Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peace



The word peace is frequently used in our culture: turn on the news and you hear about peace in the Middle East; tune into pop culture and the peace symbol is displayed on jackets and jeans; talk to a hippie and you will hear him say “peace out.” With all this talk about peace, why don’t we have peace?

Jesus even promised peace. He told His disciples in John 14:27, “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.”

If Jesus promised peace, then why do we still strive for it? What went wrong?

There are three answers to that question. For starters, most people don’t know Jesus, so they don’t know peace. Secondly, there is sin in this cursed world, and sin will always produce violence and victims.

But also we must realize that we do not define peace the same way that Jesus did. We think of peace in terms of a cease-fire, treaty, or some intervention. Try as we might, we cannot make someone peaceful. Try as our government might, we cannot make a people peaceful. Peace is personal. Peace, as Jesus promised, is strength for the difficult times.

Jesus promised that in this world we will continue to have tribulation, but through Him we can have peace. That does not mean that believing in Jesus will magically make all hardships go away, but it does mean that Jesus will walk us through the hardships, even strengthening us along the way.

Earlier in John 14 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be our comforter, and later Paul would write that a fruit that the Spirit would produce in the Christian life is peace. Are you going through a difficult time? Then pray to the God of peace, who bestows a “peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).” 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cheerful Givers




Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and this time of year it is common to use sermons, devotions, and blogs to ask the audience, “What are you thankful for?” While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, as I have done that myself many times, I want to take a different approach. Instead of asking what you are thankful for, I wonder how you are showing your gratitude.

When we focus being thankful (which is important!), we are focusing on what we have been blessed with, but we also need to focus on what we are giving away.

Paul told the Corinthian Christians that “each one of you should give, not begrudgingly, nor of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:7).” Giving is not something we should be forced into to please someone else, like parents or pastors; it should be done to please the Lord, because He loves it, and to please others, because He loves them.

The word cheerful comes from the same word that we translate as hilarious. This doesn’t mean that giving is funny, but that our giving should come from a happy heart. It pleases God when it pleases us to give.

We should give of our tithe (and offerings) to the church, as well as to those outside the church who are in need. We should give of our time in the church by teaching, singing, serving, or driving, and we should invest time outside the church in the lives of others. We should give of our talents to disciple believers in the church and to make the world outside the church a better place.

We also need to give the gospel. Take the good news of Jesus’ salvation to the lost and dying world around you. If you are giving of your tithe, time, and talents, than the world will be quicker to receive your talking about Jesus.

Most importantly, if you have not yet been saved by God, then you can cheerfully give Him your heart. All who call out to Him as Lord can have their sins forgiven, and God will cheerfully give you salvation.