Friday, May 18, 2012

Peace Be With You

Forgive me for departing from my study of Luke for awhile. I will return to it someday, but for now, I need to share what is on my heart today.  The subject is Peace.  This entry, is a starting place for me.  I want more peace in my life.  I want to experience the peace that Jesus left us.  I want to learn more about what the Bible says about this precious and timely gift.  To that end, I'm starting a study on peace, where it occurs in the Bible, and what are the original words and their meanings.  I believe that this will be an enriching study for me and if you'd care to join me, you might get something out of it too.

peace /pēs/
Noun. Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.
Exclamation. Used as a greeting
Synonyms: quiet. calm. tranquility. stillness.

I went to BibleGateway to search for peace.  It appears in the Bible 294 times.  I did not know that it was mentioned so many times in the Bible.  If it appears that many times, it must be important.  What do we know about peace?

When I think about peace, the first thing that comes to mind is war.  War and Peace, like that gigantic book by Leo Tolstoy.  War is when people are fighting over something.  Peace is the opposite of War right?  There are times of war and times of peace.  If that's all peace is, why would it be mentioned in the Bible so many times?  As I think more about peace and its appearances in the Bible, a thought comes to mind: the Bible was not originally written in English.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew.  So, what are the Hebrew words that are translated as peace?  The New Testament is written in Aramaic and Greek.  What Aramaic and Greek words do we translate as peace? Are there other powerful, descriptive, or more rich translations of these words?

Maybe you think there is only one possible meaning for peace, but take a look at the English definition of peace.  It alone has several meanings and contexts for peace.  So, why wouldn't the Hebrew and Greek words for peace have other meanings?  They do.

"And thou shalt go to thy fathers in
peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age."
- Gen 15:15
In this verse, the Hebrew word is
 שָׁלוֹם.  If you're not up on your Hebrew, the transliteration is "shalom." It has the following meanings and contexts:
  1. completeness (in number)
  2. safety, soundness (in body)
  3. welfare, health, prosperity
  4. peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment
  5. peace, friendship
    1. of human relationships
    2. with God especially in covenant relationship
  6. peace (from war)
  7. peace (as an adjective)

"...And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
- 1 Thes 5:23

The Greek word is εἰρήνη. If you're not up on your Greek, the transliteration eirēnē  (pronounced ā-rā'-nā).
It has the following meanings and contexts:
  1. a state of national tranquility
    1. exemption from the rage and havoc of war
  2. peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
  3. security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)
  4. of the Messiah's peace
    1. the way that leads to peace (salvation)
  5. of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
  6. the blessed state of devout and upright men after death
Do you see how many different things peace can mean?
Do you see how good each of these different meanings is?

For your relationships. For your life. For your body. For your soul. For everything that you are going through. For what you are facing today. For what you will face tomorrow. For your finances. For your children.  For their children. For you.

Tranquility. Harmony. Blessed Assurance. Safety. Completeness.

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it."
- 1 Thes. 5:23-24 -

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lifehouse's Everything

Every now and then, I come across a YouTube video that just blows me away.  This one is a dramatic presentation to Lifehouse's Everything.  The message is simple, but extremely powerful.  Church, if this doesn't move you, you better check your pulse...

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
- Romans 8:38-39 -

Whatever direction you are facing, you can turn to Christ anytime.  Now is a good time.  Don't walk to him. RUN!  He wants to show you all the wonders of creation that he made for you.  Don't let the distractions of the world keep you from knowing the love of Christ.  Nothing can separate you from God's love.  Nothing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thoughts on Luke 8:16-25

A Lamp on a Stand (Luke 8:16-18)
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.  For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

It should be pretty obvious that no one would light a lamp and then hide the light it brings.  For one, that's a fire hazard!  If you hide a light, then what good is the light?  No good! None whatsoever!  That's why lights are put up so that people can see by it.  The light reveals everything that was once hidden in the dark.  Think about it.  If you're in the dark, you can't see everything around you. You kind of have an idea of where stuff may be, but you can't see it.  When you have even a little light, like a flashlight or a cell phone, you can see more things that you couldn't see before.

Jesus is the light of the world.  When he came to this world, we brought light to the darkness.  He opened our eyes so that we could see everything that was around us.  The world hates that Jesus came.  They hate that he has revealed our sins.  They don't want forgiveness.  That would mean admitting their weakness, their guilt, their need for something from someone else.  Our world hates that so much.  Jesus has already begun bringing a light to all that was dark.  He has begun revealing what was hidden.

Now, in the context of the Scriptures, he says that we should listen carefully and consider what we do with what we've heard.  Yesterday, I talked about the sower.  Good seeds falling on different soils have different results.  If we take what we are given, chew on it, absorb it, live it, we will be given more.  If we do nothing with it, then it will simply be taken away.

Lord, reveal to me what I have hidden and kept secret.  While it may be hidden from and secret to the world (and even me!), it is well known to you.  Lord, help me to face it and claim the victory that you have already won over it.

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers (Luke 8:19-21)
Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd.  Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.

This seems kind of out of place after what we have just been talking about, but Luke put it in here, so we'll talk briefly about it.  It may surprise some to think that Jesus had brothers, but he did.  Yes, Jesus was born from a virgin, but she was married.  After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had other children.  These would be Jesus' half-brothers.  At any rate, they are wanting to see Jesus.  Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are waiting and he says that his mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.  It could be easily taken as a slap at his family, but that's not the point.  He is telling us that anyone can be a part of the family of God, if they are willing to really hear God's word and put it into practice.

Lord, let your Word find its way deep into my heart.  May it take firm root and grow.  Jesus, help me to understand your word better that I might live it out.

Jesus Calms the Storm (Luke 8:22-25)
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.  In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Now we go from Jesus teaching to crossing to the other side of the lake.  They are in a boat and are out there for awhile, because Jesus has fallen asleep and a storm has really gotten going.  It must have been calmer when they first got out on the lake.  I mean, who in their right mind sets out on the lake when a bad storm is going on?  No one!  So, this storm that developed got bad.  It was so bad, the boat was getting swamped with water.  Luke even says that they were all in great danger.  So, the disciples go and wake Jesus up.  This freaks me out.  Jesus was asleep in the midst of this storm!  I have trouble sleeping through storms and I'm on dry land!  Yet there he was, sleeping through this terrible storm!  When Jesus wakes up, he goes and calms the wind and the waters.  The storm goes away and all is calm again.  Then he asks his disciples where their faith was.

Wow.  Why does Jesus ask this of them?  Is it possible that they too could have rebuked the storm if they had the faith?  I think the answer is yes.  That begs the question, what can we do if we have faith?  Maybe the better question is what can't we do if we have faith? Father, increase my faith!

My prayer for you today is that the Holy Spirit would prepare your heart to receive the Word of God.  My prayer is that when you hear the Word, it will take root and grow within you.  My prayer is that you will obey the Word in your life, your words, and actions.  My prayer is that your faith will increase and that you will show the light and love of Christ to the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:1-15)

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

So, why do you think this was included as part of the Scriptures?  We are learning that Jesus is traveling and that in addition to the twelve, there are women with them.  Not just any women, but women who have been cured and healed.  Joanna is somebody's wife and also the manager of Herod's household.  I wonder if this is the same Herod who was also king at the time.  Imagine that!  Herod's own household manager is following Jesus!  Susanna is also mentioned and we are told that there are other women.  Now, it's only given one line, but this is important.  These women were helping to support them.  This should be setting off all kinds of bells and whistles in your head.  Why?  First of all, during Bible times, men were the providers.  They are the ones who got jobs, made the money, supported their families and so on.  For women to be able to support men is unheard of!  I suppose if you are going to go against the system, Jesus' ministry is a good reason.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”  When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.

I love Jesus' teaching style.  He speaks to the people in terms of things that they understand.  This group of people that he was speaking to might have been farmers.  They appreciate the message and know the value of good seed.  What he is saying is something they would have known well.  Whether the seed prospers and grows depends largely on the soil it is planted in, the moisture, and more.  Yet, Jesus did not come to give advice on farming.  There is a message in the parable, but not everyone will understand the message that Jesus is trying to teach.  They have heard the message but they have not understood.

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see; 
though hearing, they may not understand.

Jesus is actually quoting prophecy here.  The people understand this particular parable as nothing more than advice about farming.  They see Jesus but do not understand that he is much more than what they see.  They hear his words but don't understand that there is much more to what he is saying.  The disciples are blessed.  They know that there is more to what Jesus has said, but they aren't exactly sure what he meant.  So now, Jesus will explain the parable.

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.  Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.  The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.  But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Jesus tells us there are four kinds of people:
Those who hear the Word of God,

  1. but lose it before they can be saved and believe because the Devil takes it
  2. but lose it when they are tested, because the Word has not taken root
  3. but do not mature, because they are choked out by world concerns
  4. retain it and persevere by producing a crop (of believers)
This is some pretty amazing stuff.  Some people hear the Word of God and before it has a chance to sink in, the devil dives in and takes it away before it even has a chance to take root and affect a person.  Some people hear the Word and believe it.  Everything is great until something happens.  Something in their life tests their new-found faith.  Rather than growing through the test, they fail and abandon their faith.  Some people hear the word and accept it, but they have too hard of a time letting go of world concerns.  They invest more in this world than the next and so they do not mature.  Think of these folks as constantly drinking baby milk when they should be devouring steaks by now.  Then, there's the last group.  These are the people that hear the word.  It is more than a passing fancy.  It is a lifestyle choice that they cling to, regardless of what is going on and what surrounds them.  Their faith and their walk is nothing less than holy.  It is inspirational.  These are the saints that lead others to a relationship with Christ.  Their crop is the new body of believers.

Jesus, forgive me for not clinging to your Word.  Forgive me for the times I have abandoned you when I have faced the tests and trials.  Forgive me for allowing worldly concerns to usurp your throne.  Jesus, help me to yield control of my life to you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Verdict (Skit Guys)

I recently posted about forgiveness.  It's fitting that there is a presentation from the skit guys that talks about forgiveness.  There is nothing that is too bad to be forgiven.  There are not too many sins to be forgiven.  Jesus can forgive you, no matter how terrible or how many sins there may be.  Thank you, Jesus, for forgiving me!