Have you ever imagined what the Christmas story would have been like if the wise men had been wise women?
I recently read a novel (Inside, Outside by Herman Wouk) about Jewish life in America, and I learned this Hebrew phrase. It is from the final words of the Kaddish, a prayer for the dead and it means, “He will make peace.” It made me think about how Jesus does that for us. He speaks about it in what has been called the High Priestly Prayer, in the book of John, Chapter 17.
First of all, through His sacrifice, He makes peace between us and God. He prays
“…that they may all be one, just as you, the Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us …John 17: 21
He also makes peace between all believers as He brings us into His body, the church:
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be perfectly one.” John: 17:22-23
What a gift! He has made peace. Yasseh shalom.
Welcome to today’s blog post on Ecclesiastes 3…we continue with verse 8
A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.
Such a contrast between these… love/hate, war/peace… But, God’s Word says, through King Solomon, that there is a proper time for both.
The first thing Verse 8 made me think of when reading it was the saying “love the sinner, hate the sin”. There are many people I know that live in sin… living together/sexual immorality outside of marriage, drug and alcohol addiction, people who are continually dishonest, cheat, or steal. I have friends who live in alternative lifestyles, people who have shopping/spending addictions, I have a friend that is addicted to food, I have people in my life that are dealing with abuse of some kind, friends who have anger management issues. Some of these people are Christians and some of them are not. But they all have one thing in common…my love.
If you have read some of my blogs, or you know me personally, you know that I love people! I have been a people person all my life. I was modelling my love for people, the way Jesus did, before I ever even gave my life to Him. I have always wanted to love people.
Growing up, I got into a lot of trouble. Some of my own doing, but some because of the company I kept. I always gave people the benefit of the doubt, never understood how someone could be cruel to someone else, and I always stood up for people that were picked on because I knew how it felt.
I had a lot of heartache in my childhood. I was picked on, made fun of, called names, had cruel jokes played on me more than once, and not just by kids at school but my own family as well. I never felt as though I really belonged anywhere. I always felt like an outsider and always felt like the “black sheep” of the family.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that Jesus started to change my perspective. I realized how to look at people through what I call, “God goggles”. My opinion of others behavior didn’t change but I was able to look at them with a new filter. One thing I’ve learned in my life is that people who are angry, bitter, committing crimes, abusing others, trying to escape reality with drugs, alcohol, or alternative lifestyles…they are people who are hurting… just like I was when I have displayed some of those traits in my own life. People express the hurt in their hearts in so many ways.
And so that is why I am friends with all types of people. I don’t discriminate. People have asked me “How can you be friends with so and so?” And I tell them, “Just because you can see their sin doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with some of those same sins, you just don’t see it.” With some people I do take more caution for obvious reasons… I can now love them but hate the things they do. How can I do this? I’ve learned something as a Christian that I wished I had learned a long time ago… boundaries. I stick to my boundaries and guarding my heart above all else.
The second thing verse 7 made me think of was war and peace… no, not the book! I thought about war and peace in my heart. There are times in my life when I have been at war with myself, at war with God, at war with other people. There have been times in my life when I have had extreme peace in my heart, contentment within myself, my relationships, and my faith. Like I wrote in yesterday’s blog post, it is possible to be in a state of two opposite conditions of the heart simultaneously.
One for me that comes up often is spiritual warfare. As a warrior in God’s army, I am constantly fighting to protect myself from the devil’s attacks but I am at complete peace because I know that no matter what fiery arrows come my way, God is walking alongside of me. He is my heavenly father, my protector, my healer, my counselor, my provider, my comforter, my strength, and my power. That is where my peace comes from. Without it I would be lost, just like I was before I found it. Without it, I would be just like the lost, hurting people I know, who have no hope.
I love to sing! If you know me, you know that about me too! There is a song that I love to sing when I am praising my Savior for all He is for me… Because of Who You Are by Vicki Yohe. She is my favorite gospel singer. In fact it is one of the songs I have been practicing to sing at church. These are the lyrics…
Because of who you are, I give you glory
Because of who you are, I give you praise
Because of who you are, I will lift my voice and say
Lord, I worship you because of who you are
Lord, I worship you because of who you are
You see your Jehovah, Jehovah Jireh, my provider
Jehovah Nissi, Lord, you reign in victory
Jehovah Shalom, my Prince of Peace
And I worship you because of who you are
The words to this song remind me that I am His and He is mine. He is my everything, just because of who He is.
Who is God to you? Is He your everything? Or do other things hold a higher place in your heart? Are you spending more time with God or with the things of the world?
How about those “God goggles”? Do you look at others through the eyes of Christ? Or do you sit in judgement at the speck of sin in the eyes of others, meanwhile forgetting the log of sin in your own?
God loves you and so do I,
photo courtesy of hannahhelpme.com
(and by the way, my chihuahua looks just like this pic!)
According to the dictionary, to pursue means to chase or run after something or someone. We pursue the things we really want and are interested in. What are you chasing after in your life? Is it money? A beautiful home? A prestigious job? An expensive car? A certain someone who attracts you? If we’re honest, we realize many (if not most) of the things we pursue have to do with worldly approval or success.
The Bible tells us to pursue a whole different set of things. For example:
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14
Pursue is a verb, an action word. This means I must not only think peace is a nice idea, I must do what I can to promote it. Maybe this means compromise, or putting another person first. Certainly it means caring more about the other person than winning or getting my own way.
Here’s another one:
“Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…” 1 Corinthians 14:1
Pursuing love means behaving in a loving way to all of God’s children–not just the ones I care about or the ones who treat me well. It means using my gifts to encourage and support others, not to promote only myself and my own interests.
“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11b
Pursuing righteousness and godliness means going against my natural inclination by doing God’s will instead of my own. Pursuing God’s way means trying to be selfless instead of selfish.
I know I’ll never completely stop pursuing the wrong things; but staying close to God through study, worship and prayer will help me remind me of the things I really want.
“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18b
Run after God. Pursue the eternal.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18
Michele’s last post highlighted how difficult it is to maintain peace, especially during these turbulent times. People are angry and unwilling to see any virtue in those with whom they disagree.
My devotional reading a few days ago was taken from Psalm 34:
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
Easier said than done, right? People make us mad. The folks we deal with every day in our workplace, family, even church can be irritating, insensitive, rude and more. They have political views we don’t understand. They don’t do things the way we want them done. They don’t seem to care how their actions and words affect us. How do we deal with this?
Well, the only person I can really control is me. If I want to get along with others, I have to make decisions that allow me to do this. I have to pursue peace. My devotional, and some other readings from Romans and James have a few good suggestions I’d like to share.
- Try to understand, through prayer, the motivation of others. I have often found, after praying for someone there are things in their life that cause them to behave the way they do. It may not make their behavior right, but it does help me accept it without anger.
- Outdo one another in showing honor.(Romans 12:10) Sometimes one person’s calm, respectful manner will create a change in the environment.
- Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (Romans 12:17) Seeking revenge causes a bad situation to escalate.
- Love one another with a brotherly affection (Romans 12:10). When we love someone we are willing to make allowances for them.
- Think before you speak (James 1:26)
- (Most important) Always give others the benefit of the doubt. How many relationships would be saved if we followed this simple rule?
I wish I could say I always follow my own advice. Unfortunately like Michele and everyone else, sin is my default position. I have my own particular buttons that when pushed result in a stubborn, angry, unforgiving response. However, God doesn’t give me what I deserve. He gives me grace; that’s what I should extend to others.
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
If I had to choose a song that exemplifies the peace we all want to feel in our hearts at Christmas, it would be Silent Night. Here is the story of how it came to be composed and popularized, in case you have never heard it.
The reason “Silent Night” was created: How the world’s most famous Christmas carol came to be written and set to music
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” — Luke 2:8
In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ’s birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas.
Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas’ church organ wasn’t working and would not be repaired before Christmas. (Note: some versions of the story point to mice as the problem; others say rust was the culprit) Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.
From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Reveling in majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the glowing Christmas-card like scene. His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. That poem was about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.
Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The one problem was that he didn’t have any music to which that poem could be sung. So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. They now had a Christmas carol that could be sung without that organ.
On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber’s guitar.
Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ in St. Nicholas church. When Mauracher finished, he stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr’s Christmas poem. Deeply impressed, Mauracher took copies of the music and words of “Silent Night” back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers — the Rainers and the Strassers — heard it. Captivated by “Silent Night,” both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.
Silent night! holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
‘Round yon virgin mother and Child!
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, they performed “Silent Night” for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, and he then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.
Twenty years after “Silent Night” was written, the Rainers brought the song to the United States, singing it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside New York City’s Trinity Church.
In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, “Silent Night” was translated into English (by either Jane Campbell or John Young). Eight years later, that English version made its way into print in Charles Hutchins’ Sunday School Hymnal. Today the words of “Silent Night” are sung in more than 300 different languages around the world.
Everybody longs for peace. We tend to think of peace as something internal and passive: a gift that God imparts to us simply because we are His people. Then we wonder why we don’t have it in our lives. However, the Bible tells us over and over again that peace is something we must actively seek. It doesn’t come naturally, even to Christians. Consider the following verses:
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:17-19
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know they breed quarrels.” 2 Timothy 2:22-23
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled …”Hebrews 12:14-15
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:23
One of our authors was interested in having some sort of “free for all” month when we could write on any topic. After discussion we decided to select “fruit of the spirit” as our theme for December. Although we are limited to the nine qualities above, this still allows us a wide range of verses and ideas for blogging.
The fruit of the spirit also seems especially appropriate for the Christmas season. This is a time when we should experience this fruit as we eagerly await Christ’s birth. But do we? Sometimes this season of joy and peace becomes filled with stress and discord. Our patience is tried as we attempt to do it all: shopping, baking, entertaining. Instead of being kind, gentle and loving, we become tired, irritable and whiney. Self control is lost as we participate in the gluttony of eating, drinking and gift-giving.
Surely this is not what Christmas is about. So join into our blog discussions and let us know how this Holy Season is affecting you. Is the fruit of the spirit evident in your life? How can you cultivate this fruit? Let us know what you think.
God loves you and so do I!