Aug 19, 2012

Great is the Mystery of Godliness

Isa 12:2-6
 Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.'

3 Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.

4 And in that day you will say:

"Praise the Lord, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
5 Sing to the Lord,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth.
6 Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!"

16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory. 1 Tim 3:16

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written:

"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Cor 2:6-12

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. 1 Thess 2:13

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Cor 1:18-19

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Rom 8:12-17

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:22-23

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; Heb 12:12-17

1 Thess 5:16-18
Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thess 5:23-28
 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it…28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Apr 25, 2012

Purity of Heart

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure…”    ~James 3:17

“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”    ~2 Tim 2:22


     Most people (including me) tend to have a specific stream of thought when they hear the word “pure”. For most, purity suggests guarding one’s heart against the temptations of the flesh. But is this really what purity is? In the Bible, the definition of “pure” is “clean, innocent, modest, perfect”. Modest seems to fit with the common idea of purity. So do clean and innocent. But what about perfect? Does perfect simply refer to freedom from fleshly lusts? Not completely. Being perfect means not sinning. So when Scripture says, “purify your heart”, it is in essence saying, “be perfect.”

     Unfortunately, because purity is so often thought of too simply as not letting your heart get out of control, the true meaning is often missed.  Look at what Ps 119:9-10 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments!” “With my whole heart”, it says. Purity is not just keeping one’s heart from going in the wrong direction. If that were true, we could just put up walls in front of our hearts and then just sit there, because according to definition, we wouldn’t be going anywhere and therefore, wouldn’t be going in the wrong direction. But the passage says, “I seek You.” We are not to just sit and do nothing. We are to be actively seeking God with the whole heart. What does this leave? If we are seeking the Lord with our entire being, can we be distracted by the temptations of the world? Can we give in to anger or take joy in arguments or love frivolity and laziness? If the mind and heart have a single-minded purpose of seeking the Lord, can foolish passion, any weakness, any sin exist in them? No; if you seek after the Lord with your whole heart, your way is pure. If your way is pure, you are perfect. If you are perfect, you are without sin.  Now, has anyone ever been completely pure?  No one except Jesus Christ.  However, does that mean that we are not to “purify our hearts”? Not in the least. Matt 5:48 says, “Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Despite our past failings or what we think is possible, because of Christ in us, we can seek diligently and completely after our God.

     In the past, I’ve wondered what then is acceptable. If my heart is wholly seeking after the Lord, does that mean that I can’t read Classical literature or watch movies or get married or play games or live in an ungodly city or be a friend to a sinner, a modern-day tax-collector? After all, if my whole being is seeking after the Lord, obviously my attention is going to be directed towards Him. But then I think of how in the Old Testament the Lord institutes feast days, how He gives directions about marriage, what He tells the Israelites to do while they are in captivity in Babylon, and what Jesus does during His ministry: eat with tax-collectors, befriend prostitutes, touch the unclean. None of the things I listed are wrong as long as they are done in a pure manner and as long as they teach us something about the Lord. We can still be seeking the Lord as we read a Classical masterpiece that portrays the victory of good over evil or that warns of the vanity of life. Think of the Book of Esther: good conquers evil. Think of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Be careful, though. A book or movie or action may have something good in it, but it may have something bad, too. It is up to your judgment as you use Scripture to determine whether you should read, watch, or do it. All that I’m getting at here is that seeking God with our whole heart does not mean we ignore everything on earth. Jesus obviously ate and drank and talked and went to feasts and worked as a carpenter. Yet He was always focused on bringing God glory in all that He did. May the same be true of us.

Your brother in Christ,

Apr 22, 2012

What Is Wisdom?

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”   ~James 3:17-18

“’Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.’”   ~Job 28:28

     What is wisdom? As I’ve gotten older, this question comes to my mind more and more often. Situations come up and problems arise where I’ve spent hours, sometimes days, wondering what would be the wisest thing to do. Even in day to day mundane tasks I’m thinking about what would be the wisest action to take. Now, that doesn’t mean I always do it—make the wisest choices, that is. Even in the midst of arguments I know what would be the wisest course, but I deliberately refuse to take it. But let me get back to the question.  Truly, what is wisdom?

     In Proverbs, it says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Here in Job, it also says that the fear of the Lord is wisdom. Without this fear, no one can truly be wise, at least according to biblical standards. Oftentimes we use the word “wise” to mean someone who is smart or makes profitable decisions. We say that someone is a wise stock investor, or a wise philosopher. It is important to know that being foremost in a field does not necessarily make one wise. To be wise, someone must first and foremost fear the Lord. However, it is also important to know that making good decisions is a result of being wise. So in other words, good decisions do not make you wise, but if you are wise, you will make good decisions. In Proverbs, we have chapter after chapter giving different characteristics of a wise man. In the first three chapters, Solomon gives us some of these traits. These include: listening to counsel, taking rebukes graciously, avoiding the path of sinners, fleeing from the seductress, keeping the commandments of the Lord, being humble, and honoring the Lord with our possessions…to name a few. In James, we have another list. Notice two things. First, notice that James puts purity at the beginning (more on that next week). Second, notice how many times he refers to peacemaking: gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, without partiality (bias) and without hypocrisy (we are to be sincere). But wisdom is not just a bunch of traits. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. Knowledge is knowing all these things, wisdom is applying them. So here are a couple biblical examples of wisdom adapted for our times:

     You really, REALLY want a new toy – computer, bike, camera, trebuchet, etc. Unfortunately, it will cost a third of your savings. Your parents and friends have cautioned you against spending so much for an unnecessary object. What would the wise man do? Heed advice. Be careful that the advice is biblical, though. You don’t want to be like Ahaz was with Jezebel over the issue of Nabel’s vineyard. In that situation, Ahaz heeded his wife’s ungodly advice and suffered for it. In addition, since a wise man honors the Lord through his possessions, spending that much money for a single object probably isn’t the best idea. 

     You are in a room full of friends and suddenly everyone leaves because of some interesting attraction in the back yard. You’ve seen it before, so you stay inside only to find out that one of your sisters in Christ has remained inside as well (she’s already seen it before, too). What to do? Well, in this case, it doesn’t hurt to see the same thing twice. In simple terms, go to where other people are. It doesn’t matter if you still talk to her, just don’t do it when it is only you two in the room.  Avoid temptation or even the appearance of evil. Follow Joseph’s lead and flee.

     Lastly, you are in a group of people your age. You are all having a marvelous time: laughing, singing, maybe even having a good old political debate. However, you notice that most of these people aren’t Christians and so some of the topics, both for the songs and talks, aren’t really the best. It could be something really bad or it could just be a bunch of guys talking about how to win a level on a video game. But here’s the question: is this the type of company you want to be spending your time with? In Proverbs we hear a lot on the way of the sinner, but we often don’t realize that even foolish talk that draws us away from following the Lord can have negative results. The solution? Either try and turn the conversation to more edifying things or simply take your leave.

     To wrap up this long letter, be wise. Act upon your knowledge; don’t let it grow moldy from disuse. Above all, though, fear the Lord!

Your brother in Christ,

Mar 19, 2012

Helpful Humor

 “When Jeremiah entered the dungeon and the cells, and Jeremiah had remained there many days, then Zedekiah the king sent and took him out. The king asked him secretly in his house, and said, ‘Is there any word from the Lord?’ And Jeremiah said, ‘There is.’ Then he said, ‘You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon!’”   ~Jer. 37:16-17

     Most mornings when I get up, it’s dark out still and my body tells me that my warm bed would be much nicer than sitting up in a cold chair. Even as I’m reading my Bible, I’m often distracted. As a result, I often read Scripture emotionlessly since it takes most of my effort simply to keep my mind on reading. Today, however, I was shocked by this passage. (Now you’re really beginning to wonder what the topic is going to be.) Totally and utterly shocked, I might add. Why, you ask? Because it was funny.  Here  is Jeremiah,  who, after over 35 years of speaking the same message and after numerous proclamations to Zedekiah, is now being taken out of prison to be questioned by Zedekiah. All those years, Jeremiah spoke what the Lord put in his mouth. Yet Zedekiah secretly (oohhh) takes him and says, “Is there any word from the Lord?” I can picture Jeremiah leaning over just as secretly and whispering, “There is.” Then I can see Zedekiah somewhat lightening up only to hear the same thing he’s been hearing for years. Now I suppose that just reading the passage above wouldn’t give you that same reaction, but for me, after just reading through chapters and chapters of judgments, it seemed quite humorous.
     You’ve probably thought of God’s humor before, but my guess is you’ve probably not really ever imagined Him as a God who gives great roars of laughter. Yet how He must laugh at us! There was one day when I was driving along through Turlock and I had to go through a lot of lights. Since I was due at an appointment in a few minutes and I was still a few minutes away, I prayed that the Lord would keep all the lights green. I drove up to the first one and it was red, but just as I started slowing down, it turned green. The same thing happened with the second, third, and fourth lights. Just as I arrived, the lights would turn green. Then I reached the fifth and I could see my destination. This time I was expecting the light to be green. Sure enough, I could see it had turned green up ahead. As I approached it I thought to myself, “Now it would be somewhat amusing if it turned red right now.” Sure enough, it turned red. Though I ended up being right on time, it still served as a lesson to me that yes, the Lord answers prayer, but He enjoys throwing in an unexpected twist to grow our faith.
     Seriousness is necessary in the Christian life, of course. After all, the message of the cross is not a joke to be told and laughed at. However, just as seriousness is needed, so is laughter. The Lord did not create us as perpetually solemn people. He created us each with our own unique sense of humor. In my opinion, humor is a great blessing from the Lord, especially for the Christian. In the midst of suffering, trials, and temptations, humor can help make the burden feel lighter and can help us get our minds off what the problem is in order to look to the solution. As a result, humor leads to a more cheerful spirit. Though, as with all things, humor should be used with wisdom (which means knowing when to stop telling jokes or making puns), it can be like a healing balm. So, go forth with a spirit of joyfulness and may your cheerful spirit be an example and encouragement to others.
Your brother in Christ,
“A merry heart does good, like medicine” ~Prov. 17:22

Mar 12, 2012

A Troubled Spirit

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God….By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: "Why have You forgotten me?”…Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”     ~Ps 42 5,8-9,11
     This past month has been a rough month for me.  Between visiting the Adams, dealing with the results of my procrastination, and normal day to day struggles, I’ve been what David would have phrased as “weighed down in spirit.” Thoughts about what the future will hold, what the past has wrought, and what the present is requiring have made my emotions like a roller coaster. The way I typically deal with my emotions is by holding them in until a future time when I will be able to let them out. Yet this past week, as my spirit reached its full mark, I was talking with my parents and I was realizing that I wasn’t handling the situation right. In many cases, yes, holding in emotions can be beneficial. But look at what David does. He brings his worries and fears to the Lord and then in a sense encourages himself.
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.” (Ps 31:9-10)
I’m sure that at some point in your life, you, too, have struggled with a troubled spirit. I’m sure also that you will struggle again many times in your life. Yet I would caution you not to do a few things. Don’t throw all your troubles in a box at the back of your mind and try and forget about them. That doesn’t solve the problem and only makes it harder because when you’ve filled that box high enough, it will overflow and trouble you ten times more than at first. Also, don’t do the opposite and walk around telling everyone about your troubles.  We need to be wise about who we share our innermost thoughts with.  Some might be unprepared at that time to handle the extra burden and others might be simply untrustworthy. 
Here is what I would advise when you are feeling down, emotional, stressed, or otherwise troubled: First, cry out to the Lord. He is the only one who can give you joy and is your only true rest. Seek Him first above all things and live in obedience. Second, seek the support of one you trust. We are commanded in Scripture to bear one another’s burdens and the support of another can considerably lighten your load. Third, meditate on the Word. The Bible and prayer are two powerful weapons that cannot be over-used and should definitely not be under-used. Last, praise the Lord. When your mind is focused on the Lord, the cares of this world seem as light as a feather.
     One interesting thing I’ve noticed about Psalms, is that it begins with cries to the Lord for help and ends with songs of thanksgiving. What better example do we have than this?
“But I trust in You, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in Your hand;…Make Your face shine on Your servant; save me in Your steadfast love!…Love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” (Ps 31:14-15, 23-24)
“Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Ps 150)

Your brother in Christ,

Mar 4, 2012

Crucify the Flesh

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”    ~Gal. 5:24-26

     To my surprise, I realized that I had written on the final fruit of the Spirit last week. I had thought I had kindness still left, but I realized I accidentally combined that with the letter on gentleness. But I have one more thing to say before we leave the fruit of the Spirit. Look at Paul’s words above. What do those words mean to you? In the past, I’ve read those words many times and my reaction is almost always the same. My first thought is that I’ve failed miserably at Paul’s opening comment. So I start thinking about how to improve. After those initial thoughts, however, my mind becomes occupied with other things and I cease to remember Paul’s admonitions. Yet think about what this means. Think about what comes before it. Paul spends an entire chapter rejecting sinful passions and lusts and upholding godly desires and traits. In some ways the final verses of chapter five may sound a little repetitive, but if we did not have this reminder we would quickly forget what came before. I’m sure that you, like me, have the fruit of the Spirit memorized (maybe in part due to the song a Family Camp a few year back :). But I’d guess that you, again like me, don’t have the preceding verses memorized. Why? Why do we choose to memorize only the godly traits without attempting to remember the evil ones? True, in some cases, memorizing sinful attributes can increase temptations, but leaving it out of memorization can also be destructive. Most mornings, after my Bible study, I try and see how I can apply the passage to my own life. Right now I’m working through Jeremiah, so this morning I asked myself how the proclamations against Israel apply to me. After a moment, I realized two things: 1) God keeps His word. All the way back in Deuteronomy, the Lord warned the Israelites what would happen if they didn’t obey and when the Israelites rebelled, sure enough, it happened. 2) It serves as a warning to me. Israel was punished because they were guilty of the sins listed by Paul in Gal. 5:16-21. So, returning back to today’s passage, look again at what Paul says. In three sentences he sums up the entire chapter. Belonging to Christ means crucifying the lusts of the flesh and clinging to the fruit of the Spirit. Yet even in obeying the Lord there is temptation. In our most humble moments we begin to feel pride at our humility. When others are blessed, we question why we weren’t. At times we even try to parade our good traits and in that way provoke others. So what should we do? How can we walk by the Spirit? How do we become loving and peaceful and joyful and patient and self-controlled? The answer: reject sin, crucify the flesh, and, like David, say “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1) Above all, fall on your face before an Almighty God, thanking Him for the work of Christ in your life and recognize that nothing will happen unless He brings it to pass.
Your brother in Christ,

Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

“But the fruit of the Spirit is…patience.”  ~Gal. 5:22

     In our modern-day world we have a major advantage, but also a disadvantage over the ancient world: stuff. Computers, bicycles, electricity, shaving cream, Starbucks (though in most cases that is a disadvantage), roller coasters, and plastic forks… we are incredibly blessed by the multitude of things that make our tasks easier and our fun more extravagant. However, we are at a major disadvantage because of this. People used to wait until they had a whole day to go shopping, or until they had some extra money or crops to trade for some treat. Nowadays, people can do their shopping on the Internet, their desire for a treat is satisfied by a dollar ice cream cone from McDonald's, and their cars allow them to travel hundreds of miles in a few hours. Yet (and especially for us as Californians) the speed at which we do things concerns us so much that we often forget to enjoy it.
     Why do I say this? Because our modern-day world lacks patience.  As I’ve said before, the fruit of the Spirit is not just a bunch of unrelated topics, but complementary traits. It is like a woven blanket, with each trait acting as a thread, all of which are interconnected into one covering. You show patience with those whom you love by overlooking some of their faults and by forgiving annoyances or minor offenses against you, and because of your patience, peace exists between you.  Patience brings joy by waiting for the precious gifts of the Lord, both physically and spiritually. In today’s environment of super speed, we’ve lost not only most of our ability to wait, but also our desire to wait. Think about Noah and how he spent almost one hundred years building the ark because he obeyed the word of the Lord and trusted that all those years’ labor would not be in vain. Or think about the patience of the prophets who endured all the threats, curses, and tortures of a generation who did not fear the Lord. Most importantly, remember the patience of Jesus. For over 30 years, He knew that He would die on the cross. Yet He did not run or flee, but steadfastly endured.
     So my encouragement for you is this: when you begin to worry, be patient. Wait on the Lord and He will not fail you. When you begin to be frustrated with a sibling, friend, or neighbor, be patient. Remove the plank from your own eye and be humble. When you are given the opportunity to buy some tool or toy, be patient. Look first and see if you can afford it and then look again to see if there is perhaps some better use to put your money towards. There is an old phrase that I’m sure you’ve heard many times before. It’s “good things come to those who wait.” As I’m sure you will find out, some of the greatest joys you will have in this life are ones you have had to wait a long time for. And I know that the greatest joy you will ever have will be one day being raised to eternal life with our Lord and Savior. To get to that day, you may very well have to endure a lot. Yet to endure takes patience and patience takes work. So start working!

Your brother in Christ,

Feb 26, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love…”    ~Gal. 5:22

     In the New Testament, there are two words used for love: agape and phileo.  Agape love is a charitable love.  It is the word used for love in this passage and so I’ll do my best to explain a little bit about it. Most people today use the word love in a completely different way than it is used in Scripture. Take, for example, 1 Cor. 13. Now, would you say that that chapter’s definition of love is the same as the definition you would find in a modern day dictionary? No. Unlike modern “love”, Biblical love is pure, selfless, and courageous. In John 3:16 we have perhaps the greatest example in Scripture of agape love: that God so loved the world, that He sent His Son to die in ridicule and shame on a tree He had created. The world did not want Him; it did not desire Him. And yet, God so loved us that He chose to ignore our shouts of defiance and show us mercy by giving us what we needed, not what we asked for. For every heart that has not been raised to new life utterly rejects our Savior. Now I know that is a quick run through of such an important fruit, but I want to give you a few case scenarios. (For some reason, I love using case scenarios :).
     When I was a boy, I wasn’t always very kind when I didn’t get my way. Sometimes I would just be rebuked; other times I would be spanked. Now to me, wooden spoons meant two different things. When one was held by the handle, it meant it was a stirring utensil. When it was held from the other side, it was an instrument of pain. Obviously, I never liked getting spanked, yet my parents, because they loved me, knew that it was better for me to have to endure pain than for me to get my way. Love in this case is kind.
     A while back, I watched a short movie about a family who was trying to escape from their home during WWII because Germans were quickly approaching. As they fled, they reached a flowing river. Though it was only about 20 feet wide, it was fairly swift and was about 4 feet deep in the middle. But that was not all. It was the middle of winter and the water was icy cold. In the family there were two small children who, if they tried to cross on their own, would either be swept away or would drown. The father, stopping only to take off his jacket, picked up the first child and waded across, at times with water up to his chest. Once across, he waded back, picked up the next child and crossed again. Then he went across one final time, picked up his wife and carried her across. At the end, he had crossed the icy river 6 times without a jacket and when he got out, with wet clothes he began leading his family through the snow to freedom. That father’s love was not only courageous, but it was selfless.
     There will be many times in your life where your path will be blocked by a river.  It might be a river that your friends and family face with you.  When you reach that river, you will be faced with a question: will you sacrifice yourself so that they may cross over dry? Will you give your time and energy to serve others, knowing that the more you help, the less they have to do? When you are confronted by others, will you protect your friend’s reputation, even if you are ridiculed and scorned? Ultimately, will you show the same kind of love your Savior showed for you?
Your brother in Christ,

Jan 22, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

“But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace.”  ~Gal. 5:22
     Three months, Steve Jobs died. He left a thriving company, millions of shares of stocks, and a name that had gained fame across the country. Even with being one of the most successful businessmen in the world, even with having a mansion, an expensive vehicle, and all the latest technology, he still died a poor man who lacked inner peace.  Unbelievers can never know spiritual peace.  But as believers, our lives should be marked by spirits that quietly rest in the Lord.  One thing I’ve come to realize over the past few years is how much a deficiency in peace can affect one’s spiritual growth as a whole. For example, you cannot be joyful if you are not first content. You cannot be truly loving if there is turmoil going on inside. You will not be self-controlled in your speech if you do not first have a desire for peace. Peace as used in this passage means “quietness, rest, or harmony.”It sounds plain and simple, but is it really that easy? Ask yourself how many times you have truly sought unity or harmony during a fight with a sibling. Before you start congratulating yourself, however, count up how many times you haven’t sought peace during a fight. But does peace just mean stop fighting? The answer is no. True, when we stop fighting with others we help create an atmosphere where peace can thrive, but that is not the full essence of peace. These past few years there have been times when I’ve been melancholy and depressed because I’ve thought of things that are depressing or because I’ve been discontent about not having a certain item, or about how long I have to wait for something, or even about getting a smaller or less appealing portion of a plate of food. No matter what it was, all these things resulted in a turmoil and a disturbance of the mind and heart that led to a lack of patience, a lack of self-control, a lack of joy, and a lack of love. Peace is not just a turning of the other cheek. Peace is the result of trusting the Lord to provide everything in His timing and of seeking to bring Him glory in every situation. Of course, this will result in turning the other cheek, but this act of suffering for Christ is merely the evidence that peace exists in your heart.  So as always, what is the practical application? Well, as I implied earlier, it is almost impossible for peace to exist in a place where there are arguments and contentions. So first, stop bickering! Second, as is always my advice, read and apply the Word. When your heart is buried in the Word, it is impossible for the fears of the world and the worries that so often leave one discontent to penetrate your heart. Third, make a conscious effort every day to thank the Lord for all the multitude of blessings He has bestowed on you. A heart overflowing with thankfulness leaves no room for bitterness. Lastly, pray. One of the best ways to be at rest and to be quiet is to be alone praying, for a conversation with the God of heaven and earth is like rain to parched ground: it revives the soul when it is weighed down with cares and it renews the spirit when it is laden with worries. So peace be with you this week and may the God of peace strengthen you!
Your brother in Christ,