Lifting the Veil and Gaining Freedom Through God

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom….”

2 Corinthians [3:16]-17

As I read this verse today, I started thinking to myself about what the purpose of a veil is. In some cases it obscures the view; in others as in window curtains, it blocks light; or in the case of a bride or artwork, it hides a hidden beauty.

What Paul is trying to tell us as he spoke to the Corinthians, has to do more with us uncovering ourselves completely and thoroughly before God.  God already knows what is in our hearts, but when we unveil our very deepest thoughts and feelings, we no longer carry anything alone, for our Heavenly Father is always with us. And in turn, we become freed.

If something is weighing you down today, unveil it to our Creator in prayer and feel a lightness of being, that only comes from God’s Spirit.

Praying with you…
Pastor Lou Strugala

Pastor Lou has a wonderfully deep background in ministry and I have had the good fortune to call him my friend for almost ten years. Lou is more of a “Street preacher” and has dedicated his life to helping Jesus and those in need.

Photo by Helen Ngoc N. on Unsplash

Through Our Weakness We Become Strong

“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in….”

Ernest Hemingway

“Kintsugi” is the traditional Japanese method of repairing pottery with precious metal so the repair becomes part of the history of the item.

Although you might see Hemingway and a Japanese repairman as opposites; I believe God has a defined purpose that intertwines both ideas.  We are all flawed or broken in some way, some minor, some severe. God’s healing power and presence comes in through the cracks in our human armor; and as we are healed, our experience becomes a precious tool and reminder that nothing is impossible with God.  Those cracks then become the wisdom for us to help and heal others.

We are called to be healed and be healers.  Turn towards the light of God and feel the cracks fill in with Divine Peace!

Praying for you always,
Pastor Lou Strugala

Pastor Lou has a wonderfully deep background in ministry and I have had the good fortune to call him my friend for almost ten years. Lou is more of a “Street preacher” and has dedicated his life to helping Jesus and those in need.

Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

Love Will Conquer All; Even The Reign of Terror

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John [13:34]

On July 28th, 1794 Maximilien Robespierre was beheaded in Paris. He was the final person to be executed during the French revolution. Prior to that, over sixteen thousand people were executed in a similar way and two hundred thousand were arrested. This all happened in less than twelve months. This period is called the Reign of Terror.

Angry at the state of their country, the French citizens had revolted and thrown out the noble ruling class in 1789. At that time, France was staggering financially and found itself unable to feed it citizens. The Seven Years War and helping the United States revolution militarily; left France deeply in debt. The previous year’s harvest had failed, and food was in short supply. France found itself weakened and very vulnerable. Its callous noble class failed to inspire the citizens and a revolution was on.

Into this vacuum a new leadership arose, Maximilien Robespierre, being one of the new leaders. Initially, Robespierre sought good and desired universal equality for all French people. Making Robespierre the principal ideologist for the French revolution.

As time wore on, Robespierre gained more power. And with this power, Robespierre grew more resistant to hearing other points of view. He began to suppress the voices of the right-wing, left-wing and the centrist. Anyone that didn’t exactly agree with him was considered an enemy.

In the summer of 1793, a new guiding force for the revolution arose called the Committee of Public Safety. The committee became responsible for protecting France from external invasion and to suppress the internal rebellion. Robespierre became its de facto chairperson. Any person who expressed dissent was vilified. As dissent grew, France sank into a time of terror and with it the elimination of responsible debate.

Robespierre’s audaciously anointed himself the Supreme Being. Anyone that found this unacceptable became an enemy. As Robespierre became more isolated, his insecurity grew. Leading to the Reign of Terror. A time in France where any individual that came close to a disagreement was arrested. Starting in September of 1793, terror took over. From September of 1793 to July 28th of 1794, over sixteen thousand people were arrested and executed with the Guillotine. A particularly gruesome death where the victim was beheaded by a sharp blade that was suspended above their heads and then released.

As the terror grew, people retreated to inner sanctums. Dissent was dangerous and likely would be met with death. Silently the people of France grew more disillusioned. Both at Robespierre assigning himself the title of Supreme Being and the constant fear of being identified as a dissident and killed.

During the summer of 1794, Robespierre became even more isolated and less in touch. Opening cracks that allowed the true feelings of the French people to emerge. Eventually, Robespierre himself was arrested. On July 28th, 1794 Robespierre became the last person executed with the Guillotine.

What happened to Robespierre is not all that uncommon. History is littered with stories of those who seeped into a power vacuum and became what they first opposed.

As individuals, on a much smaller and less vicious scale, we sometimes do something similar. We create our theories and ideas. When they are questioned, we sometimes retreat or get angry. We can become overly obsessed with our point of view. When we are questioned; we are faced with how to handle the challenge. We can do one of three things; retreat silently, attack aggressively or listen to learn. In Robespierre’s case, he chose to attack, silencing voices only temporarily, which would later emerge as far more hostile and menacing voice, costing Robespierre his life.

Jesus said in Matthew [26:52]; Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. If only Robespierre had heeded this advice; instead of being considered a villain, perhaps he would have been a hero.

Here is what Robespierre missed, when people retreat, they simmer angrily. Turning themselves into silent bitter enemies, waiting for a chance to strike back. Tired of being dismissed and not heard, they lay in wait. And In some future period, they emerge as an open adversary.

The act of listening to learn is much harder but far more productive. It requires three things that are sometimes hard to muster up; kindness, patience, and love. With an attitude of love as the most important aspect. An important note is that this doesn’t mean we have to agree to get along, rather it means being willing to openly hear another point of view and find a common ground. This part is not easy, especially in the wake of an attack against our beliefs.

Most significant social issues follow the pattern of the French Revolution, maybe not as violent. Social issues are always extraordinarily complicated. Nearly impossible for any single person to have all the facts. And many sides will have legitimate points of view. And we all must

remember that for the individual, their opinions are very important. Knowing they are being heard and considered is important to the individual. And listening is important in successfully implementing any form of change. Because of this cross-cultural or cross-functional dialogue has to happen to unwind the complexity of most issues. For any societal change to occur successfully, all voices must be heard.

When ideas are not fully developed, or facts fully gathered; ironically many revolutions of social change resort to the same behavior they are trying to replace.

I see this today in our national debates, with people getting fired from jobs, not because of hate speech, but because they have a different point of view. They have had different life experiences that have created their different points of view. But their life views didn’t fit the agenda and they lose their jobs or friends. This is the problem with management by terror, even ideas spoken respectfully will still cost people their jobs.

I also see good people being insulted because their ideas didn’t fit the Mobs theories. These emerging leaders don’t understand that firing or insulting people will not make the ideas of disagreement go away. They will stay in the hearts of these people and reemerge at a more inconvenient time.

The solution however is remarkably simple, if we are all committed to love. And as Christians that is what we are commanded by Jesus to do. Jesus said in John [13:34]; A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Jesus is giving us a command, a new one, to love one another. And Jesus isn’t giving us the option of choosing who to love.

Any revolution or societal change will have its shortcomings and complexity. And societal change is doomed without a universal attitude of love for all people. Any other course will lead to failure. Just ask Robespierre and Historians.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Chris Karidis on Unsplash

Learning About Yourself With God

Remember today what you learned about the Lord your God through your experience with Him.

Deuteronomy 11:2

What is your most personal experience with God? Is it something you want to share, or something you hold deep in your heart? Or perhaps it is a constant learning experience, filled with wisdom and a sense of purpose.

We all live through situations, some positive and some negative: some that we have been the catalyst of and some that we have just been thrown in the middle of.  Each one of these gives us the opportunity to communicate with God to give us strength through trying times such as these and magnify our joy during the good times and events which occur daily.

You see, learning more about God and our personal relationship helps us to learn more about ourselves because our burdens are shared.

Please take a moment to reflect on the Scripture passage of today. I believe it will lighten your spirit…..

Praying for you always,
Pastor Lou Strugala

Pastor Lou has a wonderfully deep background in ministry and I have had the good fortune to call him my friend for almost ten years. Lou is more of a “Street preacher” and has dedicated his life to helping Jesus and those in need.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Being Born from Above

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

—John 3:3

S. Lewis, the great English writer of the twentieth century, had spent his late teens and early twenties angry at God. As he stated, “I was angry with God for not existing.” An atheist for an extended period of time, he continually wrestled with God. He found the church boring and religion a chore. His belief was that if God existed, he would not have designed a world “so frail and faulty as we see.” 

Lewis was a member of the Oxford University community, surrounded by people like Yeats and Tolkien. He wrote his own conversion story, where it states: “You must picture me alone in Magdelen , night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him who I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted God was God and knelt and prayed; perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” The searching had ended. Encouraged by his friends, like Tolkien, he was changed and reborn. 

“The acceptance of God comes from something done within us through the compelling force of God.” 

Nicodemus, a leader of the ruling class, came to Jesus late at night to talk about faith. As a member of the ruling class, Nicodemus went at night so that his associates wouldn’t know about the visit. Jesus changed the paradigm for Nicodemus, by talking about being born from above. What Jesus was talking about was starting over, being different, desiring to be different, and accepting God. The acceptance of God comes from something done within us through the compelling force of God. This new birth is from God, unmerited but generously given. Jesus asks us to accept it, without benefit, this new way, this committed heart. 

“Many nights during World War Two, C.S Lewis spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down.” 

Both Nicodemus and C. S. Lewis went on to become strong Christians. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity and was instrumental in helping the English people during the bombing of London in World War II. Many nights during World War Two, C.S Lewis spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down. Nicodemus came out of the closet and acknowledged Jesus publically. He was at the Crucifixion and worked with Joseph of Arimathea to provide the burial tomb and spices.

“God pursues us. We fall and fail, but God’s chase is never-ending.”

 Life gets in the way of God, as it did with Lewis and Nicodemus.  God pursues us. We fall and fail, but God’s chase is never-ending. Once we give in to our gift, we are quickly whisked to life as another being. We are still “frail and faulty,” but our lives have changed. 

Parting Thoughts:

How does God pursue us?

 What has been our journey in faith?

 Why does God love us?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jasper Boer on Unsplash

The Apostle John; The Son of Thunder or the Apostle of Love?

James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”)

Mark [3:17]

Other than Peter and Paul, no name is mentioned or associated with the New Testament more than that of John. John in Hebrew means; “Jehovah has been gracious and has shown favor.” At the time of Jesus, John was one of the most popular names, representing five percent of the population. The John we most frequently read about in the New Testament is John the Apostle, whom Jesus referred to as one of the Sons of Thunder.

Now, this is part of what makes the Apostle John such an interesting character to know. When the Apostle John was with Jesus, he was rambunctious and quick to create noise. Part of the reason Jesus referred to John and his brother James as the Sons of Thunder.

In Luke [9:54], after Jesus had been refused a place to stay as he was traveling through Samaria, John and his brother James asked Jesus;  Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them? Jesus rebuked the brothers and moved on to another village. And this is an example of why Jesus gave John and his brother this nickname. John in this case was certainly not gracious as his name would imply.

John was one of Jesus’s projects. He was an overly eager worker who was just interested in getting things done, no matter what means he used, Including destroying a village that refused to welcome Jesus. Jesus wanted John to be able to get things done and with love.

Over time, Jesus’s lessons helped calm John down. In fact, in his later life, he became referred to as the Apostle of Love. Quite a remarkable turn in his life.

We see this in the writings of John in the New Testament. There are five books associated with John; the Gospel of John, Revelations, and the three Epistles of John.

This part gets a little complicated; traditionally all five books were assumed to be written by John and are referred to as  Johannine Literature. But many scholars believe these books weren’t actually written by John the Apostle.

There is little known about who the actual writer was. In fact, some scholars would say it might have been a group in Ephesus that wrote these five books during the last decade of the first century. Some think it may have been another John, called John the Evangelist. And all these theories may be right or wrong. There is little hard evidence to say exactly who this John was and wrote these books.

I know my professors will shudder at my next comment, but it seems to me that whoever wrote the five books isn’t as important as the message of the five books. Trying to discover the writer is a great historical exercise but takes us away from understanding the message of John. And the message is undeniably about love. Love is mentioned fifty-one times in these five books or equal to twenty-five percent of the entire New Testament! love is mentioned twenty times in the Gospel of John or almost equal to the other three Gospels combined.

So we can see why in his later life, the Apostle John was no longer called one of the Sons of Thunder, but the Apostle of love. Whether he wrote these books or not, John at least impacted these writings and in turn, has become associated with love.

This is the value of Jesus in someone’s life. Even a very eager person, like John, committed to getting things done at any cost; including destroying a village, will change because of Jesus and his teachings.

It is not a coincidence that Jesus picked John to be an Apostle. He saw that John’s eagerness could be tamed and directed to propelling the Gospel.  Jesus saw that once his weaknesses were chiseled away, he would become committed to leading with love as his first response.

And so it is for us. We all have wonderful strengths and blind spots. And it is the strengths that Jesus sees and wants to be what defines us. With our blind spots, Jesus wants us to see them and not let them guide us.

History is littered with people who tried noble things and failed. Mostly because they forgot about love. They failed not because of their strengths, but because of their blind spots.

Jesus did a wonderful job mentoring John. Turning an eager person with wonderful gifts away from his shortcomings to becoming the Apostle of Love.

Jesus has the same plan for us; no matter how old or young. No matter where we have been or what we look like, Jesus has a plan for us. One that is rooted in love as our first response.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

What Is The Truth

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John [8:32]

The climax of the First Crusade occurred in 1099AD, with the Western Christian Crusaders capturing Jerusalem. I remember studying this event while in Theological school. Our Church History professor assigned us a paper to write on this subject and insisted that all of our research use the closest source documents that could be found regarding this event. At first, this was an overwhelming task, because doing close source research took you away from very accessible history books and towards scraps of paper on microfilm or documents that were copied and found in obscure places.

The study of this event was further complicated because there was actually a lot of material in the archives but from four very different points of view. The four points of view were from different reports from the four groups who witnessed or participated in the battle for Jerusalem; the Western Christians, the Eastern Christians, the Muslims, and the Jewish perspective.

As I read all these different reports, I started to wonder if I was reading about the same battle. Events like the capture of an important relic during this battle had four different points of view of who actually ended up with the relic. Each group reported what was important to them.

The Western Christians were the victors and much of what we read about the Crusades in the North Atlantic countries is from this perspective. In these writings, the Muslims are portrayed as marauding thugs. The Jewish population was viewed as co-conspirators with the Muslims. The Eastern Christians portrayed as ambivalent as to what happened to Jerusalem.

As you would guess, when you read the accounts of the other groups, they portray themselves in a more favorable light. And no matter how hard I researched, the murkier the truth became. As time ran out to complete the paper; I concluded that unless I had actually been in the battle I wouldn’t find the truth. The real truth was undeniably elusive.

And that was the conclusion the professor was looking for in her assignment. Truth is very elusive and very hard to pin down. She gave us this exercise to demonstrate that most of what we read and hear has an agenda. Sometimes the agenda is noble and other times not. Truth is discovered by getting as close to the issue as you can, and history blurs the truth.

The crusades were one thousand years ago, and we can smirk at the inconsistencies of the reporting of events. In the 21st century, I don’t think we can say we have improved much on telling the real historical truth.

In these times of very varied opinions; I recently felt compelled to explore what is meant by Christian Truth. And as is typical, I got a very different definition of what the truth is Biblical versus secular truth. In today’s verse, Jesus says; Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. And here is the difference, when Jesus makes this statement he wasn’t talking about the truth of current worldly events, rather he was talking about giving up the ways of the world and becoming committed to following a heavenly path.

When Jesus was questioned about this statement, Jesus replied that, if you practice sin, you are a slave to sin. What Jesus means here is that if we become obsessed with something other than God or heavenly ways, we become obsessed with only the facts that support our obsession. For instance, if we become obsessed with money than our truth becomes anything we hear that is related to money. We will seek only the truth or facts that support our obsession.

Likewise, if we sign up to fight for a cause, our truth only becomes what we are fighting for. Anything or fact that appears in disagreement, whether it is right or not, we will seek to dismiss those facts.

This is one of the reasons I love reading about Saint Augustine. In his lifetime, he was constantly in pursuit of the truth about life. And he followed many paths to find the truth. Inevitably, Augustine always found a dead end. And this is what is important about Augustine; when he found the dead-end he didn’t argue bad facts, he changed his course. His goal was always the truth and he went down many dead-end streets.  It wasn’t until Bishop Ambrose began talking to him about Jesus, that he found a home in the truth. And when he did he became obsessed with serving God.

Jesus wants us to separate from worldly truth that ensnares, and instead focus on heavenly truth. Heavenly truth is centered on loving God and loving our neighbor. When we turn that way, we find ourselves listening more and arguing less.

Worldly truth will always be elusive because it will always have an agenda. Heavenly truth is far simpler and has no agenda.

One thousand years from today, citizens of the world will look back on our times and smirk at how the truth was so elusive in what they read about us. Likewise in another thousand years after them, another group with a smirk as well.

But in each of these millenniums, the truth that Jesus talks about will not be elusive. It is the same today as it was the two previous millenniums and will be tomorrow.

Biblical truth is focused on Jesus and worldly truth is focused on the agenda.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash

Ever Hear of the Gospel According to Thomas?

Look, a sower went out. He filled his hands (with seeds), (and) he scattered (them).

From the Gospel According to Thomas-Part 9

One of the most fascinating things I like to study in the history and creation of the New Testament. I know this may sound boring but hang in there. I just have a few boring things to point out before it gets interesting.

The New Testament is made up of twenty-seven books. All were written by 120AD. Depending on the denomination, the New Testament was completed from 392AD (Catholic) to the 1500s. (Protestant)  So what we see today in our Bibles, we can take as authentic and God-breathed.

However, there are many and I mean many; stories surrounding the creation and development of each of the books. For me none is more exciting than the Gospel According to Thomas importance in helping create the four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

In each of the Four Gospels, we have the story of Jesus’s life and his sayings. And all of these Gospels were written at least four decades after the crucifixion. So how accurate is the history and how reliable are the Gospels? Well considering the lack of written material from the first century in general, there actually is quite a lot written or orally known about Jesus that makes the Gospels reliable history.

One of the most important documents is called Quelle. It appears to be a document that contained the sayings of Jesus. However, it has never been found. So how do we know it exists? Well, we know through Biblical detective work that Quelle or some other source contributed a significant amount of material. Especially as it relates to Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Mark was written first, which scholars are sure of. Matthew and Luke wrote second and third. What is interesting is that almost all of Mark is in either Matthew or Luke. Both Matthew and Luke are considerably longer than Mark. As such, they contain significant additional material. The additional material appears in a very similar form in both Matthew and Luke. So it is likely from the same source. The best example of this is The Beatitudes, while most commonly associated with Matthew, is actually in Luke as well.

So where did this additional material come from? Well, many scholars believe from this Sayings document, called Quelle or Q. But I think, and there is some scholarly support for my belief, that the material that is thought of as Quelle, is actually Quelle and/or other documents. How much other, is likely unknown.

I come to this conclusion because of a little known and non-biblical document called The Gospel According to Thomas. An extensive book of sayings of Jesus.

What is most exciting about Thomas is that in 1945 its manuscript, dated around 60AD, was discovered in the Egyptian desert near Nag Hammadi.

This actually makes this document older than any of the four Gospels! And one of the very earliest documents that contain details about Jesus’s life. While its literary quality is far inferior to the four Gospels, it has an extensive list of the sayings of Jesus.  Many of which we find in the four Gospels. By the way, the earliest discovered intact documents of the four Gospels weren’t found until the fourth century.

Today’s verse is from section 9 of The Gospel According to Thomas. In fact, you can click this hyperlink to read the entire book; Gospel According to Thomas.

Today’s verse is very similar to the beginning of one of Jesus’s most well-known Parables, The Parable of the Sower, which appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And, there are many other similar connections from Thomas to the four Gospels.

I discovered this document initially during my Doctoral studies. And knowing that Quelle was thought to have existed, but never found. I started to do more research. And that is when I discovered the actual text. Stunned to find many of the same sayings in The Gospel According to Thomas, are in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In fact, I wondered if this wasn’t the missing document Quelle.

After approaching my professor about this, he stated that others have come to the same conclusion, that some of what is the Gospels could have come from Thomas.

Okay, so what does mean and why is it important? Well, most importantly and very reassuring, this manuscript of Thomas adds a very strong layer of authenticity to the life of Jesus. Adding firmer and reliable information as to the real existence and purpose of Jesus.

So while we can’t find the document Quelle, we have found Thomas. It is incredibly important that archeologists actually found an intact document that existed prior to the writing of the four Gospels. Almost an independent validation of the New Testament.

Now we might ask if this document is so important, why isn’t it in the New Testament. The main reason is that it isn’t up to Biblical literary standards, it’s more of a listing than a story. While an authentic document and important for history, it is cumbersome, doesn’t flow well and a large part of its content has been inserted into the Gospels.

This doesn’t mean that Thomas isn’t valuable, it is! Of the 114 sayings in Thomas, over half are found in the Gospels. Thomas also is a very early Christian document, a very close eyewitness of the events of Jesus’s life. And it seems to me this later point is the real value of Thomas. It gets us very close to Jesus and his life. Further affirming he was real.

This story is only the tip of the iceberg in the stories of the creation of the New Testament. Many other writings exist, and many other stories exist. But the bottom line is that I believe all these events, manuscripts, and people who created the New Testament were through providential circumstances. So when I say God-breathed, this is what I mean. Providential circumstances created the Bible. Books like The Gospel According to Thomas created this history. Most stories in the creation of the New Testament, even if they are little known, are all part of God’s plan.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash

A Time For Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John [14:27]

The word peace is mentioned in the Bible well over two hundred times. In the four Gospels, it is mentioned twenty-three times. In the Bible, Jesus is called The Prince of Peace and refers to himself as The Son of Peace. Peace is a very important word in the Bible and states Jesus’s strong desire for us to have peace. So what does peace in the Bible mean?

First, let’s start with the biblical definition of peace. I found two great quotes in my research that I think help us understand what peace means biblically. They are:

  • Peace is the result of God’s presence in a person’s life as God is the source of peace (Psalm 85:8).
  • It describes the state of those who love the Word of God (Psalm 1[19:16]5).

Now, these are very different than Webster’s dictionary’s definition, where it states; a state of tranquility or quiet.

The Bible directly relates peace as a result of God’s presence is a person’s life. A presence that is found through faith. A presence that is nurtured through the word of God. Now, this may seem like a small difference in meaning, but the biblical meaning is very different for Judeo-Christians.

Peace in a secular sense is that of a period of calm and tranquility. But because calm and tranquility in a worldly sense are not permanent, worldly peace then can’t be permanent. However, for Judeo-Christians, peace can be permanent through maintaining God’s presence in our lives. In other words, with God’s constant presence, periods of disruption should not affect a person’s state of mind.

Now, this last part about peace as a Biblical concept is very hard to maintain, but certainly, one to strive for. Peace in a biblical sense is more about how we react to disruption or events that make us angry. In each event that causes disruption, we have the choice to follow God’s word or our human instincts. This is the fundamental difference between the secular definition we find in the dictionary or the one we find in the Bible.

Specifically for Christians, the lessons, values, and ways of Jesus lead us to peace. This doesn’t mean we won’t have periods of disruptions, but peace occurs because of our response to disruptions. A response that is centered on having faith in Jesus.

In today’s verse we see this when Jesus says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. In this statement, Jesus is specifically talking about this difference through the statement of I do not give to you as the world gives. Jesus’s peace is one that we receive and has been freely given. One that is our protection from the disruptions of normal life.

In his statement, he leaves the message to not be worried or troubled. So from a Christian point of view, the main difference is how we react to disruptive events, and not that we won’t have disruptive events. Rather we are to stay calm in times of stress.

Jesus’s peace comes from our faith in Jesus as being in control of all things. Faith that periods of disruption are temporary and faith that Jesus’s peace given to us is permanent.

Biblically, our peace is disrupted when we move away from the words of Jesus. And this is our battle in finding peace. From a secular sense every day there will be disruption. And biblically we are asked to reorient ourselves completely to Christ when these disruptions occur.

This is so very hard to do. When we are slurred or wronged, we are not to strike back or get personal. It doesn’t mean we have to like it, rather it means we have to reframe our thinking to how we react. Still following Jesus’s peace is a very hard thing to do, one hundred percent of the time.

Things of injustice will always exist. But we should always seek justice. Not through violence designed to repay. Rather through positive actions that reverse injustice. In this activity, we help create peace.

We should always be committed to changing injustice, for if any person has been treated unfairly, they should always be defended. Peace is about how we resolve injustice.

And this is where the Biblical sense of peace takes over. Violence or retribution will never create peace or end injustice. And whatever amount of satisfaction that is achieved; we will find it strikingly unrewarding. But justice that is achieved through peaceful measures will be far more lasting.

It is easy to strike out at disruptive events, but the ease of violent reactions is what we should resist. It is harder to be peaceable and this extra effort is what Jesus requests.

Peace is what we all desire and what Jesus desires for us.

The ways of the world will always threaten peace. The ways of Jesus will always create peace.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

A Different Way of Thinking About Jesus

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

Revelations [3:20]

Today’s verse is one of my personal favorites and reveals how I feel Jesus approaches us. In this verse we see two things, first is the active action by Jesus of trying to connect with us, by knocking on our door. The second is a very clear statement about Jesus’s desire to form a mutual relationship with us, by wanting to dine with us. While they are insistent, neither of these statements are aggressive or demanding statements, but a compelling request by Jesus for us to get to know Him more closely.

When you read Bible commentaries about this verse, you will discover it is in the last of the seven letters to various churches contained in Revelations. These letters were requested by Jesus, to be written by John, the author of Revelations. Each letter contains a specific message for each church.

The seventh letter is written to the church in Laodicea. Laodicea was a wealthy town in the country now known as Turkey. Today, it is a place of ancient ruins, but in the first century was an early wealthy Christian enclave. The letter was specifically written to address the lukewarm attitude of their faith. It seems they were never fully committed to Jesus, and were still attached to and relied on their wealth. They were both in and out with their faith.

This lukewarm attitude is one of the reasons, I have always loved this verse. In many ways, it represents my personal struggle in my relationship with Jesus. A sometimes to lukewarm attitude with my own faith. At times I rely on my own possessions and human abilities, instead of using the lessons of Jesus.  At times I catch myself not thinking about the lessons of Jesus in my behavior. And in retrospect, I see my actions were not Christ-like.

And Jesus still knocks on my door. Desiring to bring me closer to having a heart filled with His lessons. A daily struggle to continue answering the knock.

This verse is an appeal to answer Jesus’s knocking on the door. A knocking at the door and invitation to eat with Jesus. All that one has to do is hear Jesus’s voice and then open the door.

Now I can imagine if this happened in the 21st century, just about everyone I know would answer the door and have dinner with Jesus, and not just my Christian friends. Who wouldn’t? Jesus has a wonderful reputation. He healed a lot of people. He walked on water. So why wouldn’t we answer his knocking at the door?

But here is the catch, Jesus doesn’t want to just have a dinner companion. Jesus wants to be part of our lives. Not just as a novelty, so that we can tell our friends that we had dinner Jesus. And who wouldn’t want to go to a party and say to everyone, guess who I had dinner with?

Jesus isn’t interested in being a novelty or part of a cocktail conversation. Jesus specifically wants us to know him. He doesn’t want to force himself on us, but to become connected with us fully. He is not demanding this dinner, but compelling us to dine with him.

Certainly, Jesus knows that a command and control management style doesn’t work. And certainly, if you want to turn people off, saying things like, believe in me or else, will accomplish that task.

No, this is a very different message of how Jesus approaches us than what we sometimes hear in modern society. And that’s the point about this message. Our relationship with Jesus is just that; our relationship. It is not someone else’s relationship, but ours. And Jesus doesn’t want a tepid relationship; Jesus wants us all in; all the time.

Now this knock is an insistent knock, and the original Greek word, kpouw doesn’t easily translate to English, but actually means a rap, as if with a knuckle. Perhaps, even a heavy blow.

And the door Jesus is knocking on is unlikely our door at home. This figure of speech refers to our heart. The inner sanctum of our being. This is where Jesus wants to get to. And make no mistake about it, Jesus wants in.

Our challenge is to be ready to dine with Jesus. To move away from our distractions, possessions and listen intently. And at the same time converse, by expressing our fears, joys, and desires. Not a one-way conversation, but an intensely mutual exchange.

Sure, Jesus is our Lord; the king of kings. But Jesus isn’t a command and control ruler. Jesus is a relational ruler, that desires the best for us. Jesus knows even more about us than we know about ourselves. Jesus just wants in. And Jesus is knocking, and the knocking is insistent. There is a polite urgency to Jesus’s knock.

I say, answer the knock. It is one of those moments in life when we really receive a great gift and all we have to do is not be lukewarm and make time for Jesus.

Listen to the Full Podcast – A Different Way of Thinking About Jesus

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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