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“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18, ESV)

The gospel is a gospel of peace. It declares that since the time of Adam’s sin we have been born into this world as God’s enemy: hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds (Colossians 1:21) against God (Romans 8:7). The most holy God had every right to declare the differences between Him and us irreconcilable. Yet, in His wisdom and love God chose to reconcile us to Himself through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). By judging our sin at the cross of Christ, Holy God is able to reconcile to Himself us who receive Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf by faith.
Through Christ, we who have been reconciled to God have also been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). As ministers of reconciliation, we proclaim this gospel of reconciliation to the world in order that all peoples may be reconciled to God through the death of Christ. But our ministry of reconciliation does not end there, for we must continue living in the light of the reconciling work of Christ. Consequently, we must live our lives reconciled to one another.

Even though we Christians have been reconciled to God through Christ, far too many professing Christians still live in conflict with others. Such conflict is manifested in marriages, homes, workplaces, even church relationships. Unfortunately, many of us address such conflicts according to worldly wisdom rather than heavenly wisdom. This is why Christians have as many divorces as non-Christians, why they stop talking to fellow Christians, why they leave churches over conflict, and why churches even split over conflict.

What kind of Christian testimony do we offer this world if we are reconciled to God through Christ but fail to be reconciled to one another? One of the most powerful witnesses we can provide our community is the witness of reconciled relationships that flow from being reconciled to God. If we are to live in such an atmosphere, then we must cultivate a culture of peace. According to Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, a culture of peace is a culture where “people are eager and able to resolve conflict and reconcile relationships in a way that clearly reflects the love and power of Jesus Christ” (291). If we are to cultivate such a culture of peace, then we must have a biblical strategy for resolving conflict. Sande offers the following counsel (the four “G’s”):

Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Our entire lives must be motivated by a desire to glorify God. Get the log out of your eye (Matthew 7:5). We must first look at our own hearts in order to discern our contributions to conflicts. Gently restore (Galatians 6:1). The Bible gives us clear instruction in approaching those with whom we have conflict. Go and be reconciled (Matthew 5:24). Once we have addressed conflict, we must be willing to restore relationships.

Let us cultivate a culture of peace in our local churches. May we be about God’s glory, and address conflict biblically by first looking at our own hearts, then approaching one another with the goal of reconciled relationships that give evidence to the fact that we are a people reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

 

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And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18)

Last week I argued that Fasting is NOT merely abstaining from something, good or bad.  Fasting is abstaining from one thing, even a good thing, in order to feast on something greater, namely, God Himself.  For HE is our REWARD!  The treasure of the kingdom is God Himself-we get God!  And when God is our reward, we hold on loosely to this world.  But questions remain about fasting, so I wanted to address some of those questions.

What is a fast?

Fasting is merely abstaining from food/drink or some other designated thing, so that you can turn your complete focus to seeking the heart of God.

Why fast?

Fasting is a way of breaking away from those things of the flesh (appetites) that control us so that we can hunger more for the things of God.  Fasting is not so much doing without food as much as it is feasting on the things of God.

How often should I fast?

The Bible is silent on how often one should fast; however, Jesus was clear to say “when” you fast and not “if” you fast, so it is something Jesus expected of his followers.

What do I do during a fast?

Take time that you would normally use for eating or watching tv or whatever you’re fasting from and spend that time seeking the heart of God in prayer, confession and the Word of God.  Fasting should be accompanied with other disciplines, primarily prayer and Bible intake (reading, studying, meditating, memorizing) so that your hunger for this world is lessened and your hunger for God is increased.

Do I refrain from every kind of intake?

You will want to keep your fluids up with water.  (If you have medical concerns, please check with your doctor before fasting.)

How long do I fast?

Again, the Bible does not explicitly suggest how long we should fast.  There are various kinds of fasts for differing reasons.  Perhaps, you may want to begin fasting one meal a week.  If possible, you may want to attempt a 24-hour fast.  You can go from sundown to sundown or from awaking one day to awaking the next.  

Should I tell others that I am fasting?

Fasting is an act between you and God.  If others ask you, you may share with them, but there is humility in this act of obedience.

What might occur spiritually during a fast?

As you fight to deny the fleshly appetites, ask for God to strengthen you and drive you by His grace and His Spirit to be satisfied in God alone.  Ask God to break the bondage the appetites of this world have on you.

Ask that as you grow in being satisfied by God and His Word that you may grow in your desire for the kingdom and the righteousness of the kingdom now.  But also ask that you may grow in longing for the kingdom to come because the coming of the kingdom represents the arrival of the king once and for all and the time when fasting will give way to feasting in the presence of God.

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How are we who consider the glory of God as the chief end of man to serve God’s people?

In A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (page 65), Don Carson suggests that if we long to further the interests of our Lord, we must realize that his “interests are tied to the well-being of his people.”  It is entirely appropriate, then, to ask, “What is best for the people of God?”  Yet, we need to understand how to ask that question in the context of the priority of the glory of God.  Here’s Carson’s answer:

In the teaching of Jesus, the first command is to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength; the second is to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:37-40).  Jesus does not suggest that the two commands are identical.  Far from it: he enumerates two commands and sets them out in terms of their relative priorities: first and second. . . .

. . . So while love for God and love for brothers must not be equated, there is an important sense in which the former can be tested by the latter.  When we live up to our calling, we remember that in God’s church people do not set the agenda, they are the agenda.  Our allegiance to God and his gospel will be demonstrated in our service to his people, to those who will become his people, to those made in his image.

It is in this sense that Christians must be constantly asking what is best for the people of God.  Our allegiance to Jesus Christ, our confession of him as Lord, entails a profound commitment to further his interests–and it does not take much reading of Scripture to perceive that his interests are tied to the well-being of his people.  Moreover, if we joyfully confess the lordship of Christ, then when we ask what is best for people our answers will be cast in terms of what he thinks is best for people, not necessarily what people think is best for themselves.

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There is much discussion right now about what evangelicals should do this presidential election.  Some beloved brothers and sisters argue that the two party political system has provided two “evil” or at least undesirable choices.  Therefore, they ask, why should one have to vote for the lesser of two evils.  This is a principled stance.

Other beloved brothers and sisters argue that not to vote is to vote for the greater of two evils, or at the very least not to stand up for, for example, the rights of the unborn.

In light of the fact that we evangelical are sometimes gullible and may be tempted to listen to fringe voices, I thought I would simply list a few links from more thoughtful persons representing the various positions.

Thabiti Anyabwile – Martin Luther King, Jr. Would Stand for Ideals Rather than Settle for Evil in This Election

Albert Mohler, others – panel: The Mormon Moment? Religious Convictions and the 2012 Election

John Piper – I Am Going to Vote

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Sep
21

Did Jesus have a wife?

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By now, you’ve likely read that a fourth century text fragment has been found which purportedly proves that Jesus had a wife – likely, Mary Magdalene.  Of course, this story line is nothing new.  Remember Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code?

Just in case there is any confusion, here are a couple of good responses to all the hoopla:

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? When Sensationalism Masquerades as Scholarship
by R. Albert Mohler

The Far Less Sensational Truth about Jesus’ Wife
by Michael Kruger

Jesus does in fact have a wife – the church: the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Categories : News, Theology, Uncategorized
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New sermon series. Messages available online.

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Join us this Sunday at 10:30 a.m., as we consider the doctrine of sanctification. We all want to change. But how does that change occur?

We will consider the nature of that change, the process of that change and finally, the promise of that change.

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Here is a loving conversation amongst brothers who disagree on multi-site churches.  Enjoy!

Multiple Sites: Yea or Nay? Dever, Driscoll, and MacDonald Vote from Ben Peays on Vimeo.

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May
20

Expositional Preaching & Cuba

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I will be traveling to Havana, Cuba on Friday to spend some time with the brothers there.  Our intention is to encourage them, but they are great encouragers to us!  Friday night I will be at the graduation service for the Baptist Seminary in Havana, then I will spend the weekend with our brothers in Santa Clara.

From Monday through Thursday, I have the privilege of leading in a conference on expositional preaching.  Please pray for me as I am still finishing up some lectures.  I will have the opportunity to spend a few days with about a dozen pastors as we consider preaching from Old Testament narrative, particularly Exodus.

I covet your prayers for my travels and for my family as I am away.  I thank God for High Pointe’s vision for the nations and for their encouraging me to have a hand in our brothers’ ministries in Cuba.

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Jul
17

Worship Wars 1.0

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ht: Justin Taylor

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