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I was recently reading John 14 and came across those comforting words of Jesus, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”

As I read these words, three questions came to mind:

  1. What exactly is this peace that Jesus is going to leave that the world cannot give?
  2. Why is this peace important?
  3. How can I get it?

We are in the season of advent. That time in the church calendar that begins the new church year. Advent is the four weeks that lead up to Christmas. The word advent means coming. In this season the church looks forward to the second coming of Christ for the first three weeks, and then looks back in time at the first coming of Jesus. Each week has a different focus. For some traditions the first week is Hope. The second week is Peace. The third week is Joy and the last week is Love.

I go to a rehabilitation center in Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico, on Monday afternoons. This last Monday I talked to the group of men about Advent and about peace, specifically the Prince of Peace that is coming back to earth one day. The Prince of Shalom.

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Jewish people greet each other with this word; back in Jesus time and even today. Jesus used this word when he was speaking to his disciples. The word Shalom has a much deeper meaning than our English word “peace”. I have been reading an Advent devotional from the magazine Christianity Today and I shared part of an article about shalom with the rehabilitation center men and I would like to share part of it with you. It was written by Carolyn Arends.

“Shalom is a beautiful word that conveys wholeness, harmony, and health. Where we might settle for uneasy truces and Band-Aid fixes as proxies for peace, shalom represents something much more robust. Beyond the cessation of war, shalom is a transformation of the conditions that lead to war in the first place. When there is shalom, everything gets to function the way it was created to. Shalom rejects the idea of life a a zero-sum game and dares to imagine the comprehensive flourishing of every person and everything, all at the same time.”

This concept of Shalom goes a long way toward answering my first question which was “What exactly is this peace that Jesus is giving that the world cannot give?”

That leads me to my second question, “Why is this peace important?”

Jesus tells his disciples in verse 27, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” This peace is so important because often our hearts are troubled and we are afraid.”

Jesus also told his disciples the same thing in verse 1. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Their hearts were troubled because in 13:33 Jesus told his disciples he would only be with them a little while longer and that where he was going they could not go. They received some news that they didn’t like and didn’t understand and their hearts were troubled. Some were afraid.

I think we all receive news sometime in our lives that we don’t like or we don’t understand, or we go through situations that are difficult and we ask God, “Why?”

And our hearts are troubled and sometimes we are afraid. It is at times like this that we need that Shalom peace that surpasses understanding.

Our family went through a difficult time that caused our hearts to be troubled and caused some fear. My wife’s mother was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer. She had a huge tumor growing in her stomach. When we found out we all cried. The prognosis was not good. We couldn’t understand how God could let this happen to such a godly woman. She endured a lot of pain and suffering and then died. She was 57. But we thank God that as she went through this hard time, she had that Shalom peace and so did our family.

That brings me to the third question, “How can we get it?” How can we have that peace that causes us to overcome our doubts and fears? How can we go through life with that Shalom that brings wholeness, fullness, and completeness to our lives; that causes us to flourish and thrive rather than to despair and fear?

Jesus mentions three vital things that need to happen for us to have this peace. He says in verse 23, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” Right there are two of the things we need to do to get his peace. We need to love him and obey his teaching. That is easy to understand, but often times hard to do. Our main motivation for loving him and obeying him is that He loves us. The Father loves us. The Holy Spirit loves us. The three persons of the Trinity are present in chapter 14. To have that peace that Jesus was talking about we have to get to know the Trinity, and know that they love us and are working on our behalf.

I especially love the last part of verse 23 where Jesus says, “we will come to them and make our home with them.” He doesn’t say that we will occasionally visit them or sometimes check in with them to see how they are doing. He says that he and the Father, and later on the Holy Spirit, will all come to the followers of Jesus Christ and live with them. Make their home with them. Day in and day out. All the time. 24/7.

With that kind of motivation we can live lives of love and obedience to the Prince of Peace, and enjoy the shalom that only he can give. I hope that this advent we will live in shalom-peace; that we will embrace the love of the Trinity and share shalom with all those around us. I pray that we will experience that peace that surpasses all understanding and be God’s hands and feet in bringing peace on earth and goodwill to all humanity

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He who best knoweth how to suffer shall possess the most peace; that man is conqueror of himself and lord of the world, the friend of Christ, and the inheritor of heaven. Thomas a Kempis – The Imitation of Christ

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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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