Archive for March, 2013

Aim For Perfection And Peace Will Be With You

Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11

Paul finally says good-by, and we are finally leaving this series on peace. My hope is that through this series you will have come to an understanding of the value of peace with God and with others. I also hope you have learned that living in peace is only possible when we focus on the needs of others rather than our own needs.

Early in this series we talked about peace being the very purpose for which Christ came to earth. When Lucifer was cast from heaven over his rebellion earth and all that was in it was thrown into chaos. What God had created in perfect peace and unity Lucifer, the deceiver, who had become known as Satan, has perverted and turned into chaos.

The story of creation we have in Genesis is the story of God restoring order and creating a caretaker for his creation. In Genesis three we are given the story of the fall of man and the loss of peace with God. From that time, according to Paul in Romans 8, “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (verses 18-27).

Isaiah prophesies that one would come and be called, “The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). When Christ was born the cry of the angels was, “Peace on earth and good will toward men.” The entire Bible is a guide leading us to Christ and to making peace with God.

In his final appeal to the church Paul cries out, “Aim for perfection.” Then he points the way; “Be of one mind, and live in peace.” We can only accomplish that when we have been emptied of ourselves and have the mind of Christ. When we have accomplished that, “The God of love and peace will be with you.”

Prayer: Lord, Grant me the grace to hear the instruction in your word, to walk submitted to you and committed to peace through unity. I know to do that requires that I surrender my will to you and live for the good of all. I need the grace to do that. Amen

Principle: Living in peace is only possible when we focus on the needs of others rather than our own needs.

Affirmation: The God of peace and love is with me because my focus is on him and serving others rather than being served myself.

Reflection: Since the fall of man in the garden God has desired to restore the peace he had created in the beginning. What is the way that peace is restored today?

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Unity of Spirit through bond of peace

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:3

Among the characteristics of a peacemaker is humility. In fact, a person who is proud, or arrogant, cannot really be a peacemaker because they are most often concerned about how they appear and whether others are responding to them. A humble person is gentle, patient, and will bear with those who need special love and consideration.

Paul speaks of making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. How does one do that? Paul’s answer is, “through the bond of peace.” Unity begins with a commitment to peace. The Greek word used in this passage is “sundesmos” and means “a joint tie.” It is sometimes translated “ligament.” Figurative it is a uniting principle. In this verse it would mean that we are attached to one another through peace in the same way that our joints are held together by ligaments.

There is only one way to be joined in this manner. That is to be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. The way we become completely humble is to become completely empty of ourselves. One word is translated “completely humble.” It is tapeinophrosunē and it means, “a deep sense of one’s littleness; modesty, humility, lowliness of mind” (Thayers). The point being made is that being bound by peace involves considering others first.

I have counseled many people in relationships over the years and my counsel is always real simple. Act and react toward the other person according to their perceived needs not according to the way you think it ought to be. When two people do that they will have unity and they will live in peace.

That is a tall order, but that is exactly what being completely humble looks like and it is what it means to be bound to peace.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see others and their needs before I consider my own needs. Help me to be completely humble so that I’ll be united in peace with my brothers and sisters in the faith.

Principle: A spirit of unity is possible when we are bound together in peace. Literally, united to one another as ligaments are bound to the bone

Affirmation: I can bear with others who are as human as I because the love of God binds us together with a bond of peace.

Reflection: Can you explain how it is important for a peacemaker to be humble? What are some of the characteristics of humility in a peacemaker?

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Sow In Peace and Reap Righteousness

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:17-18

People who declare their spiritual wisdom, yet leave chaos and discord in their wake, are usually projecting their own heart rather than the heart of God. Some people feel like it is their “gift” to shake things up and cause people to be ill at ease. Those are usually lonely people because others grow tired of all the shaking and just don’t hang around them much.

The characteristics of wisdom that comes from God are very desirable. James writes that the first thing we notice about heavenly wisdom is that it is pure. The Greek word translated, “pure,” means perfectly clean, modest or innocent and is related to holy. Wisdom which comes from God produces holiness.

The words James uses to describe this pure, or holy, wisdom from heaven should be the adjectives used to describe believers. Believers who are peace-loving will be considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

A peace-loving person is considerate of others. Have you ever noticed that some people walk into a room and immediately people begin to become tense, and other people walk into a room and people begin to relax and feel at ease. Have you wondered why that is? The first person is usually interested in their own agenda and they are not that interested in how others are affected. The first consideration of the second is how he relates to others.

A peace-loving person is moved by mercy to deny himself and submit to the needs of others. And, it is because they care more about others than themselves the fruit of their life is righteousness. James says it this way; “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

Prayer: Lord, help me to see that what I want or expect is not the most important thing in the world. The needs of others must be high on my priority list. Grant me the grace to consider others first. In Jesus name, amen.
Sow In Peace and Reap Righteousness

Principle: Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Affirmation: I seek the wisdom which comes from heaven that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Reflection: Some people who claim spiritual wisdom leave a wake of chaos in their path. Is it the wisdom of God if it produces chaos and discord? Think about it.

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Mind Set On Spirit Brings Life And Peace

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:6

God created man to live forever in the garden he had created. It was God’s plan that he and man would walk together in harmony. All of that changed when Adam and Eve chose to try it their way, and their way led to their eventual death.
Ever since Adam and Eve the way of man has led to death. Every person born since then has lived with the knowledge that it would be just a little while until death overcomes this body.

Paul writes in the passage for today, “The mind of sinful man is death.” We don’t have to look very closely at the way of man to see the death that comes from his way. In Romans seven Paul references the frustration faced by mankind of wanting to do good, but being driven by a sinister force he calls sin, to do evil. He sums up his frustration in verse 24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Paul answers his own question in verse 25; “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Through Christ he discovered life and peace.

Knowing that his life is short man seeks all the pleasure he can from life. Unfortunately, the thing that looks so appealing to him is the very thing that keeps him from God’s peace and life.
Just as Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and, “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,” so today we look at forbidden fruit and think, “Why not? It looks good, it feels good, and besides that, I only live once!” So we go our own way – and our way leads to spiritual and physical death.

But, praise be to God, there is hope. Because of what Christ has done for us we no longer live after the dictates of the sinful nature. We can submit to the work of the Holy Spirit and have life and peace with God.

Prayer: Lord, I have learned that my way takes me away from you and your peace. Grant me the wisdom to submit to you. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: When our mind is controlled by the Spirit we are no longer captive of sin and death but we are now freed to life and peace.

Affirmation: Because of what Christ has done for me and in me I no longer live after the dictates of the sinful nature but I live in the peace of Christ.

Reflection: If God created man to live forever why doesn’t man live forever today? How does knowing that our life is short affect how we live?

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Peace And Holiness Produce Unity

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. – Hebrews 12:14

It is interesting how the writer connects peace and holiness in this passage. This was not by accident. When we live holy we will have peace. When we don’t have peace we are probably lacking somewhat in our holiness.

God gives us grace to have peace with others, but according to this passage, we can miss the grace (favor) God has provided. How do we miss God’s grace on this issue? We miss it by allowing a root of bitterness to grow inside of us.

A root of bitterness will always cause trouble and will not only prevent us from having the peace of God but it will disrupt the peace of others. According to this passage a root of bitterness grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Bitterness grows out of a seed of offense and when it is full grown it’s fruit is discord.

Most of us can look back to a time when someone had done us wrong, or at least we felt they had wronged us. Instead of letting it go we kept it inside us and let it fester. Every time we saw that person, or thought about them, we remembered the thing they had done. Before long that seed of offense grows a root called bitterness and prepares to produce fruit that will defile any who come in contact with us.

The only solution is to forgive any perceived offense before it takes root. If a brother or sister has committed an offense against you that is on them; if you allow that seed of offense to grow a root of bitterness then that is on you. It is easier to forgive an offense than it is to restore the damage caused by a root of bitterness. Be at peace with all men and you will find it easier to live a holy life.

Prayer: Lord, it is not an easy thing to be at peace with all men. I find there are times when I carry things against others in my heart
that I should not carry. Grant me the grace to forgive easily and not allow any root of bitterness to grow up in me. In Jesus name.

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Turn From Evil And Seek Peace

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. – Psalm 34-14

“I know I am not perfect, but God understands.” Have you ever heard anyone say that? Have you ever said it yourself? There are two very important truths in that statement. The first is “I am not perfect,” and none of us are. The second is, “God understands,” but what he understands is the question.

Most of the people I have heard make that statement are saying they know the way they are living is not right but they feel justified in living that way because of the their circumstances. When suffering the consequence their actions produce these same people will say, “I don’t know why God would do this to me.”
We must understand that there is a direct correlation between the level of peace in our life and the evil we allow in our life. It is contradictory to pursue or own way and expect God to reward us by giving us his best.

The psalmist opens this passage by addressing an issue that reaches us all; “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days.” Who doesn’t want that? Then he gives us a two step formula to achieve a life filled with good days.

First he says to avoid something: “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies; turn from evil.” God will not release his best to us if we are going about our life doing things the way we have always done them.

Then he tells us what to do: “Do Good; seek peace and pursue it.” As we turn from serving our base desires to doing good and seeking God then he makes himself available to us. Doing good does not mean we are a “do gooder,” but it does mean that we look outside ourselves to a greater purpose and pursue it passionately.

Prayer: Lord, I do love life and I desire to see many days of blessing and prosperity. Give me wisdom to speak the truth and act according to truth. Grant me the grace to turn away from every evil thing and to do good. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: There is a direct correlation between the level of peace in our life and the evil we allow in our life.

Affirmation: I am careful to not allow anything in my life which might lead me into evil and destroy peace.

Reflection: What thoughts do come to mind when you think of this statement: “I know I am not perfect, but God understands.”

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Perfect Peace For Those Who Are Steadfast

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. – Isaiah 26:3-4

Insecurity is one of the most common causes of broken peace. The primary cause of insecurity is the inability to trust. Most people who have difficulty trusting others have had their trust betrayed by those who should have been trustworthy.

We have ministered to many people whose lives were marked by broken trust. All too often those who should have been their care givers were their abusers. Mental, physical and sexual abuse mark their past. Their experience is that those whom they trust will take advantage of them.

These people will often close themselves to emotional intimacy because they don’t want to be hurt anymore. They are insecure and fearful of becoming vulnerable. If that is where you are, or where you have been, I have good news for you. You can trust in the Lord because he is the rock eternal. Friends and relatives may fail you, but the Lord will never fail you.

Throughout the Bible the Lord God is portrayed as being a rock, a strong tower, a fortress, a hiding place. A common thread of promise is that the Lord is safe and secure; put your trust in him and you will not be disappointed.

As we grow in faith and our ability to trust the Lord matures then we find ourselves having perfect peace because we know that regardless of the circumstances the Lord is in control. Paul writes to the Romans, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

A key to trusting God and releasing his peace is keeping our focus on him. If our focus is past hurts then we will continue to experience hurt and insecurity. When our focus is on the faithfulness of God then great peace is our reward.

Prayer: Father God, help me to see you as you really are not as the other authority figures in my life have been. Help me to be steadfast in my faith and my walk with you. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: You can trust in the Lord because he is the rock eternal.

Affirmation: Friends and relatives may not be faithful to me but I have great peace in knowing that I can trust the Lord because he is faithful.

Reflection: Many people have trust issues because of the way they were treated in their formative. How does that affect their ability to trust others? How can we come to trust God?

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Paul ”Hope Preacher” Smith

Messages of inspiration for the journey of faith

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March