Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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18 Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26:3-4

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  4 Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

Isaiah ministered during a time of great difficulty, when the northern kingdom of Israel had been carried into captivity, 722 B.C., and the kingdom of Judah in the south was in the middle of idolatry and evil. While the kingdom of Assyria posed a major threat, the kingdom of Babylon was gaining power and would replace Assyria as the dominant threat. Living in these turbulent times created fear and questions about their lot in life. What would become of the promises of God? How could His chosen people survive, and must the remnant of the righteous also suffer with the nation that for all purposes was pagan? Yet in the midst of sin the message that came was one of salvation, and the messenger bringing the message of salvation was the prophet Isaiah, whose name means “salvation of Yahweh”. Isaiah, son of Amoz ministry spanned the reigns of 4 kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He probably ministered for over 60 years trying to bring the nation back to God. Even as the people of God were careening down a pagan path that led to pain, God promised that He would show them the way to peace. Isaiah reminds us that the path to peace involves a:

  • Powerful God

Isaiah points first to God’s power, reminding us that peace starts with God not people. People have been perusing man made peace for centuries. Swiss-born Frenchman Gustave Valbert’s reported that “From the year 1496 B.C. to A.D. 1861 in 3358 years there were 227 years of peace and 3,130 years of war, or 13 years of war to every year of peace. Within the last three centuries, there have been 286 wars just in Europe. He added that from the year 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1860 there were more than 8000 treaties of peace meant to remain in force forever, yet the average time they remained in force was two years.”  World War I was called the “war to end all wars” but less than 25 years later the world was once again engulfed in the Second World War. Even as World War II ended another war began, the Cold War, involving an arms race and military standoff between the world’s superpowers that brought mankind to the brink of annihilation. Today people are still seeking after people peace, like a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s not that people haven’t tried create peace it’s that people power can’t produce a perfect peace. Isaiah reminds us of three powerful truths in three words, “You” reminds us of God’s presence, “will” reminds us of His power in the present, “Keep” reminding us of how permanent His power is.  We can have God’s powerful presence right now in the midst of the pain and problems, a permanent power that can preserve and protect. Are you looking to God for peace or people?

  • Purposed Mind

Our mind, the processor of human emotions, gathers billions of bits of sensory data every second, telling us how to feel, think, and react. The mind can be deceived as well as be deceptive, so Isaiah tells us to put our trust in the Father and His faithfulness now and in the future. The key to unlocking peace is that our mind must be stayed upon the Lord not our current circumstances.  This means to fix our focus, in Isaiah 22:23 God speaking of Eliakim said, “He will bring honor to his family name, for I will drive him firmly in place like a nail in the wall.” To be stayed on the Lord means that we become like a nail fastened in a sure place, secure in the Savior. What are you fixing your focus on? In Romans 8:38-39 the Apostle Paul says, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul lived in perfect peace because his mind was stayed upon Jesus Christ not because life was easy. He was beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked, imprisoned for preaching the gospel and persecuted, but through it all he had perfect peace. Is your life rooted in the Redeemer, are you grounded in God’s goodness despite the difficulties? Are you firmly persuaded that nothing can separate you from God’s peace and protection? Perfect Peace doesn’t mean that you won’t face trials, tests, persecutions and maybe even death for preaching Christ. It means that in the midst of it all, and through it all, you will have a peace that protects because you have His powerful presence in your life. His peace in your life will enable you to face fear and come out the victor not the victim. So keep your mind stayed upon the Lord, don’t allow Satan to distract you from serving the Savior, and smile in spite of the situation for we win. When our minds are stayed on this world instead of the One who made it we will be driven by the winds of worry, tempted to turn from the Savior to trust in self. You’re provider Jehovah Jireh, “The LORD who Provides” is the same God who provided Abraham the ram to be sacrificed in the place of Isaac.  He has provided us with a substitute, our Savior Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed for our sin. If He has met our greatest need will He not also meet our lest? We have a faithful Father, Jehovah Jireh, who we can trust that never fails to provide for our every need. Is your mind stayed on the Lord or the things of this life?

  • Perfect peace

This is not partial peace but perfect peace, a complete peace that comes from Christ, the Prince of Peace. A peace that is both inward with God and outward toward men. This is not a false fare weather peace that is easily shattered, but a rock solid peace that no power on earth can shake. We have a peace that is complete and constant, unshakable and everlasting for we know that our God has everything under control despite the chaos. We have a peace that is eternal not transitory. We don’t have to pretend to be at peace because our provider and protector by His very presence wraps us in His perfect peace. In 2 Samuel 22:3-14 David wrote these words to describe the deliverance of God from the hand of Saul, the one who sought to kill him: 3 my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. 4 I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. 5 “The waves of death overwhelmed me; floods of destruction swept over me. 6 The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. 7 But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears. 8 “Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the heavens shook; they quaked because of his anger. 9 Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. 10 He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. 11 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew,     soaring on the wings of the wind. 12 He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dense rain clouds. 13 A great brightness shone around him, and burning coals blazed forth. 14 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.” In the midst of danger and despair the only thing that made a difference in David’s life was the presence of God. How would your life be different if you lived by faith instead of feeling? Do you have an inward peace that nothing can shake because you know that your Father in Heaven is walking with and watching over you?

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17 Proactive Peace – Part 3

Ephesians 4:1-3

1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Paul now points to the purpose for our action and attitude:

  • Accord

Why do we need to walk in action and attitudes, what is Gods goal? Unity, Christ centered community, a willingness to live in continued communion with our Christian brothers and sisters. Unity does not imply uniformity; it’s not simply the idea of agreeing. Unity does not mean that all Christians will be passionate about the same things or perform identical ministries. It does imply a common purpose and interdependence within the body of Christ. The first thing we need to note here is that Christians don’t create unity, we are to “Make every effort to keep” it already exists and must be diligently preserved. As believers we are all saved, sealed and indwelt by the same Spirit. We look forward to the same hope and the same home in heaven. We live for One Lord, our Savior and supreme commander, we have One common faith of fundamental truth and believe in One baptism. Unity is living out in our Oneness in the Lord, sharing our life as we serve in one body. While we cannot create it, we can preserve it. We are called to passionately pursue unity by having active attitudes of humility. Pride makes us phony where humility keeps us honest. It was Saint Augustine who said: “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” Humility is seeing self through God’s eyes of eternity and living in the grace of His gift instead of the guilt of our failure, or the pride of our performance. Humility frees us from the prison of performance and perfectionism that drive us to grabbing and guilt giving, providing a pathway to grace giving. Are you living in guilt or grace? Humility heals the hurt and hurried heart that has been powered by pride. This heart of humility should generate a gentleness and graciousness in our dealings with others. While our gentleness should be willing to patiently enduring prolonged irritation and our love should long to live in forgiveness and fellowship. Our love should prompt us and provide the platform for us to put up with the faults of our fellow brothers and sisters. It is here that we discover the hard work involved in maintaining unity. Paul literally says, work hard, strive and sweat as you apply yourself to maintaining a harmony in the spirit of peace. Are you passionately pursuing peace or just being passive?  One of the realities of being human is that harmony doesn’t maintain itself; it doesn’t automatically or accidentally just happen. It requires looking outside of self and seeing something much bigger than me, His master plan. Sometimes we need to be big enough to bite our tongue, or be tender when we would rather tell others off. It means that we don’t default to demanding our own way but willingly and joyfully serve others and not self. It means not just avoiding but axing gossip, cutting out critical remarks and slaying the sarcasm. We must refuse to rummage around in the rumors and instead run to truth. Division and disunity are the most detrimental vices a church can experience. In Mark 3:25 Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand!” Are you sowing the seeds of discord and dissention or planting peace? Proverbs 6:19 tells us that one of the seven things that God hates is “a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” We need to stop sowing the sour seeds of discord and guard every thought, control every word, and discipline every action. There are those who seem to thrive on controversy, living in perpetual crisis. Gossip becomes their go to and despite their claim to not like how they live they seem to crave and create chaos. Today many are ruining relationships by ramming them against the rocks of being right, and running them aground by demand our way instead of His Will. We are scuttling the ship of service, sinking the Saviors Will in our effort to serve self. In desire to be right we revert to ramrodding our relationships with two year old temper tantrums tactics. Or we passively aggressively push others around with our silly silent treatment or baby like behavior of banging around in an effort to get others to respond the way we want. Are you trying to convince and convict others with the cold shoulder of childishness? The result is that we are living with the wreck of sunken relationships. Today our marriages are a mess; a divided marriage is a dying one. Harmony in the home is hard, it takes work and a willingness to trade my wants for His will. We need to see unity is practical terms of achieving kingdom purposes. How do you work and play with others? Do you help or hinder? God cares about our relationships with each other, He cares about the application of the oneness He has given us. Sometimes, admittedly, we want it our way, caring more about self than service. We live in a culture that elevates the importance of the individual. Where my rights are right and no one should run over my rights, however I reserve the right to ruin those who violate my rights and get in my way. While we live in a world that wants to emphasize the importance of the individual but God gives clear instruction on unity and how we are to behave in community. God not only cares about how we conduct ourselves individually, He is concerned about our caring in the context of community. We are called to walk and work together, because the Christian life is more than just believing, it’s about belonging. Do you realize that unity has already been given? We just need to live it out, the hardest work has already been accomplished on the cross. We have a responsibility to live out oneness and put away any attitude that causes disunity recognizing it as rebellion. Pride promotes disunity, when we demand our way over others we tear at and trash unity, hurting the heart of community. The opposite of gentleness is harshness which injures unity through being critical, rude, and aggressively asserting our right. The opposite of patience is hurriedness which encourages not only disorganization but disunity. Do you have a heart of hurry? This is when we find ourselves fuming with family because something is taking longer than we think it should. Many of us have become caught up in the raging current of our consumer culture which wants to carry us along at break neck speeds. We are being swept away by a society that has lost the ability to stop and soak in the scenery. We see the pause button as a problem, as an interruption, we want to just play the song so we can sing and dance. We move to the music, we riding the rhythm but whose song are we singing the Saviors or self? Our fast passed society has poisoned patience to the point where we see it as a hindrance to progress and the curse instead of the cure. So we push people to our persuasion instead of practicing patience and walking the path together. When we hurry the heart we often dismiss people in the pursuit of our own plans and hurt the heart of community. We need to focus on the truth that unity is sacred not superficial. Unity is not only God’s plan it’s His priority. This is not to say that we can’t disagree, disagreements are a part of a free and healthy family, but how we disagree is very important. We are to disagree without being disagreeable, when we voice our disagreements with anger, we are wrong. When we are controlled by a critical spirit and voice our disagreements by talking about people, instead of with them, then we are wrong. When we value others and voice our disagreements with a spirit of love, grace and compassion, it can lead to a healthy discourse as we work to discern the Spirit’s leading. Are you going to walk, work and play well with others? Are you being humble or hard to get along with, gentle or harsh, patient or hurried, helping or hindering?  What part of peace do you need to pursue?