What price peace?

What price for peace? We look back on the way we have hurt people and our insides are churned up. These words can seem merely aspirational –

we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God

Romans 5:1

The impact of my failure is worse than I realise. When I fall short of love other’s get hurt. In their hurt, they fall short of love. The effect cascades. Sin, defined as falling short, has consequences-

the wages of sin is death.

Romans 6:23

Sin cuts us off from God, the source of life, bringing spiritual death.

Our tendency is to blame others. Yet, for all those we blame, there are as many who blame us. We cannot hope to overcome the effects of death till we are right with the source of life for only life can overcome death.

God’s wonderful grace rules … giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:21

This grace and peace come when we ask forgiveness from God and receive life through Jesus. Jesus extends this life from us through faith when we who are forgiven extend his forgiveness to those who hurt us and ask forgiveness of those we have hurt.

I want to make light of the hurt I have caused, but I have to remember that paying for it cost Jesus his life.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Romans 5:6

Devotion under pressure

man reading in narrow space

It is easy to be distracted from the Lord. David prays for a single-minded focus.

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

The pressures of 21st century life can make this sound unrealistic; a desire for when we have time. David, sees things differently.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent … 

Psalm 27:5

David has learnt, by spending time with God, that being with him is the safest place. Dwelling with him is the best preparation for the troubles ahead.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. 

Psalm 27:3

David knows that whatever the trouble that is presented to him, the Lord knew of it from before the beginning, and already knows the way through. So, his confidence is not in his own efforts or the resources he has at hand, but in the Lord.

The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

So, what is the stronghold of our lives? What is my first reaction when trouble comes?

Who needs forgiveness?

Man holds forgiveness sign

We have rid our culture of so much religion that we can miss the principles Jesus is teaching because the context has changed-

 “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’

Matthew 9:12

We don’t offer sacrifices and we have a culture that is learning to receive everyone. So, it looks like, job done. However, looking at the principle that follows, I see a challenge.

For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Matthew 9:13

In our time people excuse themselves of anything. Behaviour is explained away by a painful past or challenging circumstances. People may not think of themselves as righteous but struggle to accept an identity of sinner.

So, here Jesus offers mercy and we are so self-satisfied that we can look at the mess we are creating and say we need help or counselling or anything but forgiveness and mercy. Only when we are willing to take responsibility for our actions will we recognise that what we have done is so bad Jesus had to die for it. Only then can we accept the need of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and receive his mercy.

Repentance or Death?

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

There is considerable significance in the choice of a word. For many years I have used a short hand for the gospel message of, repent and believe-

The time has come he said, the Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.

Mark 1:15

These two words are stacked with significance. To repent is to change allegiance from my self with all its desires to Christ. To believe is to entrust myself to Christ. I am willing to do all he asks of me.

Then I was studying the gospel message and discovered that, the word repent occurs only eight times in the New Testament letters. So, how do the New Testament writers handle this key concept? The dominant word seems to be die or death (about 100 times in New Testament letters), for example-

if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13

While repent is a change of heart or direction in my choices in life, putting to death the misdeeds of the body brings to an end my life force of rebellion against Jesus and creates the space in my life for him to occupy by his Spirit. Suddenly it is no longer me controlling the direction of my life, but Jesus.

Obstacles to freedom


Who are obstacles God clears away?

God says, “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.”

Isaiah 57:14

Stones in the Bible often symbolise people, in this case obstacles to true freedom.

The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live … with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I … revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.

Isaiah 57:15

We all become obstacles both to our own freedom and that of others. When we respond to God’s voice in humility and repentance, we are cleared as obstacles, and freed to live.

I was angry, so I punished these greedy people. I withdrew from them, but they kept going on their own stubborn way.

Isaiah 57:17

In greed we demand from others and take that earmarked for others, disrespecting God’s boundaries. The Lord quietly introduces griefs to give us a new perspective.

I will heal them anyway…. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips.

Isaiah 57:18-19

We, the greedy are brought to mourning so that the Lord can comfort and bring us to a place of praise!

 May they have abundant peace …

Isaiah 57:19

Resting in God’s peace frees us from the drivenness of greed.

“But those who still reject me are like the restless sea, which is never still …,”

Isaiah 57:20-21

Those who resist have no peace. Their restlessness drives people into captivity. These are the rocks still to be removed.

Prayer going nowhere

Blocked Doorway

It feels pointless when prayer is getting nowhere, and yet I sense the Lord asking me to pray. It is just going through the motions, so why persist? Then I read –

Have mercy on me, O God, …  wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:1-2

Being unaware of any specific sin, there must be something God sees that I don’t.

What I acknowledge completely, is that the blockage itself has built up my resistance to spending time with God. And in this is sin, so,

Against you, you only, have I sinned … so you are …  justified when you judge.

Psalm 51:4

Jesus is drawing me back to himself.

 you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Psalm 51:6

I long for these times when he teaches me wisdom.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7

For this, I ask him to cleanse me. I am unaware of what I did to break the relationship, and isn’t that true with our most intimate relationships? However, I am aware of how I have backed away from him, and for that I need forgiveness.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Psalm 51:9

Thankfully, he is willing to hide his face from ALL my iniquity, not just the bits I am aware of and indeed, following this time of prayer, the blockage went.

Let go of the past

We seem to be an unwilling to let go of past times of abundance

I think of the good old days, long since ended, … Is his unfailing love gone forever? … Has God forgotten to be gracious? [Psalm 77:5-9NLT]

One reason we resist letting go is that the abundance represented God’s love and grace to us.

And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.” [Psalm 77:10NLT]

There are times when, for a while, the Lord hides himself from us. We need to unlearn habits, reinforced by success, that block us from moving into a deeper relationship with him.

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. [Psalm 77:11NLT]

I focus on the past because I think I can fix it and return. I need to look at who the Lord was, is and will be and live in that reality. He is the one who transforms us.

O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you?

I see God patiently working with me, unwilling to move on until together we have dealt with the issues, then moves me on to the promised land.

You are the God of great wonders! … By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, [Psalm 77:14-15NLT]

Let us be led into his redemption and our transformation to be his holy people, ready for the next chapter of his power.

Worship in trials

When life is challenging, we have a hard time worshipping God. We focus on challenging circumstances and miss the purpose.

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant. For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession. [Psalm 135:3-4]

When we worship we lift our eyes to the one who treasures us and cares enough to draw out even greater beauty.

The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. [Psalm 135:6]

Our experience of those who do as they please is not often good. The Lord is motivated by love. His love is so radical he gave up Jesus to buy us back from death, so radical he risks our anger as he works to develop us.

He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. He struck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals. [Psalm 135:7-8]

His power ranges from controlling earth’s weather to revoking his gift of life.
Do I trust that this is love when what I am experiencing is the suffering of training?

the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants. [Psalm 135:14]

When times are tough, I find it helpful to remember the gifts of love he sends to keep me going, insignificant incidents that bring cheer. Then in worship I focus on the compassionate one who gives hope.

Suppressing Truth

Fake news has an agenda.

God is … against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, [Romans1:18]

People re-write reality to further their personal desires.

… God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made … [Romans1:20]

The Lord has demonstrated his eternal power and divine nature through his visible world. The wicked suppress this inconvenient truth by negating the existence of anything they cannot sense.

… they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him [Romans1:21]

When I glorify God, I acknowledge that he can do all things. When I give thanks, I acknowledge that what he does is for my best. I cannot glorify or give thanks until I have surrendered my will, my hurts, my passions …

but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Until I surrender I limit myself to futile human understanding and my heart shrivels in darkness.

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images … [Romans1:22-23]

Until I surrender I am left with human understanding and experience which, excluding God’s perspective, will prove futile.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity … [Romans1:24]

My failure to glorify God as creator and give thanks to him, leads to rejecting his leadership and taking for myself the destructive pleasures our society claims to be the high point of life.

The blessing of “NOT”

Curious that there is blessing in being apart and not having!

Blessed is the one who does not…

Blessing comes because we stand with God in integrity, and because we need that blessing to counter life’s temptations.

walk in step with the wicked

The wicked are those convinced they are right, and willing to manipulate their will. They take the moral high ground, but their fruit is not love.
We need God’s grace to walk with him in love, leaving wicked’s forceful arguments.

or stand in the way that sinners take

Sinners deny no desire and refuse no pleasure. This contrasts with God’s faithfulness. Am I willing to wait for God’s fulfilment or driven to satisfy my needs?
We need faith to rest in God content with what he has given and leave the road of temptation.

or sit in the company of mockers,

Mockers laugh at anyone who takes God seriously, so sitting with mockers dulls us to intimacy with Jesus.
We need hope in God to distance ourselves emotionally from those who mock in order to sit humbly and expectantly at Jesus’ feet.

The next verses tells how the Lord establishes and empowers this love, faith and hope in our lives.

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers. [Psalm 1:1-3]