Try to make peace

Romans 12:18 NIV

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV). Notice, God promised to bless peacemakers, not peace lovers. There’s a difference. Peacemakers pay the price; peace lovers enjoy the benefits. Sometimes you’ve got to confront people before you can comfort them. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple because they were charging unfair exchange rates to those who bought lambs and turtledoves to offer as sacrifices to God. In most cases these were people who could least afford it, so Jesus decided to get involved. One of the names given to God is Jehovah-Shalom, “The Lord is our peace” (See Judges 6:24). “Shalom” doesn’t denote the absence of trouble, but the peace of God in the midst of it. When we have an issue with someone, Jesus said we should take certain steps. First, go and try to resolve it privately. If that doesn’t work, take someone with you who can help. If that fails, take it to the church leadership. And if the person still refuses to be reconciled, then love them and leave them in God’s hands (See Matthew 18:15-17). It may not be a How-to-Win-Friends-and-Influence-People approach to conflict resolution, but it’s God’s way. Paul said, “If…possible…live at peace with everyone.” For example, Paul was willing to forgo eating certain foods that were offensive to others (See 1 Corinthians 8:13), but he wasn’t willing to tolerate troublemakers in the church (See Romans 16:17). So you must know when to make waves, and when to make peace.

Soul food: Neh 1-4; Luke 21:12-24; Ps 78:17-31; Prov 23:26-28

What’s in a name? Everything! (5)

Jeremiah 23:6 NLT

The name Jehovah-Tsidkenu: The Lord our righteousness, was given by God through Jeremiah, announcing the coming of Jesus the redeemer: “I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line…And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness'” (vv. 5-6 NLT). Before Jesus came, our righteousness lay in our own efforts. “We will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands…God has given us” (Deuteronomy 6:25 NLT). We absolutely failed that righteousness test! But “The Lord our righteousness” became our solution. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV). Notice: It’s only “in Jesus” that we “become the righteousness of God”! You’re not to try to do right so you can feel righteous before God, or to generate a supply of good works to draw from when needed. You’re to draw continually from the “righteousness” deposited in your account by Christ. It’s useless to look within yourself for humility, patience, kindness, love, etc. They’re not there! You must take them by faith from the supply stored up for you in Jesus. Guilty hearts can draw forgiveness, anxious spirits can draw peace, and weary souls can draw strength from Jehovah-Tsidkenu. You received salvation by faith alone. And in the same way you must draw righteousness, and everything else you need, by faith in what God has accomplished and stored up for your use in Jesus, The Lord our righteousness!

Soul food: Josh 16:1-19:23; Luke 20:9-19; Ps 20; Prov 23:10-12

Protect your sense of God’s presence

2 Samuel 6:9 NKJV

In the Old Testament the most recognized symbol of God’s presence was the ark of the covenant. Wherever the ark was, God’s presence was there. But Israel allowed the Philistines to steal it. There’s an important lesson here. Satan is out to rob you of your sense of God’s presence! Israel lost the ark for one reason – disobedience. You always lose your sense of God’s presence at the point of disobedience. What is God telling you to do, or stop doing? He won’t negotiate, compromise, or overlook disobedience; you must deal with it before you can go forward. David asked, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” because all efforts to bring it back to Israel had failed. Somebody suggested putting it on a new cart. Somebody else suggested they get Uzzah (whose name signifies strength) and Ahio (whose name denotes brotherliness) to drive the cart (See v. 3 NKJV). Most folks thought this was a great plan, but God didn’t. So much for people’s opinions! David had the best of intentions, but they didn’t line up with God’s will. God had already told Israel that the ark must be carried on the shoulders of anointed priests. In other words, those who knew how to: (a) walk in balance; (b) walk in love and unity; (c) walk in obedience. Are you getting the message? If you treasure God’s presence in your life and want to protect it, apply these principles.

Soul food: 1 Chr 19:1-23:20; Luke 13:1-17; Ps 119:49-56; Prov 21:4-6

God’s presence

2 Samuel 6:9 NKJV

In the Old Testament, the most recognised symbol of God’s presence was the ark of the covenant. Wherever the ark was, God’s presence was there. But we have His presence always. ‘God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you”‘ (Hebrews 13:5 NCV). God’s presence is with us always, nothing can separate us from His presence or His love. But we can begin to think we are separated. The enemy often tries to convince us that God’s not listening to our prayers, that He has left us alone and no longer cares for us. But God promises to never leave us. The fact that the enemy doesn’t want us to be in God’s presence shows how important being in His presence is. It’s in His presence that we find the things we need to grow in our faith and in our relationship with Him. The Bible tells us that in His presence ‘there is fullness of joy’ (Psalm 16:11 ESV). And if we come to Him we can find rest. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28 NIV). God longs for us to draw near to Him, but we can be too busy, too fixed on our own ways or too disappointed with God to make the effort. David said: ‘One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple’ (Psalm 27:4 NIV). Is that the one thing we long for too? Do we long to spend time in God’s presence above everything else?

1 Chr 19:1-23:20; Luke 13:1-17; Ps 119:49-56; Prov 21:4-6

Church foundations (3)

Acts 2:42 NIV

The first church we read about is in Acts 2. It was set up just after Pentecost, the time when the Holy Spirit came. The church written about in Acts 2 has become a model that many people think churches should follow. The Message version describes the church like this: ‘They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe – all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved’ (Acts 2:42-47 MSG). Wouldn’t it be great if our churches were like this? If we all were united, we shared what we had, we offered our gifts and skills, we met together regularly, encouraged each other, we overflowed with joy and were all committed to growing and serving? In Hebrews it says: ‘Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching’ (Hebrews 10:24-25 MSG). Are we ready to make this our way of life?

1 Sam 27-31; Luke 6:1-16; Ps 122; Prov 17:18-21