The Pathway To Peace

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What’s it all about Alfie? In the final scene of the original Alfie, Michael Caine stands with his back to the Thames and adds up what he’s gained from his life of womanizing. Not much, he concludes. He has a lot of material things, but he knows he has treated people badly. “I ain’t got me peace of mind,” he says to camera. “And if you ain’t got that you ain’t got nothing…So what’s the answer? That’s what I keep asking myself. What’s it all about? Know what I mean?” (Popcultured, Steve Turner, p. 66). Many have asked the same question. What’s it all about? What is life all about? How do you find meaning and purpose and most importantly, peace?
The apostle Paul reveals the pathway to peace in Philippians 4:6-8. Paul founded the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:12-40). Luke records the conversions of Lydia (and her household) and the jailor (and his household). The church at Philippi was probably not large. It was also predominantly Gentile. The book of Philippians was written by Paul from Rome around 58-60 A.D. Paul writes concerning spiritual matters that indicated his love for a church that always stood by him. He writes of his imprisonment and how it advanced the gospel in Rome. He exhorts his fellow Christians and instructs them in the faith. He encourages them in the pursuit of noble virtues. One of those virtues is peace. He outlines four steps in the pathway to peace.
Step one: reconciliation with God (II Cor. 5:17-19). Here are some things that trouble the human spirit: turmoil, trouble, temptation, trials, unrest, war, pride, covetousness, persecution, sin, etc. These things produce: strife, enmity, discord, and anxiousness. They are unsettling, disturbing, irritating and frustrating. They rob us of peace. The members of the church at Philippi had taken this first step as a result of Paul’s ministry of reconciliation. He enjoins, “Be ye reconciled to God…” (II Cor. 5:20). The word “reconcile” means “to be made one, to be brought into fullness of fellowship with God.” Sin produces enmity between us and God and that enmity can only be resolved through forgiveness. We must be forgiven by God in order to have peace. Paul mentions the “peace of God” in Phil. 4:6-8. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). God is the ultimate source of peace. Without Him, there is no peace. Forgiveness comes from Christ. Paul writes, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled” (Col. 1:20-21). We obtain forgiveness when we obey the gospel. On the day of Pentecost, Peter told the people to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). This same message is relevant for us. Forgiveness forges a new relationship with God (Gal. 3:26-27). We become the children of God by faith in Christ and baptism into Christ. Forgiveness produces peace. Peace is the tranquility of soul that is one with God. You cannot find peace in worldliness and materialism. You find it in God and Christ.
The second step is trust in God. Paul declares, “in nothing be anxious.” Anxiety may be defined as “my mind is a blur and my heart is a stir.” It is inner turmoil. Nervousness resulting from life’s uncertainties and difficulties. The resolution to this inner turmoil is trust or reliance of God. Noah was faced with the wrath of God predicting a cataclysmic event–the universal flood. By faith, he built an ark just as God told him to do (Heb. 11:7). He saved his life and that of his family because he trusted God. Abraham started a journey by God’s direction but he did not know the destination (Heb. 11:8). He trusted God with his future. Amram and Jochebed brought a child into the world at a most difficult time in the history of Israel. The people of God were enslaved. Yet, God providentially preserved his life and we know the child as Moses (Heb. 11:23). To trust God is to take God at His word. When we do not know the future, we trust God who does. When we do not know what to do, we trust God who gives us direction. When we have lost hope, we turn to God who restores hope and gives peace. When we trust in ourselves, our friends or material means, we can be disappointed. God will never fail us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6).
The third step is prayer. Prayer is intimate communication between a righteous person and God. Paul instructs us to pray rather than fret. Supplication involves expressing a need, want or entreaty. Both prayer and supplications are addressed to God only. Only God can answer prayer and help us. We appeal to His power and might. Thanksgiving is also mentioned. Thanksgiving is the verbal expression of gratitude of the human heart denoting the joy of the human heart for God’s blessings. You cannot be negative and thankful at the same time. Thanksgiving focuses on what we have rather than our losses or what we do not have. Positive prayer, fervent entreaty and effective communication with God is a better approach to problem solving that fretting and worrying. The agitation of the mind is soothed in fervent prayer and is the means of inner peace.
The fourth step is focused thinking. The mind must be disciplined to focus on things that make for peace. This peace is not only from God but it passeth understanding. This does not mean that it cannot be known. God wants us to experience this peace. But, it means that it exceeds our thoughts in its glory. This peace acts as an umpire to sort out our thoughts and eliminate impure and unhealthy thoughts by focusing the mind on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. We must eliminate stinking thinking! We must replace such with spiritual thinking that elevates the human soul and causes us to be filled with the riches of Christ.
Peace is available to us and attainable by us. But, we will have to come to God and Christ to experience it. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The Ark Is Back!

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Have you noticed the upsurge in the popularity of Noah’s Ark?  Answers in Genesis hpes to build a full-scale ark in a theme park at Williamstown, KY at a cost of $73 million.  God’s ark of Safety is being built in Frostburg, MD.  It is still under construction.  In December, 2012, Johan Huibers became the first to build a full-sized ark that actually floats–Ark Van Noach in Dordrecht, Netherlands.  A full-size replica of Noah’s ark was built in Ma Wan Island, Hong Kong in 2009.  A two-thirds replica is being built by Paul Smith in Florenceville, New Brunswick.  There is an ark inside the Cornerstone church in San Antonio, TX that is a $5 million, two-story, Disney-style attraction, complete with animatronic animals.  An ark is planned for Yerevan, Armenia that would be built in sight of Mt. Ararat.  It would be the center of a theme park.

Why Is Noah’s Ark So Popular Today?  I would like to give five reasons that express my own thoughts concerning this subject.
First, the ark represents safety in the midst of a great storm.  When it rains for 40 days and 40 nights, you need some place to get out of the storm!  When the storms of life come, where do you go?  Read Psa. 46:1 and 57:1.  Where could you go, but to the Lord?  Our ark of safety today is “in Christ” and “in the church of Christ.”  Only “in Christ” do we have real peace, safety, and salvation.
Second, the ark represents heroic effort.  The story of the ark is the story of the faith of one man, Noah, who was one in a billion!  Yes, the estimated population of the earth in Noah’s day was one billion.  Noah was the only father who saved his family.  Noah’s faith was real (Heb. 11:7).  Noah’s faith was complete.  He did all that God commanded him to do.  He built the ark–a gigantic task for his day.  Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  We need heroes of faith today!
Third, the ark represents God’s faithfulness.  God was faithful to His word of judgment against the wickedness and violence in the earth (Gen. 6:5-7).  God was also faithful to His promise to preserve Noah and his family in the ark (Gen. 6:8).  God was faithful to His word of promise after the flood, i.e. not to destroy the earth by water again.  The rainbow is a sign of this promise.  God’s faithfulness gives us certainty in the midst of uncertainty.
Fourth, the ark represents peace in the midst of turmoil.  The waters of the flood were ferocious and frightening.  But, inside the ark, there was peace.  The waters destroyed the inhabitants of the earth who did not fear God.  But, the same waters lifted the ark to safety (I Pet. 3:20-21).  God’s judgment is real.  The ungodly shall perish.  We can be saved from God’s wrath through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8-9).  We can have peace through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).
Fifth, the ark represents hope.  Hope, that while others perish, we can be saved.  Hope that we can have a new beginning with God and in Christ.  Hope that is anchored to the promises of God.  Hope that all is well with us because we have hid our lives in Christ where all spiritual blessings reside (Col. 3:3; Eph. 1:3).
Why is the ark so popular?  Men and women still need salvation, peace, and hope.  In short, we still need God.  We need a place where we can preserve our souls.  That place is “in Christ.”  (Gal. 3:26-27).

Peace, Perfect Peace

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Peace on earth is a lofty goal.  Will it ever happen?  God has made peace possible through the Prince of Peace.  However, not everyone believes in Jesus Christ (John 8:24).  Consequently, sin reigns in many of the hearts of men.  From whence comes war?  James 4:1, “From whence come wars and fightings among you?  come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”  James reveals the key to war.  It is the lusts of the flesh.  Until the lusts of the flesh are conquered, there will be war and fightings among us.
The real question is this:  Do you have peace?  God has brought to light the covenant of peace through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Peace is possible.  Peace with God, others and self is obtainable.
The prophet Isaiah foretells a time when there would be peace (Isa. 26:1-4).  It is the age of the Messiah.  Do you know that we are living in the Messianic Age?  Christ has come!  Salvation, joy, hope and yes, peace is in Him.
Isaiah wrote, “In that day…” When we read these words in the Old Testament, they refer to the Messianic Age.  Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.  When Jesus was born, angels announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).  A child would be born who would be able to conquer Satan, destroy His works, and bring peace between God and man.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  The world without Christ cannnot secure peace.  In the world there will be:  tribulation, anxiety, fear, violence, war, hatred, and strife.  The hearts of men must change in order for peace to prevail.  Peace results when we put to death the works of the flesh and live life in the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Peace is a fruit of the Spirit.
Isaiah mentions “the kingdom of Zion.”  The kingdom of Zion is a spiritual city.  Salvation constitutes its walls and ramparts.  Salvation characterizes the city and is its strength (Isa. 25:4).  Yahweh is its strength (Isa. 25:4).  The city is impregnable.  The inhabitants of the city are the righteous people of God.  Into the holy city of God, nothing enters that will defile–all defillement has been removed by the power of the blood of Christ (the Messiah).  These people are the custodians of faithfulness.  Their faith connects them to the King of the city.
The mind of the righteous is fixed on Yahweh.  When the mind is fixed in God and the heart fully trusts in Him–there is peace.  Trust is confidence and reliance upon God.  God isn’t going anywhere!  He is everlasting!  Psa. 90:2.
Trust in God leads to perfect peace (peace, peace is the actual Hebrew construction).  This is the superlative of peace.  What is perfect peace?
-Wholeness and fullness of well-being of the soul before God.
-True repose in the sunshine of God’s grace.
-Complete sense of safety.
-Tranquility of the soul that rests in God’s strength.
-Absence of fear.
-Absence of conflict with God because of union with Him.
Perfect peace rests upon a perfect God.  He is our Rock.  He is our Refuge.  He is eternal, unchanging, impregnable, and undefeatable.  We are trusting in Him!  The peace we have can only fail if He fails.  But, God cannnot fail!  Hence, this peace is everlasting.  It is perfect peace.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:13-16).  Peace is in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).

Don’t Panic! Have Peace

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     I am a regular reader of Kiplinger magazine which provides finanical information to the average consumer.  In August of 2009, an article appeared in Kiplinger written by Andrew Feinberg titled, “A Prescrption for Panic.”  In this article, Feinberg warned against panic in the financial markets and in the average investor.  He references Paul Krugman’s The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, and remarks, “But Krugman also noted that panic can become self-fulfilling and that the “expectations, even the prejudices, of investors become economic fundamentals.”  Panic can drive markets!  Whenever panic becomes a predominent force, the markets generally suffer.  Feinberg goes on to say that governments have an uncanny ability to throw gasoline on almost any economic fire.  He states, “Conclusion: Blind trust in government is not a wise investment strategy” (p. 43).  Feinberg lists the enemies of investing: incompetent government officials, executives, monumental greedheads and misguided investors.  He then remarks, “But the biggest enemy of all may be heedless panic” (p. 43).  Human folly generates panic that is detrimental to investing. 
     Human folly generates panic that is detrimental to life!  When facing any crisis we have two choices:  panic or peace!  Consider for a moment the alternative to panic–peace.  God is the “God of Peace.”  This phrase is found in the New Testament seven times (Rom. 15:33, 16:20; I Cor. 14:33; II Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; I Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 13:20).  God gives men peace. Peace is “a conception distinctly peculiar to Christianity, the tranquil state of the soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatever sort that is” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, 182). The peace God gives is inner peace that is not dependent upon or affected by external circumstances.  It is the result of salvation through Jesus Christ.  It is peace through conquest.  “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20).  God’s power destroys the works of the devil (I John 3:8).  Sin creates enmity between man and God.  Remove sin and peace results!  Christ’s blood removes all iniquity and brings us into full reconciliation with God (Rom. 5:8-10). 
     God’s power brings us into His presence!  Consider these words from Scripture: “Finally, brethren, be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (II Cor. 13:11).  The Christian lives with this promise–God will never fail nor forsake him (Heb. 13:5).  Brethren should live in peace.  Five things rob of peace:  avarice, ambition, envy, anger and pride.  These enemies of peace must be banished!  I might add one more: unbelief in the living God.  Peter experienced panic whenever he stopped trusting in the Lord (Matthew 14:25-31). 
     When faced with a real crisis (even a financial crisis), we can either panic (the result of unbelief or misplaced trust) or have peace (the state of tranquility of the soul that fully trusts in God).  God’s power brings us into His presence where we have great peace!

Peace

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     The Greek word for peace is eirene.  This word appears 92 times in the New Testament.  It refers to a state of spiritual tranquility of the soul that finds its refuge in Jesus Christ. Peace results from salvation from sin.  James states that war is the result of man’s lusts, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (James 4:1).  Peace results only when the old man of sin is crucified.
     “According to the Canadian Army Journal, a former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, aided by historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India, came up with some startling facts and figures.  Since 3600 B.C., the world has known only 292 years of peace.  During that period, there have been 14,531 wars, large and small, in which 3,640,000,000 peple have been killed.  The monetary value of the destruction would pay for a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles in width and about thirty-three feet thick.  Why can’t man ever achieve peace outside of Christ?  Because there isn’t any peace outside of Christ!” (J. D. Watson, A Word A Day, 11).
     We will never have world peace until we make inner peace with God by reconciling to Him through Jesus Christ. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:13-15). By obeying the terms and conditions of the new covenant (New Testament), we can be reconciled to God and be at peace.  If all accountable persons in the world would do this, we could enjoy peace within and without.  We must first bring peace to the soul before we can bring peace to the world!