Monday, May 29, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Peacemaking

Church is about participating in what God is doing in the present, about being his Body, spreading the kingdom, allowing him to heal us, transform us, and use us to his glory.

At Community of Hope we are a family committed to each other and to Jesus, the Head of our household. When we assemble for worship, the message is spoken, his Spirit is present, and his people are restored, healed, and gradually conformed into his likeness. We invite you to participate, test the spirits, and allow the Holy Spirit to form your life into the Jesus Habits.

Last Monday Anola ‘forced’ me to go through old clothes to give away: there was a sweater from Tim for kayaking 18 years ago; my old favorite mustard color sweater; that brought back memories of my green shoes-long ago gone; what about my clip on tie from Co-Op twenty two years ago, and the list could go on-it did, trust me! I can’t throw old clothes away. Here are my swim trunks for the past 13 years & they just got a rip last Thursday!

That’s the way of change in our life. Throw open the long closed closets and obscure areas of life, take out the ‘old ways and habits’ and begin the process of unlearning them, and then clothing ourselves in new ways: The Jesus Habits. Giving up olds habits doesn't mean we lose!

We are the only animals that can peer deeply into our futures—the only animal that can travel mentally through time, preview a variety of futures, and choose the one that will bring us the greatest pleasure, the least pain or the greatest meaning. This is a remarkable adaptation—which, incidentally, is directly tied to the evolution of the frontal lobe—because it means that we can learn from mistakes before we make them. We don't have to actually have gallbladder surgery or lounge around on a Caribbean beach to know that one of these is better than another. We may do this better than any other animal, but our research suggests that we don't do it perfectly. Our ability to simulate the future and to forecast our hedonic reactions to it is seriously flawed, and that people are rarely as happy or unhappy as they expect to be. Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist

The story of peacemaking and reconciliation is the centerpiece throughout the entire Bible. Peacemaking is the dramatic plotline in all of creation. How we treat one another matters because we are constructing and building an authentic church--a church where reconciliation shines throughout the whole community! Our goal is that people will look at our church and say that it is a lighthouse of reconciliation.

The Jesus Habits narrow the distance between you and Jesus.

They also narrow the distance between the person you are and the person God desires you to be.

That can make us squirm a little bit because it probably requires some changes in our life-style and we get a little nervous when we realize we need to make some changes in our life
"Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?
Mary Manin Morrissey

Leviticus 19:18
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Peacemakers don’t seek revenge or bear a grudge.

A Dilbert cartoon read: “To err is human; to forgive is not our policy.”

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The fighting is over! There is no more hostility! We have peace with God!

I wish I could say that were true in churches today: ‘The fighting is over!’ we can, however, make it true for Community of Hope. There will still be hurts and wounds that come our way, but we can learn from Henry Cloud, who says,

“I cannot blame them for what I do with what they do to me. I am responsible for how I respond.” Henry Cloud

Unresolved conflict in churches plagues us like landmines plague so many countries around the world. Just as millions of young boys and girls can no longer walk in certain fields (and many are maimed for life from exploding devices), millions of Christians have to walk cautiously in certain 'areas' of their churches because conflicts are ready to explode. Apart from prayerful, skilled, biblical peacemaking, those conflicts destroy unity, families, and fellowship. We are literally torn apart by our unbiblical responses to conflict.

This isn’t new; just read the standard New Testament sins lists and you will not find many internal sins included. Instead, we are constantly warned against relational sins like gossip, factions, divisions, malice, and bitterness.

How we treat one another matters because the reputation of Christ and His Church is at stake. It's not enough to just have the 'tool' of peacemaking at our disposal to fix a 'problem' or bring a 'solution.' Jesus is calling us not merely to make peace but to be peacemakers-to live in peace. That’s to have a flow of peace from our heart that goes wherever we go.

We don't just make peace here and there. We move and have the habit of being peacemakers. We don't just 'discipline' or 'disciple' for corrective purposes. We respond to all of our relational issues in a biblically faithful manner because, in so doing, we are constructing and building an authentic church--a church were reconciliation resounds throughout the whole community! Our goal is that people in our communities will look at CoHo and say that there is a lighthouse of reconciliation.

You might ask ‘Why?’ ‘ Why should we be so committed to forming peacemaking habits? What are the biblical, redemptive, and historical justifications for that goal?

Open your Bible and look at Genesis 1 and 2 and then flip to Revelation chapters 21 and 22 ... we start with creation and end with reconciliation, and everything in between is about conflict. Every time you pick up a Bible, look for the plotline. It is on every page: creation, conflict, and reconciliation. It's not a 'peacemaking verse' here and there. Peacemaking and reconciliation move and drive the story of the one true God who is a covenant-making God--a reconciling God.

We usually think, though, that we pretty much have it all figured out, and so we make judgment calls on everything from political policy to personal motives. We never pause to consider the limits on our perspective; we just go right on in, where angels fear to tread.

But to walk humbly with God as a peacemaker means realizing that we don't know everything and we don't even want to; figuring everything out means the story is over. It also means approaching each living, breathing soul in our lives with wonder, for they have been fashioned by the hands of God himself. It means stopping and looking and listening, but maybe listening even more than looking.

Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Trouble teaches us to trust God.

Romans 5:3-4
…troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope.”

That’s a hard lesson to learn. And we are summarily tested on our knowledge and application of its truth in our life each and every day!

John 14.27
"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."

Through Jesus you can also experience genuine peace within yourself. Internal peace is a sense of wholeness, contentment, tranquility, order, rest, and security. Although nearly everyone longs for this kind of peace, it eludes most people. Genuine internal peace cannot be directly obtained through our own efforts; it is a gift that God gives only to those who believe in Jesus and follow his ways and habits. In other words, internal peace is a by-product internal heart change.

When it comes to peace, who's definition are you using?
The world defines peace as the absence of conflict. No more war, no more injustice, no more _____ -- you fill in the blank. Jesus defines peace as the presence of the Holy Spirit in the middle of wars and rumors of wars.

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love... perfect love drives out fear...

That truth helps us realize that every problem has a purpose! A transforming purpose in our own lives and an opportunity to bring the kingdom of God to earth. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, how does it go?

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. (Peacemakers)
Save us from the time of trial,
And deliver us from evil.
[For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
Now and forever. Amen.]

Why do some men and women choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible, others in the manufacture of sorrow?

One of the reasons we engage in the manufacture of sorrow is that we’ve come to a place where we have a hard time trusting.

"A good education is not so much one which prepares a man to succeed in the world, as one which enables him to sustain a failure." Bernard Iddings Bell, Chaplain, University of Chicago

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that along with forgiving, enduring, and bearing all things, love believes all things. We must reconcile the scriptural charge to believe all things with the fact that it is not always easy to do. If we believe it is possible for us to choose to love, or be kind, or be patient, then we must also believe we can choose to trust. But the gap between what we expect of people and what they actually deliver makes it hard to trust. We can either fill that gap with trust or with suspicion.

Choose to trust.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

The person who has more to hide has more to fear. Peacemakers have learned to trust, or better yet are ‘learning to trust’. Perfect love, God, casts out all fear. ‘Fear, you’re not welcome here anymore-out you go!’

“The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” Rick Warren

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

The command: No exceptions!

These Jesus Habits lead to the fulfillment of the image of God in us: some commentators & theologians throughout the years have postulated that our obedience to Jesus Christ leads to our heart transformation that fulfills the image of God in us. “in order to bring praise to God”.

Look at your circle of concern and use your circle of influence for peacemaking. 'I can be more trusting...' 'I can be a better employee...' 'I can be a peacemaker...'

"We see that he leaves us in a world of sin to be tried, tested, belabored by troubles that threaten to crush us--in order that we may glorify him by our patience under suffering, and in order that he may display the riches of his grace and call forth new praises from us as he constantly upholds and delivers us." J.I. Packer


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