He is Our Peace

Young or old, we do not really control our own time of passing through this life. But we do control where we are going, by the choices we make.

Christmas 1999

As I thought about Christmas 1999 and the new millennium I was encouraged and challenged by these thoughts.

God created us and has a vested interest in our welfare.  When mankind turned its back on Him and ignored His directions, they discovered that God kept His promises.  He had promised good, but only on the basis of obedience.  He had promised disaster for disobedience.

But He also promised that He would not abandon mankind entirely and always managed to find someone who would obey, and He also said that eventually He would set the entire thing ‘to rights’.

When Jesus came to earth- His mission was just that- “Come or Bust’ to set the world ‘to rights’ again.

Part of it was to be a human– to experience its joy and its pain, the good and the bad– and at the end of His time here to finish the work of making it possible for human beings to come into a personal intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Over the last weeks a retired lady who was the ideal in a Christian woman dropped dead of a heart attack.  A drunk driver killed a young man who was anything of the kind.  A young Christian woman about to give birth died as a result of a combination of complications and inadequate health care, and an inadequate health facility in Africa.

Young or old, we do not really control our own time of passing through this life.  But we do control where we are going, by the choices we make.   Jesus said, “The son of man did not come to condemn the world but to save the world though Him.   Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s on and only Son.” [John 3:17,18]

As this millennium closes, we reflect on where we have come from.  In looking at the new millennium we anticipate where we are going.  I’m looking back at the wonderful way God has led me.  It has not always been without difficulty, but I can now see it was his hand at work.  I’m looking forward to where I will be– with Him whom to know is life eternal.

And so I leave you with this blessing to the Hebrews recorded in Numbers 6:

“May the Lord bless you and keep you;  May the Lord shine His face upon you
And favour you.
May the Lord lift up His face toward
You and grant you His PEACE”

©1999 D H Friesen

He Will Be Our Peace

Peace in the midst of war

[From ‘thought starters’ by Dr. Robert W. Pearson  written for the ‘Women of the Church of God’  1999 Christ’s Birthday Observance]

MICAH 5:1-5 [4:3-5]

During the earliest days of the recent NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, Pastor Obrad Nikolic e-mailed the North American staff of Church of God Ministries to report that bombs were beginning to fall on his city.  Pastor Nikolic pastors a Church of God congregation of thirty-five constituents in Nis, Serbia.  The anguish of his pastoral heart was revealed as he quoted D.S. Warner’s and E.E. Byrum’s positions on war and voiced his concern for the safety of his people.  Then he issued the Church of God in North America a challenge: “What will the Church of God do to help stop the bombing?”

Pursuing peace in an armed conflict like Kosovo is never an easy assignment.  One must ask, “What is peace, and how can peace be attained?”  Some in the church would call for Christians to pursue peace in the middle of war through nonviolent means.  Others support President Clinton’s position of bombing Serbian military targets to force the Serbs to withdraw  from Kosovo.  But how do you respond to Pastor Nikolic’s challenge, especially when you get the news of Serbian atrocities against the Kosovar?

While Christians  differ on how to pursue peace in times of armed conflict, we are in agreement that Peace is not the absence of war.  Peace is living in right relationship in every area of our lives — with God and with each other.   This kind of peace can only be attained through the Christ-Child.  For Micah’s prophecy is true –“And HE will be their peace.”  [Micah 5:5 Living Bible]

In Micah 5:1, the prophet predicts an ASSAULT will take place on Jerusalem.

Micah was born in an obscure place called Moresheth, a small vulnerable town in Southwest Palestine.  David Clark writes in New International Commentary:

“The second half of the eighth century was a turbulent one for the small states of Western Asia.  After the death of Jeroboam II of Israel in 746 B.C., the northern throne was occupied by a parade of worthless pretenders, all equally ineffective in countering the growing power of an Assyria that became strongly expansionist after the accession of Tiglath-Pileser III in 745 B.C.”

So the residents of Moresheth lived in continual fear of attack.   The Assyrians had engaged in 13 military campaigns in the preceding years.  Syria was conquered in 732, its people carted into exile as slaves.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel was defeated in 722, its people enduring the same fate as the Syrian.  Judah was next in line as Assyria hungrily looked toward Egypt.

When Micah prophesied during the years of 714-700 B.C., Judah was living on the edge of annihilation.  Their king, Hezekiah, was a godly man, but the people were becoming lax.  So Micah speaks out of this historical context, and warns of impending doom.  “Marshall your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod” [5:1]  (The fulfilment did not occur until years later in 597 B.C.)

However, even though the Babylonians would eventually defeat Judah and cart its people into slavery, Micah speaks words of ASSURANCE for the Hebrew people (a theme that runs through the Old Testament that though God punishes, He does not punish forever.)

Notice: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labour gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.”[5:2,3]

God always speaks words of assurance to us when we suffer.

In her book The Hiding Place,  Corrie Ten Boom tells of her experiences in a concentration camp during World War II.  At one point in this experience, she was so overwhelmed by the atrocities that she had witnessed around her that she wondered if all hope had gone.  At this moment she heard the song of a skylark above her and she was reminded of one of God’s promises in Psalm 103:11 — “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”  As she accepted this promise of God’s mercy and love, she began again to feel the assurance and joy that comes from God even in the midst of catastrophe.

While God doesn’t cause our suffering, He often uses suffering to prepare us to receive what he wants to give us. [“God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tested, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” I Cor 10:13.  Note that the words tested and tempted can be interchanged.]

In Philip Yancy’s book, “Where is God When it Hurts?” [Zondervan,1977] he quotes Alexander Solzhenitzyn:

“It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good.  Gradually, it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes, not through states, not between classes, not between political parties either, but right through all human hearts.  So, bless you, prison, for having been in my life.”

In I Peter 5:7 the Apostle writes “Cast all your care on him, for he cares for you.”

And in the midst of life’s assaults, God’s words of assurance speak of the ASSISTANCE that he offers his people — the coming Christ-Child who will usher in a kingdom of peace.”He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.  And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth …  and he will be their peace” [5:4,5]

God does not promise us a “rose garden” while we are in the process of life but we have a hope in the assistance that the Christ-Child will provide.  Micah reveals “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide”…” And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth“…[4:3 ] and then he goes on to say “They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

AND HE WILL BE THEIR PEACE.

When God becomes the focus and centre of our lives, it gives us the freedom to reach out beyond ourselves.  This frees us up to be far more than mere ‘cogs in the wheel’ and allows us to be ‘pro-active’ in any situation.

In the midst of the Kosovo situation I got this e-mail from Yugoslavia via a friend of mine.

“Today we have heard the sad news of another destruction of the Lord’s property.  The Baptist Church in Nis, under the leadership of our friend Pastor Cedomir, has developed extensive humanitarian ministry in the past few years.  The church has grown as a result of it.  Few days ago they had truck load of aid brought to them.  They were just preparing to give it out to the new refugees with the Gospel, but the missile hit their storage of aid last night.  It was all destroyed.  Pray for Cedomir and his congregation as they tried to salvage something from the ashes and give it to the hungry as reported on the phone.”

Peace is not an absence of war.  But rather, peace is living in right relationship in every area of our lives — with God and with each other.  The wonder of Christmas is that we can live in right relationship with God and each other because of the Christ-Child who said “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you …. You trust in God, trust in me.  I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am – You may live also. “[John 14:27,1-3].  And in the meantime “all authority in heaven and in earth is given to me.  Therefore go… surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. ‘[Matt 28:18-20]

Next Sunday [Dec 19] we are going to collect our Christ’s Birthday Offering.  This annual offering will be used to introduce people to the Christ-Child. Let us plan to give generously, for HE WANTS TO BE THEIR PEACE as well.

What are we on about?

In our ‘post-modernist’ society, principles and objective truth have taken a backseat to a ‘make me feel good’ and ‘as long as it works’ approach to life. However God’s word leads us down a different path

God’s Purpose and Mission for Your Church

O.T. LESSON: Isaiah 56:1-8 N.T. LESSON: II Cor 5:14-21

The Lighthouse

There’s a lighthouse on the hillside that overlooks life’s sea,
When I’m tossed it sends out a light that I might see.
And the light that shines in darkness now will safely lead us o’er
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse my ship would be no more.

Everybody that lives around us says, “tear that old lighthouse down,
The big ships don’t sail this way anymore there’s no use of it standing ’round”
Then my mind goes back to that stormy night when just in time I saw the light
The light from that old lighthouse that stands up there on the hill 7

And I thank God for the lighthouse; I owe my life to him,
For Jesus is the lighthouse and from the rocks of sin
He has shone a light around me that I might clearly see
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse where would this ship be?

In our ‘post-modernist’ society, principles and objective truth have taken a backseat to a ‘make me feel good’ and ‘as long as it works’ approach to life. If religion works for you that’s great, but it really doesn’t affect me.

However God’s word leads us down a different path. Society wants an ‘at-a-boy!’ but followers of the Way (as the apostle Paul calls them) are called to ‘sing a different tune’. As Paul stood before Felix in Ceasarea, he presented the Gospel (the Good News) and “he discoursed on righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come” [Acts 24:25]. In contrast to the world wanting to be comfortable and accepted, we as believers are called to be countercultural, and to expect rejection and persecution [see I Peter 1:6,7]. And notice Felix’s response in verses 25,26: he “was afraid.. ‘when it is convenient I will send for you’… he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe“.

What God has called us to be in this world is to be a community of believers practicing the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. You see Jesus told his followers “as you are going [that’s what the sense is of the word ‘Go’] into all the world preach the good news to all creation making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father,Son, Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” [Mark 16:15; Matt 28:19,20].

The early church had a hard time with the going: it took major persecution to get them to scatter throughout the area [Acts 8:1]. And then as Paul was commissioned, the gospel became a phenomenon throughout the ‘then known world’. History says it went from Spain to China. And a missionary to South America found evidence of the Gospels’ message high in the Andes where white men had never gone. 6

God also called us to the Great Commandment: “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” [John 13:34,35 NLT]. And what does that love look like?

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. It you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. .. love goes on forever.” [I Cor 13:4-8aLiving Bible]

And God has given us a framework in which to develop this: it’s called ‘the church’, the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, a building expertly built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Christ as the chief cornerstone [Ephesians 2:20]. And in this church“he…gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets.. evangelists…pastor/teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ will be built up.. and become mature… and build itself up in love as each part does it’s work.” [Ephesians 4:11-16].

Eugene Peterson in his book The Unnecessary Pastor says that sometimes pastors or leaders will think that nothing happens without them. Then he goes on to say “We (pastors) have important work to do, but if we don’t do it God can always find someone else, and probably not a pastor”. You see a pastor isn’t someone you hire “who is an expert to keep you ahead of the competition– or someone to follow so you don’t have to follow Jesus anymore” 1 , but rather someone who leads by example; challenging, cajoling, comforting, and lighting the fire of the compassion of Christ under you, equipping and together with you discipling, training and welcoming into the church those who are being saved. [Acts 2:47].

The activity of the Christian / “follower of ‘The Way'” then is to do the work of helping people come to know Jesus and helping those who know him (whom to know is life eternal — see John 17:3) to grow and develop in their expression of the character of Jesus Christ [Romans 8:29]. “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God 2 for it is God who inspires you with the will (the ‘itch’ 3) to do the good things which you desire to do 4, and also the power to achieve His purpose 5[Philippians 2:13] .. For I’m convinced that “No temptation [this word can also be ‘testing’] has seized you except what is common to man(kind 3). And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.[I Cor 10:13]”

Will you trust Him — that is, abandon yourself to his mercy and accept his gracious forgiveness and thorough cleansing and on that basis love with God’s unconditional AGAPE love — love your family, your church family, all those who are the blood-washed ones — loving in such a way that those who are outside of the kingdom will be forced to say “look at how they love each other, at how they care for each other”.

Then God will get the glory and those who are prepared will be added to the body of the believers (the followers of “The Way”) – and the angels will be rejoicing.

Unless otherwise noted, scriptures are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, 1984, International Bible Society, Zondervan Bible Publishers.

1 Peterson, Eugene. The Unnecessary Pastor, Grand Rapids, Eardmans, 2000. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
2 Peterson, Eugene. The Message. NavPress Publishing Group, 1995. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
3 D. H. Friesen [return to message]
4 Lamsa New Testament (translated from the Peshitta), Philedelphia, A.J. Holman Company, 1968. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
5 Phillips, J.B. N.T. in Modern English, London, Geoffrey Bless, 1960. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
6. Olsen, Bruce. Bruchko, Orlando, Creation House, 1993. [return to message] [buy this book from Amazon.com]
7. Words and music by Ronny Hinson, Journey Music Co., 1971. [return to message]

Kinnaird Church of God December 1999 Newsletter

December 1999

Jesus said, “I’m leaving you well and whole.  That’s my parting gift to you.  Peace.  I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left — feeling abandoned, bereft.  So don’t be upset.  Don’t be distraught.  I’ve told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in Me.”  John 14: 27, 29.

December is preoccupied with Christmas:  the preparation, the celebration, and the recovery.  It is anticipation and disappointment, expecting everything to be wonderful, and often it is not up to the level of our dreams.

But Jesus offers us the ultimate gift, His PEACE.  Not a “warm fuzzy” that is dependant on people liking us, or giving us what we want, but a settled assurance in our hearts of His Love and care.  It’s not dependant on our circumstances or happy thoughts, but on the facts of the results of Christ’s sacrifice, and our committment to obedience to Him.  He gave us peace and we can extend His Peace to a world preoccupied with itself and its comfort (which has resulted in political instability and greed).  We can demonstrate Peace in our attitudes, actions, and lifestyles.

Let your “Merry Christmas” exclamations be a challenge to experiencing the true Christmas “Peace”.<

©1999 D H Friesen

Coming into Liberty

Freedom FROM and Freedom TO

[see Matt1:21Galatians 1:1,13]

O.T. Lesson  Isaiah 35
N.T. Lesson  Luke 1:67-80

A large congregation presented a dramatic reenactment of the Nativity.  The church building was filled to capacity with an audience filled with anticipation.  Down the center aisle came the the entire cast of those to be at the Nativity, including all the animals.  Every one was transfixed with awe.  A little boy, five years of age, was so overwhelmed by it all, he stepped into the aisle and followed the processional to the manger.  The parents did not notice what had happened until they heard some snickering in the congregation.  The parents saw their little boy standing in awe right beside Joseph, Jesus and Mary.  The embarrassed father walked slowly but deliberately to the front to retrieve his child.

Now you can imagine what the small boy must have thought when he felt the hands of his father on his shoulder.  As the father picked him up to take him back to the seat, the little boy screamed, “I have been to Bethlehem, I have seen Jesus, it does not matter what you do to me.”  He said this several times before his father could quiet him and convince him that severe punishment was not on the way.

[from Christ’s Birthday observance Meditation Booklet, Hudson Printing]

Jesus came to bring freedom; to set us free.  That sentiment is in Zachariah’s song quoted from Isaiah at the birth of John the Baptist:

“(to) those with fearful hearts
Be strong do not fear
Your God will come…
He will come to save you.” [Isaiah 35:4]

He came and set his people free
He set the power of Salvation in
the centre of our lives…
Deliverance from our enemies…
So we can worship him without a
care in the world… [Luke 1:68,69,74,75]

Notice what we are free from:

  • We are freed from slavery to sin.  Romans 6:6,7,14 says, “we know that our old self was crucified with him… that we should no longer be slaves to sin… for sin shall not be your master… (you) are under grace”  There is then no longer any need to allow sin free reign in our lives; we’ve been set free by Christ.
  • We are freed from preoccupation with ourselves and self interest.  Note Galatians 5:13: “Use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows” [MSG]  Paul then goes on in this passage to say, “If you bite and ravage each other, watch out – in no time at all you will be annihilating each other and where will your precious freedom be then? [Gal 5:15 MSG]

On the other hand we are free to:

  • Free to be whole. Our lives are controlled by what happens in our minds.  As we let Christ bring wholeness to our minds, we will have a new perspective on our circumstances, our relationships and to God.  No longer will he be the forbidding judge but rather our ‘Daddy’ — Abba, Father — an intimate relationship based on family.
  • Free to love, because we are loved.  When we really get ahold of what it means to be forgiven, we are free to forgive — and out of that comes loving those who we consider to be ‘beyond the pale’ [whatever that may mean to you]. Take a look at Matt. 18:21-35.
  • We are free to serve in love. John 13:34,35 reads, “…In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other. “[MSG]  Take a look at James 1:27: “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight and guard against corruption from the godless world” [MSG]
  • Free to live life to the full, with abandon. An interior peace that transcends the mental capacities.  Phil. 3:13 says, “forgetting what is behind… I press on… to win the prize“.   You see, Jesus had said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.  A complete life — a life lived to the maximum of our potential.

We invite you to experience the liberty of the Gospel.  Salvation, Being Born Again, being reborn.  The only thing that prevents us from knowing God personally is sin.  When we, in faith, receive God’s forgiveness on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in our lives. (Romans 8:8,9/ John 3:16-18.)

The only thing that stops us from experiencing all that God has for us is doubting he can do it. But if you put Christ on the throne of your life and open every ‘nook and cranny’ to his ownership, he will release the power of the Holy Spirit to give you that Abundant full life that he has promised.

You can pray this prayer or one like it:

Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Saviour and Lord. Thank You for forgiving me of my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

[see ‘Would you like to Know God Personally?‘  Campus Crusade — New Life Publications]

Jesus promised that if you open the door to him when He knocks , he will come in and make his home there.  [Rev. 3:20]

©1999 D H Friesen

If you have prayed this prayer today, please contact Pastor Don and let him know that you have.  Also, look for a church in your community that believes 1) that Jesus is God, and 2) that the Bible is the Source of our beliefs.  If you prayed sincerely and really want to be a disciple of Jesus,  click here for more information on being a Christian.