Friday, December 24, 2010

Prince of Peace

Tonight we celebrate the birth of Jesus called the Christ. His birth was foretold by prophets of old and announced to shepherds on a hillside. Many were longing for the coming of this child and most missed his arrival. Yet he came as promised and he brought with him the promised peace that Isaiah spoke of in his prophecy.

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

Peace is an amazing gift and one that is often misunderstood and perhaps under-appreciated in this day. We believe that it is the cessation of work or war or economic strife or personal turmoil. Yet with the coming of the Price of Peace we still have these things. Could it be that because his kingdom of now and not yet has not fully been established that we don’t have the peace we so desperately long for? Or is it that we don’t understand the full implications of the peace that Christ brought to us? I believe the answer is yes!

The full implementation of the peace of God will not fully be implemented until our King returns and his kingdom is fully established. But I also know that he has given us peace that we don’t understand and I hope today to help each of us understand it a little better.

When Jesus left after his resurrection he gave us peace 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 (NIV)

So what does this peace look like? The promise of God’s peace is wrapped up in our understanding the Hebrew word shalōm. This term has a wide range of connotations (well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, completeness wholeness, harmony, and salvation) and could apply to an equally wide range of contexts: the state of the individual (Ps 37:37; Prov 3:2; Is 32:17), the relationship of man to man (Gen 34:21; Josh 9:15) or nation to nation (e.g., absence of conflict—Deut 2:26; Josh 10:21; 1 Kings 5:12; Ps 122:6, 7), and the relationship of God and man (Ps 85:8; Jer 16:5). Additionally it is still used as an expression of greeting (peace and grace), farewell (peace be with you) and in church settings as a benediction (go in peace).

The nature of this gift of peace brought by Jesus may be easier to explain by stating what it is not. It is not an end to tension, an absence of warfare, domestic tranquility, nor anything like the worldly estimation of peace (Luke 12:51–53; John 14:27; 16:32, 33; although with the full implementation of the Kingdom all of these will be true). Currently its presence may, on the contrary, actually disturb existing relations, being a dividing “sword” in familial relations (Matt 10:34–37). Jesus’ gift of peace is, in reality, the character and mood of the new covenant of his blood which reconciles God to man (Rom 5:1; Col 1:20) and forms the basis of subsequent reconciliation between men under Christ (Eph 2:14–22).

Peace is also one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), which is the goal of the Christian’s dealings with others (Rom 12:18; 14:19; Heb 12:14, etc.), and marks our identity as a “child of God” (Matt 5:9).

This is the greater peace our King came to bring us and this is the peace that is available to all who are willing to accept this gift from God.

Merry Christmas

May you know the true peace of God this Christmas Season!

Pastor Val

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Private Personal Sermon

This past week I prepared a sermon twice that ultimately I gave it to myself. I hadn’t planned it that way but that was what God intended it.

You need a little background before I share the story and what I learned from the message. I am currently between official ministries but I teach a house church via the internet each week. Since there are so few of us there are times that the group chooses not to meet due to a family or two being unavailable. I had been looking forward to this message because it was my Christmas story. For the past few years I have been telling the story of Christmas from various characters’ point of view, you know Joseph, Mary, etc. This year I was focusing on the shepherds.

Now back to the story. I had prepared this message and was fairly happy with the direction the message had taken. I had saved the message on one of my computers but had failed to send it to the other one or back it up on my external drive. (Don’t get ahead of the story. Let it play itself out.)

When I prepare a message I make several files: research, sermon, sermon notes, and sermon notes with blanks. All of these file have similar names but the last words are different. Saturday I had been doing some electrical work and had to turn off the power and in the process I accidentally shut off the power to my computer. Now that wasn’t the problem because when I fired up the computer and opened Word I had all of my open files waiting for me as recovered files. I made the mistake of saving them “just to be safe” and in the process of saving these files the program suggests the first line as the file name. Now we come to the fun part! The file that contained my sermon notes was saved as my sermon file due to the first line being the sermon title.

So there I was Saturday night at 11:30 PM realizing that I had lost my sermon but I had several copies of the sermon notes that my congregation would be using in the morning! Fortunately I had done all of the study and had all of my research still available. About 1:00 AM I finally finished my rewriting of my message and crawled into bed.

Sunday morning I got a call from the folks at the church letting me know that a number of folks were not going to be able to make it for the Sunday service so we decided to cancel the service.

Now another man might have been angry and another man might have been sad but I believe that God was telling me that the message was for me. After all I had not only studied the passage extensively but I had also written the sermon…twice! Apparently the message was meant for me!!!

So what did I learn from the message?

The most significant point for me was that the Price of Peace is my sovereign and in the service of my King I could find my well-being, security and completeness in Him!

Look for my next post to expand on Jesus as our Price of Peace

Merry Christmas

Pastor Val

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Holiday Diet

This is the season that my wife makes soups and stews every week. And I love soup! I like all kinds of soup but I especially like hearty soups. Given the opportunity I will eat soup until I am so full that I am uncomfortable. It’s rare that I ever say “Oh that’s enough, I’m satisfied I couldn’t east another spoonful!” Even that happens I always wish I could eat more! I’m rarely stated when it comes to soup! And don’t get me started about Thanksgiving and Christmas Feasts!

I wish I could say the same thing about God. I would love to sit here and tell you that my appetite for God is rarely sated, that I desire another helping and another until I am so full of God that I’m uncomfortable and have to share Him with those around me.

Truthfully, I have to admit that there are times I am more than satisfied with as small of a portion of God as I can get away with.

I don’t want to be a glutton when it comes to God or his things or his will. You see I’m on a God diet. I don’t want to become a heavyweight when it comes to spiritual matters. I practice portion control! Unlike John (known as the Baptiser) my prayer is not more of Jesus and less of me. Rather Its a rousing chorus of more of me and less of you, Oh Lord. And God could you re-align my vegetable intake just enough to keep me healthy and my doctor happy?

My gluttony problem is me!

The portion control I need to be practicing is less of me and the things I want – my school, my job, my spouse, my house, my money.

This holiday season perhaps I need to go on a diet of me and you do, too! When we do I think we will develop a taste for God.

9 Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair.
10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.
Psalm 19:9-10 (NLT)

Please pass me some more

Pastor Val