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Pandemic Perspective – Part 21 Division

Matthew 12:25 Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.

Conflicts are all too common. They have been around since the beginning of time as Genesis 4:3-13 reminds us that when Cain became jealous of Abel he killed him in an outburst of anger. Many centuries later, when the United States was divided by a Civil War, President Lincoln wisely referred to the biblical admonition that “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. In Amos 3:3 God posed the question, “How can two walk together, unless they are in agreement?” The truth is that they can’t. They must be in one accord in order to effectively work together. I wonder if the greater damage that this virus has inflicted on us is not just death but division. Everything has become a divisive issue. Take wearing or not wearing a mask. Our nation is not only divided over this but it has become a divisive issue to the point people are killing each other over it. In Matthew 12 Jesus was accused by the religious Jews of being of Satan because He healed a man who was both demon-possessed as well as blind. The crowd was not only amazed but they asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?” But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.” To which Jesus said, “any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” So where is the church at?  Are we united or divided? Sadly, we seem to have forgotten that we are on the same side. Have we forgotten that everyone in the world is part of the human race? Even though we have different nationalities and races, we are all created in God’s image. As Christians it is critical that we remember we are part of the same kingdom. This is true regardless of what we look like or feel like, even though we may have opposing views when it comes to politics we are still called to live like Jesus and treat others with dignity. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team and if we are going to play like we are on the same team then we have to look to God’s game plan. We see this in Ephesians 4:3 where it instructs us, “you should endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You must find a way to function in unity and harmony with one another.” But how do we do this when we have differing opinions? By walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh and allowing the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s peace to permeate our lives. As we allow God’s Spirit to control us, He will create an atmosphere of peace in all that we do and say. So, who is in control of your life God’s Spirit or self? Are you being controlled more by your political agenda or the Almighty? How do you know? What do you spend more time talking about politics or the Prince of Peace? When it comes to peace I believe there are three kinds of people, peace-breakers, peace-fakers and peace-makers. We live in a world full of peace-breakers. Did you know that in all the years of recorded history, the world has been at peace just 8% of the time? Over that period, 8000 treaties have been made and broken. Because of this it has been said that “Peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” Then there are the peace-fakers those who pretend to pursue God’s peace plan but in reality they are just putting on a mask and playing the part of a peacemaker while masking their real motives. In Jesus sermon on the mount he said in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Note that Jesus is not calling us to be peace-keepers, but peace-makers. But some of us are predisposed to having peace at any cost, and in an effort to avoid conflict we will cave or even appear to cooperate. Yet it’s just a pretend peace. Real peace-makers do what it takes to establish and maintain peace. Instead of escalating conflict they work to extinguish tension and usher in true peace. Are you going after and guarding peace? Warren Wiersbe said, “Hatred looks for a victim, while love seeks a victory. The man of war throws stones, but the peacemaker builds a bridge out of those stones.” God is not the author of confusion or conflict; He is the author of peace because Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. As Christ works through you, He will be the peacemaker, bringing order and effective results in every situation. Are you allowing this pandemic to divide? How much world news verses Good news are you consuming? Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for a vaccine to division because the antidote to conflict is Christ. So, let me ask you who or what is controlling your thought life, who or what is controlling your tongue, who or what is controlling your emotions, is it the media or the Master?

 

 

 


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Pandemic Perspective – Part 20 Peace in the Pandemic

Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

Today everyone talks about peace, countries are willing to go to war for it, and political figures promise it. We desire peace from a planet perspective, world peace, as well as a personal one, peace in our relationships, but do we really know what peace is? We live in a world where many different definitions and ideas of peace exist. Someone may say as long as I have money I can have peace, while another says as long as I have family I have peace. While still others believe that as long as they have health they have peace. The problem with these explanations of peace is that they are all examples of imperfect peace. People often pursue peace by chasing down different paths only to find that they are chasing something that they can’t catch or comprehend without Christ. It’s a little bit like the story of a puppy and the older dog. The puppy said to the older dog I have mastered philosophy. I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness and that happiness is my tail. Therefore I am chasing it and when I catch it, I shall have it! The older, bigger, and wiser dog replied, “I too have judged that happiness is a marvelous thing for a dog, and that happiness indeed resides in my tail. But I have noticed that when I chase it, it keeps running away from me; but when I go about my business, it comes after me.” People are often like the puppy pursuing after peace because they misunderstand the meaning of the scripture in Psalms 34:14 “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it”. This doesn’t mean that we chase after peace like the puppy does after its tail, but we pursue to be at peace with others and to be peacemakers. So what is peace, where does it come from and how do we have perfect peace? The dictionary defines peace as a state of quiet or tranquility, freedom from disturbance or agitation.  However, in the Bible the word “peace” in Greek refers to a mental attitude of tranquility based on a relationship with God. Peace with God is the result of an individual’s correct response to the Grace of God. It’s the result of a relationship with the Redeemer, a calmness based of Christ. It’s not the absence of problems but the presence of the Prince. Peace is not something that we chase after and grab a hold onto like the puppy, it’s about how we respond to the invitation to relationship, and based upon our response peace will follow or not. Now in Philippians 3:15 we are given some key insights into God’s plan for peace with regard to the cares of life; this is the peace of God. When it comes to the peace of God we are called to let the peace that comes from Christ rule in our hearts. To rule means to be in charge, it’s the one who calls the shots, peace should be the umpire of your soul. An umpire is an official appointed to rule over plays, the one who has the authority to decide. An umpire first of all knows all the rules of the game and how these rules should be interpreted and applied in every situation. They thoroughly understand and know how to apply the rules concerning interference, collisions, and obstructions and have the authority to award bases based upon the decisions they make. To “let” means making a conscious decision to grant permission to. The peace of God will not forcibly take control, you must allow it the opportunity to have control of you. So what is going to have control in your life, peace or problems? When we let the peace of God rule in our hearts, it becomes the umpire of our soul, finalizing the controversy between the flesh and the spirit. When the flesh tries to interfere with the spirit and the waves of emotions begin to rise within us, it is the umpire, the peace of God, that is ruling in our hearts and says peace be still (you’re safe). When opposition comes in like a flood trying to impede our progress, it’s the umpire (peace of God) that raises up a standard against them and says peace be still (you’re safe). When the enemy tries to hinder our progress, it’s the umpire (peace of God) that says to us be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:58. Is peace the umpire of your soul, is peace the controlling force in your life? This requires a humble submission to the will of God in every situation that we face in life. Because no matter the sporting event we all see calls made that we don’t agree with or even understand, yet we have to accept the final authority of the umpire, even when we don’t like the decision. The same should be true with God’s Peace in our lives, it should rule our hearts, and guide our choices and decisions. Today we want to make everything about our feelings put peace provides a foundation upon which to stand.  Peace is not being in a serene situation, it is not a place called perfect, where we are free from the tornados of trouble. No peace is when in the midst of calamity and chaos we are able to say I still have joy, after all the things I’ve been through I still have joy. Peace is not pursuing fortune and fame, prosperity and popularity, and believing that once you have it that you will have peace, because if you chase after it, it will never come. Letting the peace of God rule in your heart is simply allowing God to speak peace to your afflicted soul just as He did the winds and the sea. It is peace that protects us from the whirlwinds and waves of worry.  The winds, and waves of this world, the distress and sorrows of our soul, and the adversities of our life must obey Him when He speaks peace be still. Only His voice of peace can silence the storm of sins and tame our troubled minds. Only His voice can defeat our doubt and conquer our fears.  When we let the peace of God rule in our hearts He leads us through the dark and dangerous times. It is Amazing Grace that overcomes our anxieties and leaves us with the calm assurance that everything is going to be alright. Peace is knowing that regardless of the problems, pressures, or principalities God’s promise will keep us in perfect peace if we will just keep our minds on Him. In this life there are many things that are determined to destroy your peace but the peace of God will be the umpire of our soul if you allow it to be. If you fill your minds with thoughts of Him you will still smile in the midst of sorrow. You will experience tranquility in the midst of turmoil and trouble. Paul also reminds us that we can be thankful in every situation. As a believer ruled by God’s peace you are to be thankful to God, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. When we focus on what He has done rather than on what we want done we will find our attitude will be a grateful one rather than an anxious one. Does His peace have the final say in your life or are you arguing with the referee over whose ruling will stand? What is ruling your heart? Are you letting worry have its way? Are you letting complaining and criticizing control? Are you letting guilt grip you? Are you letting anger, bitterness, hatred, revenge or fear rule, if you are then it’s no wonder that there is no peace. Real peace rules