Peacemaking in a hostile world

For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Eph. 2:14-16).

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Divisiveness is at an all time high in our country, especially in our politics and from leaders who would denounce those holding opposing views as “other” or worse, “enemy.”

But don’t be fooled. They’re not only colleagues, in many cases they’re good friends. My parents both worked for Congress and would tell stories about our elected officials. They’d attack one another in the press but in the elevators and hallways they could be overheard making weekend plans together.

Our leaders often aren’t the best example of how to get along. However, I recently learned of one group working hard to keep the peace.

The U.S. Supreme Court is a group of nine men and women deciding on some of the most important legal cases in our nation. Though each Justice is an individual, they work in unison as one body.

Despite political  leanings and personal dispositions, they have a tradition that can serve as an example to us. One is called “The Judicial Handshake” and it dates back to the nineteenth century. Each day before they go on the bench and before any discussion in private conferences, they gather and shake hands with each of their counterparts.

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According to the Supreme Court website, there’s a reason for this: “Chief Justice Fuller instituted this practice as a reminder that differences of opinion on the Court did not preclude overall harmony of purpose.”

As believers, we’re also called to unity — to be one as the body of Christ. The “broken down” reference in the verse above is mild compared to what it actually means in Greek, which is total destruction. The hostility that formerly divided people and made them enemies suffered total devastation when Jesus chose to die on the cross for all mankind.

His purpose of making peace through reconciliation offers us a clear pattern to follow. By his example, we as his disciples are called to do the same in the here and now. We have a ministry of reconciliation.

As Ephesians 2:22 tells us: In him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. 

Think about that. While much of the world is divided and dominated by hostility and enmity, a bright light still shines — us. Citizens and family members have rights and responsibilities to their leaders and relatives. Putting hostility and individuality aside for the sake of others is critical for a healthy country and household.

 

 

Jesus accomplished this for us on the cross and he calls us to pick up our cross (our responsibility) and follow his example. Just think about the difference that would make in our world!

How can you make peace with others?

A life changing Bible verse

A number of people close to me struggle with anxiety. At times, it’s severe. Furrowed brows, hammering hearts, and full-on panic attacks are common. It’s hard to watch, hard to feel helpless, especially since I’ve experienced these emotions myself.

A long time ago, especially when I was a young mother, I worried a lot too. Having small children can heighten the emotions that twist like tornados through our minds. Suddenly, everything is dangerous and anything is possible. What if we can’t feed them? What if I lose my job and our company goes under? The “what ifs” drove me nuts and drove my actions. But then God led me to a Bible verse that changed everything and put a stop to all the spinning:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt 6:33

Jesus knows a thing or two about worry. He often spoke to his followers about the things that tend to make humans anxious.

Matthew 4:18 tells the story of Jesus calling his first followers, the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew. He had lots to teach them and as they traveled through Galilee, great crowds followed. Matthew 4:18-7:29 is rich with instruction about the way Christians should live.

But the key for me was found in Matthew 6:33, and specifically in the word, first. Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. First, as defined in the Greek, means first in a series involving time, space, or set. We’re familiar with the concept of being in first place, or first in line or first in our class — it’s an order of priority.

Jesus tells us that before we worry about everything else, whether that be nourishment, clothing, or where we’ll live, we need to make God first. Easy to say, but harder to do right? It’s hard to think straight when you’re worried about being hungry or thirsty.

But Jesus doesn’t leave us without answers. After he explained the way to live, he explained the why. The answer is simple — God cares for us.

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He said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Matt 6:26-32

The Gentiles he spoke about were those who didn’t believe in God. We are not to be like those who have no faith. We have a heavenly Father who knows exactly what we need, when we need it.

Put him to the test. Trust him and see what happens when he gets put into his rightful position.

Once I rearranged my priorities everything changed. He’s poured out unbelievable blessings on me and my family. But it only works if you work it!

What actions can you take to put God in first place, in every area of your life?

Illuminating the mystery of more

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (Eph. 1:3).

How often do you look up and marvel at the night sky? My guess is that your answer depends on what you see when you do.

Wonders upon wonders exist in the heavens but we can see only a fraction of the stars and planets. Though people have tried, there are simply too many to count. According to astronomers at Sky and Telescope magazine, roughly 9,000 stars can be viewed with the naked eye.

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That number gets cut in half depending on atmospheric conditions, seasons and light pollution. The average New York City resident sees just seven stars, and the view in other places is vastly different. One year my family and I took a trip to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and we were stunned by the nightly display. Stars, planets, and the Milky Way were on full view. We made it a point to look up every evening.

A few years ago I taught a semester of astronomy (I’m a homeschooler) and the kids and I stargazed through our telescope every night. Viewing the stars and planets through binoculars and telescopes exponentially increases our ability to see them. Trillions of galaxies illuminate the heavens and point our attention to the One who created them.

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God has given us land and waters swarming with all kinds of creatures. In the same way a loving parent creates a healthy and happy home, he’s established the perfect environment because of his immeasurable love for us.

We are a blessed people — children of the divine creator of the universe. A God who is so big he literally fills everything. But he doesn’t stop with earthly blessings. He’s also given us access to unimaginable spiritual blessings. Scripture tells us that we have access to every kind of blessing available. They originate from an unlimited and infinite God — given to us through Jesus.

In Christ, we discover we’re made for more than we can ever imagine.

Our Heavenly Father breathes life into every living thing. He has mind-blowing things in store for us, his children, when we’re open to discovery. Like the stars in the sky, He designed each one of us uniquely for his great purposes. He’s called us to light up our world for Christ and build up his body, the Church — to illuminate the mystery of more for ourselves and for others.

And here’s the really big idea: the Church is called for more because Jesus himself is more. Look at what Paul says about Jesus in Ephesians 1:22:

“God placed all things under Jesus’ feet.” 

Only Jesus can fill everything in every way. Not our efforts, our strategies, our plans, our spouses, our children, our jobs, our church.

Only Jesus.

How does knowing that you have access to every kind of spiritual blessing expand your knowledge of and love for God?