Tag Archives: peace

The Key To Healthy, Lasting Relationships

“Tell me about your relationship,” I asked the engaged couple.

“Oh, I’ve never experienced anything like this,” the man answered. “We do everything together,” his lovely fiancée chimed in, nodding her head.

“That’s nice,” I replied. “Tell me about your fights.”

“We never fight,” the couple beamed in unison.

“Then you aren’t ready to get married,” I explained.

Please join us in our daily Bible conversation as we look at the key to healthy, lasting relationships.

TODAY’S READING

Ezekiel 31:1-32:32
Hebrews 12:14-29
Psalm 113:1-114:8
Proverbs 27:18-20

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Psalm 113:1-114:8. A friend of mine said this week, “The Bible is a book about God.” Elementary stuff. But then she continued, “That seems to go without saying, but all too often we come to Scripture and make it about us. We look for application and relevance when we should begin with the understanding that the Bible is about God and his glory.” Psalm 113 is a great reminder that all of life is about God. Verses 4-5 tell us, “The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high.”

Proverbs 27:18-20. Verse 20 is a little difficult to understand. Here’s how The Message paraphrases it: “Hell has a voracious appetite, and lust just never quits.”

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

For much of my life, I believed that peace in my relationships meant the absence of conflict. My first conflict with my wife occurred the day before our wedding. By the third day of our honeymoon, we were fighting like cats and dogs. I was in shock.

Earlier in my life, when someone offended me or took advantage of me, I said nothing. Of course, the molten lava simmered inside until I eventually erupted, making a mess of everything. After the event, I felt much better, but the other person was practically a burn victim as a result of the explosion. In the end, my initial efforts at burying my feelings undermined my relationships.

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-29).

The writer uses a word that defines the Jewish faith: peace. Although the book of Hebrews is written in the Greek language, the writer was addressing Jewish people, hence the name “Hebrews.” In their minds, the readers were thinking of the Hebrew word for peace—Shalom—as well as the Hebrew understanding of the word.

Incidentally, the common greeting in the Middle East is Shalom. Arabs greet each other with the word Salom. Same meaning, different spelling.

Most people assume that peace in a relationship means the absence of conflict. Quite the contrary. The Jewish understanding of peace (then and now) means wholeness and well-being—with the possibility that conflict may be needed in order to attain it. It means pursuing what is best for the relationship, which can include conflict, being honest so you can prevent volcanic eruptions in the future.

That’s why Paul can write in Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Speaking the truth in love is prevents eruptions.

The writer begins by saying, “make every effort.” That phrase is better translated “pursue peace.” The obligation for healthy and whole relationships never resides with the other person, it resides with us. Healthy relationships thrive when both parties pursue peace.

But notice that the second part of the command in Hebrews says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” What does holiness have to do with healthy relationships? Everything.

Our relationships with each other ultimately affect our relationship with God. When we’re at odds with another person, we often do things we wouldn’t do otherwise. We respond to them with passive aggression or even with aggression. We murmur and gossip. Unhealthy relationships have a tendency to spread into our other relationships. That’s why the following sentence tells us, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Ultimately, our unhealthy relationships spread to our relationship with God.

Healthy relationships don’t happen on their own. We must pursue them. We must be willing to engage in difficult conversations. We must be willing to own our issues and confess our sins.

But in the end, through our conflict, we will enjoy the fruit of shalom.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What relationships in your life resemble a simmering volcano?
  3. What relationships in your life resemble the Jewish understanding of shalom?
  4. How does God portray shalom in his relationship with you?
  5. What does it mean for you to live in shalom?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Do We Know too Much, See too Much, and Trust too Little?

Mt Sopris

Leaves rustle behind me. A field mouse burrows under the long, golden grass that is my seat. A crow croaks above, his wings send a windy squeak into the stillness. If clouds made noise as they scraped over the high mountain peaks, today I would hear it. It’s that quiet. Stillness. Peace. This day my world consists of the shifting sounds and changing colors of wilderness. The aspens stand on their milky trunks with their gray branches reaching for eternity. A doe and fawn skitter through the meadow, never realizing we are there. I can go only where I can walk, see only to the next ridge, talk only to my friend next to me. For a moment life has narrowed, simple. Glorious.

All this as somewhere war ravages, terrorists plan more cowardice, politicians puff up like self-important peacocks, philosophical debates rage, earthquakes rumble, economies tumble, hunger ravages, homelessness decimates, and world events vast as the sky mount. I know these things because the information age is upon me. Information technology speaks loudly and carries a big stick. But not here. Here I’m journaling about field mice, aspen trees, and crows. Would that our worlds could become this small and contained again.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah: 33:13-36:22

Galatians 5:13-26

Psalm 64:1-10

Proverbs 23:23

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Isaiah: 33:13-36:22: This section of Isaiah describes small, powerless humans in contrast to a vast, fearful world, governed by a powerful seemingly distant, angry God. Rightly we tremble. But is God against us? Are we as vulnerable as we feel? No. “Be strong, do not fear; you God will come,” Isaiah tells us.

Psalm 64:1-10: Again this reading asks us about fear and faith and our place in God’s worlds and heart. Let us take refuge in God not in our own accomplishments and strength.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Sitting in this meadow I slowly realize, once again, I lack what it takes to fight AIDS in Africa, prevent earthquakes in Pakistan, support the correct U.S. Supreme Court nominee in DC, house the homeless in Denver, adopt baby girls from China, save the environment, stop war, care for my family, stay fit, love my wife, read a good book, be a friend, love God, and figure out global warming all at the same time. I need it narrowed down. I can’t be global. I don’t have enough mind, heart, and soul to wrap around it all. Technology may have shrunk the globe to a village. But it’s still too big for me. In his book “SoulTsunami” Leonard Sweet writes, “Technology is outrunning our theology and ethics, leaving us panting, helpless anachronisms.” Anachronism I am.

Despite their enormity, at one time most human beings would never have heard about the tsunami and Gulf Coast tragedies, much less be given an opportunity to help. The sun would have risen and set on a day containing worries enough of its own. Each day we are bombarded by more information than we can assimilate or even care about. One of my professors put the dilemma this way: we are camel-age creatures living jet-age lives. Call God shortsighted if you like. We seem to have been designed to function best with narrower boundaries. Sometimes it feels as if a terrible wind has torn down the walls and ripped off the roof of life and we stand naked and exposed to every storm the world dreams up.

Obviously technology is not all bad. I have a nephew who would not be alive without modern communications and medical technology. And hot showers are remarkable. But there is the law of unintended consequences to deal with. The question is, how?

For me these retreats into the wilderness—back in time—help. Through them God enlarges my mind, heart, and soul. When I am hunting I sleept in a tent, have no cell phone access, no cable TV, no high speed Internet, and no idea what was going on in the world. But I am not out of touch. When the enormous worries of the world shove in, I lifted my eyes to the hills and asked, where does my help come from? In response I heard God whisper and even roar in the treetops: I Am here. Time slowed down as golden sunlight chased shadows across the green sage valley for the umpteenth time: I Am timeless, God said. I glimpsed the glistening eyes of my hunting partner: I see and love, God winked. Snow covered Mount Sopris towered, gleaming in the morning sun: I Am almighty, God assured. The weight of the world is on God’s shoulders. Maybe if I let God carry the weight, I can focus on and care about those things I can affect. Thanks God, for whispering louder than a myriad of modern, screaming voices. Thanks for holding the world in your hands. Thanks for narrowing the world down, if for just a moment.   

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. How is God your refuge?
  3. What does your freedom in Christ look like?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Another of the World’s Most Trite and Tired Phrases

It’s an overused phrase. So much so, it’s become almost a meaningless expression. People use some form of it everywhere from describing a positive time in life, or asking for something from God, to an exclamation after someone sneezes.

As a pastor, I find myself using it and then kicking myself mentally for uttering such a trite and tired phrase. It’s the religious equivalent of “Don’t worry, be happy.” What is it?

God bless you. But what does that mean? To be blessed by God or for us to bless others?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah: 22:1-24:23

Galatians 2:17-3:9

Psalm 60:1-12

Proverbs 23:15-16

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Isaiah: 22:1-24:23: Through Isaiah, God lets it be known that he is a two fisted God. In one God holds blessing (see below). This hand God opens readily for those drawing near to God in faith, love and obedience. The other fist God holds tight but warns that it holds a curse: the curse of what comes from not being in relationship with God but in opposition to him.

Somehow this is the hand God needs to describe most often for us. Thus we see God as wrathful but not ourselves as receiving the consequences of our disobedient actions.

Psalm 60:1-12: The above is repeated in this Psalm. God’s rejection or acceptance lies, in part, within our own choices. The psalmist readily admits and accepts God’s rejection and then pleads for restoration and salvation. “With God we will gain victory,” the psalmist reminds us. The unsaid? Lining up against God is sure defeat.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Late one night, I took a wrong turn and got lost just east of the Mississippi River near down town St Louis. Suddenly I found myself in the wrong place, in a dangerous part of town. Every store front was locked down with heavy bars and huge locks over the doors and windows. With each new turn, I turned back on myself like a rat in a maze. Making it worse, I could see where I should be, my hotel well lit and inviting, rising into the night over on the west side of the Mississippi.

On my fourth trip down one dark street two guys attempted to block my way. I swerved around them and gunned my car toward the river. I had to get out of there or die trying. Then I saw a bridge spanning the river. It seemed to lead right to my hotel. The only problem was that the bridge was closed for construction. Terrified, I edged my car around the barricades and, white knuckled, picked my way through the construction rubble, imagining myself driving off the end and falling into the Mississippi. I was not happy.

The word “bless” is used nearly 400 times in the Bible. It is a key concept. God says to Abram, “I will bless you . . . and you will be a blessing . . . and all the peoples on earth will be blessed by you.” Psalm 1 begins “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” Jesus tells us “Blessed are they who mourn . . . .” And in today’s reading, Paul repeats the Abrahamic promise from Genesis 12. But what does it mean to be blessed?

Most people understand the word to refer to some kind of happiness or well being. Don’t worry, be happy. Robert Schuller even wrote a book called “The Be (Happy) Attitudes” based on Jesus’ contradictory sermon. That simple definition doesn’t work, however. Did God promise Abram and all peoples of the earth happiness? If so, God has not kept his promise. Did Jesus tell sad people, like the famous song, to just be happy? Hardly.

No, being blessed is more than happiness, more than an attitude, and–certainly–more than a trite, tried phrase used to express a desire or extinguish an explosive sneeze.

Most often blessing in the Bible carries the meaning of contentment even in difficult situations because you know you are in a right place with God. Being blessed does not only connote receiving something from God but rather walking through life with faith in God. “So those of you who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith,” Paul reminds the Galatians. Jesus wants us to have faith that whether we are hungry, mourning, poor, or persecuted we can still know God is with us and cares for us.

What could be more of a blessing to yourself and others than having unflappable faith in tough times? God blessed the peoples of the earth with Abraham’s faith.  God can do the same with you and me.

Somehow the bridge did not collapse nor did I drive into the river. That dilapidated bridge lead over the dark waters of the Mississippi and right back to my hotel. As I pulled in the parking garage, strangely I felt not happiness but relief, peace–almost contentment. It wasn’t just that I was now safe. Finally I was in the right place. I was where I was supposed to be. It dawned on me, I could have had that peace in Christ, even on the other side of the river.              

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. When have you felt in the right time and place with God?
  3. What passage spoke most to you?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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