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Click here to read Matthew 10 on BibleGateway.com

peaceToday’s lesson, boys and girls, is on reading the whole Bible, rather than just our favorite verses. Case in point: Matthew 10.

Jesus has many titles in the Bible: Emmanuel, Son of Man, Logos, King of the Jews, etc. But one that gets passed around quite a bit in our time, especially during Christmas season, is Prince of Peace. We’ve all heard the sermons about how Jesus brings peace (and usually joy – they go together like pickles and radiators); you may have even heard sermons about how if you don’t have peace in your life, then you must not be following Jesus.

Now there’s some truth to that, of course. After all, we have the Fruitbasket of the Spirit, and peace and joy are in there amongst the pears of patience and goodness. But we need to be careful not to take this too far. Following Jesus does not mean that you will have no trouble, or if there is conflict in your life, then you are somehow not following God.


In Matthew 10, Jesus himself tells the disciples (right before sending them on the lecture circuit) that they will have some admittedly peace-less days: they should prepare to be rejected and abandoned, they should be ready to be arrested, they will be hated by everyone. And then he says this great line: “Do not suppose I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” You won’t hear that sung by little wieners in sheep and camel costumes.

So now we have a problem. Jesus tells us that he did not come for peace, yet elsewhere in the Bible, He is clearly called the Prince of Peace. What do we do with this?

Let’s consider this possible interpretation: perhaps the peace that Jesus brings is not between people, but between people and God. In other words, when Jesus is the Prince of Peace, that is referring to the peace that He brings to the relationship that we have with God, not our relationships with other people. Jesus himself, clearly somewhat full of the Spirit, one would think – did not live at peace with all those around Him.

The truth is some people will dislike you because they dislike Jesus; the closer you get to Him, the more you will anger them. The Bible says that darkness hates the light; the brighter you get, the more the dark will hate you. And there’s always the possibility that other people are just jerks (even, gasp, other Christians), and you won’t get along with them. Or perhaps you’re just a jerk – that’s always possible, too.


The point is that a relationship with Jesus does not guarantee a life of peace; in fact, it may mean just the opposite. Once Jesus entered public ministry, we’d have to skip a fairly large chunk of the Bible to think that his life was peaceful, or even that he was always peaceful. Those poor chumps getting kicked out of the temple with a whip would have probably have preferred a peaceful Jesus.

But that’s not who Jesus is – He is Lord. A Lord may be giving and loving, but they still expect obedience. If you follow a Lord, you cannot follow another, be it money, popularity, prestige, your rights, your ministry, your family, or anything else. To love Jesus you must follow Jesus, and Jesus alone. In our world, that means peace may be hard to come by.

At least Jesus gave you fair warning.

Click here to read Matthew 6 on BibleGateway.com

k0175497Have you ever watched one of those award ceremonies where actors are given awards for all their hard work of pretending to be someone one else for millions of dollars? Neither have I. But for the sake of illustration, let’s say that we have. Otherwise my little picture there is just silly. Can’t have that.

Oh, how we love to get credit. Not the credit card kind of credit; that one kinda stinks, what with the mounting interest rates, the minimum payments and the threats and hired goons. We’re talking about the kind of credit when everyone gives you a round of applause, with roses tossed in the air, and much rejoicing in the land. And we sit with a small little smile on our face, poo-pooing all the attention (on the outside) while we revel in the glow of our own awesomeness (on the inside), because after all, clearly we deserve to be recognized for all the hard work we have done.


Even in the church, we want to be the one recognized for our service. We want the pastor to single us out in the service with a cry of “behold a righteous man, in whom there is nothing false.” We want the church to call us up and pat us on the back when we get back from our two-week mission trip to South America (surely they know how hot it was down there and how we suffered for Jesus?). We want the recognition for our “sacrificial” giving in the offering last week (of course, it was really 3 weeks’ worth since we’ve missed a couple weeks on vacation and recovering from vacation.) We don’t announce our greatness naturally (that would be arrogant.  or something), but we want others to notice just the same.

Jesus doesn’t hold back when he discusses our need for recognition. He pointedly says that when we are behaving righteously, we should go out of our way to keep those things secret. We should give without letting others know we are giving, or how much we are sacrificing to give (that means wrapping a one dollar bill around your hundreds when you give, rather than the other way around). When we fast, we aren’t supposed to go around with a hollow starving look in our eyes, or “casually” mention that we can’t join people for lunch because we’re fasting. When we pray, we don’t need to kneel at the altar and raise our hands to the heavens in cries of righteousness. We pray alone in our own room (feel free to cry out there of course. But not so loud the neighbors hear).


Why? Why does God care if people know that we’re giving, fasting, praying, holy people? Could it be that God knows us better than we know ourselves? If others know what we are doing, is it possible that we may be doing those acts of righteous just for the benefit of others, rather than actually trying to be close to God? If we’re honest with ourselves, we may have to admit that fasting is a little easier when someone else acknowledges our sacrifice. Sorry, my friends, this should not be.

But don’t give up. Note that Jesus doesn’t say we should stop praying or giving; he just says we need to be careful to be doing them with the right motivation. We don’t do what we do in order to impress others or get the credit for being awesome; we do what we do in order to please God. If we are focused on serving God, then the recognition from others will mean little to us. Our reward is to please our Creator and Father.

That should be enough credit for anyone. Even without the red carpet.

Click here to read Isaiah 57 on BibleGateway.com

trust-fall1All of us have probably played the trust game at one point or another.  This is the sadistic activity that comes around every once in a while at “team-building” retreats.  One person will stand with their back to another, close their eyes, and fall backwards, trusting the other person to catch them before they shatter their coccyx on the cement floor of the conference hall.  The stated purpose is build trust in one another, specifically by trusting that the guy that messes up your coffee order every morning somehow has enough cognitive ability, coordination,  and upper body strength to  intercept your carcass on its inevitable descent into agonizing pain. Allegedly, you can learn a lot from these exercises; like what happens when your partner falls forward instead of back, and the precise length of time that resentment towards the team-leader can fester.


Perhaps it stems from incidences like this, but most of us do not have a real strong sense of trust in the people around us.  Not such a bad thing, on occasion, but the problem is that this sometimes seeps over into our walk with Christ.  If we can’t trust men, and Jesus was a man, then perhaps we can’t trust him either.

No where is this more starkly displayed than when an innocent person dies.  A lunatic shoots up a school, a mother of 3 in her 20s has a stroke, an infant dies; immediately we ask ourselves “Where is God in this?”  We trusted him to heal, we prayed, we fasted, we did all the things we’re “supposed” to do, and yet senseless violence and death happens.

We can of course throw around the standard verses: God works all things together for good and whatnot.  Yet for anyone who goes through something like that, these words are pretty hollow.  Sure, God might bring good out of it, but my baby is still dead. Can I really trust God when he lets me down?

Isaiah addresses this topic in our reading today: “The righteous perish…the devout are taken away and no one understands.”  Ain’t that the truth? I think we could deal with these tragedies more easily if we just understood the plan.  Sometimes it just seems that the world is in chaos, and God is nowhere to be found.


Yet the section goes on: “The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil…they find rest as they lie in death.”  Have you ever considered that the innocent ones who die are actually the ones God is blessing?  Maybe that infant who was still born would have had a terrible life – maybe God loved them so much he brought them to himself first.   Maybe that innocent bystander was so awesome that God just wanted them in heaven sooner.  Can we accept that God is really acting in love, despite what we see?

All of God’s actions in the Bible reflect his desire to be in relationship with us.  Because of sin, we cannot be in full relationship with God until after death (thanks a lot, Adam).  But in light of that, the ones that die young are brought back into relationship with God more quickly.  They are fully who they are designed to be, in a way that those of us on Earth will probably never understand until we join them.  Maybe our losing them is God showing us just how great and wide and deep his love really is.

Can you trust God enough to believe it?

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