Monday, March 28, 2011


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9) Jesus elaborates on what it means to be a peacemaker in Matthew 5:43-48. In those passages Jesus says, “you have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
When Jesus says we are to be peacemakers he is calling us to bring people together instead of divide people. And yet the world around us continues to try to divide. You are either for us or against us. You are either with us or with them. We assume everyone has to choose sides. This is not new, Jesus said in 1st century Israel they had been taught to love neighbors, hate enemies, that is choosing sides.
However, Jesus says, don’t choose sides. Love your neighbor and love your enemy. It is not much of a choice when there is only one option. Our only option is to love. It would be nice if it were that easy, but it takes focus and intentionality to really love as Christ calls us to love.
Our youth shared the message in our worship services yesterday and one suggestion they had was to not look at people as a group, but as individuals. When you see a group as Iowa fan or Iowa State fan, Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal, it can be easy to divide and label someone. However, when you get to know an individual you start to look past the labels and get to know this person who is also a Child of God.
When I was moving along the ordination process I was assigned a group to meet with. Several of the people in the group were not people I would have chosen to meet with because their theological perspective was different than mine. As we met regularly, I got to know these people and not their perspective and became good friends. We still do not agree on everything, but we love and respect each other.
Jesus says we are blessed when we are peacemakers. We are blessed when we do not divide, but instead draw people together. Pray for God's help to love all people, including our "enemies." This is the calling of all those who follow Christ.

Monday, March 21, 2011


(Back to blogging after a week off due to my grandma's funeral)
This Lent I am focusing on the big idea of changing our mindset from allowing our past to give us direction into the future, and instead grabbing a hold of our future and allowing that to pull us towards Christ. When we put our faith in Christ he has already made us saints of God by his sacrifice on the cross. So we need to grab a hold of that future and be pulled towards the saint God has made us to be.
We are using Jesus' Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 to learn about how Christ has called us to live out our sainthood. We will be connecting the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12 to other passages of the Sermon on the Mount to put some flesh on what to grab a hold of in our future.
This week I want to connect Jesus' calling for us to be the "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13) with Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." I wondered if part of Jesus' calling for us to be salt is for us to make people thirsty because if you eat a lot of salt you do get thirsty. The reason I found that we get thirsty is because our bodies need a certain balance of salt and water in our blood and cells. When we eat a lot of salt that increases the salt level in our blood, which then needs more water to get back into balance or equilibrium.
Since salt makes people thirsty, I wonder if Jesus would tell us to help people hunger and thirst for righteousness. The definition of righteousness I would use is the Hebrew idea of shalom. Shalom means peace. However this peace means more than just the absence of war or violence. This peace is about wholeness. It is about having everything as God would want it to be. It is about balance with everything in its right place. So we are called to thirst for this shalom to fill the earth.
In America, and especially in Williamsburg, it can be easy to look around and feel that we are not too far from shalom. Yet we need to become more aware of what is going on around us in the world. I went looking at some ministries that are thirsting for righteousness and found some realities that make me thirsty, and I thought they might make you thirsty also.
Looking at pictures and hearing information about the recent tsunami in Japan makes me thirsty. The lives of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, are out of shalom. Estimates are the over 18,000 people have died and the destruction is horrific. How does our thirst call us to respond? (
Another ministry is called Living Water International. They are thirsty to get clean drinking water to those who do not have access to it. They say there are 2.5 billion people who do not have clean drinking water. This is the leading cause of death in under resourced countries where 1.8 million people die each year from water born illnesses. This includes 3,900 children each day. (
I also was thirsty for righteousness when I heard that there are more slaves today then ever before. There are 12.3 million people caught in human trafficking. These people are forced into slave labor and prostitution, while those who sell them make $32 billion a year. International Justice Mission is thirsty to rescue people and prosecute the offenders. (
Of course there are many other places and lives that do not know God's shalom. I believe Jesus calls us as the salt of the earth to inform people and help them get thirsty to make a difference. As we thirst together, we can offer God's shalom to others. We can do it halfway around the world, but also in our own neighborhoods if we will just thirst for righteousness and keep our eyes and hearts open to see those who have lost shalom.
This Lent I encourage you to grab onto hungering and thirsting for righteousness as a way to be drawn towards the saint Christ has called you to be.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Answered Prayers

You may or may not know that Christianity in America seems to be declining or at least struggling. There are fewer and fewer people who attend worship in Christian churches. However, I believe there is still a spiritual hunger among people inside and outside the church. With that spiritual hunger comes many prayers lifted up to God. Some may recognize their requests to God as prayer, while others may just recognize it as hope or a desire for something more.
As people lift up those prayers we have an opportunity to reach out with the love of God. We can be the answer to those prayers. God can respond to prayers in miraculous ways, but most often God responds to prayer through ordinary people like you and me. God uses us when we respond to prayers with action.
When someone is lonely, we can be a friend. When someone is depressed, we can be an encourager. When someone is in need, we can be generous. We can respond to many of the prayers out there if we will respond to the prayers of people.
Remembering that I can be an answer to prayer for other people helps me to watch for what God is doing each and every day. There are so many people that need an answered prayer, and you never know how that answer may make all the difference in the world to that person. So I encourage you as we move from a Season of Prayer to a Season of Action to hold in your heart the prayers we have been lifting up, but also look for ways to act and respond to those prayers. God will use us to answer the prayers of those around us if we hear his voice and take action.