Friday, October 30, 2009

What Peace!

Philippians 4:4 – 7

What Peace!


We have examined the mystery called “love.”  We have explored the enigma named “joy.” Today, I want to try to tackle the conundrum known as “peace.”


Considering the world has essentially been at war against terrorists for the last eight years, political struggles have left many wondering what will happen, and some people predicting the possibility of another American civil war.  It seems there is little that would indicate the possibility of peace on earth this Christmas season.


In a world that is getting dumber by the minute and evil escalating beyond reason, rather than fretting, stewing, being depressed, or angry:  I would like to suggest, that as people who believe that God hears us and wants the best for us, we do something about this situation.  I propose we pray.  I think in these times it is essential we seek “the God of peace” [Hebrews 13:20] and the “Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6] for “peace on earth.” [Luke 2:14]


Instead of a sermon as such, I want to propose a prayer guide.  It can be used as an “hour of prayer” or a “prayer of hours.”  It works this way, if you are willing to do an “hour of prayer” set aside one hour to do this exercise with each segment taking five minutes.  If you want to do a “prayer of hours” set aside one 12-hour block of time where on you stop what you are doing at a set time in that hour (such as at the top of the hour) and take five minutes to pray over the verses of Scripture related to the topic for that hour.


1.         Peace results from a trusting mind fixed on God (Is. 26:3 – 4, Ro 15:13)


You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. [4]  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” [Isaiah 26:3 – 4 ESV]


a.         Peace is promised to those whose minds are focused on God.


b.         We can only focus when we trust God.  (Ill. Of Peter getting out of the boat.)


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 15:13]


a.         Hope and joy are also promised when we trust God.


b.         There is the real power of the Holy Spirit at work when we trust God producing joy, peace, and hope.


2.         Jesus death brought us peace (Is 53:5, Col. 1:15 – 20)


“But he was pierced for our transgressions,

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

  the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

    and by his wounds we are healed.” [Isaiah 53:5]


a.         The “suffering servant” (Jesus) was to be pierced, crushed and wounded to bring us peace and healing from our transgressions (go beyond the limits set [Oxford], rebellion) and iniquities (injustice, immoral behavior [Oxford], perversity, guilt)


b.         There is a close connection between the peace Jesus achieved and the healing we are given for the damage done by sin.


“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [16] For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. [17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. [19] For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Colossians 1:15 – 20]


a.         Jesus is fully human and fully God [v 16] “all things were created by him and for him,” [v 17] “before all things and in him all things hold together.” [v 19] “all his fullness dwell in him.”)


b.         Only because of Jesus divinity can peace be made through His blood, shed on the cross.  Without that blood claimed and applied to our situation, there is no possibility for peace (personal or otherwise).


3.         Peace (security that comes from peace) is a lie used by false teachers and the world (Jer:6:14, 1 Th. 5:1 – 3)


“They dress the wound of my people

    as though it were not serious.

  `Peace, peace,' they say,

    when there is no peace.” [Jeremiah 6:14] [also see Jer 8:11]


a.         Speaking about false priests (people appointed to serve God to people and people to God) and prophets, Jeremiah notes that they are deceiving the people by creating a false sense of peace.


b.         To do this, serious things have to be “dressed” (literally “healed”) so people will miss the seriousness of the wound (literally “fracture”).  (e.g. the use of language: TV evening news calling a pocket knife a “camping utensil.”  Change the word and you change the meaning completely.  That’s why we are warned to not add to or subtract from God’s Word.)


"Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, [2] for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. [3] While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” [1 Thessalonians 5:1 – 3]


a.         At the very brink of destruction, there will be those who mislead by saying “peace and safety.”  (Ill. The idea of pacificism, claiming if one side doesn’t fight then there is peace... Adolf Hitler and World War II)


b.         There is a false security built concerning God being “safe.”  God is not domesticated.  God is not safe.  God is not harmless.


c.         God’s people have to be soundly anaesthetized to the point were we are insensitive to God, deaf to God’s voice, and resistant to the control of the Holy Spirit.


4.         Peace is a function of the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:25, Ro 8:5 – 6)


“All this I have spoken while still with you. [26] But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. [27] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” [John 14:25 – 27]


a.         Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and peace in His absence.


b.         In other words, the two are closely connected: The Holy Spirit gives us power to have peace.  The nature of this peace is different that the “worlds” because it is not dependent on circumstances.


“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. [6] The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. [Romans 8:5 – 6]


a.         The central loyalty of your life will be either to “the sinful nature” or to the (Holy) “Spirit.”


b.         The “mind set” dictates behavior and betrays the central loyalty.  Without the Holy Spirit’s active presence and work, there is neither eternal life or genuine peace.


5.         Peace is possible even in trouble (Jn 16:33)


“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.” [John 16:33]

a.         Fact (according to Jesus): “In this world you will have trouble.” 


b.         Peace is not the absence of trouble.  Peace some from the trust we have in God, the information Jesus gave us, and ultimate victory by Jesus (King of Kings and Lord of Lords).


6.         Peace moderates fear and “overjoyed” (Jn 20:19 – 23)


“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" [20] After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. [21] Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." [22] And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” [John 20:19 – 23]


a.         After the resurrection the disciples had to deal with “fear.”  They were afraid of the authorities and they were afraid their imaginations ran wild when Jesus showed up.  “Peace” was how Jesus started these conversations.


b.         Something we don’t like to think about: Peace moderates joy – “overjoyed” (literally “glad”).  Why did Jesus need to speak peace to them a second time?  Because He was about to breath power into them.


c.          Fact: We can miss what God is doing if we don’t focus and pay attention.  (Have peace.)             


7.         Peace results from justification through faith (Ro 5:1)


“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Romans 5:1]


a.         Justification means to balance or declare free of punishment.


b.         On the spreadsheet of our lives, God declared our debt of sin paid by Jesus.


c.         In the court of heaven, God declared us guilty with time (punishment) served by Jesus.


d.         It is only through faith (complete trust or confidence [Oxford]) we acquire this justification.  It is because of this justification we have peace with God (and each other).


 8.         Peace is external power within the Kingdom of God. (Ro 14:17, 1 Cor. 4:20)


For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [Ro 14:17] 


a.         Notice the kingdom of God is not about externals.  The argument over eating and drinking characterized external practice and restraint, such as eating meat or being vegetarian, and celebration or not of certain days.


b.         As a principle we understand the that the internal is what God is looking for because it is from the inside that we are transformed.


“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” [1 Cor. 4:20]


a.         These internal principles are more about power (to live and be transformed) than about what we say.


b.         Peace has a definite transforming power in our lives.


9.         Peace guards hearts and minds (Ph 4:4 – 7)


“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [5] Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [6] Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. [7] And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:4 – 7]


a.         Peace (caused by trust and producing confidence) has a guarding effect.


b.        When we are tempted to feel raw, uncontrolled, and negative emotions or when we are tempted by irrational, angry, and selfish thoughts... peace can stabilize us.


10.       Peace is beyond understanding (Ph 4:4 – 7)


“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [5] Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [6] Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. [7] And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:4 – 7]


a.         Peace ultimately transcends human understanding because it has nothing to do with circumstances.


b.         (Ill.) A contest to paint “peace.”  One finalists was a painting of a man fishing in a boat on a perfectly clear day with water as smooth as glass.  The other was of a bird on a nest in the cleft of a rock with a raging storm all around.  Which one won?  The painting of the bird, safe on the nest, protected by the rock in a terrible storm.


11.       Peace and righteousness is the harvest of discipline and hardship (Heb. 12:7 – 11)


“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? [8] If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. [9] Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! [10] Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. [11] No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” [Hebrews 12:7 – 11]


a.         John Wesley observed “One of the greatest evidences of God’s love to those who love Him is to send them afflictions, with grace to bear them.”


b.         Discipline is not just correction, it is training and direction.


12.       Peace is a choice (2 Peter 3:14)


“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. [2 Peter 3:14]


a.         To make and effort one must first make a choice to invest the time and energy into what will have benefits.


b.         Notice how peace is connected to holiness (spotless, blameless).


Ill.  “Uncle Walter” in Nazi Germany in World War II.  It was not legal to build a house because the resources were needed for the war.  “Uncle Walter” decided he would build a house anyway.  So he bought land and offered it to the town for a place to pile junk.  Over the years the pile grew, but what nobody knew was that brick by brick, Uncle Walter was building a house under the pile of junk.  When the war was over, Uncle Walter joyfully cleared the junk and revealed a building that only needed a roof.


Life is going to pile a lot of junk on you.  What you do with it is your choice.  While all that junk is being piled on, you can be building a life of love, joy, and peace.  It’s your choice.




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Saturday, October 24, 2009

What Joy!

John 16:20 – 24
What Joy!

There are some odd expectations and definitions of the Christian life loose in our society. For instance, some people, by the way they look give the impression that God is opposed to any emotions... except being sour.

Others believe that the one who believes in and follows Jesus should never have a negative emotion. I have heard some go as far as saying that these negative emotions are “sin.” Along with this is an unrealistic meeting of sad and bad things with some sort of forced “joy.”

All this has made it difficult for us to find the proper perspective in understanding that Jesus expected us to have an underlying joy that can never be taken from us. We also must remember that “joy” is the second of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I. Jesus noted that there would be a time of conflict between what was expected and the circumstances.

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.” [v 20a]

A. REALITY: what gives the world joy can be a cause for us to weep and mourn.

1. Specifically Jesus was talking about His death and resurrection.

a. Jesus was not telling them it was wrong to weep and mourn. There is a time to be “down” because of the circumstances of life.

b. Jesus was telling them that after that, they would have a time of great joy.

“. . . You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” [v 20b]

2. There is something about expectations that changes the nature of things, especially grief.

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. [14] We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” [1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 14]

a. “Ignorance” is something both Jesus and Paul were addressing.

b. The problem is that we tend to live in the “now.” Really, we have to... but the tendency is to lose sight of what is in the future.

***** It is ok to have negative feelings in response to negative events, if they are in perspective.*****

II. Jesus used an example of extreme pain and extreme joy to illustrate His point.

A. The pain of child birth is natural.

1. REALITY: sometimes there is pain that we can do nothing about.

a. Emotional pain happens in the course of life or as a result of life itself.

1.) The pain of being rejected by someone you love.

2.) The emotional turmoil from a physical trauma, such as the death of a loved one. (80% of marriages were a child dies end in divorce.)

3.) Some people have chemical imbalances. (Some are caused by addictions, some addictions are used to self-medicate.)

4.) Some people suffer from “clinical depression” that are beyond our ability to understand.

b. Sometimes these pains are life long and cannot be appropriately dulled.

2. Joy is an issue that is beyond physical pain.

a. Expectation is something even those in the most pain can understand (the woman giving birth).

1.) It does not lessen the immediate pain BUT...

2.) It does give something to look forward to beyond the immediate.

b. Expectation of a future joy can get us past the “now” and give us a future hope.

1.) Think about it: as good as this life is, there is nothing permanent here for us.

2.) Someday, in the presence of Jesus, there will be no more pain, or sorrow, or suffering, of any kind.

***** Joy is not part of a sequence, it is the consequence of the sorrow. Following Christ does not exempt us from sorrow or cause us to forfeit joy. *****

III. Joy is finally set on the facts and the promises of God.

A. What are the facts Jesus pointed out?

1. Jesus’ resurrection (and the future promise of ours) would give us “wonderful joy.”

2. Anguish would give way to joy in new life.

3. Jesus return would be a cause of rejoicing (a.k.a. “Joy”)

***** Notice that Jesus is the difference, the point of reference, for all our hopes and joys. *****

B. What are the promises Jesus gave us?

1. [v 22] “no one will take away your joy.”

2. Your prayers will be answered, leading to joy.

“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” [v 24b]

IV. Why is this so hard?

A. Some people chose Jesus as “the lesser of the two evils” over going to hell.

1. “He goes for a miserable life and heaven in the end.” [Garriock]

a. The result is like the child who, when told to sit down declared, “I may be sitting down but on the inside I’m standing up.”

b. We follow Jesus as “slaves” (to sin) and not “sons” (of God).

2. Rather than acquiring the power of living in right relationship to God, we go through the motions as if there were nothing better or else.

B. Understanding that joy is a provision for all of life.

1. Joy give us a whole bunch of things: confidence in prayer, certainty of answered prayer, expectation that God WANTS to give us what is best.

2. Joy becomes, not just the fruit of our relationship with God, it becomes the pivot point for every experience (good or bad) in this life.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What works, what doesn’t

Colossians 4:2 – 6
What works, what doesn’t

Sometimes we reduce Christianity to rituals and symbols. Others tend to reduce Christianity to some sort of fantasy religion league where a person earns or loses points depending on what they do or do not do. We reduce Christianity to the latest and greatest, chasing the high, or simply church attendance.

We get frustrated because we don’t feel good, we don’t get what we want, and things do not seem to go the way we want.

Paul gives final instructions to the Colossian church, here’s what works...

I. The FOUNDATION of the Christian life is living in prayerful relationship to God.

A. When we talk to God, it’s called prayer.

1. This is actually “half” the communication process.

a. The Bible is the other half.

b. As important as the Bible is to us, God desires we talk to Him.

2. Prayer is not:

a. Prayer is NOT earning or cashing-in points.

1.) Problem: We tend to give ourselves huge bonus points for obedience.

2.) Problem: We get grumpy when we don’t get rewarded for those huge point totals.

b. Prayer is NOT manipulating God.

1.) We are God’s loved children, not God’s spoiled children.

2.) We are not forcing God to do something God does not want to do.

B. Prayer is an act of the will as seen by three words. [v 2]

1. We must be devoted to the practice of prayer. This puts our level of love and loyalty to the test. You do what you value.

a. To be devoted means to be habitual, persistent, determined, deliberate.

b. Why? Ever notice how hard it is to pray?

1.) It seems we don’t settle down enough to pray.

2.) When we do settle down to pray, every imaginable worry, plan, idea, etc... crosses our mind to distract us.

***** That is the enemy panicking. The devil wants to keep us disconnected from God. When we are disconnected from God we feel spiritually fatigued, our theology goes goofy, and we loose perspective of what is happening. That and the fact that when we pray, we can achieve major victory. *****

c. Faith should not suffer if answers are slow because even in delay we learn lessons.

***** BTW, sometimes delayed answers are due to demonic resistance. *****

“Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. [13] But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. [14] Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.” [Daniel 10:12 – 14]

d. C. S. Lewis: four answers to prayer... 1.) Yes, here’s more. 2.) Yes, I’ve been waiting for you to ask. 3.) Wait for the right time. 4.) No, I love you to much.

2. We must we watchful (lit. “keep awake”)

“Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. [39] Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. [40] Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. [41] "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” [Matthew 26:38 – 41]

a. Notice that Jesus wanted (can we say needed?) His disciples to keep watch... They were not able to even stay awake for one hour. Imagine a church service where noting was played, sung, or said for one hour.

b. The thing about keeping watch in this story is that it means to be silent, in the presence, listening, sharing....

3. We must be thankful.

a. Great things are happening! Paul understood the happened by the power of God as acquired by the prayers of the people.

b. Thankfulness recognizes God as the source of our blessings.

II. Wisdom is the FILTER in living the Christian life in relationship to this world.

A. We are to walk, act wisely, around those who do not know Christ.

1. We are not flawless and to much is made of a mistake. However, we can be examples of people who are putting effort into our relationship with God.

2. When those who do not believe see us transparently and honestly dealing with life, ourselves, and God... it’s called influence.

a. The problem is when we “go spiritual” people will “go deaf.”

b. The reality is that people need to see authentic belief interact with what is happening and drawing on the sense of being different. (Reality check: how many of us can or will live with “I don’t know.”)

B. We are to see, understand, and use the opportunities available.

1. What opportunities?

a. Ask for an “open door.” [v 3] In other words, opportunity to speak to people about Jesus and salvation.

b. Ask for clear proclamation. [v 4] In other words, ready when the opportunity presents itself.

2. Reality is that opportunities are generally very short.

“Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” [Ephesians 5:15 – 16]

III. Prayer and wisdom are FUSED together in how we communicate.

A. Grace plus salt. Not one without the other!

1. “Grace sweetens, salt seasons.”

a. Grace brings the sweetness of the opportunity offered through Jesus Christ...

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord. Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt. Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured. There were the blood of the Lamb was split.”

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

b. Salt is the flavor, the value (Roman soldiers were paid in salt), and the healing (salt heals wounds)...

“He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, [47] and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” [Luke 24:46 – 47]

2. Grace and salt are about answering...

a. We answer accusations.

b. We answer questions.

B. Refresh:

1. The foundation is prayer. Nothing happens without prayer...

2. The filter is wisdom. A life well lived is lived with the effort of considerable wisdom guiding us.

3. Everything is fused together as we offer grace and salt to a world in desperate need of answers.