Nov 142015
 

As I sit here and watch the tragic unfolding events of violence and mayhem in Paris, I feel compelled to write something. We all react to such events in many different ways; anger, despair, sadness, indifference or just a sense of relief that it didn’t happen to us.

When I glance through social media, I see many ‘over’ reactions, often quite hurtful and unnecessary.

As a Christian for many years now, I have discovered that the bible offers many answers and wisdom about how to react to tragic events that happen. I want to humbly share some of these observations now in the hope that it will help you come to terms with this heart-rending event and others that will inevitably happen in the future.

Firstly, this event is no surprise to God. Not that He agrees with these barbaric acts, but he uses them in an amazing way to fulfill his own purposes. It is comforting to know that God knows the end from the beginning, He sees the big picture. We may not understand, but the fact that He does is really comforting.

When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (Mark 13:7)

Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. (Isaiah 46:10)

The second hope I can give you is that evil will not prevail. Sometimes it seems that it is prevailing rather too much, but again, God is in control. King David says it well in Psalm 21 v 8-11

Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man. Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.

That brings me to a third point – The battle is not ours. Unless we are in the armed forces, we are not to fight against people. It is not people we are fighting against anyway;

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

As followers of Jesus, He is our supreme example. We are to be like Him in our reactions. Jesus showed love to His enemies and that is to be our reaction too. I don’t know how people can call Christianity a crutch for the weak, because it is one of the hardest things to do; to forgive perpetrators of evil, to turn the other cheek, to seek to bless our enemies, but those are the things we are called to do.

Our natural, fallen reaction is to speak against people who we perceive to be behind these atrocities, to spit bile and vent our fury. We might even be tempted to speak angrily against Muslim’s, but that is not the way. We need to be people who are above all of that. We don’t have to agree with Muslim’s to love them. We should love them as our neighbours and seek for ways to be kind because we are representing Jesus. Have you ever thought that they may be just as ashamed and embarrassed about radical Muslim’s as we are about money grabbing Tele-evangelists from our own camp?

Finally, we are called to pray. The hashtag #prayforparis is trending massively on twitter at the moment and the majority is used by people that I wouldn’t even have thought would believe in God. It shows the desperation in the human soul, a reflection that we are made in God’s image, that we need to do something to help these poor souls who are suffering.

Christians who are reading this – If people who don’t even know God are trying to contact some nameless benefactor in the sky, how much more should we, who know this father of compassion and mercy, be praying? We know He acts, we know He is the only hope, we know those desperately searching for comfort will receive His care. We know that He is the only answer.

I can understand being overwhelmed by the enormity of what is happening and wondering what to start praying about, so here are a few pointers:

(1) Pray for peace – In the hearts of those who are suffering, grieving families, those who have had their lives turned upside down. Pray for peace in the hearts of those who are hell bent on revenge and would seek to take it from inappropriate places.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

(2) Pray for world leaders – For the French government and for those governments that advise them. Pray that they would receive wisdom and look to how their reaction will affect future generations in 5, 10, 20 years from now.

Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:2) (NLT)

(3) Pray that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

(4) Pray for the police and intelligence services that they would be led to potential threats before they even happen

(5) Pray for radical members of ISIS that their eyes will be open to the evil they are committing. Pray that the brainwashing would cease to be effective, that those in authority in the Muslim community would speak out.

(6) Pray that God will bring comfort and healing

(7) Pray that the will of God will prevail, that He will turn this evil on its head and bring good out of this desperate situation.

It’s very easy to switch off and pretend it is not happening, to turn off the TV and block it all out, but we are called to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world and to bring good in the face of a whole lot of evil. Be ready to speak to those with questions, to bring comfort to the anxious and peace to the troubled. To be like Jesus to those around us.

As I was considering what to write, I started meditating on Psalm 37, which is a great Psalm to consider in this present climate. Why not look it up?

God bless, Adrian.

 November 14, 2015  Posted by at 1:32 pm Paris attacks, Peace, Pray for Paris No Responses »
Sep 182015
 

Peacemakers part 2 Last week we looked at the importance of peace and especially those who promote it, the peacemakers. We saw that as the ‘prince of peace’ Jesus is the one who leads us and inspires us to imitate our heavenly father and promote peace.

We saw that having peace is not something that just happens to us, but something we really have to work at.

This week we are going to look at an aspect of peacemaking and that is conflict resolution. Conflict happens around us every day, it is part of life. If we are serious about following Jesus though we need to do our best to resolve the conflicts we are involved in. It is not always possible to mend other people’s conflicts, but we should at least make an effort to resolve the ones we are in.

In the process of preparing this subject, I discovered some excellent principles about resolving conflicts from American pastor, Rick Warren. Here are 7 steps to resolving conflict:

1. Make the first move

Swallow your pride and take the initiative. We are called to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. Peacekeepers don’t really resolve issues, they just maintain a ‘stand-off’. Don’t put it off, or it will never happen. As a famous phrase goes ‘do it now’.

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (Matthew 5:23-24) (NLT)

Conflict never resolves itself. The only way to resolve a conflict is to face it. The first man, Adam, didn’t get off to a great start.

And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10)

If you want to be a peacemaker, hiding is not an option .

The following 3 D’s are definitely detrimental to resolving conflicts; being defensive, distant and demanding.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

2. Ask God for wisdom

If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. (James 1:5) (living bible)

3. Begin with what’s my fault

It’s very rare that we are completely blameless. If you took an honest assessment of yourself, you would discover, however small, where you have contributed to the conflict.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)

As we saw last week, it’s important we are at peace with God and ourselves before we can be at peace with others. When I’m at peace inside, what’s outside doesn’t upset me.

Pride only leads to arguments, but those who take advice are wise. (Proverbs 13:10) (New Century Version)

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3,5)

We all have blindspots.

4. Be aware of their hurt and perspective

This is a very true phrase (Think about it) “Hurt people, hurt people”

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James1:19)

We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in proportion. It’s so important to listen

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:4-5)

You are most like Jesus when you are focussing on others’ perspectives.

Even if we believe that it makes no difference to the Lord whether we do these things, still we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves; for we must bear the “burden” of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others—of those who feel these things are wrong. Let’s please the other fellow, not ourselves, and do what is for his good and thus build him up in the Lord. (Romans 15:2) (Living bible)

5. Speak the truth tactfully

It’s important to tell the truth, but it takes skill to do it tactfully so that you don’t hurt the other person. Say it with kindness.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Ephesians 4:15)

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18) (NIV)

Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. (Ephesians 4:29) (TEV)

6. Fix the problem, not the blame

Arguments can get very personal, very quickly. Attack the issue, not each other.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Colossians 3:8)

7. Focus on reconciliation not resolution

This means re-establishing the relationship, which is the most important thing.

God has done all this. He has restored our relationship with him through Christ, and has given us this ministry of restoring relationships. In other words, God was using Christ to restore his relationship with humanity. He didn’t hold people’s faults against them, and he has given us this message of restored relationships to tell others. Therefore, we are Christ’s representatives, and through us God is calling you. We beg you on behalf of Christ to become reunited with God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) (God’s word)

You may have some other ideas. Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below, I would love to hear from you.

 September 18, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Beatitudes, Peace, The beatitudes, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 112015
 

PeacemakersBlessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.(Matthew 5:9)

Just about everybody would like a peaceful life, but very few would actually do what was required to get it. A peaceful life is pretty easy for a hermit living on his own in a cave, but as soon as you add another person, the odds for conflict rise exponentially. Peace doesn’t come naturally to any of us because we are all basically selfish, but it is an absolute necessity if we want to become children of God.

Children of God are different to regular children. If you’ve ever grown up with a brother or a sister you’ll know that a peaceful life is not the default. It’s sin that causes conflict to occur and a deep desire to get our own way. But when we become children of God, our lives are submitted to Him, our commitment is to please Him. When we give our life to God we start on the lifetime pathway of peace.

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

There are loads more references to peace in the bible, but I want to pick out a few today for us to consider how important this subject is to God.

Firstly it is one of the names given to Jesus himself. Last year I wrote a series of blogs on the names of Jesus and one of His names was ‘prince of peace’ taken from Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

As the prince of peace, Jesus has brought us peace in a number of areas;

1. We have peace with God

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

This is the most important peace as it restores our relationship with our loving heavenly father. Until this relationship is restored our lives are in turmoil because we were created to have a relationship with God, but our sin was separating us. When Jesus dealt with our sin the relationship was restored and we can now experience true peace.

2. We have peace in ourselves

Knowing you are right with God gives you an inner calm and tranquillity. When our relationship with God is right, all is as it should be.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Colossians 3:15)

3. We have peace with others

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

We can never really have peace with others until we first have peace with God and that inner peace within ourselves that helps us then to reach out to others.

Not having that peace with others can cause all sorts of problems in our lives. 3 blockages that can result are;

(1) It blocks my fellowship with God

You can’t be right with God and off with other people

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.(1 John 4:20)

(2) It blocks my prayers from being answered

This passage relates to marriage, but the principle is the same

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.(1 Peter 3:7)

(3) It blocks my happiness

Remember, the other name for blessed is happy. The peace we sow into others will be returned to us and cause us to be happy too.

And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:18) (NLT)

There is so much more to say about this subject, that I will continue it next week when we will look at some principles for resolving conflict, but for now I will leave you with a great biblical blessing from Numbers 6:25-26

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

 September 11, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Beatitudes, Peace, The beatitudes, The sermon on the mount 2 Responses »
Sep 262014
 

Fruit of spirit peacePeace can be a difficult word to define, especially the peace that the bible refers to. Just as we saw last week that ‘joy’ is so much more than just happiness, peace also goes so much deeper than simply an “absence of conflict”. I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think about peaceful people: I find my mind thinking about starry-eyed, drug- fuelled hippies out of the 70’s with flowers in their hair, floating through life: Or Tibetan monks sitting cross-legged meditating on top of a mountain. But do we really need to “escape” in order to obtain peace? If this is what is required, then for most of us it is unachievable. We have responsibilities, we live in the real world; running away to pursue a life of peace and tranquillity is not an option. True peace does not appear when we run away from all distractions. On the contrary-it comes from within, in the midst of turmoil.

Anxiety is the opposite of peace but it can easily be our default emotion. Anxiety, worry and debilitating fear are part of our old life before we were saved, but the attitudes of our old life can easily take over if we let them. Jesus knows full well that we will have troubles; He made us and He knows our struggles and He knows how much the world wants to cause us trouble, especially if we are devoted to and following Him:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

There are many references to peace in the bible. It is understandable why peace is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit given that the bible calls God ‘the God of peace’ in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and Jesus the ‘Prince of peace’ in Isaiah 9:6.

Let’s be practical now and look at the three areas we need to be peaceful in. These lists are liberally sprinkled with bible verses and they are in priority order of importance:

(1) Peace with God

The peace that Jesus gives brings us peace with God:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Romans 5:1)

How do we keep this peace and let the fruit flourish in our lives?

  • Keeping our minds set on God:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you”. (Isaiah 26:3)

  • Loving God’s word, and keeping His commandments:

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble”. (Psalm 119:165)

Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea”. (Isaiah 48:18)

  • Being diligent in prayer:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

  • Filling our minds with spiritual thoughts:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

(2) Peace with Others

Peace with God automatically leads to pursuing peace with others. God loves people and it follows that if we are to follow Him we will want to pursue a peaceful existence with His children. Making peace with God gives us the peace within which helps us to be in a better position to make peace with others!

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. (Ephesians 2:14)

Where there once was division and strife with others, God has now brought harmony and peace.

  • A concentrated effort to “pursue” peace.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (1 Peter 3:8-12)

(3) Peace within ourselves

When Jesus brings us peace with God and man, peace within naturally follows!

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

We must get the order right because we will never experience true peace until we have peace with God. The world starts on the inside and works itself out but that never provides peace. If we do that, the only peace we get will depend on our circumstances and that peace is only temporary.

As Christians we can glorify God by resting in Him and showing the world that even through the most trying circumstances, true and lasting peace only comes from God.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” (CS Lewis)

 September 26, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, Peace No Responses »