Thursday, April 24, 2008

Peace with God

Peace with God comes only through Jesus Christ. Roman 5:1 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, “

Peace with God is not mere rest, mere solitude, and mere quiet or mere retreat behind our self constructed walls of escape from the real world. Christ calls us to a higher mission than to find comfort and tranquility in this life. Love of family is a law of God, but even this love can be self-serving and an excuse not to serve God or do His work. True peace with God is complete and total reconciliation with God; as a matter of fact, total and complete God driven reconciliation is our ministry. II Corinthians 5:16-21: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The process for peace is always war. Yes, war. Hard to believe? Jesus said in Matt. 10:34: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

At first glance this sounds like a contradiction. In Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is prophesized as the “Prince of Peace”. In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you.” It’s true that Christ came to bring peace between the believer and God and peace among men. Yet the inevitable result of Christ’s coming is conflict—conflict between Christ and the anti-Christ, conflict between light and darkness, and conflict between Christ’s children and the devil’s children and sometimes conflict between family members. The process for peace with God is conflict or war.

We don’t like conflict with one another. As a matter of fact, we go to great lengths to escape confrontation. Our failure to face our personal sins and our conflicts with one another leads to trouble. We compromise. We must never comprise with evil. God’s power transforms evil into good.

Christian families are in trouble. Why? Because we fail to confront (we hate conflict and the confrontation of truth). So, the truth seeker is labeled the troublemaker, and the compromiser with evil is viewed as a peacemaker. Yes, we may feel good for awhile when we compromise with evil but it’s a false peace that doesn’t last. Eventually, the chickens come home to roost. We must deal with the issue. To have true peace with God and others we must go through war, confrontation and even conflict, but the result is true peace…a lasting peace.

Let’s strive for peace on all levels; the process is never a compromise with evil. The Lord, by His divine power, transforms evil into good. To the world, the cross looked like failure but it purchased our freedom. The burial of Christ looked like the end but Resurrection brought victory over death and sin.

Yes, blessed be the peace makers. Work for peace and reconciliation with one another and with God; it is our ministry or purpose. That is true peace, not some cheap imitation which is a mushy although “popular” compromise with evil.

Brothers and sisters stand for truth and sacrifice for peace, for God alone, through Jesus Christ provides it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

USAF not quite “Above All”

Psalm 138:2: “I will bow down toward your Holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word."

I am a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. My experience in the Air Force, even in the time of conflict, was excellent. The Air Force Training Schools are the best; we were good at what we did and we did it 24/7.

Recently the Air Force has launched an advertising campaign entitled “Above All”. It is a creative and impressive campaign but I want the Air Force Generals to know they are not above all.

For sake of illustration, the distance from the earth to the sun is 93 million miles. If we assume a line 93 feet long, that would mean each foot equals 1 million miles. Each inch on the line equals 83,333 miles. The Air Force can fly as high as 150,000 feet. Impressive yes, but compared to the distance between the sun and the earth 150,000 feet is a mere speck on the 93 foot long tape measure. We may think we are “above all” but in reality, we are a speck of dust.

To the Air Force Generals, I am impressed with what you do but God’s name, God’s word is above all things. In John 3:31 it says in part: The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.” He is not just above all things, Jesus is above all and that means all. We better not forget that.

I suggest a new Air Force advertising campaign—“not quite above all.” The Air Force may be above a lot of things but in retrospect, they are a speck of dust in God’s universe. Whenever we see these ads, let make it an opportunity to praise the one who is truly “above all” – Jesus Christ.

People watching in the Phoenix Airport—Marionette and HER Girls

Recently completing a business trip in Scottsdale, I took a flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas to visit our son Andy for the weekend. While waiting for my flight, I took up the ever popular sport of people watching. I noticed a group of women dressed in wind pants and jackets; most of them in their twenties. Some of the women were white and some were black; they were accompanied by an older black woman, in her 40’s. They sat down near me and I saw it said “Stage II Softball” on their windbreakers.

As I boarded the plane and found my seat, I found the older black women to be my seat mate. I introduced myself and she said her name was Marionette (if you’re wondering, there were no strings attached!!). She is a US Air employee who works as a gate attendant supervisor in the St. Louis Airport. I asked her what “Stage II Softball” is and she said it’s a women’s softball team based in St. Louis which competes on a national level. They were going to Las Vegas for a tournament. They attend eight national tournaments a year. I said, “So you’re the coach?” She replied with a smile, “No, I’m the oldest player.” I was impressed, in her middle forties and still competing in women’s softball and on a national level; quite impressive.

We visited; she has a husband and a teenage son. She said, “He’s a big boy”—football player, defensive end, and is being recruited by many big time football programs. When I asked her why she still plays softball, she said, “These young girls need me; they are my girls. They talk to me, I help them.” Marionette is a devout, live-out-her faith Christian. Her motivation to keep playing softball is that the “girls need me.” Then she corrected herself. “Jerry,” she said, “they need the Lord and they also need me.” I realized I was sitting in the presence of a humble servant of Jesus Christ.

We visited more. I asked, “What is the biggest change you have seen in your work in the last twenty years?” She did not hesitate; she had an immediate answer. People have become more mean and impatient. She went on to tell me of incidents to back up her point. Just last week a women in her 50’s dropped off her 88 year old wheel-chair-bound mother at the St. Louis Airport and just left her at the curb. Marionette was called to help and help she did but dealing with this experience left her frustrated, tired and disgusted.

God’s Word says in part in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” Yet in the midst of these times, Marionette is on the front lines being Christ to her neighbor. Is she discouraged? Yes, but she keeps playing softball because “her girls” need her and in her words “they need Christ”.

Later in Chapter 4 of 2 Timothy, Paul writing to Timothy encourages him with these words in verses 3-5: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."

Paul’s words to Timothy apply to Marionette; she shares Christ with a hurting world in word and deed. Although disgusted, Marionette is, in Paul’s words, “keeping her head.”

When we arrived in Las Vegas, we both had tears in our eyes. She told me, “I never talked to anyone like you.” I told her, “I never talked to anyone like you.” I was in the presence of greatness; a humble servant of Christ on the frontline serving Christ and “her girls” and touching the heart of an old country boy from Minnesota. She is living proof that God will always have his remnant.

Thank you Lord, for people like Marionette. Amen

Thursday, April 03, 2008

God’s Favor

Favor is defined as an act of kindness; liking and approval; exceptional kindness; to give more than fair treatment.

Have you ever been a favorite? A favorite of your parents? Favorite of your teacher? None of us would admit to being a teacher’s pet but if I was a teacher’s pet, it would have been with Miss Novak. She was my first and second grade teacher; she was nice and really pretty. She was going to marry “this guy”. (I thought she should have waited for me but she didn’t.). She grew up in Olivia and her wedding was in St. Aloysius Catholic Church. I talked my aunt Lillian into taking me to the wedding. I remember I bought her a set of salt and pepper shakers for 59 cents; I handed them to her in the receiving line and she bent down and kissed me. I was on the top of the world but I still didn’t like the guy she was marrying!

If we are honest, we like to be favored. Look at the definition of the word: act of kindness, exceptional kindness, to give more than fair treatment. Who wouldn’t want that?

The prophet Daniel, writing in Daniel 9:13 (NIV) says: “Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.” Even in disaster, the nation of Israel did not seek the favor of the Lord. Would we do the same? I think so. We as a nation are so self-centered that in the midst of disaster we would not seek the Lord’s favor. What makes us think we would be any different from the children of Israel?

How do we seek the favor of the Lord? By turning from sin and giving attention to your (God’s) truth”. Yes, it’s that simple. Daniel says “turn from sin”—quit it; quit it. We are not just to confess it but quit it. We are also to give attention to God’s truth. Where do we find the truth? In God’s Word! We need to give attention to God’s word; don’t just look at it, don’t browse it, don’t just talk about it…give attention to it, read it, live it, make it part of our lives. The truth shall set us free. And guess what? We will be in God’s favor; God’s favor—to receive more than fair treatment. We receive exceptional kindness. God has not treated us as we deserve. No, He has shown us exceptional kindness through the shed blood of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, today is the day of God’s favor.