Archives For peace

We just completed a season of Advent. The word advent simply means “coming.” More specifically in Christian circles it means the coming of Christ. We celebrate Advent at Christmas time in memory of Christ coming to earth as a baby who would grow up to die for our sins. Now this season has passed, we look forward to a new season of advent.This is the second advent, the second coming of Jesus.

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With Christmas in our rear view mirror, we now turn our focus for the next year to building His Kingdom on earth in preparation for His return. This is the future advent. While we celebrate the Advent of His birth in memory of what He did, we celebrate the Advent of His coming again in honor and praise for what He has yet to do.

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I’ve been investigating the concept of minimalism a lot lately. For those not familiar with the idea, minimalism is essentially stripping your life to the essentials of things that add value or bring joy (for a great expansion on this topic, see Joshua Becker’s article, “What is Minimalism?”). The reason I mention it here is I believe minimalism ties in directly to being a disciple of Jesus. In fact, I would argue Jesus Himself was a minimalist. Minimalism is consistent with Christ’s teaching to sell your possessions and give to the poor (Matthew 19:16-22).

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It aligns with the fact Jesus had no home of His own (Matthew 8:19-20), with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), and with His instructions in the well-known parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). You don’t have to become a minimalist to be a disciple of Jesus, but if you are serious about living as He did, I believe you will be drawn towards minimalism.

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Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” Reflecting on this verse, A.W. Tozer wrote, “The only fear I have is to get out of the will of God. Outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear.” As long as we are in the will of God, He has promised to keep us and to give us peace.

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What else could we possibly want from life? It feels as if that question should be rhetorical, but so many professing Christians seem to answer with things like happiness, safety, and success. These are all temporary affections promoted by an American Christianity, not by Biblical teaching.
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Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. We want to draw closer to God, to experience more of His love and character, but we rarely slow down enough to actually take in His glory. We spend our days jumping from one task to the next, and that busyness spills over into our spiritual lives. When we finally get around to praying, studying, and concentrating on God, our minds are so hurried we cruise right through what He is revealing to us.

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He gives us an epiphany for service and we quickly file it away so we can get to the next verse or the next name on our prayer list.  And we wonder why our spiritual life isn’t more vibrant!
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In a recent sermon, Greg Boyd said, “You can’t live out the Kingdom and not be countercultural.” Living the way Jesus lived will make you stand out from the crowd. You’ll definitely look weird compared to the standards of your society. Of course, for those of us who have committed our lives to serve Christ, we don’t mind the long stares, awkward conversations, or sometimes outright hostility.

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We understand it comes with the territory and realize the mission of Jesus is far more important than any of that. Still, too many professing Christians want to build God’s kingdom, but they want to build their own along the way.
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William Barclay said that “True prayer is asking God what He wants.” Too often our prayers are driven by our own perceived needs and selfish desires instead of focusing on what God wants to do in us and through our situation. We are focused on the here and now, but God’s eyes are also on the next and the not yet. He is capable of foreseeing every possible twist and turn our lives might take, and is always making a way for us to use the gifts He has entrusted to us in a way that furthers His Kingdom and glorifies His character. While Jesus longs for our happiness, He knows the quickest route there is to steer us toward holiness.

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Life is full of the unexpected. We plan our lives in one direction when out of the blue everything changes. We can’t control every circumstance around us. Our own lack of discipline leaves us open to failures we would have never imagined. Dreams die, hopes are dashed, and everything we once had figured out no longer makes sense. Such is the plight of practically every soul who has ever walked our planet. Somewhere along the line, despite our best intentions, our plans go awry. These are the moments that prove whether or not Christ is truly the Lord of our lives.

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Some day I’m going to figure out why we go looking for things to satisfy the longings of our heart. We have devoted our lives to serving God, the One who created us, loved us, and died for us. He has been there for us our entire lives. Yet the moment something doesn’t go our way, we react like spoiled children and immediately begin seeking comfort and enjoyment in the things of this world. We consume our time with endeavors that bring at best a fleeting distraction that brings no long term joy or fulfillment. Meanwhile our King waits patiently on the sidelines.

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Almost all of God’s creation stands silent before Him, testifying to His glory simply by being what they were created to be. The grass is content to soften the steps of those who come across it. Trees reach heavenward in unspoken majesty. Flowers erupt in brilliant color, while streams flow gently over rocks to nourish and sustain the life within them. All of this is done in virtual silence. There is no need to rail against their Creator or obnoxiously draw attention to themselves. God’s creation is simply satisfied to be what it is and to testify to a Creator that is magnificent and beyond compare or comprehension. All of creation that is, except for the humans.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Lary

I’ve been reading John Howard Yoder’s little book entitled, “What Would You Do?” which deals with the philosophical question of what would you do if someone were threatening your spouse or child. It’s always been a difficult question for me to think through, as it is for most followers of Christ. To start with, I’m a jumble of contradictions when it comes to violence. As an American citizen, I believe in the individual right to bear arms as written in our Constitution. I own multiple guns and am a card carrying NRA member. Yet I’m anti-war and anti-hunting. I’m very much for animal rights and a massive lover of all of God’s creation. I suppose you could say that I own guns in hopes I never have to use them. Still, I’ve worked to become a very accurate shot should the need ever arise. It’s a dichotomy I’ve never really been able to unravel.

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