Life and Peace

Romans 8: 6        NIV

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

I am sure we all want life and peace. Jesus said he came to the earth to give us abundant life (John 10: 10) and I certainly do not want to frustrate his purpose in my life. I am equally convinced that you want the peace of Christ flowing through your life along with the abundant life he brings. I wish, sometimes, there was nothing I had to do to position myself for all the blessings of the Father. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Our Father has blessed us with every blessing in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 1: 3). How, though, do we have all that blessing manifest upon us routinely? As to peace and life, Paul answers that question for us today in this verse from Romans. Our minds must dwell on the things of the Spirit rather than on the things of the body or of the world.

You’ve all heard this verse before, but I wonder how well we hear it. This makes sense, of course, but it is much easier said, and agreed upon, than actually done. The world and all its pleasures are before us daily. We live in the world and must interact with it. It can be a challenge to live in the world and yet not be part of it. It is hard to interact with the world all day and at the same time keep our minds on the Spirit. None the less, that is the way to peace and life.

One hears a great deal of talk these days about intentionality. It means to be purposeful about the minutes of our day rather than blowing about with the wind. It means to make some determined choices and let those guide our day rather than just bumping along from one stimulus to another.

If, when we awaken in the morning, we immediately turn our thoughts and hearts to the Lord, it is much easier to stay in that place with him and with the Spirit all day. You can actually stay linked with the Spirit all day, even when you have to go to work, do the shopping, pick up the kids, etc. All the tasks of life are easier when you stay connected with God’s Spirit.

Notice that the mind is governed, or ruled, either by the flesh or the Spirit. What are the things of the flesh that attract us? Well, it is all the things of the world, isn’t it and things our body wants. It could be sleep, food, television, wine, social activity and more. None of these things are bad, are they? God is not trying to deny us these things, but it can be a question of priority. Are these things which gratify the flesh the focus of our attention? Are they more important to us than the things of the Spirit? The verse says that when our minds are ruled by these things, it is death. When our minds are governed by the Spirit, we are always led to life and peace. That sounds nice. So, we need to learn the skill of focusing our minds on the things of the Spirit and then staying connected there even as we travel through the world. The Spirit will always lead us into blessing. He will always show us the way of peace and life. We have only to fix our minds on him and he will bring us love, joy, peace, life and the blessing of God. That is a good plan. So what are you thinking about today?

Who’s in Charge Here?

Colossians 3: 15      Amplified

Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].

This is good advice, isn’t it? You may sometimes hear, “Let peace guide you.” In this verse, Paul teaches us that peace should be the controlling or ruling principle in all our ways and decisions. That certainly has implications for personal decisions when we don’t have that calm assurance inside. Clearly, we want to stay away from those choices. God often guides us by peace so we have learned that if we don’t feel peace about something, we best leave it alone.

The real substance of this verse, though, is about our interrelations with others. Paul says to let peace guide your thoughts and decisions as it relates to other people. When you have a decision to make which affects others, as most decisions do, you should not only consider but give first priority to the decision which promotes peace among you. Perhaps that is not the choice you would select but that is why Paul felt it necessary to teach this. As much as it depends on you, stay in peace with everyone (Romans 12: 18). There are times when there is a cost to you for peace, but the long-term benefit outweighs the short-term desire or inconvenience. Besides, it is what God has told us to do. Isn’t that reason enough?

There is another way to apply this verse. Paul points out that all believers are part of one body. God didn’t call us into service as just a hand or just a toe but rather as one body all working in harmony to His service. That necessarily means that He didn’t call us into a body of Baptists, or a body of Methodists, or any other denomination you can name. In truth, He hasn’t separated us even into Catholics and protestants. And for the real kicker, Jesus is Jewish, so we are of one body with Messianic Jews. There you are! What a family! One body made of such different parts yet called and commanded to work together for the accomplishment of the master’s purposes.

Jesus is the head and we all parts of his body. Since when did the pinky finger start telling the feet where to go? That just ends in chaos and chaos is what we have been experiencing in the church, but we are coming to the end of all things and our Father, He who is Father to every one of us, has called us into unity. You don’t have to agree with me all the time nor do you have to agree with anyone 100% of the time. We do, however, have to work together in the unity of peace in Christ and if we truly are in Christ then we are members of his peace too which he left here specifically for our use.

Jesus doesn’t really care if you don’t agree with the doctrine of that church down the block. He didn’t tell us that we must agree all the time, but he did command us to live and work together harmoniously. He requires our decisions to consider what will preserve and even increase the peace amongst us all. There is one thing upon which we all agree: Jesus is Lord. And that is enough. One church, one body, in Christ.

Hope and Trust

Romans 15: 13             NIV

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Most of us are attracted to this prayer and the idea that we may be filled with joy and peace. There are a couple of interesting nuances, though, that we should look at.

First, Paul calls God the God of hope. Then at the end of the verse his prayer is for us to overflow with hope. Third, this overflowing hope comes to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, let’s just think about hope for a moment.

Hope is the precursor of faith. Faith is believing that what you once hoped for is a spiritual reality and will manifest physically. Faith is knowing that what you hoped for and then prayed for is yours in Christ Jesus. Many of our prayers begin with that simple hope though. So, hope is the beginning point and our Father is the God of hope. He is the source of hope. Without Him, there is no hope and that is so true. Hope, joy and peace are in Him and the Holy Spirit brings all three to us through his power. He is the actuator, Father is the supply.

Lastly, there is a key element in this prayer. Paul indicates that we have a role too. We are initiators. This is a grand machine with you, your father and the Holy Spirit all as parts. The initiator must begin the process and as the initiator you do that through trust. Paul understood, and thus teaches, that God is able to fill you with all joy and peace but only as you trust Him. I wonder, too, if we are filled to the depth of our trust, almost as if our level of trust establishes the size of our tank. God will give us all we can hold, all we want but it is in relationship to our ability, or willingness perhaps, to put our trust in Him. Whatever your trust God for, whatever you believe Him for, that is the requisition form which is filled by the Holy Spirit. You place the order. Tell the Divine Trinity what you want, what you are believing for by placing your trust in God to bring it to you. Trust plus the God of Hope and the power of the Holy Spirit equals the blessing of God flowing through you and on you in abundance. Be blessed!

Peace with Power

Psalm 29: 11          God’s Word

The Lord will give power to his people. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Last Friday we looked at the awesome power of God. He is so powerful that His voice can shake the earth. David spends the greater part of Psalm 29 describing how powerful God’s voice is. What a surprise to get to the last verse and discover this nugget. All the power of the universe, a being so powerful that His voice has the capacity to cause earthquakes, tsunamis, strip trees bare and break them in half, all of that power and His will is to give it to His people. Why does God whisper? He wants to bless us with His peace.

The Passion Translation reads, “This is the Lord giving us his kiss of peace.” What an image that conjures. How is it that this almighty, supreme God bows to kiss us with profound peace? Does that even make sense in your mind? It is an overwhelming concept. He is so powerful that His voice could rend our planet yet He bends time and space to kiss you with peace. His voice, in all its magnificence and power, created this entire universe. He speaks blessing to you. His words fill every need and every void. Peace is, quite literally, on His lips. Brother, when He kisses you goodnight, that really is a blessing of peaceful sleep.

David mastered seeing God simultaneously in His omnipotence and His gentleness. There is nothing lacking in God. He is the kindness we need and crave while giving us great fortitude and power. His universe creating power is ours to wield through the grace and love He has for us. He is our strength and our strong shield. He is a towering fortress in which we hide ourselves and our bold courage. He truly is all in all, everything we need, everything we want. No place is safer or more fun than that space in Him.

Tonight, as you lay your head upon your pillow, preparing to sleep, take a moment to allow Father to tuck you in. Think on Him as He lowers Himself to give you the sweet kiss of peace.

The New Kingdom

Romans 14: 17

The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has already established his kingdom here in the earth. He called it the Kingdom of God and it is mentioned no less than 51 times in the gospels. It is said that Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God (Luke 8: 1) but what are the characteristics of this kingdom? We get different segments of that answer in the New Testament, especially in the gospels but also in the letters. In today’s verse Paul writes about the values of the kingdom.

I have read many English versions of this verse and in so doing arrive at a much clearer understanding than in reading only this, the New American Standard Version. For example, the New Century Version reads, “In the kingdom of God, eating and drinking are not important. The important things are living right with God, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The picture begins to reveal itself. Paul is defining what has value in the Kingdom of God. The Passion Translation reads, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of rules about food and drink, but is in the realm of the Holy Spirit, filled with righteousness, peace, and joy.” The Kingdom is not all about rules. In the Kingdom what is most important is that we follow God, follow His ways. The Kingdom is not about works of the flesh or self-stylized righteousness. In Jesus’ Kingdom, legalism falls at the feet of love and devotion to God and our fellow human beings; even in devotion and kindness to all of God’s creation including the animals and the earth itself. Further, the Kingdom of God is living in the realm of the Holy Spirit. That is what the kingdom is and in that place there is ever-abiding joy, peace and righteousness.

There is a difficult lesson in this. This verse flies in the face of the law. Sometimes we separate God made law from the man-made laws which has so imprisoned us. The problem here is that there were laws about food which were given by God. Food and drink choices were a major separation between Jews and all the other nations. Now Paul writes that the rules about food are not important in the Kingdom of God. Other laws fall as well because Paul is revealing that living in Christ is the key, not legal adherence to rules of law. Living right with God is righteousness, being in your right place with Him and that trumps law. This teaching would have been a major challenge for the first century church who stood upon the law. It challenges us as well but let us look at another translation.

The God Word Translation brings the image of the Kingdom of God into even greater clarity, “God’s kingdom does not consist of what a person eats or drinks. Rather, God’s kingdom consists of God’s approval and peace, as well as the joy that the Holy Spirit gives.” Do you see that the Kingdom of God is not a work-based realm? The right to live in it is not earned either. Our right standing in God, or living right with God, was purchased by Jesus. When we live in Him and the Spirit rather than in the work of our hands and minds, then we are in the kingdom and to live in the Kingdom means you automatically have God’s approval. You do not have to earn it. You do not have to measure yourself by a book of rules, and you do not need to worry. God is for you. He approves of you just as you are. Isn’t that a refreshing concept? You have favor with God.

Jesus established His kingdom in the Holy Spirit. He came preaching this kingdom which depends upon living in the Spirit and the Spirit living within you. Jesus’ message confounded and infuriated the preachers of his day because membership wasn’t earned and, equally important, because he consistently spoke about us in him and him in us, and his being one with the father, all of which was crazy talk to them. The same is true today, really. Revelation still tends to blow the top off our heads but that is Jesus’ way. As soon as you get a handle on one thing, he stretches you over to the next mountain top. But, truly, it is a fun way to live and we see from this verse that when we take the giant leap of faith to live in and by the Spirit of God, there is complete peace, shalom. Paul also lets us know that if we are not in joy, then we are not deep enough in the Spirit. Joy is in the Spirit of God. Remember that Jesus said he left his peace here for us to live in (John 14: 27). Then he gave us his Spirit. Therefore, it is an easy conclusion to reach that joy and peace are ours in him.

In Him, then is the Kingdom of God. And in the Kingdom there is complete approval, joy and peace. Is that good news? If you have ever felt left out or unaccepted it is time for your joy to come to full measure because in Jesus’ kingdom, the Kingdom of God, you are accepted. It is no longer about the rules but rather about seeking the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and leaning into him daily.

Guarded Treasure

John 14: 27

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.

Jesus was leaving planet earth. He told his disciples what was to come. Can you even imagine how distraught they must have been? I place myself in their shoes and it seems devastating. Not only were they about to lose their leader, but also their best friend and even beyond that, their Lord. He was everything to them, truly. Then he announced he was leaving. Oh, heart of woe!

Jesus knew the anguish of their souls. I am sure he was feeling sorrow as well and probably concern for them. He gave them something to soothe their souls, a promise for their well-being. He told them that he was going to leave his peace here for them. That would have been a profound statement to them because they had witnessed him remain cool under tremendous pressure. They knew his peace was special.

This same peace is available to us today. He left his peace here on the earth for whoever wishes it or needs it. In his peace is such tranquility. It literally has calming, restorative breath in it. It enables us to face trying situations without raising our blood pressure. In his peace we have the ability to face all manner of challenging circumstances while remaining in calm confidence instead of dread and panic.

You can see that it is very precious. One of the things our heavenly Father told me in my journaling is that the devil wants to steal this peace from me. Father encouraged me to resist the devil’s attempts to steal my peace, that is the peace which Jesus gave me. I see how valuable it is and that is was a key component in Jesus’ last days. He knew each one of us would need his help on a daily basis and his peace was the treasure he gave. The Father showed me that this gift should be guarded.

Don’t let anyone have what Jesus has given you, whether that be his peace, freedom, salvation, acceptance, redemption, etc. Why should I give some idiot on the freeway the power to steal the peace Jesus gave me? What stressor is important enough to you to allow it to steal your peace? There is nothing that is worth it. Hang on to this valuable treasure from Jesus. Peace is health, it is feeling good. Don’t let it go!

Shod

Ephesians 6: 15

Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

What a funny word, “shod”. Of course it means having put on shoes. Shoes are part of the armor of God, part of what protects us as we stand firm against the enemy. This piece of armor, though, seems to be the most misunderstood of all. Let’s see if we can unravel the meaning in this verse and gain a functional revelation.

The key question, I have found, is, “How do I put on the armor?” Today’s verse actually reveals the answer. We shoe our feet by preparing ourselves in the gospel. Do you see that? The shoes are not shoes of peace. They are armored shoes but the way you obtain and wear them is by preparing yourself through time and attention given to the Word of God.

Shoes may seem rather mundane but think of it this way. Our feet are the one place where we come in contact with the world. We need insulation from the world and its ways. We need a barrier between us and worldly influences. Our shoes provide that protective barrier. Also, if one is to “stand” firm then not only are our feet the point of contact but they are also our foundation. Feet are required for standing so the feet are a focal point.

So far we have considered our belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. We discovered that Jesus is the truth, and that he is our righteousness. So, what do you think about the gospel? John 1: 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Are you seeing a recurring theme here? Jesus is our victory. He has prepared our armor so that we can stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Our part is to put on Jesus. In the case of our shoes, it is done by spending time in the Word. This isn’t a magic pill. The truth is that the Word just arms you for battle. It prepares you to stand. Your confidence is found in the Word.

Why, though, do you think Paul called it the gospel of peace? Several reasons really but the main one for this application is that peace is what we are desirous of. We do not put on the armor of God because we like to fight or want to fight. We are not aggressors. We don the armor of God because we want peace. Jesus has provided the means by which we can live in peace. It begins with truth wrapped around us like a belt, followed by a layer of protection over our hearts called righteousness or being right with God. Then we put on shoes or protection from the ills the world would invade our lives with by spending time with Jesus in his capacity as the Word. Your preparation in the gospel of peace will ground you. It will give you good, solid footing. You will not stumble when you have prepared yourself in the gospel. Invest your heart and some time in the Word. It will stand you in good stead.