Greetings – Philemon

We have lots of ways of greeting others. “Hi! How are you?” is a common greeting, but have you noticed how few people really seem interested in the answer?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace seem to be a common greeting from Paul. It’s used in Titus, the book right before Philemon (1:4b). It makes you wonder if it’s just common or if Paul really meant every word he wrote. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt…

Grace – grace is what they both had in common. Philemon and Paul had both received saving grace. They were also receiving grace for daily living, although in different circumstances: Philemon was in his nice house, free to live his life, while Paul was in prison. 

Peace – peace is something we all desire. Philemon certainly did not want trouble with the church in his home, although he knew every service was a risk, every newcomer suspect. And Paul certainly didn’t want things to get worse in jail. At least in peace he could continue to do ministry.

But where do grace and peace come from?

Ultimately, God the Father – he is sovereign and all powerful. He is the one in control of the world and everything in it, that he created and set into motion.

But even more, personal peace comes our Lord Jesus Christ. When we were far from God, Jesus bridged the gap. Romans 3:23-24 says, 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
And are justified by his grace as a gift,
Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Through Jesus, we not only have grace, but peace.

In the midst of an election season, we need both grace and peace. We need to extend grace to others, just as we ourselves have received grace. And we need to find peace, not as the world experiences peace, but as Jesus gives us peace.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you;
Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
(John 14:27)

Grace and peace I want to leave with you today —

Pray for Peace – Psalm 122

There’s a Twitter battle going on this morning about how much God was referenced at the RNC last night, that we are not the “promised land” and verses used in the Bible should not be applied. I try to stay away from political conversations which divide or manipulate and realize I may be heading into dangerous territory here, but Psalm 122 says:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

In my margin, I had written next to Jerusalem, “home country.”

What is wrong with praying for the peace of your nation, whatever your nation is? It’s not praying for a political party to win, or a type of government, or even one value system to prevail. It’s for the individuals to not be torn up with war, hate, divisiveness, death and devastation that comes with violence and war. 

And it doesn’t say how we will get to peace. Sometimes, in Bible history, the Israelites had to go through war in order to get to peace.  Some had to stand up against the government ruling them, risking their lives. Sometimes it was through treaties. We are encouraged to “seek justice” in the Bible. Why can’t we seek peace through justice? Or justice through peace?

For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.

I guess I’m convicted this morning to make this my prayer: 

“For my brothers and companions’ sake, I say, ‘Peace be within you!’ And for myself, I pray the same. Whatever is taking us over the top of disagreement, whatever is taking us to the place we no longer respect others, whatever is grinding inside us that wants to take control over others, release it, Lord, I pray. I ask for us to find peace together, recognizing wrongs, repenting with a desire to change, and forgiving ourselves and others. I pray this for all political parties and individuals that we would let go of our pride and selfishness, no matter how we try to justify it.

“Lord, I pray that we seek your goodness on this earth. Humble us. Break us so that we can pray ‘your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ We are such a poor reflection of your goodness. We will never have perfection here on earth, in our city, in our home country. But we do pray for your peace, within us, as well as the courage to seek peace.”

Amen. 

Hate Yourself? Psalm 120

Ever wish you knew the context of a Psalm? Psalm 120 is fascinating, and I can’t help but wonder what motivated it…

In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, for a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?
A warrior’s sharp arrow, with glowing coals of the broom tree!

Obviously, the Psalmist was not happy with himself. He is calling out to his God to save him from a part of himself, a part of his body, driven by thoughts within his spirit. 

He has a deceitful tongue. Deceit is defined as “the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.” Not only has the Psalmist said something hurtful, he has twisted the truth so that someone else believed something untruthful. It’s gone from saying words to resulting in actions.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is the childhood taunt. The deceitful tongue says words that turn into “sticks and stones” that break bones. 

This doesn’t sound like a onetime offense.  It has become a part of the character of this person’s tongue, part of its name. And it’s so powerful, it is associated with war, warriors, arrows and fire. No wonder he’s calling for help from the Lord – this is dangerous stuff!

Woe to me, that I sojourn in Mesheck, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.

 I’m not sure where the places are, but he doesn’t sound as if he is at home, where he once knew how to control his tongue, before it became so deceitful. He’s around influences saying something very different than what he believes. I think who we hang out with, the circumstances of our lives, does affect our vocabulary, even our motivations.

There was news report a few minutes ago about a brutal attack where a man was kicked in the head. Some may consider me naïve, but I like to believe the best of people, that the kicker didn’t leave his house thinking, “I wonder who I can kick unconscious?” But there was something about that crowd that made him think it was acceptable.

The Psalmist’s aw-ha is in the last sentence, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” First, he defines what his heart really wants, with no deception. He wants peace. Second, he defines the problem, that no matter what he says, others are looking for a fight.

He’s got a hard, hard choice to make. Does he continue with a deceitful tongue, manipulating the situation or his words to be accepted and maybe change the circumstances? Or does he say his heart’s desire?

What if the man who kicked the victim had said, “this isn’t me? This isn’t who I am.  I don’t want to do this,” and walked away? 

We may not be on the edge of war, but we face similar issues – do we express our hearts or say what others will agree with? Do we speak plainly so others see a choice or do we try to manipulate situations to get our way? 

Let’s cry out to the Lord, confessing deceitful tongues and asking for new ones who will praise God’s name.