I didn’t like that feeling at all.  What I was seeing on the TV was momentous, and I needed to be with my family.  I finished up at my co-workers and headed up the hill to our house, where Michelle and I watched the TV the rest of the day in shock.

We also had a very strange feeling of disconnectedness, being away from our country when it was going through something so awful.  While none of us knew what the future held, as there could easily have been more attacks coming, we still wanted to get home.

Do you remember how you felt on 9/11?

In the days and weeks before 9/11, we were finishing up our time in Jamaica.  We had actually  purchased our airline tickets home before 9/11 happened, scheduled to fly home two weeks after 9/11.  It was sketchy there for a few days whether or not we’d be able to fly, or if we would have to wait a while.  But we didn’t have to wait.  I remember, however, as news coverage about 9/11 was nonstop for a long time, that there as another feeling growing inside me.  Anger.  Frustration.  My country had been attacked.  Thousands of innocent people had lost their lives.  It was a horrible injustice, and I wanted to see it righted.  I daydreamed about signing up for the CIA to work on combating global terrorism.

But was that the right response?  Was I just angry and getting aggressive?

This Sunday is the 15th Anniversary of 9/11, now called Patriot Day.  To prepare I watched a couple YouTube videos showing network news coverage of that day.  I was thinking that it would be good to show a short video summarizing the events of 9/11 so at the outset of our worship service we could remember and pray.  I clicked through videos, and it was like reliving that morning all over again.  I was doing exactly what many of us were doing 15 years ago, eyes glued to the TV.  It was raw.  There’s no way I could show that in a worship service.  Huge jet planes ramming into the Twin Towers, massive fireball explosions, and finally, the towers imploding on themselves in giant clouds of dust and debris.  First responders covered in soot, rushing into piles of rubble.  Not to mention the tragedies at the Pentagon and Shanksville.  When you see those images you don’t immediately see the lives lost.  But those lives are the greatest tragedy of 9/11 and the war that followed, a war that still continues to this day.  Watching those videos, thinking about lost lives, I started feeling very upset again.

On the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we would do well to ask “What does the Bible say about war and peace?”  It is not so clear-cut as you might think.  How should Christians think about war and peace?  In Lancaster County we have a long heritage of religious traditions that advocate for non-violent peaceful resistance.  We also have many Christians that ardently support the military.  Both support their cause from Biblical teaching.

Who is right?  Who is wrong?

We’re going to talk about that this Sunday at Faith Church, as we continue our series on Life in These United States.  We welcome you to join us!

When peace and quiet seem impossible to come by

28 Aug

Anyone else out there feeling a longing for some peace and quiet in life?

We have our men’s retreat at Twin Pines coming up in a month, and I’m really looking forward to getting away. Up to the mountains. Last year we devoted time at the retreat for personal prayer.  I decided to pray while I hiked to the top of a ridge.  It was a blue skies kind of day where you could see for miles.  I hardly ever get that kind of time alone.

I know that it is a longing I’ve been feeling personally for a number of months now. A young man in our congregation decided to take a few months to hike the Appalachian Trail after graduating from high school.  As I look at his regular updates and pictures, I’m jealous.

The peace and quiet of nature beckons. Last year my third son and I read a series of books known by the name of the first book, Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen.  13 year old Brian Paulsen, surviving a plane crash, is stranded in the Canadian wilderness, and must learn to live with just a hatchet. As we read, we were spellbound by life in the wild.  Through the series, even though Brian is rescued and returns home, nature beckons.  He must return, and he does time and time again.

Nature’s call to us is so appealing because our day-to-day lives tend to be a harried, frenetic.  How many of you feel pressure from work, from school, from family, and yes, from church?  I know I do.  How often have you thought, “There’s not enough time?”  Or “I need to work more so I can make more money to pay the bills” but you know you’re already stressed out.  The solution is complex, but you know you need to get away.  Maybe you’ve got some vacation days to use or lose.

And so you make plans.  A day off, a weekend away on a retreat, a vacation.  You search online.  You invite family and friends.  You share details, book hotels, trade text messages and emails as the excitement builds.  Finally the day arrives, and you’re packing the car, gassing it up, getting everyone out the door…and your boss calls.  There’s an urgent need at work.  Really urgent.  You know the feeling.

How do you react when you’ve got a day off planned, and something comes up at work and you have to cancel your plans?

Do you ever feel irritated? Do you ever just wish for some peace and quiet?

Jesus was looking for some peace and quiet one day. In fact he got his plans set.  He wanted some time with the disciples.  They had just come back from their first ever mission trip, and Jesus wanted to take them on a retreat.  They headed off for a town 6 miles away, but one that was somewhat isolated.  Ah yes, some vacation.  Some time to revel in the peace and quiet.  Time to talk about their trip.

Guess what happens?  That’s what we’ll find out tomorrow.  Faith Church will hold another Worship in the Park, and we invite you to come along.  We meet in the middle pavilion of East Lampeter Community Park on Hobson Road.  If you’d like, you can check out Luke 9:10-17 ahead of time.

Follow up to Joy & Peace (aka “resting in the liver”)

13 Aug

What an amazing Sunday!  We got to celebrate with seven people as they were baptized, proclaiming their faith in Christ and their desire to be his disciples for life.  That visual image of moving from death (under the water) to life (rising above the water) is so clear.

Through those baptisms on Sunday we saw a bit of what Jesus meant when he said he came to give us abundant life.  We also learn about that life through the Fruit of the Spirit.  On Sunday we took a brief look at Joy and Peace.  Very similar to the difference between “Like and Love”, which is the difference between opinion and conviction, we talked about how we can experience joy and peace despite the circumstances.  James reminds of this when he says “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds”. 

Wow.  Read that a couple times reflectively.  James knew what it meant to rest in the liver, which is, by the way, one way some cultures talk about peace.  In our culture, the heart or stomach or mind is the seat of our emotions.  But liver?  Yep, the liver.  We might say “give your liver a rest,” but when we say that, we’re not talking about emotions!  In some cultures they feel emotion is centered in the liver like we say we feel it in our heart.  Just different body parts, that’s all.  Same phenomenon.

The question is how do we properly deal with our emotions.  James is essentially saying “Use your mind (consider) when you are dealing with life’s crap (it) to control your emotions (joy).”  Consider it joy.  Yeah, it’s that simple.

Yeah, right.  Simple?  Try impossible.  Or at least it can seem that way.

So I came across this very helpful article.  Check it out.  Maybe it will help you grow joy and peace in your life.  Another excellent resource about emotions is the book The Cry of the Soul by Dan Allendar and Tremper Longman.  I urge you to begin a study of it.  Have you contacted a friend to help you?  Why not meet with them week by week until you finish studying the book?  We’re growing fruit this month!  Maybe discussing it more here will help too?

Resting in your liver

10 Aug

Joy and Peace.

Two things we followers of Jesus are to be known for.  And yet, how many of us don’t feel joy and peace?  How about you?  Are you feeling a lack of peace in your life?  Not feeling joy?

What we need to learn to do is to rest in our liver.  Yeah, that’s right!  Rest in your liver.  Know how to do that?

The second sermon in our Fruit of the Spirit series is tomorrow, and we’ll be taking a look at Joy and Peace, including what it means to rest in your liver.  Join us to learn more!

Also, we are excited that we’ll be baptizing seven people tomorrow!  Pray for the Lord to help you grow joy and peace as we study his word together and praise him for the work he has done in each of the people’s lives who are being baptized.