Paul's Ponderings

Spiritual Formation. Discipleship. Christian Living.

Tag: Peace

Islam and Peace

This series of videos gives us a glimpse into the differences between Christianity and Islam. The roots of Christianity go back to Jesus, who was a man of peace, and the roots of Islam go back to Muhammad who was a man of violence and warfare. I think it is important to remember that this doesn’t make every, or even most, Muslims violent terrorists, just as it doesn’t make most Christians pacifists. Humans tend to pick and choose what they want to follow from their books of scripture. What we need to remember is that Islam and Christianity have two radically different beginnings, and that will influence how those religions are practiced in the lives of their followers.

Be Quick to Build a Bridge

Memorial Day is a difficult holiday for me.  On the one hand, I realize there have been men and women, with the best of intentions, who gave their lives in service to the United States.  I never want to diminish that reality.

On the other hand, I have to remember the reality that war is a terrible thing.  War destroys families, wealth, and lives.  I never want to glamorize war.  Not only do I not want to glamorize war, but I want to stand in opposition to it.

One of the founders of the faith movement that I am a part of, the Restoration Movement, is Alexander Campbell. He was a man of deep convictions, including the conviction of pacifism. It is partly due to his writings that I changed my mind about the purpose of war in this world. I went from being a supporter of America’s wars to being opposed to them.  While I am not an unconditional pacifist, I do believe that you will look in vain to find a just and necessary war that our country has fought.

I also believe too many Christians are pulled along by a sense of patriotism and a desire for justice making them blind to the real consequences of war. Not only have our current wars failed to deliver the justice our nation was hoping for, but those wars have also caused the death of many innocent men, women and children.  They have also displaced other Christians from their homeland.  As a Christian I considered it my duty to oppose war.

Today I want to share with you something that Alexander Campbell wrote about the difference between the way earthly kings conquer their enemies and the way God conquers His enemies.

He subdues by no other sword than that of the Spirit. Other kings subdue men’s persons and hold a sovereignty over their enemies, but he seizes the hearts of men. To conquer enemies is his grand enterprise. Philosophy as well as religion teaches us that to conquer enemies is not the work of swords, or lances, or bows of steel. It is not to bind men’s persons to a triumphal car, to incarcerate them in strong holds, or to make them surrender to superior bravery, prowess and strength. To conquer an enemy is to convert him into a friend. This is the noble, benevolent and heaven-conceived enterprise of God’s only-begotten Son. To do this all arms and modes of warfare are impotent, save the arms and munitions of everlasting love. By vivid displays of God’s philanthropy he approaches his enemies, and by the arguments with which this eloquence is fraught he addresses a rebel world. Such is his mode of warfare; a system devised in heaven, and like all of God’s means, perfectly adapted to the high ends proposed.

as quoted by Craig Watts in Disciple of Peace, p. 55

As Christians we should be quick to build bridges and slow to bomb bridges. As a nation we would be much safer and more secure if we followed this advice in our foreign policy. There is always a huge price tag that is attached to war.

I am going to leave you with some thoughts from another man who has influenced my anti-war beliefs.

Guard Your Heart

Guard Your HeartA healthy heart is essential for good health. This is true for both our physical life and our spiritual life.  Our hearts are very important.

A person’s heart, according to the Bible, is the seat of his emotions and his thoughts.   In other words the heart contains the dreams, desires, passions, and hopes of a person.  The heart directs the way we live.

While we in western culture have equated the heart with our emotions, the original hearers/readers of the Bible would have understood the heart to be person’s true self which was reflected in how he lived.

For us to be faithful and live holy lives it is vital that our hearts be healthy. Consider what Erwin McManus wrote; “When your heart is sick, it can spread everywhere. Like a cancer, despair in the human soul can cause all kinds of malfunctions” (Uprising; p. 133).

A sick heart robs us of hope and joy and it holds us back from truly following Jesus. To have a sick heart means that we will be depressed, angry, confused, anxious, and fearful. Rather than living a life of hope we will have a life full of despair. A sick heart will keep us from experiencing the life God wants us to enjoy.

Proverbs 4:23 reads; Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (NLT). Solomon tells us that we need to guard our hearts, for our hearts direct our lives.  We need healthy hearts to live the life God created us to live.

The problem is that we don’t know how to do that.

While it is good that we study the Bible, worship, are in community with other Christians, and serve other people, we need to do more if our hearts are going to be protected. We have to make sure to remove and keep out the bad.

The main reason our hearts are sick and ailing is because of the presence of evil in our lives.  This evil comes at us in the movies and television shows we watch, in the relationships we have with people who drag us down, and in the continued habitual sin of our lives. When this evil is present in our lives our hearts become sick and damaged.

So how do we guard our hearts?  The apostle Paul wrote:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9; NLT)

We guard our hearts:

  1. through prayer.  In prayer we switch our focus from our lives to God’s glory, we seek God’s will, and we ask God for our daily provision.  Not only our provision for life, but also our provision for godliness.  Remember God desires that we live by faith and have healthy hearts, so it is logical that we ask for His help.
  2.  by living in peace.  This is peace is not just the absence of conflict, but rather it is living the full life God created us to live.  That is possible because our relationship with God has been restored through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  As we live in confidence and faith, which is God’s peace, then a shield is raised around our hearts to protect it from the attacks of the enemy.
  3. by thinking good thoughts. Our minds must be set on the things of heaven rather than the things of this world.  When our minds are consumed with the things for this world then we will be bombarded with evil, depression, anger, and the like.  By setting our minds on the things of heaven our hearts are able to be filled with thoughts that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.  The type of thoughts that will strengthen our hearts and make it more resistant to the evil that seeks to destroy it.

The heart is essential to our health. We need to be very mindful to guard our hearts.  It is very precious for it directs our thoughts and our actions.  Set a barrier of faith between your heart and the things of this world. Set your mind on the things of heaven rather than the things of earth.  When we do these things we guard this great treasure God has given to us.

Questions to Consider:

  • Why is the heart so important to living the Christian life?
  • How has your heart been broken?
  • What is one practical step you can take to guard your heart?

Make Me a Peacemaker

{Matthew 5:9; ESV}

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Heavenly Father,

Even though we rebelled against You, You did not give up on us. You were not content for us to be Your enemies, instead Your desire was for us to be Your children. You are the Peacemaker.

I ask that You will guide me to be a peacemaker. In this world of violence, war, and conflict I want to contribute love, unity, and peace. Through my actions I want the people around me to experience Your peace, forgiveness, and grace. My desire is to be Your ambassador who announces peace to the world.

Lord God, make me a peacemaker. It is in the powerful name of Jesus Christ I prayer, amen.

Peace on Earth

{Luke 2:13-14; ESV}

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

A group of shepherds were watching their flocks on the hills outside of Bethlehem when they were greeted by an angel. The angel’s message was to go into town and find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manager. The angel declares that this baby, born in humble circumstances, is the long awaited Messiah.

If a visit from a lone angel is not enough the sky is suddenly filled with a host of angels singing about God’s peace to the world. What is interesting about this is that this is not an angelic choir, instead it is an angelic army. The Greek means, when literally translated, “heavenly army.” So the picture of the angels’ visit to the shepherds is that of angelic warriors coming, not to make war on humankind, but to declare peace. The enmity which existed between people and God because of sin was now going to be dealt with and the relationship between the Creator and the creation would be restored.

Part of the good news we receive at Christmas is that God is the God of grace and not vengeance. He was within His rights to destroy us because we sided with His enemy Satan to bring chaos and destruction to His creation. We rejected His Kingdom, His ways, and His purposes in order to pursue our own selfish interests and the result is the sinful and messed up world in which we live.

Thank God that He is compassionate and through it all He desired to have a relationship with people. He did not give up on us, even though we may have given up on Him. So instead of sending His army to destroy us He sent them to tell us that God was reaching out to us in peace.

It is impossible to avoid conflict in life. We have had disagreements and fights with people and the result is that the relationships have been strained. As we prepare for Christmas one of the things that we need to do is reach out to those people who have hurt us.

Take some time today to pray for those people who have hurt you and ask God to help you forgive them. I would also suggest that you take it a step further and send them a Christmas card, acknowledging that you have had differences in the past, but you want to put those differences in the past. Let them know that you will pray for them through the Christmas season. Christmas should be a time that we reach out to others in peace and in love.

The point to ponder today is: At Christmas we celebrate the reality that we have peace with God by extending peace and forgiveness to our enemies.

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