Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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30 The pollution of peace

Genesis 3:1-3:24

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” 2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” 6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. 8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” 11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” 14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. 15  And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” 16 Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” 17 And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. 19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust,    and to dust you will return.” 20 Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. 21 And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings[e] have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” 23 So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. 24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

No matter when you turn on the news there is always some story of pain and suffering. Our world is filled with reports of people hurting each other and the awful way in which we tend to treat others. You don’t have to go far to find evidence of evil in this world. When we hear about these hideous stories we are tempted to ask, “How could people do such a thing?” and we could ask “Why?” a thousand times, “Why would they harm an innocent child?” “Why would a parent abandon their kids?” Why would a man walk out and leave his family?” “Why would they blow up a building and kill children and babies?” “Why do the innocent have to suffer?” Why, why, why? It is in Genesis 3 that we see the beginning of every bad thing that ever happens in this world, whether it is disease, death, divorce, depression, or destitution it is tied to the fall of man, when sin entered the human heart. It is here in Genesis 3 that we see:

  • The deceptive character of sin – Verses 1-6

The serpent was far from a slithering and frightful snake, when Eve saw him she didn’t run away screaming but instead appears to be drawn in. Throughout scripture the bible reveals the crafty character of the serpent and his sly nature. Revelation 12:9 “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Matthew 4:3 “Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” As a deceiver the Devil draws us in, luring us with his lies. Satan is the malevolent monster who dominates and controls the thinking of this world, in John 12:31 Jesus called him “The ruler of this world” and Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4 called him, “The god of the world”. Not only does Satan dominate worldly thinking but he drives its philosophy, whispering subtle but outrageous claims that captivate the carnal mind and make men drool with desire.  As you look at his process of deceiving, first you see him questioning the Word of God with the goal of creating doubt and causing us to join him in questioning God. When he did this Satan caused Eve to focuses on the one boundary rather than all the freedom she had. She missed all of the blessings of God, His abundant provision and care. Why did Eve even give Satan an audience, why would we? Why do we listen to his lies and entertain his deceptive doubt? He doesn’t just question and create doubt, he openly denies God’s Word, “you shall will not surely die” Added to this Satan now questions God’s motives, claiming that God is trying to keep something good from us. His plan is simple, inject doubt, deny and create distrust with God. The end result of temptation is that it creates lustful desires, instead of contentment there are only cravings, instead of satisfaction there is only sin. I John 2:16 says: “For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world.” Who are you listening to and believing, the Lord or the lies? Next we see:

  • The destructive consequences of sin – Verses 7-24

Temptation is always a con-job, because the payoff of sin never produces what it promises. Sin always seduces and draws us in, giving us a guarantee of untold riches only to rob us blind. Instead of satisfying, sin strips us, leaving us not only destitute of dignity but dealing with the ugly reality of death. James 1:14-15 “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. If you want to see what sin can do to human life go visit a hospital, graveyards or courtroom. Sin destroys our innocence, and just like Adam and Eve we experience shame and guilt. It destroys our relationships, first with God, then others and finally with ourselves. It destroys our sense of responsibility, Adam blamed God and then Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Instead of taking personal responsibility they passed the buck. Sin also destroys God’s plan for peace and prosperity in our lives. God’s plan for Adam and Eve was paradise not the parasite of sin, but when sin entered in both man and creation paid the price. The judgment for the woman was both pain in childbirth as well as subjection to her husband. The man now had to work in a cursed environment and both had to deal with death. The consequences of sin affect our entire being, body, soul, emotions, character, will and spirit. Yet in the midst of the deceptive and destructive consequences of sin we see:

  • The divine covering for sin – Verse 21

Adam and Eves first reaction to sin was to try and cover themselves, and ever since Adam and Eve we have been hard at work following in their first footsteps, trying to cover sin ourselves. Today some react by trying to cover their sin with religion, good works, or even denying in as sin. But only God has the power to deal with your sin, verse 21 says: “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.” They had tried to cover their shame with fig leaves but it didn’t work, only God could do that, for it required a sacrifice and the shedding of blood. This was a defining sacrifice, a sign that pointed to the promise of the coming Lamb of God who would shed His blood for all sinners so that their sin and shame would not just be covered but conquered. Like Adam and Eve we too have fallen prey to the prowling lion who roams around roaring and looking for those he can devour and destroy. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and the consequences of sin is why life is so hard and harsh. Yet God sent His Lamb to the altar so that we could be bought by the precious blood. Have you experienced the purifying power of His blood? Have you responded in faith to the Fathers forgiveness? It is in Genesis 3 that we see in the midst of the miserable consequences Adam reveal his belief in God’s promise in the way he responds to Gods Word. In verse 19 we see the climax of the curse on man, death, and we might expect Adams respond to be one of self-pity: “Why me, it’s not fair” such is the despair of unbelief. Yet Adam looks past his pain to God’s promise, for it is here that he names his wife, “Eve,” which means, “Life” because she would be the mother of all who live. Adam doesn’t deny that he will die, but he acknowledges and focuses on faith not failure. He recognizes the curse, that his work will be toilsome, but he looks to the promise that from their offspring will come One who will crush the curse. Not just to bruise but to break the head of the serpent. So because of his believe in God’s Word he named his wife, ‘Living’ faith always moves us from attitude to action, words to works. What an amazing act of faith, faced with the finality of his own death, Adam looks at his wife and says, “Despite the curse you are, ‘Life’ because our God has promised to bring life out of death.” What about you are you responding to and receiving God’s promises by faith? Do you trust in His conquering promise and provision or are you still trying to cover things yourself? Are you living out and proclaiming the power of His promise not just in word but in deed? How are you dealing with the destructive consequences of sin are you whining or winning? Are you living life alert to the deceptive character of sin or are you disregarding its dangers? Even in the midst of the pollution of peace God had a plan and promised to send His provision, His One and only Son Jesus Christ to come and to die in our place so that we could have life. Have you placed you faith in His provision? Just as 1 John 5:11-12 promises  “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” Do you have the Lord of life or are you still caught in the lie?

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29 The Peace of Propitiation – Part 2

Colossians 1:15-20

“15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. 18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

After looking at the priority, passion and place of peace Paul now reminds us of:

  • The price it cost to purchase peace

When you consider the price that was paid to purchase our peace, real peace is not just costly, it is extravagantly expensive. Jesus had to leave heaven, step out of glory where He was surrounded by worship and into a world of sin. He had to leave the Father and put on flesh and take the form of a helpless baby. He surrendered His Will to walk countless miles through the dirt and the dust only to be belittled and beaten. He traded the comforts of Heaven for the cruelty of a cross. He purchased our freedom through pain and bought us with His own blood. He went from Heaven to hell to restore our relationship with His Father. Why would God be willing to pay such a high price for me? Scripture screams forth the answer on every page of the bible, love. Love is what moved him to pay the supreme price for my peace, John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Later John pens these words in 1 John 4:9-11 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” It is here that we see the response that God is looking for in us, not only are we to respond to the Lords love personally but we are to present it to others. If we really trust in and treasure the love that he has showered on us then we will share it with others. Are you living life channeling Christ’s love into the lives of others? That means that we will be willing and even eager to pay whatever price is necessary to be reconciled in our relationships. What about you, will you follow the example of His extravagant love and live to be reconciled in your relationships? Is the Lord’s love living in you? Not only do we see the price it cost to purchase peace but we also see the:

  • Privilege of proclaiming His peace

Real peace has eternal promises, when Jesus shed his blood on the cross, he provided a path for us to be reconciled into a right relationship with God. His sacrifice sanctified us so that we are no longer separated by sin and defeated by death. We are forgiven and free to enter the halls of heaven and enjoy an eternal home surrounded by the Father’s love forever, just as Jesus promised in John 6:47, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” Yet inherent in this gift of peace is the privilege and weighty responsibility we have of sharing His message of life giving peace with others. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” If you have responded and are a recipient of His peace then you have been given the weighty privilege of sharing His gift with others. We must clearly communicate the truth of the cross, both with the words that we say and in the way that we walk. Jesus taught His disciples that our most powerful and persuasive testimony is communicated in how we love one another. In John 13:34-35, he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The love that is most captivating and compelling to the world is not the love that we share and show to those who love us. As Jesus taught in Luke 6:27-36, anyone can love those who love them: 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” What distinguishes and defines us as different from the world is our love for those who are in conflict with us. When we let love lead, when we let go and forgive those who have deeply hurt us, or humbly confess our own wrongs, we are demonstrating the reality and the reconciling power of Christ in our lives. As others watch and witness His love flowing through us they get to taste the power of peace and the reconciliation they too can find in Jesus. As we walk in love our witness as peacemakers can lead others to trust in Christ and find eternal peace through him. Don’t just think of peacemaking as provisional, it can have powerful and eternal consequences.

1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.” What about you will you humble yourself, will you stop trying to prove your own righteousness, cast aside your worldly and worthless tactics for resolving conflict, and pursue God’s path for making peace, no matter how difficult it may be?

In Matthew 7:3-4, Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” What if you were to stop dwelling on what others did wrong and simply confess, in detail and with sincere sorrow, how you have contributed to the conflict?

In Philippians 2:3-4, the apostle Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” What if you were to stop making it about self and instead of focusing solely on your feelings in humility look at others hearts? Would you be willing to give as much effort to identifying and meeting their interests as you do your own?

In Ephesians 4:32, Paul writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” As you consider the one who has, deeply wronged you, gossiped about you, betrayed your trust, failed to keep a commitment, damaged your property or destroyed your reputation, what price are you will to pay to restore peace in that relationship? Will you divest yourself of the desire to make the other person pay? Are you going to let bitterness be your boss and control you or Christ? Think about the supreme sacrifice that the Savior paid to secure your forgiveness from the Father. You were forgiven because He lavishly overflowed His love to purchase your pardon and now He invites you to share in His sacrifice and extend love, even to the underserving. Are you as passionate about peace and reconciliation as He is? Will you make peace your priority and passion? What price are you willing to pay? Do you consider it a pain or a privilege to proclaim His peace?