(I wrote this for church a few weeks ago)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”
Peacemaking isn’t easy. Often its hard. It means forgiving, extending grace to each other. Letting things go when we’d rather not. Deliberately and intentionally, no strings attached.
Peacemaking done properly will cost us, pride at the very least. It leaves no room for retaliation, no space for self-pity. Peacemaking calls us to radical other-centered-ness. It’ll mean holding our tongues, and taking the initiative in reconciliation. Like I said, its hard.
It leaves the onus on us… to defend the rights of others without any consideration for our own. Peacemaking calls us to be wise, to know our blind-spots and weak points, aware of the moments when we’re tempted to all too easily react with less grace than we should.
On that day when we stand before God, he’s not going to ask us whose fault it was. He’s not interested in blame. His question to us will center soley around how we responded…
Feeling hard done by? Ever been misunderstood? Ever felt at the wrong end of an injustice?
You’re not the first. Jesus was misunderstood. Hideously. There’s no better definition of injustice. He’d done nothing wrong. At the cross, the great Peacemaker gave up his life. Willingly. For you. For me. For us. That we might have peace with God and be saved from our sins. Jesus went before us and now beckons us to follow.
Where can you be a peacemaker today? Where might you be tempted to defend yourself?
Who are you likely to need to be patient with today? Pray for them! Ask God to bless them.
Being a peacemaker isn’t just about being a doormat, there’s a reward. Its huge, a wonderful promise, don’t miss it! As we adopt the spirit of a peacemaker, as we follow in the footprints of our Saviour we enjoy walking as children of God.
Could there be anything more rewarding…?
Keep going. Never stop. Dream. Always. Travel light. Take nothing.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong
To be better far than you are
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To be willing to give when there’s no more to give
To be willing to die so that honor and justice may live
And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.
(Andy Williams – The Impossible Dream)
One day… we’ll reach it. Heaven waits for us.
But for now we pursue the impossible… unto the glory of God.
Finished reading Blue Like Jazz last week. It was great. Honest. Authentic. Spiritually it felt like taking a very deep breath. It left me feeling proud to be me and excited about Jesus. I can be quirky and awkward with people sometimes. It reminded me that thats ok though. God made me the way he did. He loves me outrageously just as I am. He’s immensely proud of me. I know that. What about other people though… will they ever be as accepting…?
This bit made me smile:
I don’t want to get married right away. I think it will take me a while after I meet the right girl. I like being single. I am one of the few who like it. I want to marry a girl who, when I am with her, makes me feel alone. I guess what i’m saying is, I want to marry a girl whom I feel completely comfortable with, comfortable being myself. I can be very immature and awkward in moments, and I want to be able to be like that with her and not have her walk away or be embarrassed.
I’ve had about fifty people tell me that I fear intimacy. And it is true. I fear what people will think of me, and that is the reason I don’t date very often. People really like me a lot when they only know me a little, but I have this great fear that if they knew me a lot they wouldn’t like me. That is the number one thing that scares me about having a wife because she would have to know me pretty well in order to marry me and I think if she got to know me pretty well she wouldn’t like me anymore.
Donald Miller – Blue Like Jazz (p142)
Disney’s old school robin hood. Its a special special film. Seriously. 83 minutes cuteness and carnage. Love it. Anyways, in the middle of one of the more carnage moments (above) Little John chips in with “Who’s driving this flying umbrella?”. I’ve adopted it and made it synonymous with God’s sovereignty over my life. When things seem out of control and I feel pressure to keep up, it gives me a light-hearted way of remembering that Gods got a far firmer grip on my life than i’m able to appreciate. I may make certain active choices in my life but its God who determines my every step. Continuing along these lines, i’ve been read this recently. I thought it was interesting.
Even before his birth, Jacob’s future had already been determined by God. There was nothing conditional about the promise. God simply decided that he would bless Jacob. No matter what he did, no mater where he roamed, no matter how hard he hustled, the blessing was waiting for him. As simple as that promise was, Jacob could never understand it. That is because he kept thinking the future was determined by the decisions of the present. The blessing claims, however, that the present is determined by the future.
We live in a society that bombards us with choices. We can choose whom we will love, where we will live, what we believe and how we will spend our time. Our government lets us choose our leaders and our politics. Our churches let us choose our worship styles. Our families let us choose what we will do for a living. It is easy for us to think that all of these choices are critical for determining our future. If we make good choices, then our lives will turn out fine. And if our lives have not turned out as we dreamed, we have only ourselves to blame. That is why Jacob hustled through every day of his life. He was certain that the only way he could get the future he wanted was to make the choices today that would lead him there.
The bible claims that is exactly wrong: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” God has already written the end of your story. By grace it ends wonderfully. There isn’t anything you can choose to do that will make it end any better. If you know that story ends well, then the only choice that is really left is to enjoy the mystery as it slowly unfolds. That is the path called faith.
M. Craig Barnes – Hustling God (p21/22)
The Carina Nebula from the Hubble telescope. Although part of the milky way like us (aka our relative back yard) its estimated at being between 6,500 and 10,000 light years away (light travels at 186,282 miles per second-ish incase you’re interested). That seems quite far. To put it in context though, the region of the universe visible from Earth is a sphere with a radius of about 46 billion light years, and the universe itself is quite possibly infinite apparently! That’s fairly insane… and makes me feel pretty small in comparison.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
The Puritans can get stick for being legalistic and judgemental killjoys. But they were deeply reverent, sincere in their spiritual piety and committed to biblical doctrine. They sound pretty intense and probably didn’t play quite enough football, but i’ve much respect for their commitment toward God.
Here’s a prayer from back in the day. More intense than we’re used to yes, but I love the sentiment behind it.
As I cross the threshold of this day
I commit myself, soul, body, affairs, friends to thy care;
Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, bless me.
Incline my heart to thy ways;
Mould me wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay;
May my lips be a well-tuned harp to sound thy praise;
Let those around me see me living by thy Spirit,
trampling the world underfoot,
unconformed to lying vanities,
transformed by a renewed mind,
clad in the entire armour of God,
shining as a never-dimmed light,
showing holiness in all my doings.
Let no evil this day soil my thoughts, words, hands.
May I travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain.
In needful transactions let my affection be in heaven,
and my love soar upwards in flames of fire,
my gaze fixed on unseen things,
my eyes open to the emptiness, fragility,
mockery of earth and its vanities.
May I view all things through the mirror of eternity,
waiting for the coming of my Lord,
listening for the last trumpet call,
hastening unto the new heaven and earth.
Order this day all my communications according to thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good.
Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable.
May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one.
If my life should end today, let this be my best day.
(“Morning Dedication”, The Valley of Vision)
Been reading this book recently. Read this bit last week. Thought it was cool, its pretty self-explanatory.
Despite the honour accorded him as the father of this new race, however, Abraham emerges as as the Bible’s first example of a person severely disappointed with God. Miracles, he had. Abraham entertained angels in his home and dreamed mystical visions of smoking pot fires. But there was one nagging problem: after the promise, after a blaze of revelation, came silence – long years of bewildering silence.
“Go, claim the land I have for you,” God said. But Abraham found Canaan dry as a bone, its inhabitants dying of famine. To stay alive he fled to Egypt.
“You’ll have descendants as countless as the stars in the sky,” God said. No promise could have made Abraham happier. At age seventy-five he still anticipated a tent filled with the sounds of children at play. At eighty-five he worked out a backup plan with a female servant. At ninety-nine the promise seemed downright ludicrous, and when God showed up to confirm it, Abraham laughed in his face. A father at ninety-nine? Sarah in maternity clothes at ninety? They both cackled at the thought.
A laugh of ridicule but also of pain. God had dangled a bright dream of fertility before a barren couple and then sat on his hands and watched as they advanced towards tottery old age. What kind of game was he playing? Whatever did he want?
God wanted faith, the bible says, and that is the lesson Abraham finally learned. He learned to believe when there was no reason left to believe. And although he did not live to see the Hebrews fill the land as stars fill the sky, Abraham did live to see Sarah bear one child – just one – a boy, who forever preserved the memory of absurd faith, for his name Issac meant “laughter
And the pattern continued: Issac married a barren woman, as did his son Jacob. The esteemed matriarchs of the convenant – Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel – all spent their best child-bearing years slender and in despair. They too experienced the the blaze of revelation, followed by dark and lonely of waiting that nothing but faith would fill.
A gambler would say God stacked the odds against himself. A cynic would say God taunted the creatures he was supposed to love. The bible simply uses the cryptic phrase “by faith” was what God valued, and it soon became clear that faith was the best way for humans to express a love for God.
Philip Yancey – Disappointment with God (p70/71)
I love the notion of sacrifice in theory, but in practice I instinctively opt for side-stepping it at virtually every opportunity. I respect it so much when I see it in others, and deep down dream of being a man of sacrifice big time… but when the moment arrives to follow through, I almost always bail out, put off by the cost and inconvenience.
Sacrifice is exactly what the Christian life calls us to though. If we’re serious about following Jesus, we’re required (demanded?) to make our peace with it. Biblically there’s no getting around it. Following Gods every instruction will cost us. Sacrifice by definition requires there be a cost, if there wasn’t one, it would cease to be a sacrifice. I’m stupid to think otherwise.
A few paragraphs of a book I read a few weeks ago left me feeling pretty challenged…
“We are groomed to become someone, not to empty ourselves for others. But in order to follow Jesus Christ with any degree of tenacity, we inevitably will be prompted to take demonstrations. We will be asked to relinquish what is “rightfully” ours. We will inconvenience ourselves to the point of sacrifice, even when others call us fools. And we will do it for two simple reasons: first, we understand that the kingdom of God never advances without sacrifice; and second, because every serious-minded Christian I know wants to receive a heartfelt “well done!” in heaven someday.
In fact, almost every time you hear a prompting from God, something safe or predictable most likely has to go but you persevere knowing that when you take the risks he as asking you to take – as you conform to his mission in yet one more way – the kingdom moves forward.
This is what it looks like to live a life fully surrendered to God. Its rarely a walk in the park. Obeying the Spirit instead of your own self-centered whims will lead you to places you’ve never been, challenge you in ways you have never been challenged and invite levels of sacrifice you never dreamed you could make. This is the power and the promise of full-throttle faith, of living a life fuelled solely by God.”
Bill Hybels – The Power of a Whisper (p252/253)
Now for the application…
Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
At that moment in the film I wonder if Frodo would have described himself as soaring…? I doubt it. Battered and bruised, I reckon he’d have been too exhausted to care.
I guess i’ve always thought of soaring as some sort of pain-free escape route from anything and everything nasty that life might throw up… but maybe its not quite like that. Maybe its a little more like the image above, namely Gods promise of salvation and rescue to those who are hurting, who have nothing more to give, who are weary and beat up, who have stumbled and fallen, who lie face down in the dust and are too exhausted to get up.
The truth is, Gods promises hold. Whatever’s going on, God loves and knows. He knows our every weaknesses and need, and provides for us always. In Him we lack nothing.
So could it be that we’re always soaring… regardless of whether or not we’re aware of it? I’m inclined to think we might be.
To Him be the glory.
A couple of years ago a columnist from the Times wrote a piece called “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God“.
It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
Matthew Parris (December 27, 2008)
I love that. When its the real deal, its unmistakeable.