5 Common Misconceptions of What a PEACEMAKER is:

  • a PEACE WISHER is a person who wishes for world peace: they imagine a world where all people are at peace.  Though they can see the image in their own mind’s eye, they do not act on these wishes.  James 4:17 says that “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (NIV)  Also, James 2:16-17 says “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)  To make peace, we must act on the deeds that we know is true and right.
  • a PEACE BENDER is a person who believes they are an expert at knowing how to make peace with other people, and so they insist that everyone must gain their understanding and live by the standards that match what they know peace to be. Matthew 7:15-17 tells us how we can recognize a peace bender: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (NIV) If a person does not try to pursue peace and be at peace with all people (1 Peter 3:8-12), then their actions will portray their spirit. They are not an expert on peace, but are actually a peace bender instead; they bend the definition of peace to match their own ideas.
  • a PEACE MARTYR is a person who would willingly sacrifice anything to keep the peace.  They are willing to sacrifice their integrity, their happiness, and even their salvation in order to keep the peace with their friends and relatives around them.  Philippians 4:6-7 reassures us with these words: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
  • a PEACE YIELDER is a person who believes that peace on earth means no more wars will ever be fought.  They are ready to fly the white flag of surrender in order to “keep peace”, and they protest war and speak against people who would attack evil to subdue it. Though that may sound like a peaceful concept to the untrained Christian mind, our own Savior Jesus, the Prince of Peace, reminds us in Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” 
  • a PEACE HOARDER is a person who is content with life.  He has everything he desires, and lives life only in the comfort of his own circle.  He will not share the peace that he has, whether it’s out of ignorance or out of selfishness. Jesus says in John 16:32-33 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

Life on this earth will not be easy, and there will be many times when it will feel like our life lacks peace.  But blessed is the PEACEMAKER who sees all the hostility and the unfairness in the world and yet works to spread God’s word anyway.  The truth about peace is this: Peacemakers are soul-winners! They are the people who pray for others, who volunteer at food pantries and in relief groups, who invite their friends to church meetings or camps.  They’re the ones who live as Christ-like examples and are unafraid to declare Jesus’ name to the world (and to their friends!).  It’s only through Jesus that we can find peace.

“…since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:1-5 (TLB)
“Peter, an apostle (special messenger, personally chosen representative) of Jesus Christ,

To those [elect—both Jewish and Gentile believers] who live as exiles, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia [Minor], and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be yours in increasing abundance [as you walk closely with God].”  1 Peter 1:1,2 (AMP)
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the  highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.  

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
“And now there is one more thing to say before I end this letter. Stay away from those who cause divisions and are upsetting people’s faith, teaching things about Christ that are contrary to what you have been taught. Such teachers are not working for our Lord Jesus but only want gain for themselves. They are good speakers, and simple-minded people are often fooled by them. But everyone knows that you stand loyal and true. This makes me very happy. I want you always to remain very clear about what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The blessings from our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you.”  Romans 16:17-20 (TLB)
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Stop Bad Habits, Start Needing God

Just about everybody has a quirk or flaw about themselves they don’t like. If you’re like me, you have a couple of really bad habits you want to change, but it’s hard. It’s maybe impossible to, and sometimes, you know God wouldn’t approve of the bad habit since the Bible calls it sin.

So the other day, I tried to find a brain hack for my bad habit. Literally. I was emerging out of dreamland that morning, and something made me roll over in bed and punch the ‘Home’ button on my Ipad to wake it up before even I was awake.  I went to Google and searched what part of the brain’s functions governs habits, such as over-eating, smoking, lying, etc.  In a nutshell, this is the facts research tells us:

There is a place where cells are located, at the center of your brain, called the bed nucleus. That cell group sends signals through the stria terminalis, which looks like a cable connecting and transmitting info from part to part. Also, the amygdala (another part) is connected to the stria terminalis, and it releases emotions. If you have a craving that says “I want a hot dog”, emotion is sent from the amygdala to the bed nucleus, where the nuclei send the reply, “Go to Sonic and buy one!”

(Disclaimer: my research is only from scouring various medical writings, and is not doctoral advice.)

I sat up from bed as I rubbed my eyes, wondering how I could stop my bad habit after learning the facts. There’s gotta be SOME way to apply the knowledge and stop sinning, I thought to myself. How?  I pondered throughout the day, but sheesh, I’m no neurologist! I can’t engineer a new way to cure cravings (can I?)! So I gave up on that idea of solving the problem, until late the next night…

…I was going to bed and got that bad-habit-craving again. My thoughts were filled. It was impossible to not think about the craving…

….That’s when a new character entered the scene for the first time ever: RATIONALITY. If my brain was a movie script and there were three characters, RATIONALITY was the new guy in town, breaking the endless cycle. The thought process went like this:

CRAVING: You want it! Get it. Let’s move it, move it.

SELF: I shouldn’t! God says I shouldn’t, so I shouldn’t.

CRAVING: Ok, yeah you’re right... NOT! (shoves SELF) Let’s move it, move it.

SELF: No! I want to please God, not you. You’re not my boss!

CRAVING:  Oh yeah? (scoffs) I won’t let you go to sleep until I’m happy. You will have insomnia, stress, anxiety, and depression.

SELF: ...you’re blackmailing me?

CRAVING: (shrugs) Uh... yeah! That’s what people call it, but why be so technical? Come on! It’ll be fun. Let’s move it, move it. You like it.

SELF: (follows CRAVING)

RATIONALITY enters and stands protectively between CRAVING and SELF, defending SELF.

RATIONALITY: I couldn’t help but overhear. CRAVING is pressuring you right now, SELF; if you give in, you will only regret it later and wish you had avoided it. So you might as well not temporarily reward yourself when the guilt lasts a lot longer than the pleasure. What is there to gain in a reward that you’ve already experienced and know, when you could gain so much more by denying CRAVING and doing what you want – what God wants you to want – instead. CRAVING will always pester you, but you have the power to look into the future, see the consequences, and choose to say ‘NO’.

That was the moment in Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow got an honorary degree of T.H.D. from Oz, and started reciting a complicated equation! It was the moment in Labyrinth when Sarah told Jareth, “You have no power over me”. It was the moment in Anastasia when Anya said “Dasvidanya!” to Rasputin and angrily crunched his glowing vile of life-giving energy under her shoe, breaking it and ending the demon. It was the moment my brain got itself in order, and I could think straight long enough for the craving to fade away. Rationality entered the scene, and Self had the chance to decide before Craving dominated.

I don’t consider what happened a cure for my bad habit, or something that can be engineered to work for everyone, but the neurological research helped me, in that moment, rationalize my brain’s activity, the sending of signals back and forth. That gave me a chance to think about the pros and cons of my craving. Sometimes, a chance to wait out the storm is all you need to say ‘NO’.

Unfortunately for our souls, we live in a world where Craving is the hero instead of Rationality; sexuality is exploited and honored, money is power, and addictions are legal. Love is skewed to mean pleasure not sacrifice; virtual reality governs actions; phones feed our cravings and keep us empty of affection; brains therefore develop into a complicated system of iniquity and we no longer recognize who God is or if he even exists. We live in a world where skeptics doubt a God they can’t see, while sending messages to friends 4,000 miles away in 5 seconds which is easy to grasp because it’s somehow normal and explainable.

Well, I’m here to explain God for 100 more words of your time:

Jeremiah 23:5 says, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch” which is Jesus Christ, the Messiah we now have access to through the historically proven Bible and prayer. To be right with God, to be righteous, we must program our brains to need Christ (1 Peter 2:2, Psalm 37:7). In the Bible it’s known as being thirsty. Read the story about Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:4-42) for understanding. If you become thirsty for righteousness, Christ will bring you contentment.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval.
They will be satisfied.”  -Matthew 5:6

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Meekness Defined

“Pop, pop, pop! Bom, bom, bom!  throughout the day. No time for memorandums now. Go ahead! Liberty and Independence forever.”

~Davy Crockett, the last entry in his diary, on the 5th of March, 1836

In the battle of the Alamo, do you think you would you hear Davy Crockett telling his fellow patriots “Proud men, we’ll need to be meek in this battle!”  To call the battle of the Alamo meek would be like trying to pronounce Hurricane Harvey as a meek storm in the wake of its devastation at Rockport and its torrential downpour over Houston this weekend. The defenders of the Alamo fought courageously, and the Tropical Storm Harvey still threatens Southern Texas with its strong winds and flooding waters. That’s not the image of meekness, is it?

In today’s world, meekness is labeled as weak.  The Merriam-Webster explains the word meek with 3 definitions.  The first is “enduring injury with patience and without resentment: mild”; the second definition states “deficient in spirit and courage: submissive” and the third says “not violent or strong: moderate”.

The definition of the Greek word πρᾷος, or práos, according to the biblehub.com is “mild, gentle, meek, kind”. HELPS Word-studies gives the example: “the necessary balance of exercising power and avoiding harshness”.

As Christians, we need to show meekness.  But what defines meekness in God’s book?

“So I am not the one living now—it is Christ living in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God. He is the one who loved me and gave himself to save me.” Galations 2:20 (ERV)

Since it is Christ living in us that inspires our actions, and Christ says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29, ASV), we should strive to be meek like Him.

John 2:12-17 shows us an example of Jesus’s meekness.  While God’s temple was supposed to be a house of worship and reverence to the Lord where people would come to find forgiveness through sacrifices that they offered, the Jewish leaders had set up stalls and tables in the temple, and the people were told to buy the perfect sacrificial offerings from the temple, when their own offerings didn’t match the priests’ standards.

…it was almost time for the Jewish Passover Feast. So Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple he found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves. He saw others sitting at tables, exchanging money. Jesus made a whip out of cords. Then he forced all these men, with the sheep and cattle, to leave the Temple. He turned over the tables and scattered the money of the men who were exchanging it. Then he said to those who were selling pigeons, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place for buying and selling!”

When this happened the followers remembered what was written in the Scriptures: “My strong love for your Temple completely controls me.” (ICB)

HurricaneHarvey-HibiscusLeaf_2017-8-27

Quoting Psalm 69:9, this is a good example of what meekness truly means.  “My strong love for your Temple completely controls me.”  It’s not mildness or submissiveness or the lack of strength as the world sees it.  It’s zealously letting God’s will be the one to control the actions that you take.  Like Moses, who was called the meekest person on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3); like Stephen, who portrayed a godly meek spirit with a powerful speech (Acts 7); like Daniel, with his meek request to disregard the king’s orders (Daniel 1:5-21); like Paul, who boldly wrote letters to Christ’s churches “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10-13); and like David’s meekness when he wrote his psalms and praises to the Lord; we need to represent Jesus’s “meek and lowly” spirit in our own lives.

 

 

Psalm 46:9-11, ESV

“Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

 

Psalm 69:9, 16-20, 30-36, ESV

“For zeal for your house has consumed me,
    and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me…

“Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
    according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Hide not your face from your servant,
    for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
    ransom me because of my enemies!

You know my reproach,
    and my shame and my dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
Reproaches have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
    and for comforters, but I found none…

I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
When the humble see it they will be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy
    and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
    and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
    the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
    and those who love his name shall dwell in it.”

 

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV

The Holy Spirit, Our Paraclete

Have you ever heard the word paraclete? I had not heard it before today, although I should have, because I took Ancient Greek in 4th grade. (Shows how little I’ve read my Greek Bible since I was nine!) Paraclete is a word describing the Holy Spirit, our advocate, comforter, helper, and parakletos is the ancient Greek word with the same meaning. The word was originally used by the apostle John. I will share with you the four Bible verses that use the word parakletos, with the original Greek, and the literal English translation. It’s awesome. I got this from my Greek bible:

John 14:16

“καὶ ἐγὼ ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν, ἵνα μένῃ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα…” (“And I will ask the Father, and another Paraclete he will give you, that he may remain with you forever.”)

John 14:26

“ὁ.δὲ παράκλητος, τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί.μου, ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα, καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν.” (“But the Paraclete, the Spirit the Holy, whom will send the Father in my name, he you will teach all things, and will bring to remembrance your all things which I said to you.”)

John 15:26

“ὅταν.δὲ ἔλθῃ ὁ παράκλητος, ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός, τὸ Πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ·” (“But when is come the Paraclete, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me; also ye and bear witness, because [the] beginning with me ye are.”)

John 16:7

“ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ τὴν ἀλήθειαν λέγω ὑμῖν· συμφέρει ὑμῖν ἵνα ἐγὼ ἀπέλθω. ἐὰν.γὰρ ἐγὼ μὴ ἀπέλθω ὁ παράκλητος οὐκ ἐλεύσεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς· ἐὰν δὲ πορευθῶ, πέμψω αὐτὸν πρὸς ὑμᾶς·” (“But I the truth say to you, It is profitable for you that I should go away; for if I go not away the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”)

Our modern English Oxford dictionary defines it the same:

Noun

(in Christian theology) the Holy Spirit as advocate or counsellor (John 14:16, 26)

Paraclete is a wonderful word that has disappeared from modern versions of the Bible, where we simply use the words Comforter, Helper, or Friend. I understand why, because a lot of modern people don’t know what that word means, but I think that should change. We should begin to use the word derived from the Greek again!

 

Be Comforted by the Rock of Ages

Today during worship, I sang the old hymn, Rock of Ages. It is a beautiful song, especially sung by the Mennonite Choir in the video above, and it’s also sung around the world; below there’s another sing-along video with the lyrics both in English and Khmer (the language of Cambodia), and also a third video by the choir at Michael’s Children Home. The choir in the third video has a mesmerizing new arrangement, starting at 1 minute and 28 seconds; I strongly recommend you take a listen.

I believe the diversity we have in Christ, and in our brothers and sisters around the globe, is indeed a pleasure to behold. I invite you to join me in song and praise, wherever you are, so we can make Christ’s joy complete.

Victims of Depression Suddenly Started Winning! /Random Thoughts

I saw a retweet on Twitter one day, months ago – and it still haunts me – from a tweeter I wouldn’t recommend following, a more-than-slightly disturbing thought. I quote Bucky Isotope (@BuckyIsotope),

“Over there sits your childhood stuffed animal slowly losing atoms to chaos. Piece by piece he says goodbye. Piece by piece you join him.”

No idea whether he meant his words as a joke or truth, but either way, the concept is horrifying to my mortal mind, who’s sitting here without answers for common questions we all have from time to time…

“Why am I here on this earth?”

“What happens after death?”

“Will I die young or old, and… does it matter because either way I still die.”

In addition, to quote someone else, Hector Berlioz said,

“Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its students.”

Supposed to be funny, yet for people prone to depression, they’re weird and depressing thoughts! In fact, time itself is ultimately depressing and to be honest, I personally don’t know how anyone stays sane when their naturalistic, mortal life is the focus, and not the spiritual, immortal life.

Here, I want to tell you something good: you see, if you change your depth of field (like the way you do in the lens of a camera) and get with Christ, you can be unafraid of all this. Time. Death. Separation anxiety. All this kinda stuff. Nothing about the scientific definition of decay and decomposition, or anything else, has to be depressing anymore! Because there is a verse in the Bible, one singular quote that can fit in a tweet if you get the right version, which I can bet was made to combat that very thought Bucky’s tweet made me (and maybe you, too) think.

“The world is passing away. And everything that people want in the world is passing away. But the person who does what God wants lives forever.” 1 John 2:17 (ICB)

I don’t know if I can get this point across enthusiastically enough, so let me just get it straight to you: the world may be losing atoms to chaos, and our stuffed animals and all of life’s stuff may be saying goodbye with our bodies and desires, but if we do what God wants, we will live beyond the world’s chaos. Sure, the chaos may be slowly sucking our particles into a vortex of ruin, but there is an immortal presence we have, a forever existence, known as our souls, which can follow Jesus Christ into eternity.

…And that’s the moment when I’m like, all victims of depression everywhere suddenly started winning!

Because like, if you’ve got Christ, you can say when you hear dry comments and jokes that turn into depressing thoughts for you later,

“Who cares! I’m beyond that.”

No matter what the problem is, whether it’s about dying, or lying, or bodily pain, or sickness, or bullies and hate speech, or climate change, or college, or breakups, or whatever! You can say, “I don’t care” and mean it! That stuff can roll of your back like it’s no big deal!

I’m not talking about not caring to the point where you don’t work your hardest to live, laugh, and love. What I’m talking about and who I am talking to is victims of depression where like, you care too much, or the questions circulate in your head all day, or some tweet makes you crazy because of who-knows-what-reason, just, it does. Because.

Jesus is the greatest cure for depression we’ll ever find, the best pick-me-up if you’re down and out, or whatever you want to call it – point blank he’s freedom. He makes you free. He loves you and he will overcome for you.

So… the world can have its problems. Meanwhile, we can have Jesus… you with me?

“…Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” -Jesus (John 14:27, The Message)

The Bridge

Poor in Spirit, Rich in Blessings

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “poor”?  Homeless? Moneyless? No jacket or socks to keep the chill off your skin?  Sure not the meaning that comes from Matthew 5:3.

In the Old Testament, the word poor was used for the Israelites when they were sent out into the wilderness.  They had refused to trust that God would deliver a nation of giants to them and gift them with the giants’ rich land, even though it was the land God had promised their forefathers.

In Hebrew, the word poor is “ani”, which is translated as afflicted or destitute of worldly (physical) goods.  If you’re poor then you have absolutely no power.

In New Testament Greek, the word poor is “penes”, which comes from the word “ponos”, or pain and anguish.  So when Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit, He is talking about people who are suffering and in pain.

Being poor in spirit is the root of the beatitudes; it’s the attitude that all the other beatitudes are built on. The principle of spiritual poverty is humility: to be aware of our sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy. As human, we should know that we cannot escape our sins. We try to do good. We help people when we see trouble. We try to tell the truth and we try to live righteous lives. But we fail every time.  No matter how perfect we become we are still in a spiritual debt that we can never repay.

But then something amazing happened: Jesus was rich, but He became poor for our sakes. He was born into a poor family.  His parents gave two turtle doves for Him when He was born (Luke 2:22-24). This is the sacrifice reserved for the poor. Jesus was later supported by the women who He had healed as He went and preached (Luke 8:2-3). He also took the food that he ate from wild trees in the streets (Mark 11:12-14).

The truth is, Jesus gave up his rich life to live a life that would eventually turn so many people against him that they placed him on a cross.  He became our sacrificial lamb. He bought us so that we can reach the kingdom of heaven with His perfection.

God doesn’t despise the person who is broken spirited. All we have to do is ask Him for strength.

“But it is good for me to draw near unto God: I have made the Lord Jehovah my refuge, that I may tell of all thy works.”  Psalms 73:28 (ASV)

Our Living Hope

We all hope for things: dreams for the future, happiness for a friend, safety and security in a time of distress… What are you hoping for?

As Christians our hope reaches further than the hope of the world.  Our second birth, which is baptism (John 3:1-8, Romans 6:1-7, 1 Peter 3:21), delivers us into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We are promised an eternal inheritance that is kept in heaven for us.

1 Peter was a letter that was written for Christians who were displaced and scattered.  During the time the letter was being written, Christians were being slandered and persecuted and attacked with accusations, often false to get them into trouble with the government.  Rome wasn’t friendly to people who claimed to follow Jesus.

Peter wanted to encourage the scattered Christians to be loyal in their faith, even during suffering.

Things that the world hopes in passes away; but as Christians our hope is in the eternal.  Ours is a living hope, one that never perishes or fades away.  Our hope is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6:8-10 says “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”

We as Christians need to be optimistic.  We have a hope that reaches further than the hope of the world; we have a living hope.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8,9

A song that we sung during worship fits this message very well: ­­We Have Heard the Joyful Sound by William J. Kirkpatrick and Priscilla J. Owens.

“We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land, climb the steeps and cross the waves; Onward!—‘tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

“Waft it on the rolling tide, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Tell to sinners far and wide, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Sing, ye islands of the sea, Eco back, ye ocean caves; Earth shall keep her jubilee, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

“Sing above the battle’s strife, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; By His death and endless life, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Sing it softly thru the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves, sing in triumph o’er the tomb, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

“Give the winds a mighty voice, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Let the nations now rejoice. Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Shout salvation full and free, Highest hills and deepest caves, This our song of victory, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.”

Girls With Swords, Week 4

“Now by the laws of war, better than defeating a country by fire and the sword, is to take it without strife.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

As Christians, we are not called to fight a war with earthly weapons; the battles that are fought are actually in the spiritual realm.  Instead, we are called to show kindness to all people.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV)

My Task, hymn lyrics by Maude Louise Ray

“To love someone more dearly every day, to help a wandering child to find his way, to ponder o’er a noble thought and pray, and smile when evening falls: This is my task.

“To follow truth as blind men long for light, to do my best from dawn of day til night, to keep my heart fit for His holy sight, and answer when He calls: This is my task.”

Being equipped with the armor of the Lord and the Sword of the Spirit, we are a part of the army of the Lord.  Take heart, you are not alone!  There are Christians all over the world, and they are going through similar battles.  That’s why we need to encourage one another and help strengthen them.  I liked a quote that I read in the Art of War, which says “Skillful soldiers make defeat impossible, and further render the enemy incapable of victory.”

Let’s be skillful in our task, and help others become skillful in their tasks too, so that we may render Satan incapable of victory.

“Division weakens the Church. As long as people are focused on their squabbles and disagreements, they cannot further the kingdom of God.” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

“The Unity Creed: To create peace and unity, I must work hard. I must observe the world around me. I must minister in time of need. I must listen actively all the time. I must remember all that I can. Then when I need help, if no one gives it, I must pray to God, giver of all things.” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

 

Girls with Swords, Week 3

For my birthday earlier this month, Lacy bought me a book that I’ve been wanting: The Art of War.  It’s said to be a great book, used by successful entrepreneurs  to improve their skill.  But as I read it during this time while I’m also studying Girls with Swords, I find we can apply it to Christian living, too.

“To all nations war is a great matter.  Upon the army death or life depend: it is the means of the existence or destruction of the State.” Sun Tzu in The Art of War

The existence of God’s Holy nation – Christians from every part of the world – depends on how well each of us prepares for our spiritual battle.   If we stand ready to fight against the spiritual enemies who wage war against us, we will be able to persevere and protect our people from the enemy’s attacks; but if we stay ignorant and in denial of the war around us, Satan will easily overpower us and cause the people of God to stumble and fall away.  War is a great matter, whether we stand in the offense or in the defense; we have to be ready for the battles ahead.

If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” John 15:18-21  (ASV)

This week, the Girls with Swords chapter focused on how we might be heroes just like the men and women spoken of in Hebrews 11.  Through faith, we can face the enemy and stand bravely for Christ.  With God as our power, we can be superhuman.

It sounds unbelievable; but don’t be fooled by Satan’s lies against this concept- you really are the hero of your own story.  The moment you chose to be baptized, you became an enemy of Satan, and all the angels in heaven rejoiced (Luke 15:3-10).  If you haven’t chosen baptism yet, then Satan’s legion of demons fight every day to keep you from making the decision of accepting salvation through Christ’s resurrection.  While God wants no man to perish but all to have eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, 2 Peter 3:9), Satan wants quite the opposite. “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” (John 3:16), but Satan wishes that all people shall perish and none have eternal life.

Once you accept your role as hero, whether you perform amazing miracles like the hero Captain Sullinberger of the US Airways flight 1549 or you’re just a forgotten survivor, victim of life’s worst events the way that Chuck Noland was in the movie Castaway, you are a hero in your own story and Satan is trying to bring you – as a Christian – to ruin.

“Reacting does not equal choosing. Fear will drive you to react, but as you become more skillful with the sword, you will choose your response with the intent of honoring your Father – rather than protecting yourself.” -Lisa Bevere, from the Girls with Swords Fencing Manual

The best way to choose your response with an intent of honoring God instead of fearing the enemy is to prepare for the attack and be ready for whatever will happen.  To be ready, we must put on the proper armor so that we will have the protection that God provides us.

“He who does not know the evils of war will not reap advantage thereby. He who is skillful in war does not make a second levy, does not load his supply wagon thrice.”  Sun Tzu, The Art of War

If you don’t spend your time preparing, then the enemy will have an advantage over you and you won’t have enough “supply” -strength, knowledge, and will- to fight back.  On the other hand, if you prepare for war and grow skillful with the provisions that God gives you through Scriptures, then the enemy cannot surprise you with an attack that you didn’t expect.

Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us six articles of protection that we should wear in our fights against Satan.  We should never be found without them, unprepared.  Our enemy is always on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8), and will pounce the moment we set our armor aside for a moment of rest.

Heroes may feel afraid of something, but they trust in their power, whether its the power of their sword, or their own [superhuman] abilities, or something else. In [Christians’] case, God is our power.  -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

God is permitted to do what he wants with me, because I have no idea who I am anymore. I mean, if my ideas have to “be scrapped” before God can place me in his own, then let it be so, because my plans are void almost like a money check when it’s VOID. So Lord, I permit you. -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual