There are two kinds of people in this world.
People of Peace and People of Strife.
The question we must ask ourselves is: ‘which one am I?’
Everyday, you have a choice as to which you will be.
Gut check questions:
- Are you fascinated by strife and discord?
- Do you become consumed and inflamed by conflict and violence?
- Do the pattern of your thoughts reflect a thirst for forms of entertainment that portray strife, distrust, envy, violence and conflict?
- Or, do strive and violence make you sick and sad to your core?
FW Boreham says “strife has entered into and permeated every department of life. It affects society in general. On every hand, in a million different forms- we meet rivalry, suspicion and distrust. We see class contending with class: the rich oppressing the poor; the poor breathing maledictions on the rich. Petty jealousy mars the sweetness of every friendship; it stultifies the efficiency of every organization; and, entering our very churches, it disturbs and destroys that abiding unity that should be their most conspicuous charm.” The seventh Beatitude extends an olive branch…. “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God” One does not need to be a ‘Christian’ to understand Jesus’s teaching here. The peacemaker is a lover of peace and works to preserve peace. “The sounds of strife and discord are an agony to his spirit.” says Boreham. Like a rose exhaling it’s fragrance is an involuntary expression of its nature, the peacemaker exudes a spirit of peace without even realizing.
I challenge you to work to become a peacemaker.
- Work not to offend others.
- Work on not taking offense.
- Work to extend an olive branch of peace to another (this is risky).
In order to change the climate of discourse, we must become people of peace (even when discord is the predominate noise).
Read the headlines from around our nation. What do you see? You see anger, hostility, confusion, selfishness and violence. We are seeing riots and division. What are we not seeing? We are not seeing compassion, caring or charity.
2800 years ago in ‘the great city’ of Nineveh, we see an evil and cruel people. The entire city was heartless and cold. The lack of love and compassion and a bent toward violence and selfishness is described as sin. Nineveh was within a hair’s breadth of experiencing God’s judgement and destruction. And who could blame Him? If you saw a city full of people filled with rage, hatred, violence and cruelty toward each other, wouldn’t you just want to end it? Why didn’t God go with the ‘nuclear option’ in Nineveh? I would have!
How would you describe the ‘tone’ in our nation today?
Would you describe it as charitable and peaceful or toxic and divisive?
We are a nation divided. The media is helping to drive the division. As a Christ-follower, I must counter this division with a comprehensive worldview anchored the word of God. I am called to think redemptively and pursue reconciliation through God’s love. Why is it so hard?
Here’s the problem. I struggle with my part. When I am constantly called names or told that I am racist, intolerant, etc or characterized with the latest straw-man fallacy, I grow angry because I am none of those things. If I am honest, I must admit I harbor ill-will toward the people who believe I am those things. That is my sin. I must own up to it.
God is compassionate and we are not!
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh (a sin) and ran from God (a sin). He eventually ended up in Nineveh (a miracle). His mission was to call for the people to repent and turn to God. In doing so, God would relent from destroying the city, a demonstration of His compassion and love for all people. Nineveh was headed for destruction but God showed compassion.
The people of Nineveh turned to God, He relented and the city was saved! Furthermore, the city prospered. When God showed compassion, Jonah was angry because he didn’t see the people how God saw them. Jonah wanted the city judged and destroyed. Essentially, he was no different than the cruel hateful people of Nineveh. I have to claim that sin for myself.
My part as a Christ-follower
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
People’s part: People who claim Christ must humble themselves, pray, seek and turn
God’s part: He will hear, forgive and heal
I believe Christ-followers across the nation have humbled themselves and prayed over the last year. I don’t know if we are actively seeking God’s face or turning from our wicked ways. Have you personally confessed the anger and pride in your heart? Frankly, I am writing this to myself. It is a struggle.
Perhaps, this is my call to the people of God. “Hey church, we bent our knee in humility and prayed. Maybe God is relenting and showing us his compassion. Now, we must be obedient and see this through. We need to seek God’s face and turn from our hatred and divisiveness. We must not boast but reach out in humility and love to a people God loves. And we must act right now! Forget what people say about you, act redemptively and in the spirit of love immediately!”
If we demonstrate God’s love through how we love others, who’s to say how God’s spirit may move upon the people of our nation?
The king of Nineveh said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
What is my response? Is it an unrelenting anger, like Jonah?
God is compassionate and we are not
You see Jonah really struggled with getting on the same page as God. We all do.
The last sentence in the book of Jonah ends with a question, “And should not I (God) pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Please allow me a bit of liberty to apply the final verse if I may.
And should not I (God) pity America, that great nation, in which there are more than 320 million people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much wealth?”
I am convinced that we are being tested and challenged. We have the greatest opportunity in generations to reach our nation with the love of Christ.
Please note, this post is a message to Christ-followers (aka, the Church). I do not expect non-believers believer or understand this. But, a believer should consider it and mediate on what God has to say to our culture.
Reference: 2 Chronicles 7 and the Book of Jonah
When someone says, ‘I’m a Christian’ the first thing I look for is evidence of love. Let’s talk about what we mean when we use the word ‘Love’.
‘Love’ is a blanket term describing a variety of things spanning from sexual love to commitment to pleasure in someone or something. I ‘love’ ice cream and I also ‘love’ my wife… What’s the difference?
In Greek, there are four words used to describe what we call ‘love’. I appreciate the Greek because the words are rich in meaning and contain dimensions our English word ‘love’ simply does not contain.
Love rendered in Greek… simply.
- Storge means the love or affection of family (parent and children)
- Philia means affection between friends or equals. Think brotherly love (Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love)
- Eros means sexual or romantic love. This is where we get the word, ‘erotic.’
‘Agape’ love is the highest form of love. Agape love is a sacrificial love and is an act of the will. Meaning, this love is a choice and has a cost. This love delights in its object and is sacrificial in its essence. Let me clarify. Agape love does not mean total acceptance of acceptance of bad behavior or choices. I can love you and absolutely disagree with you at the same time.
So how do we recognize ‘agape’ love?
Look for the sacrifice. Which means humility and an act of the will will be involved. It will be an abiding affection, delight and commitment by the one expressing it. The value I place on the object of my love is directly linked to what I’m willing to sacrifice. The higher the cost, the greater the love. How can I find delight in sacrificing ourselves? Great question!
Here is the hard part of understanding ‘agape’ love. Agape love must come from outside one’s self. Other affections are self-manufactured and may have self-gratification undergirding them. Meaning that other ‘lower’ forms of love can have selfish motivations driving them. Only agape is completely SELFLESS.
The Evidence of abiding faith in Jesus Christ is love ‘in deed and in truth.”
This love is the pinnacle of love expressed as ‘agape’ love – sacrificial love.
With this love there is a cost involved.
With this love there is a choice – an act of the will.
This ‘agape’ love must come from outside ourselves.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down out lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” (John 3:16).
There will be a cost…. there will be a sacrifice with this love.
The true Christian is utterly and totally dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells us at the moment of Salvation.
Any attempt to manufacture righteousness apart from the Spirit is futile. In the Flesh, there “dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18). As a grape is dependent on the branch which is dependent on the vine, the believer is dependent on the Holy Spirit.
My favorite passage of scripture is John 15:1-11. The theme is total dependency on God through Christ (the True Vine). “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5).
“For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor 1:9)
- God has given us the power to overcome the Flesh (our sinful nature). How?
By yielding to the (Holy) Spirit.
- How do we yield to the Spirit?
By abiding in Christ and pursuing God.
- What does that look like?
By studying God’s Word, (prayerfully) seeking His face and believing.
Of course, to the unsaved world this is foolishness because the world is blind and unable to discern that which is Spiritual. They do not have the knowledge of God nor the indwelling Spirit of God. Our job is not to worry about what the world thinks but to trust in Christ (who overcame the world).
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor 1:21-22)
The Holy Spirit testifies to this truth. We are no longer slaves to sin and death. We are set free by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. In Him, we are truly free to ‘walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:4) and eternally secure in Him.
Who are you dependent on today and do you have assurance of Salvation?
We take up our cause because we believe it is right and good. We know that it is good and we are passionate about reaching the good result. Somewhere along the path toward our goal of achieving what is right and good, we can fall into the trap of the wrong way.
Winning at all costs is not winning. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26) If I have not love in my heart as I pursue what is right, I fail. If I love the object of the rightness of my cause and have no love for those on the path, I have created an idol. When my pursuit of what is right destroys fellowship and unity causing division, I have not love in my heart. I have gone the wrong way.
The heart will produce fruit that will manifest in reality. By the fruit, the wise can discern the motivation of the heart. We can attempt to manufacture ‘good fruit’ but eventually the facade will crumble and we will be found on the wrong way.
In the pursuit of doing the right thing, our way must be the way of love. It is a matter of the heart. The heart is the seat of the will. Our motivations are born in the heart.
The right way
A heart that is authentically regenerated and transformed will produce spiritual fruit in one’s life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23).
The wrong way
A heart that is not transformed remains under the authority of darkness and rebellion is completely incapable of producing spiritual fruit in one’s life. The bible calls this state of the heart ‘the flesh.’ “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these…. those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21b)
Doing the right thing the wrong way
There are examples in the Bible of people doing the right thing the wrong way. Cain’s sacrifice was not pleasing to the Lord because of his motivation. Abraham and Sarah’s decision to use Hagar to provide an heir. Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac to attain Esau’s inheritance. Somewhere along the path toward their goal of achieving what is right and good, they fell into the trap of the wrong way.
How do we know we are doing the right thing the RIGHT way?
- Pray it through: Why am I really pursuing this ‘good thing’? Is it to earn points with God or man? What is truly motivating me? What is driving me toward this cause or goal?
- Check your fruit: Keep a journal on your journey and look for fruit.
- Test it with Scripture: Read God’s word and allow it to minister to you. Don’t treat it like a cafeteria where you pick and choose what supports your goal/mission.
- Be Accountable: ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ (Pr. 27:17) Share what you are doing with a brother or sister who will test you and hold you accountable. They must be able to ask the tough questions. Don’t trust yourself because you can deceive yourself. Get a trusted friend to help.
The way of love ties it all together.
“Grace and truth need each other. Grace ceases to be grace if it lacks truth. And truth loses its power if it lacks grace. Grace without truth sanctions and perpetuates unwanted actions…. Truth without grace is harsh, usually self-centered, and un-Christlike. Grace without truth is deceptively permissive, often lazy and equally un-Christlike… Should I show grace or should I tell the truth?’ Both. Love unites grace and truth.” – Bill Robinson
I’ve struggled with a lot of things that controlled my life. Whether is was drinking, smoking, drugs or my desire to pursue selfish pleasure, I found myself under the control of these things. When something controls our desires and motivations, we are essentially in bondage to that desire. Many times we’re not even aware that we’re in bondage.
I found that a quick examination of my thoughts and fears reveal what has control over me. It requires complete honesty and transparency. (more…)