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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.

The Woman In The Garden

Good word from my sweet wife!

The beauty of all things created is not lost on the woman whose eyes light up with pleasure

at the colors so brilliant, the uniqueness of every plant, every bloom.

Creator God has not disappointed.

What she sees as she walks through the spectacular display

is but a reflection of the One who delights in His creation.

Her countenance displays peace.

Contentment.

Pure joy.

Seeing the fruit of the vine and the fruit on the tree,

her hand reaches out to enjoy the bountiful pleasure.

Though her senses are satisfied, her heart is not.

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The Benefits of the Long Term Pastorate

This month marks 25 years since I came to FBC O’Fallon, IL as pastor. I do note that I don’t get called “the young pastor” as much as I did then. I wonder why that is? Hmmm….

While 25 years isn’t nearly as long as some (I have two pastor friends who have been at their churches for more than 50 years), it does cause me to consider some benefits to staying at the same place. I’m not suggesting that all pastors should stay at their churches forever. But I am suggesting that pastors go to a church with the willingness to stay there for the rest of their pastoral ministry should the Lord will.

Here are 5 benefits to a long term pastorate.

1. You can influence your community. Staying a longer times means you have an opportunity to make an impact that couldn’t happen otherwise. You get to know people in your area even outside of your church family. By staying a long time, I’ve had the opportunity to know and have some influence among regional officials, business leaders, fellow pastors and others. I know them and they know me just by virtue of me being around for a while.

2. You can experience real love. It is one thing to be loved for your role; it is another to be loved for being you. I appreciate those who honor the office of the pastor. That is a good thing and I am thankful for those who love and appreciate me for being in that position. But, I am very thankful for people who love me just as me. They love and appreciate me as a person and not just because I fill this position. That is special.

3. You can build trust. The best way to build trust is to be trustworthy. And being trustworthy for a long time builds a lot of trust capital. Building trust means people assume the best in you and not the worst. It means they will listen to your thoughts even when they might not agree. It means they value your opinion because they know you are trying to do the right thing for the sake of the kingdom. They know you aren’t infallible, but they trust that you are trying to point them in the right direction.

4. You can see the long term results of your work. It is a lot of fun to baptize the children of people you baptized years before. It is rewarding to see people you knew as young people in your church now serving as teachers of small groups and deacons and pastors and missionaries. Long term ministry means you get a long term perspective. Staying allows you to see some of the fruit of the trees you planted years before.

5. You can bring stability to your life, family and church. While there are dangers that come with stability, there are benefits as well. I know the patterns that work best for a sustainable ministry in my context. My family got to have some stability in their personal relationships because we stayed. And, our church got the continuity that comes with having the same pastor. In our context (suburbia, a transient military community), that matters a great deal.

Staying at a church a long time doesn’t mean there are never any problems or that ministry is easy. But it does have some advantages that come no other way.

Ministry friends, maybe the Lord will have you move every 2 or 3 years for the rest of your life. But, consider the possibility that he will have you put down some deeper roots and stay in one place for a long time.

Excuse me now as I begin to make some contingency plans for what I will say at my 50th anniversary!

Why Revival?

Like many, I’m praying for revival in our day. By revival I mean Christians returning to a deep intimacy with the Lord. Revival is the condition of believers being right with God and living in close fellowship with him. When revival comes, it certainly makes an impact on the world. Revival, however, is for believers who know the Lord but have drifted from full surrender to his will and his ways.

So why should we want revival? Why should we care? Here are some reasons to desire revival in the life of our churches and in our personal lives.

Why revival?

1. Because God has something better for us than casual Christianity. What God wants for you is better than what the world wants for you. Casual faith tries to live like the world and look like the world. “Don’t be too radical with your Christian faith,” it warns.

But God’s way is so much better. I didn’t say Continue reading

There is Hope

Hope is a powerful thing.

Without it, we sink into a chasm of despair and depression. But with it, we can overcome the most difficult and challenging circumstances of life.

And Christians have hope. Not wishful thinking hope. Not blind optimism hope. Not ignoring reality hope. Christians have genuine, God-given, obstacle-overcoming hope that comes from the throne room of heaven itself.

To the believers in Rome facing threats and problems, Paul spoke of hope. Though he himself dealt with persecution, trials and poverty, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write words of hope.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Powerful words!

There is hope in this fallen world. There is hope for your life and future. There is hope for our churches in these uncertain times.

Here are three reasons Continue reading

Baptizing in Rusty Water

What an exciting day! I was a new pastor and I was going to baptize a young adult lady who had recently trusted Christ as Savior. This was to be my very first baptism. And, to make it even more exciting, this would be the first baptism for our small congregation in two years. I couldn’t wait for Sunday!

But, I had a big problem. Though the church had not baptized anyone in a couple of years, water had steadily dripped from the faucet which filled the baptistry. And, the baptistry was made out of sheet metal. Who makes a baptistry out of sheet metal? Sheet metal rusts! This had to be the work of a committee! The dripping faucet left the drain completely clogged and several inches of rusty water stagnating at the bottom.

I had to face this dilemma head on. On Saturday morning, Continue reading

Grow Up

Toddlers are cute when they are silly and immature. It is okay to be a baby– when you are a baby. But, when you act childishly as an adult, people want you to grow up! Certainly, God wants his children to grow up spiritually.

The Bible tells us frequently of our need to grow deeper in our faith. Hebrews 5:12 says, “Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles…” Hebrews 6:1 urges us to “go on to maturity”. You are a spiritual newborn when you trust Christ for salvation. But you are to learn, mature and deepen. You are to grow up.

Note a couple of keys to growing deeper in your faith and maturing in your spiritual life.

1. Growing up takes effort. Effort is involved in Continue reading

Thoughts on Politics

Here are some of my general thoughts on politics and the Christian. Maybe they will help you think clearly about this important, but divisive, subject.

1. Politics is a privilege. What a privilege it is for us to be able to speak, participate and vote. Freedom is a great gift and ought not be taken for granted. Many parts of our world have little freedom and those living in the United States (and other countries who enjoy these freedoms) should be grateful for this treasure. Christians should be at the forefront of participating in our political process and doing all we can to help our nation go in the right direction. And, remember on occasion to Continue reading

You Have A Gift

That’s right. You have a gift. Tell your mom I said so!

The Bible tells us that all believers are given spiritual gifts. These are more than our talents, more than our blessings and more than our opportunities. God has given you, if you know Jesus as Savior, abilities and perspectives that you can use to make an impact in the church and beyond.

There are three primary passages that list spiritual gifts– Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. These gifts show us ways God can use us, how God has saved us to be a blessing to others and how we fit into God’s family which the Bible calls “the body of Christ”.

Let me suggest two things we ought to do about these gifts from God. Continue reading

The Chaos of Christmas

Good thoughts from my sweet wife!

“…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

In many ways, Christmas in America begins the day after Thanksgiving.

We have barely put away the leftover turkey before our thoughts turn to shopping, Christmas trees and party planning. What should be a time of reflection and continued thanksgiving, turns to hurried accomplishments to be checked off a list.

While some people thrive in the bustling atmosphere of Christmas preparation, many feel overwhelmed and even frustrated by it.  We try not to go overboard, and yet in the pressure to find the perfect tree, the perfect gift, or to have a perfectly decorated home, we cave into the chaos.

“They carry out a plan, but not mine…”  Isaiah 30:1

I have been camping out in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, looking at the prophet’s perspective on the coming Messiah.  Knowing that this prophet’s message was fulfilled hundreds of years later…

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