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If someone were to ask you, “Do you love life?”

What would you say?

 

How about Good Days? Do you See Good Days? Looking back on this week, did you see more good days, bad days, or so-so days.

I think we all want to live a life that we can say we honestly love. To love our family, our work, our neighbors, who we are and what we do. We all wake up every morning and hope that we have a good day, that everything goes as planned, that we cross a few things off our To Do lists. That we have fun. That we enjoy success in all we do.

Peter, in the Bible, wanted his readers to love life and see good days. In 1 Peter 3:10-12 he reminded those who would read his letter, of something King David had written many years before-

Whoever would love life

and see good days

must keep their tongues from evil

and their lips from deceitful speech.

They must turn from evil and do good,

they must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

So there it is. Five simple steps to loving life and seeing good days.

Let’s review. To love life and see good days we need to:

1. Keep our tongues from evil.

Evil – profoundly immoral and malevolent; harmful or tending to harm.

This definition reminds me of Ephesians 4:29,  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Keeping our tongues from evil means that we never say harmful words, only helpful words.

2. Keep our lips from deceitful speech.

Deceit – the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.

These first two principles for loving life and seeing good days both involve restricting what we say. James 3:2 says, “Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

If we want to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from deceitful speech, silence is the key. Dallas Willard, in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines  writes a lot about the spiritual discipline of silence and shares the testimony of a young person entering the practice of silence – “The more I practice the discipline of silence the more I appreciate the strength of silence. The less I become skeptical and judgmental, the more I learn to accept the things I didn’t like about others the more I accept them as uniquely created in the image of God. The less I talk, the fuller are words spoken at an appropriate time.”

I think this young person loves life and sees good days.

3. Turn from evil.

We already looked at the definition of evil. Here we are directed to “turn” from evil. This makes me think of repentance, which many define as turning from one type of bad behavior to a good type of behavior. I like Dallas Willard’s definition of repentance in his book The Divine Conspiracy, “Radically changing the way we think about something.” We can never really turn from bad behavior if we don’t radically change the way we think about that behavior.

4. Do good.

Good – to be desired or approved of; pleasing and welcome; appropriate to a particular purpose; possessing or displaying moral virtue; showing kindness.

Psalm 100:5 says, “The LORD is good and his love endures forever.” From this verse I get the idea that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Our natural response to His love and goodness is to love others and be good to them.

5. Seek peace and pursue it.

The “peace” that Peter is referring to comes from the Hebrew word shalom, which is defined as “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace and success.”

We seek, pursue and find true peace through Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Experiencing peace with God makes it much easier to experience peace with our neighbors, co-workers and family. 

Pablo comes to mind when I think of these traits.  Pablo came here to the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, about four years ago after graduating from the FFHM Bible Institute in Baja, Mexico.  He started working as a house parent for the little boys and later for the teenage boys. He also helped and continues to help with grounds keeping and maintenance.  He preaches and teaches here as well as at rehab centers in the area.  He is a fountain of encouragement and prayer for those men struggling with addictions.  He does a lot of good. 

But that wasn’t always the case.  As a young man he was himself addicted to drugs, did a lot of bad things, and rarely saw good days.  His life was miserable.  One day he came to the end of his rope.  People had been telling him about Jesus and His great love and power, and how Jesus could give him new hope and a new life.  Pablo asked Jesus to take over his life.  Jesus did and Pablo became a new creature in Christ.  He radically changed the way he thought about life and God.  Now everyday is a good day and he loves his new Life in Christ.  

When you go to bed tonight, think about your day. Did you see a good day? Did you love life today? If not, tomorrow might be a better day if you reach out to God and ask Him to –

 

Keep your tongue from evil

Keep your lips from deceitful speech

Turn from evil

Do good

Seek peace and pursue it

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What comes to mind when you think about the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of God?shalom They are connected. The Gospel is the Good News about the Kingdom of God. About the King. We constantly need to remember who is the King of the kingdom. I think the Good News about the Kingdom is that the King is also our Father! Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven … your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10). I think that news blew the Jews away. We read a lot about kings in the O.T. Some good, some bad. Some who strove to be righteous and others who were very evil. Some powerful, some weak. But none of them were portrayed as a loving Father. In Jesus sermon on the mount, which is all about the Kingdom and Gospel, he uses the word Father as a title for God more times than it is used as a title for God in the whole O.T. God as Father was almost a totally new idea for the Jews of that era. God as King – of course. God as Judge – they knew that God. God as Creator – Right on. But God as Father – What a concept!


Why are Gospel and Kingdom so important?  Why is knowing God as a loving, compassionate Father something we need to embrace. Because God wants us to be happy. Because God wants Shalom. I have been thinking and reading a lot about Shalom lately. That word is generally translated as peace. It is a Hebrew word that is used throughout the Old Testament and it means so much more than what we think of when we think of peace. It is the glad result of Kingdom and Gospel. Shalom is the goal of God for everyone. Shalom is happy wholeness. Shalom is harmony and prosperity.  Shalom is all encompassing. Shalom is living in peace and right relationship with God, ourselves, our family and community. Shalom is whole, right relationships between rich and poor, powerful and weak, black and white, Jew and Gentile.


Alas, we see far too little Shalom in the world today. Why? Because human beings in and of themselves do not have the power to live in and practice Shalom. Power is defined as the ability to do something. We have no a ability in ourselves to live in right relationship with God! And as for loving our neighbor – We despise our neighbor! I think this is why Jesus and Paul talk so much about the Power of God. There is no Shalom without that power. Shalom is the Good News that that power is available. When Jesus said the Kingdom is near, I think he was saying that Shalom is available to all who come to the loving, compassionate Father in an attitude of weakness and realization that without the Fathers power, we will live sad, miserable lives full of conflict and strife. Jesus is proclaiming Shalom and telling the people the Good News that God the Father is inviting people into the Kingdom of Shalom!

It is kind of like what we do here at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico.  We take in poor children who are broken and by the power of God and our love, they are made whole.  Children come who are hurt and angry, confused and abused, betrayed and shamed.  Here they experience Shalom. They grow into complete, happy people, full of smiles and laughter.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It can be a long process.  But when the children hear about the love of God and experience the compassion of their Heavenly Father on a daily basis, and depend on His power for their wholeness, then they live in peace and contentment.  They live in Shalom.

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The Apostle Paul wrote 13 letters that are in the Bible. In his introductorygrace peace remarks at the beginning of each letter he includes this salutation, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the concluding remarks of his epistles he writes, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

Peter wrote two letters. He begins his letters with the phrase, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” He ends his first letter with these words, “Peace to all who are in Christ.” The second letter ends with “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

I think grace and peace are the most important possessions we can have to be truly happy people. We need the grace and peace that comes from God to enjoy God in His happy kingdom.

Think of Paul before his close encounter with Christ. He claims that as for righteousness based on the law he was faultless, and as for zeal he persecuted the church (Philippians 3:6). He thought he could do it all spiritually speaking. He certainly tried, but apart from the grace of God he had no peace. Imagine the peace that flooded his soul when he encountered the grace that come from trusting Jesus and living in right relationship with God.

Think of Peter, living and learning from Jesus for three years. Boasting that he would never deny the Lord, willing to die for him if necessary. Hours later Peter claimed vehemently that he never knew Jesus. Jesus looked at Peter as Peter made his last denial while the rooster was crowing. He fled in tears. Not a lot of peace there. But later, he received abundant grace and forgiveness and was able to live and ultimately die, crucified upside down, in great peace.

It’s no wonder Paul and Peter begin and end their letters with reminders to their readers of grace and peace that are only found in Jesus Christ. It defined their lives. Those qualities of grace and peace were the foundation of everything they believed and did.

What did they have in mind when they used the words grace and peace.

With grace they meant the free gift of God that comes through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. This gift, totally undeserved by humans, transforms mere existence into Life, survival into thriving and flourishing.

Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but a deep and abiding sense that in the turmoil, confusion, pain and loss that we experience living in this broken world, there is Someone who is ultimately in control; a Savior who not only keeps us from going crazy, but who imbues us with a feeling of contentment. A God who loves us and wants us to be happy.

I live in Mexico and cooperate with God at a home for needy children. In the last two weeks we have experienced two really big earthquakes – an 8.2 and a 7.1 that caused incredible damage and took the lives of almost 400 people. Fortunately, by the grace of God, there was no physical damage to any of the buildings here at the mission, but many of the children, including my own two daughters, are constantly aware of what could possible happen and are reminded almost daily with the aftershocks. We felt four yesterday. To some extent we all waver between nervousness about whether or not there will be another earthquake, to outright fear. My daughters talk about earthquakes many times a day and sleep with us at night for fear of more of them.

I don’t understand much about God and natural disasters and suffering and loss. I can’t figure out exactly why God does what he does. I am perplexed at many turns on lifes long road. But I am grateful to God for that Peace that brings wholeness and well-being. That peace of God that makes me secure on the inside, even though things appear miserable on the outside. That peace of mind that comes from the God of peace. The peace of God which transcends all understanding and guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. The peace I have when I trust in the LORD with all my heart, and lean not on my own reasoning.

Peter and Paul begin and end their letters with Grace and Peace. May we begin each day by meditating and contemplating the incredible grace we have through Christ, and end each day thanking God for peace in our lives.

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O LORD God, Who lives in eternity,

The heavens declare thy glory,

The earth thy riches,

The universe is thy temple:

Thy presence fills immensity,

Yet thou hast of thy pleasure created life,

and communicated happiness:

Thou hast made me what I am,

and given me what I have:

In thee I live and move and have my being.

(A Puritan’s prayer from the book The Valley of Vision)