Peace and Division

Today’s reading is Luke 12.

You can’t put Jesus in a box. Do you think Jesus came to give peace on earth? Of course He did. That was the statement of the angels in Luke 2:14. But Jesus says, “Nope. I came to bring division.” What is that about? Do I put Him in the “peace” box or the “strife” box? Peace is the purpose for Jesus’s coming. Division is how people actually respond. That is, Jesus did come to bring peace. His sacrifice restores peace between the lost and God. As that peace is restored, reconciliation will occur between those who find peace with God. Not everyone, however, accepts God’s terms of peace. Further, those who don’t, no matter how many “coexist” bumper stickers they have, are not satisfied simply allowing us to have peace. They will wage war. The war is not what is shocking. The Jews expected the Messiah to bring war before peace. However, they expected the war to be with the Romans. Jesus says the war will be in our own homes. Not only is that shocking, it is painful. That is why Jesus is preparing us. When even our own family and friends take up the fight against us, that will hurt tremendously. We may be tempted to believe we have somehow done something wrong. Those who attack us will certainly blame us. We will be tempted to believe it is our stand for God’s peace terms that are actually causing the war. However, we must not cave under the mounting pressure of their attacks. Rather, we must continue to pursue peace God’s way, through the gospel and His kingdom, calling people to God’s terms of surrender. Paul’s words still ring true. As much as it depends on us, there is to be peace. But peace will not simply depend on us. If there is division, war, and sword, let it come from those who cannot abide peace on God’s terms, not from us. May we never be bated by the worldly to fight on their terms. However, may we never abandon God’s terms of peace because the worldly attack. Hang on to Jesus no matter what.

Next week’s reading is Luke 13.

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Fear, No Fear

Today’s reading is Luke 12.

I’ll be honest with you. I try not to be an alarmist Chicken Little, but I am presently convinced that a new persecution against Christians is starting and will only increase over the next two decades. So, I needed the reminder that the worst anyone can do to me is cause me physical pain and death. They cannot take my salvation and eternal hope away. Therefore, ultimately I have nothing to fear from the world. However, God can take it away. Therefore, my respect, my awe, my reverence, my fear needs to be directed toward Him. (This is why I need to abandon the hypocrisy Jesus talked about in the previous paragraph.) Then Jesus seems to switch topics, but what a comforting modification to His teaching about fear. Yes, I need to fear God who can kill my body and cast my soul into hell. However, the one who can do that values me more than the sparrows whom He never forgets. He has numbered the very hairs of my head. That is, He knows me. He cares for me. He loves me. The very last thing He wants to do is kill me and cast me into hell. The pagan gods might punish a person for no reason other than the god woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Our God is not that fickle. He doesn’t forget His own. Certainly, I need to fear God if I’m being a hypocrite. Certainly, I need to fear God if I decide to turn my back on Him. Certainly, I need to fear God if I am really reinterpreting His will based on my own. However, I don’t need to tiptoe in terror as if I might accidentally misspeak or mistakenly misstep and get tossed into hell. It is awesome to know that the One Power in the universe that does have that power, doesn’t want to exercise it. Thus, while I fear God, I have no fear of God. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 12.

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Today’s reading is Luke 6.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

Please note, Jesus doesn’t say someone is blessed merely because they have been excluded or hated or spurned. We are blessed when the reason we are hated, excluded, or spurned as evil is our support of Jesus Christ and His will. This passage does not teach the modern concept of cultural inclusivity. In fact, what it does teach about goes right along with the fact that the one thing our modern culture is not willing to include is faithfulness to Jesus. We will be excluded. We will be hated. We will be spurned as evil. Don’t be surprised when it happens. And definitely, don’t abandon Jesus because it happens. If you are standing with Jesus, count yourself blessed when people hate you for it. And always stand with Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 6.

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Hate is No Surprise

Today’s reading is John 15.

It is surprising to me how many times throughout the Scripture the Holy Spirit prepares us for hate. Considering how good, loving, compassionate, and kind Jesus was, it is amazing that He was hated. But He was. In fact, so hated, He was taken to the cross. This was the very point those around Him didn’t grasp. If He was the Messiah, even if hated, He shouldn’t suffer for it. And this is, perhaps, one of the largest aspects of following Him that we miss today. If we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, we heedlessly believe, everyone should like us. The world and the worldly will be so impressed with our Christlike love and compassion that they will long to hear what we say (if we are doing it right). The world shouldn’t hate us, we think. If they do, we are doing it wrong, we believe. And yet, Jesus prepares His followers again and again and again. It will not be different for us. Hate is no surprise. The world is going to hate us. The world is going to make us suffer for it. Obviously, we aren’t trying to be hated. But be ready. And be ready to keep loving one another and also loving those who hate us. That is what Jesus did when hated.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 16.

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They Wish to see Jesus

Today’s reading is John 12.

Alright. I admit it. I have yet to hear a good explanation of why the Holy Spirit had John include this bit about the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus. I’m sure there is some contextual point that a great scholar could pull out and explain. However, I do think it shows the place of the disciple. These Greeks hadn’t come to see Philip. They hadn’t come to see Andrew. They hadn’t come to see any of the disciples. They had come to see Jesus. What is the disciple’s role, to show people Jesus. That is still our role. I have to especially remember that when I’m preaching. People aren’t coming to see me. They are coming to see Jesus. If too much of me gets in the way, I’m clouding the proper view. The same is true for everyone. We are disciples. What we are doing isn’t about us, it is about Jesus. Let’s make sure we are showing people Jesus today.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 13.

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If They Kill Us, So What?

Today’s reading is Matthew 10.

I sometimes have the idea that if I share the gospel at just the right time in just the right way, everyone will accept it. However, if anyone knew exactly the right time and exactly the right way, surely it was Jesus. And look what happened to Him. They killed Him. However, when they killed Him, He was resurrected. Certainly, the pain Jesus went through was no picnic, but ultimately, He had nothing to fear from those who executed Him. In like manner, if those who killed Him decided to kill us, so what? All they are accomplishing is ushering us into the very presence of our Savior and King Jesus Christ. We have nothing to fear and nothing worthwhile to lose. Let’s share the gospel in the light and on the rooftops. Let’s expose what Jesus has said and taught and done. Let’s be unashamed and unafraid. And if they kill us, so what?!

Monday’s reading is Matthew 11.

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Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 6.

We tend to romanticize Paul’s suffering. What I mean is we think it is very cool that Paul was willing to suffer so much for Jesus. But what if a fellow asked to preach for your congregation who had just been let out of prison for being at the center of a riot? And it wasn’t the first time that had happened? The powers that be in the culture were letting it be known that he was a arrogant troublemaker? He can’t seem to go into a town without some trouble being stirred up? And now he has decided to preach for your congregation? It doesn’t seem so cool at that point, does it? And that is exactly what Paul was defending against. His opponents were trying to convince the Corinthians to dismiss Paul as a troublemaker. Surely, if he was really on God’s side, these awful things would not be happening to him. They were trying to heap shame on Paul and any who would listen to him. But Paul turned it on its head. His suffering was, in fact, his calling card of authenticity. After all, isn’t that exactly what happened to Jesus? What else could we expect to happen to his greatest spokesperson? Let us be unashamed not only of Christ and the gospel but even of the “shame” that will be heaped on any who proclaim it. That has been the way proclaimers have always been treated. Let us lift them up and lift up the gospel no matter the consequences.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Corinthians 7.

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