The Peace Maker

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by Graham Mol

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.”

Matthew 5:9 NIV

During my Theological studies one of the courses that I took was on Conflict and Reconciliation. The primary text for the course was this amazing book, The Peace Maker by Ken Sande. In the preface of the book Sande has the following to say about Peacemakers:

Peacemakers are people who breathe grace. They draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ, and the they bring his love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom to the conflicts of daily life. God delights to breathe his grace through peacemakers and use them to dissipate anger, improve understanding, promote justice, and encourage repentance and reconciliation.

One can fully understand why Jesus would say that peacemakers would be called children of God.

I remember how studying this book had a profound impact on my life as I faced issues of conflict that needed to be resolved. One of my assignments was to help advise someone with a conflict situation that they were facing and it’s really interesting reading my essay from back then. I am prompted to read through Ken Sande’s words again to remind myself of the wisdom that he shares on the topic of peace making.

I can say this with certainty. Peace making is hard. So often our responses to conflict lean either towards the fight or flight end of the scope. Ken Sande uses the following concept of The Slippery Slope to illustrate just how fine a balance it is to be a peace maker and not a “peace taker”.

 

The wonderful thing is that the Bible gives us all we need to know in order to be peacemakers and Jesus Himself through His love and the power of His Holy Spirit in us, empowers us to walk that narrow path.

The other thing that I can say with certainty is that peace making is one of the most powerful witnesses to the power of the Gospel to change lives. Jesus Himself is the mediator of the covenant between man and God, He is the one who gave of Himself to reconcile man to God. When we act as peacemakers we reflect His glory.

In my future blog posts I plan to share more of what I am learning from re-reading The Peace Maker for now I would like to leave you with the following questions:

    • In what way do you naturally react to conflict? Do you tend to run from it or does it make you react or even overreact?
    • Is conflict, current or past, affecting your peace? Take some time to place that conflict in Jesus’ hands asking Him to give you wisdom and strength to be a peacemaker and not a peace taker in that situation.

 

God Bless

Graham

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Ash Wednesday

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by Graham Mol

Today marks the beginning of Lent, a period of 40 days (plus Sundays) leading up to Easter Sunday which is characterised as a time of solemn observance and preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The first day is known as Ash Wednesday coming from the tradition of the observing churches placing ashes on the foreheads of their congregations. One can recall the Jewish practice of going about in sackcloth and ashes, to represent mourning, repentance and humility.

While Ash Wednesday and Lent are most closely associated with Catholicism, there are also Churches in the Anglican, Lutheran and Protestant denominations that observe the tradition. Many believers find the traditional practices helpful in drawing their focus to the solemn significance of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.

From its start on Ash Wednesday until its conclusion on Easter Sunday, Lent has been a traditional time for fasting or giving something up or abstinence. Just as we carefully prepare for events in our personal lives, as a wedding, or birthday; a commencement Lent invites us to make our minds and hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ life, death and body resurrection. (From 40acts.org.uk)

The discipline of fasting was always one of those I never quite “got”. I understood the idea and intention behind it theoretically, there are many examples of fasting to be found in the Bible, yet despite this, I had never really made it a practice in my own life.

Then one day, as I was reading through Your God Is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan, the way he wrote on the topic of fasting really challenged me. Here is just one of the passages that stood out to me from the chapter as Buchanan considers Jesus’ response to the devil’s testing after his time of fasting 40 days in the desert:

So now the quiz: Who understands – really understands – that we don’t live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God? Who not only understands, but withstands because of it, overcomes on the basis of it? The man with his belly full? Or the man with his belly empty?
Let me be blunt: If you never fast, then the whole concept of being wholly nourished and sustained by God’s word alone will likely be only a nice, sweet, and totally irrelevant idea to you. You may pay the idea lip service, but you’ll be too busy licking sauce off your lips to do any more. And worse: If you never fast, when the day of testing and temptation comes, you may not stand. Consumption is killing us. Go fast and live.

Fasting, that is denying oneself in order to become hungry, helps us in three areas – it humbles us, tests us and teaches us.

We are humbled because we soon see our frailty. Just one day without food and we find out energy levels are depleted. We realise how dependent we are on the “daily bread” that the Lord provides.

We are tested because fasting soon reveals what is in us, even the stuff deep in our depths. Stuff that is easy to soothe away with a quick snack, an indulgent treat that can distract us from really wrestling with how we are feeling. There’s a saying, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” but maybe its the uncomfortable opposite that is more the truth. Fasting can be one of the ways the Lord searches our heart and reveals any offensive way in us.

Lastly, fasting teaches us that we “do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4). Sometimes full stomachs lead to forgetfulness. In our plenty we forget just how blessed we are. The classic “grace” before dinner: “For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly grateful” is spoken with far more conviction and meaning by the one who is having their first meal in days rather than the one who is having yet another meal in the day. We learn to be more grateful for God’s provision in our lives and more aware of how we can help provide in the lives of others.

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During this season of Lent, whether you follow the tradition or not, I’d like to encourage you to prayerfully consider the practice of fasting as part of your time with the Lord as you journey towards Easter this year.

God Bless

Graham

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Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

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by Graham Mol

This morning a particular article caught my eye: Imlonely: How a YouTube music channel became a mental health hub

The subtitle of the article reads: Among the thousands of music channels on YouTube there is one like no other. Imlonely started as a musical diary for one person but became a mental health community providing support to thousands of young people going through their toughest times.

I was greatly encouraged as I read of how a community of young people (mostly teenagers) has developed in the comment section of the YouTube videos to be a place of comfort and encouragement. Where those who are struggling mentally and emotionally can find that they are not alone in how they may be feeling. There are others who can understand and share their struggle. Words of comfort and encouragement far outweigh the cynical or dismissive comments that one often finds in these online spaces.

This all reminded me of one of the most powerful tools of sharing God’s love with others: Empathy.

Empathy can simply be described as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. This is one of the descriptions of empathy that we find in the Bible:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15)

A joy shared is a joy multiplied. When something wonderful happens in our lives, we all have that desire to tell someone about it. What a blessing it is to be a multiplier of that joy and rejoice along with someone who is rejoicing. When it comes to the other side of the coin, to weep with those weeping brings comfort in the knowledge it gives the sorrowing person that they are not alone in their time of need. There is someone who seeks to understand and even share in the burden. “You are not alone” are some of the most beautiful words that can be shared with someone, even when they aren’t spoken out load.

The great thing about empathy is that you don’t need to have the answers and solutions to another’s problems. Sometimes we are blessedly able to help, but never underestimate the power of presence, coming alongside another, and the difference it can make.

It’s true that some of us are naturally more inclined to empathy than others. If you struggle in this area do not fear, for we have the Lord with us, His Holy Spirit to guide us. In Jesus we have the most empathetic person to have walked this earth:

Therefore, He had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since He himself has suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:17-18)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

A prayer such as “Help me Lord to understand so that I can share in this person’s joy/grief” is a really good place to start. No one knows that person better and how they are feeling than the Lord Himself.

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Finally, if you are feeling alone, my prayer is for you to have someone to come alongside you to share in your joy or grief. Maybe you’re just needing that reassurance that you are not alone. There are many wonderful people in this congregation who would graciously share the love of God with you in your time of need. Please don’t hesitate to either reply to this blog post below or contact me at graham@thenewharvest.org.za so that we can be in contact with you.

 

God Bless

Graham

Continue Reading Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.