Category Archives: bible study

Pursue Peace with Everyone

“Pursue peace with everyone.” Hebrews 12:14

God just wrecks our thinking sometimes! I was reading along in my devotional time, minding my own business, and these words came out of nowhere to knock me over. Pursue peace with everyone? Really?

This does not seem to be the way to do things. Everything in our culture seems to cry out for us to be at war with others. Battle them, conquer them, hammer them into submission! Isn’t that how it’s done? Has not social media taught us that this is the way? Do our cultural, political and media leaders not demonstrate this to us each day?

And yet, I read God’s word, doing what Christians are supposed to do, only to stumble onto this truth that seems so counter cultural. I am confronted again with the fact that God’s way is often different than our way. I’m reminded that God has some hard tasks and big expectations for those who would follow him.

Three things about this command call for our close attention.

1. Our goal is peace. We are tempted to think our goal towards others is conquest. We are tempted to think we are to defeat them, subdue them and crush them. But the goal God gives us in our relationships with others is peace. We are reminded that our enemy is not our brother or sister. Our adversary is not the lost and confused of this world. Our true opponent is not the one who mocks or even persecutes us, but the evil one who has enslaved him and his thinking.

We should never compromise truth for peace. Peace isn’t found in error. We should never mistake the approval of this fallen world for peace. Darkness never approves of light. We can’t ultimately even ensure peace as it involves someone more than just ourselves. But peace is the goal. Winning the argument, talking the loudest or being the angriest are poor substitutes for what God wants from us in our relationships with others. God calls us to peace.

2. We are to pursue this goal of peace. We like the idea of others pursuing peace with us more than of us pursuing peace with others. But there it is, right there in the text. That stubborn, difficult, challenging word- pursue. We are told to make the pursuit of peace with others.

Pursuit means taking the initiative and being proactive. It means the goal of peace isn’t just a wish, but a calling. It means we do something about peace, just as we might do something about war. Battles happen because we engage in them. Peace can happen when we engage in it, when we seek it, when we do something to bring it about. While we can’t change the hearts of others, we can do our part by making the pursuit.

3. We are to pursue this goal of peace with everyone. This might be the most challenging part of the entire command. We are told to pursue peace and we might be willing to do that- with some. But with everyone? With the guy who is wrong? With the fellow who is combative? With people who are hard to like?

Pursuing peace with everyone means we will have to think about others as the Lord thinks about them. We will have to see the value of others even when we don’t agree with their values. We will have to choose to love even those not so lovable. This part of the verse is what knocks us over and wrecks our thinking. Everyone is a big, big word.

This command from Hebrews is going to take some work, some prayer and some attitude adjustments. But it is right there in God’s word. So, let’s think about relationships more as the Lord does than as does the world. Let’s put this one into practice, difficult as it may be. This command is desperately needed in our lives, churches and world. This age needs this word and this spirit more than ever. Never have we had a greater opportunity to shine in our dark world than this verse provides the opportunity for us to do.

Pursue peace with everyone.

Why I Read Through the Bible Every Year

Few practices have blessed my life and ministry as greatly as my long time practice of reading the entire bible at least once each year. Of course, as a vocational pastor, I have some obvious advantages in doing so. If I am reading the bible at church, people say, “Don’t bother Pastor Doug!” If you are in bivocational ministry (God bless you and may your tribe increase!) or your ministry is not part of your vocation (How thankful I am for your willingness to serve faithfully as a volunteer!), you probably won’t have that advantage.

One other caveat. If you haven’t read through the New Testament (NT) fully, start there. Read it all the way through several times before going to the more daunting assignment of reading the entire Old Testament. I have sometimes used a reading plan to read the NT in one month (You can find 30 day plans online). After several times through the NT you are ready to read the entire 66 books of the bible.

Here are some reasons I read through the entire bible each year. Continue reading

The Value of a Devotional Life

I’ve practiced daily devotions for many years now. I spend some time each day (mornings usually work best for me) reading my bible and praying. I read a certain number of chapters of the bible underlining as I go. I spend time praying by praising and thanking God, confessing sin, asking for my needs and praying for the needs of others.

I will tell you that sometimes I don’t feel much like doing that. But feelings are terribly fickle. I rarely feel like exercising or eating healthy or all kinds of things that need to be done. I like the phrase “spiritual disciplines”. I am to discipline myself in my devotional life.

But I will also tell you that feelings often follow discipline. I am glad I exercise and eat right when I do. And I feel especially glad that I regularly spend time in the word and in prayer. The longer I’ve practiced daily devotionals the more I’ve recognized their benefits.

Here are some reasons to value the practice of a devotional life. Continue reading

The Greatest Danger

Perhaps the greatest danger for many Christians, churches and ministries is something other than gross immorality or theological liberalism or direct rebellion against the plans of God. Dangerous as these things are, the greatest danger for many followers of Christ is something more insidious. This danger is subtle. It is not so easily recognized. But it just as deadly. This terrible danger is apathy.

Apathy (and her cohort, procrastination) is the Continue reading

A Determined Heart

“Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

This verse first jumped out at me while in college. I underlined it in my devotional reading (A habit I still employ) and used it to teach children’s church (I still apply my  sermons to children- and to immature adults). It has been meaningful to me and perhaps you will find it to be that for you.

Note that Ezra “determined in his heart” to do three things. That is, these are the commitments that Ezra made and actions he vowed to take. Perhaps you might make the same determination in  your heart.

First, Ezra determined Continue reading