Christian Love is striving for Peace and Holiness

Guidelines to help engage in a healthy balance

“All you need is love.” – John Lennon

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Peace begins with a smile…” – Mother Teresa

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” – Nan

The world is striving for some level of love and peace.  You don’t have to be a Christian to notice or experience that truth.  Christian love, however, has another component – holiness.

In order to grow as believers, we have to choose the path of discipline.  Discipline takes hard work, dedication and, most importantly, loving support from fellow believers.

When describing that loving support, the Hebrews writer put it this way:

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, ESV).

Christian love requires two things: PEACE and HOLINESS.

Recent Conversations…

With political conversations on the rise (ie. the Trump and Hillary saga), social debates (ie. abortion and gender issues) and otherwise challenging days, the desire for love and peace has never been greater.

I love talking with people about these current issues.  How we respond to them will determine if we really want to pursue both PEACE and HOLINESS.  Yes, these topics can seem much bigger than our personal contexts, but they affect us all in our journey of discipline and growth.

Quite often we attempt to pursue peace in terms of what we think is right and forget about holiness (what God defines as right).  And in the middle of these controversial moments, we have to react and respond as we live in this tension.

So, can we pursue both peace and holiness effectively?

Peace

We talk about peace in many contexts.  We want world peace.  We want freedom of religion.  We want freedom of speech.  We want…well, you can fill in the blank.

We usually understand peace to be a “peace at any cost.”  “The price for peace is never too great,” some would say.  Where does this leave us?  At war.  It leaves us pursuing personal peace, and causing dissention somewhere else.

Christian peace, isn’t a peace “at all costs.”  Christian peace is only within the limits of what is right and holy.1

Holiness

Holiness is being set apart to pursue God’s spiritual agenda for us.  When pursing love, this is the difference between being a believer and an unbeliever.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference between a Christian pursing peace and love and everyone else doing the same.  The Hebrews writer couldn’t be clearer here.  Jesus is seen when we match our striving for peace with holiness.

I think it’s also fair to say, that if we don’t pair them together, Jesus isn’t seen.

The Challenge…

No matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, when we engage with others, we have to make sure we react and respond with PEACE and HOLINESS.  That’s what Christian love looks like.

So what should we do? This is a balance that will look quite different for each situation, but maybe these guidelines will help.

  1. Choose personal discipline

There’s no way we’ll be able to balance peace and holiness in the moments of life’s chaos if we’re not already on the journey of growth (Hebrews 12:3-13).

  1. Exchange shoes

Sometimes we blind ourselves by our own opinions.  When attempting to love each other, put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  It might be a cliché, but I think it’s key if we actually want to understand the tension (Hebrews 12:14).

  1. Actively Love

Love is not just a feeling, it’s an action.  It’s not good enough to passively understand Christian love; we have to actively engage in it.  That means we can’t simply say, “I feel bad…” we have to take action and embody peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:15).

As Jesus said;

“…everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Your turn…

How have you seen peace and holiness at work?  How do you work through that tension? Comment below with an example…

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

When We Doubt God’s Plan

Christian Doubt, Part 4

I remember growing up hearing, “pray in faith…your faith will heal [or provide for] you…”  Conversely, if someone was not healed or provided for, the response was, “you did not have enough faith.”  As I grew as a Christian, so did my questions.  If God has a special plan for me (Psalm 139:16) and works all things together for the good (Romans 8:28), why would my faith, or lack of faith, solely dictate whether God would heal or provide for me?  Is my doubt a lack of faith, or can my faith even exist without doubt?  If you believe in the omnipotence of God, the question is never if God can do something; rather, why God has or hasn’t done something.  When we doubt God’s plan, we must refocus our attention towards the gospel, and trust God’s all-sufficient grace will help us while God uses our weaknesses to show His glory.

Christian Doubt, Part 4

I offer two examples of leaders in scripture who either had doubt, or had questions about God’s plan, and why they had to go through it.

1. John the Baptist doubted Jesus’ plan when he was in prison.

Jesus said there was no one greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11), and yet after Jesus started his ministry, John was arrested and Jesus did nothing about it.  John prepared the way for Jesus, and Jesus continued his ministry while John was in Herod’s prison.  John did what most of us would do ? he questioned if Jesus was in fact the Messiah.  He sent messengers to ask Jesus and Jesus responded with:

 4“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:4-6)

When we face doubt, we have to keep our focus on the purpose of the gospel Click To TweetWhat a response! God’s Kingdom was being established (insert all the amazing things that were happening), and yet “blessed is the one who is not offended by me?”  Everyone else is getting help, but the one who prepared the way, is left in prison.  The word offended is translated from the Greek word skandaliz? which means “cause to sin, or make someone stumble.”1  Jesus was more about serving those who were lost, than he was about saving those who already knew.  It was more about serving and less about conquering.  John may have been looking and hoping for a conqueror to free him from prison, and doubted who Jesus was when that did not happen.  In reality, Jesus was explaining that the Kingdom was being established and blessed are those who believe and follow, even when circumstances seem to be uncertain (ie. doubt).

If you keep reading, you’ll find out John was never released from prison and was eventually beheaded.   In order for the Kingdom of servanthood to continue to be established, Jesus did or didn’t do things that could cause someone to doubt and stumble.  When we face doubt, we have to keep our focus on the purpose of the gospel – bringing life to those who are lost.  If we do, we will be blessed.

2. Paul doubted why God wouldn’t remove his “thorn in the flesh.”

Paul was one of the first Christian leaders who wrote nearly a third of our present day New Testament.  You would think that God would provide him with a peaceful and pleasant life.  When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, however, he shared that he was tormented by a “thorn…in the flesh.”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn” was.  It could have been anything from a physical ailment to persecution from his opposition to a severe temptation.2 In any case, the issue was significant enough to cause him consistent grief.  What’s even more significant, is the fact that the “thorn” was given, or at least permitted, by God.3  If that doesn’t lead to unanswered questions (doubt), I don’t know what will.

So, what did Paul do? He pleaded with God.  In fact, he did so three times – asking that it would be removed from his life.  What did God do?  He responded to Paul.  In fact, he did so in such a way that He brought purpose and strength to the pain.  This is so encouraging to me:

  1. I can plea with the Lord, for pain to be removed, without compromising my spirituality. I can process my doubt by engaging in dialogue with God.
  2. God will respond. I may not hear what I want to hear, but God is willing and ready to respond with what I need to hear.
  3. God’s grace is sufficient. I may not think God understands, but his grace is all I need as I process my doubt.

God’s saving grace is fully shown when He uses broken people for His glory! Click To TweetI’m sure we’ve all had moments and situations when we wondered why God would allow us to go through painful experiences.  For Paul, it meant showcasing how great God is by showing how God used Paul and his weaknesses.  So much so that Paul took joy in boasting in his struggle because he knew that his success, paired with his pain, would point to Christ.

9…Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

If there’s one thing that Paul’s testimony should tell the church today, it’s this: God’s saving grace is fully shown when He uses broken people for His glory!

To Conclude

We will never fully understand why God does or doesn’t do certain things.  Levels of doubt will continue to surround many of life’s circumstances.  In fact, it almost feels impossible to actually live for God when the plan seems so uncertain.

The pain of losing a job, battling cancer, an unfaithful spouse, persecution, chronic illness, losing a loved one, family tensions, addictions, or…I’m sure you can fill-in the blank, are all so overwhelming that it’s difficult to see any form of good.  I think the key is to step back, revisit how God has blessed us with grace, and realize that this life is temporary.  God is establishing His Kingdom and when we find ourselves doubting God’s plan we have to refocus on the goal – to save the lost, and trust in God’s all-sufficient grace to carry us through when God’s plan doesn’t make sense to us.

Whether we find ourselves doubting God’s truth, voice, or even plan, we have to give ourselves enough space in order for us to process our doubts.  While we do so, we can live knowing that God is waiting for us and willing to provide us with an all-sufficient grace that will help us take faith-filled steps as we grow towards maturity.

Check out Part 3 of this series – “When We Doubt God’s Voice”

Your turn…

Have you ever doubted God’s plan?  Did you let doubt pull you closer to God or push God away?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

“Christian” Government?

Canadians have decided – Canada will have a liberal majority government led by Justin Trudeau.

government

I’m a Christian, so you may think I would be upset because the “Christian” progressive conservatives are no longer in power.  The reality is, “Christian” politics don’t really exist.  It can’t exist.  The Canadian government is required to lead Canada, and Canada proudly celebrates diversity and thus everyone is not Christian.  In a democratic society with religious freedom, religion can’t define a government.  Instead, the government must be defined and measured by how policy allows for religious freedom.

Here’s my message to Christians who may be upset with a changing government: you serve a God who is in complete control, and His Word tells you to respect the government in power while continuing to serve Him.

God is in control and God instituted the governing authorities.

While I pay attention to the political story and vote accordingly, the party who receives the most votes is completely in God’s hands.  I have to trust that.  The reality of the policy changes that may occur (for, or against my faith-based views), will happen for God’s purposes.  Whether I understand that or not, I have to trust God is in control.

“For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”i

God expects us to respect the governing authorities.

If God has ordained the governing authorities, than we must respect God’s authority by respecting those He has ordained.  Anything less than that would be going against what God has put in place.

“…whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”ii

We may never fully understand why certain people are elected and others are not, or why certain policies are created, enacted or reversed.  The point is, God has planned this and it’s not the Christian’s job to simply resist such leadership.

“…one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”iii

We live in a free country.  As Christians, our job is to be faithful to the calling on our lives, not create fights with a government who doesn’t hold scripture as their authority.  Their definitions, view points and understandings aren’t necessarily based on scripture – they’re based on general acceptance, and let’s face it – general acceptance means more votes.  In our faithful journey, we must respect the leaders God has placed in our lives, and give…

“…taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”iv

So, what happens if policy stops me from being faithful to God?

Be a Daniel – Remain faithful to God, and God will remain faithful.

God is always faithful to those who are faithful to Him.  What I’ve noticed, however, is that many Christians get upset over potential faith-based issues before becoming truly faithful to God.  When there are no arising issues, attention moves away from remaining faithful and towards being comfortable.  God is calling a generation to be faithful to Him at all times.  If I had to breakdown the Daniel story into three main points, this is what I would say:

  1. Daniel was faithful BEFORE it was illegal to do so.

Daniel was faithful from the beginning – before trouble came his way.  Everything from remaining clean and observing Jewish food lawsv to praying three times a day.vi  He didn’t wait for policy to change – he was faithful from the beginning.

  1. Daniel respected the governing authorities.

Daniel was faithful to his king.vii  Even after God was faithful in sparing his life in the lions’ den, Daniel’s response was clear:

“O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”viii

  1. God was faithful when Daniel stood strong.

Daniel respectively stood firm on his devotion to God when he was faced with policy changes.  He respectively declined unclean food and chose to live off of vegetables to do so.  God was faithful, as Daniel’s appearance was not only healthy, but stronger than those who did eat the king’s unclean food.ix  Daniel also experienced God’s faithfulness when he was tossed in the lion’s den for praying to God.  God’s faithfulness was evident in his life.

No matter how we may view the governing authorities, we must remember that God is in complete control, He expects us to respect those in authority, and remain faithful as we serve Him.  We will never fully agree with every policy.  Some policies will be more “Christian” than others; however, at the end of the day, our goal should be to simply be faithful to God and trust who he places in government.  The days ahead are not glum; the days ahead are bright.  The question is: will you be a Daniel and be an effective instrument for God?


i Romans 13:1.
ii Romans 13:2.
iii Romans 13:5.
iv Romans 13:6.
v Daniel 1:8, 12.
vi Daniel 6:10.
vii Daniel 6:4-5.
viii Daniel 6:21-22.
ix Daniel 1:12-16.