Peace: The Lack of Conflict and So Much More

“May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds ...” – Philippians 4:7

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We remember Pearl Harbor Day on December 7. I recall some years ago wanting to make a point in a class I was teaching during Advent on this day. 

There were a number of older adults in the class who had been young women and men during World War II. And my hope was to make the point that there had been such cooperation and teamwork and determination following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and throughout the war that everyone had pulled together and worked diligently and unselfishly for a common cause. 

So with a few leading questions, I expected to elicit the kinds of positive answers necessary to make my point.

“So how did you feel, those of you left at home and working together?” And their answers? 

Afraid.
Lonely.
Depressed.
Angry. 

These were not the words or emotions I expected. I should have. 

I have studied a lot of WWII history. Years ago when living in Europe, I even had spoken with numerous Europeans about their involvement on both sides of the war. 

What I had not studied, nor had I anticipated, were the feelings of those in the room that day on this side of the Atlantic. I was completely ignorant of what it had been like to live under fear, loneliness and the threat of loss, even though the physical war was an entire ocean away. 

There was a lack of conflict on these shores in a literal sense.  But there was no peace. 

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. It can be used as a greeting, farewell, blessing or description. It holds within it a deep and substantive concern for a kind of vertical peace with God, a horizontal peace with those around us and an inner peace with our selves. 

When Jesus was asked the greatest commandment, he spoke in these terms: to love God with all we are and have, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-38).

Such perspective yields an inner peace, we can say, because two of the three imperatives focus outside of ourselves.

It is difficult to love ourselves if we are not loving God, and are unable to love those around us. And we can never be at peace if the feelings we have are solely self-centered and anxious. We can love ourselves most fully, we can be most deeply at peace, then, as we are thinking and acting beyond ourselves.   

Peace can be an existence without conflict. But far more than absence of conflict, it is presence with God. This is something vastly more.

It is having a life filled with relationships that are meaningful. It is a life that nourishes those relationships through spiritual depth and relishes a broadened understanding of those around us through genuine compassion. This kind of godly peace doesn’t just happen. It takes work.


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David Jordan is the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Decatur. He regularly contributes for Baptist News Global. You can read more of his writings on his blog here.

Becoming Who You are in Christ

This past weekend I flew to Texas to lead a workshop of sorts at a small men’s retreat. I have known some of the guys in the group for the better part of 15 years, while others I’ve known for over 20!

My discussion centered on the “Theological Intersection of Identity.” I honed in on how what God says about us and what we say about us often don’t align. We tend to focus exclusively on our shortcomings while God calls out both the truth and potential He’s buried within us.

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We say to ourselves: “I’m just a sinner saved by grace – I’ll never truly measure up!” while God says, “You are my child whom I have forgiven, redeemed, and destined for good!”

It seems there is an endless interplay between the false identities we label ourselves with and the liberating truths God speaks into and over us.

All that to say, I concluded my discussion by reading a passage from Colossians 2:6-3:4 in the Message translation. I love this paraphrase because it says perfectly what I think each of us should remember:

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.

Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.

So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you.

Life isn’t about doing things in order to become. It’s about embracing our becoming and doing goodness and righteousness out of that place. I think it was Brennan Manning who used to say, “There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more or love you less.”

My encouragement to you, friends, is to lean deeper into your identity in Christ. It’s where the real, true you dwells!


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Matt Snyder is a thirty-something writer and Director of Communications at First Baptist Church of Decatur. You can read more of his writing at matthewlasnyder.com

Nuggets of Wisdom

How to get wisdom

Just last week I was chatting with one of my friends about how we get wisdom. I said something along the lines of, “I think wisdom comes from us putting our knowledge to the test over and over again until we understand it in a more intimate way.”

My friend nodded his head and mumbled something about intuition, so we drew this little diagram because we’re nerds:

knowledge (intuition) –> experience –> x1000 attempts –> understanding –> wisdom

It’s also been said that “good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgement.” I’m sure that little diagram about wisdom exists in that somewhere also.

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Wisdom and the Divine

The book of Proverbs says that if we make our ears attentive to wisdom and incline our hearts to understanding that we’ll get a glimpse of what it is to know God (Pr. 2:1-5).

So it seems that cultivating wisdom leads to intimacy with the Divine.

In my life, one of the easiest ways to be attentive and seek understanding is to sit at the feet of those who have gone before us and learn from their experiences.

It speaks to the importance of having mentors not just in our careers, but in our faith as well. (If we were all going to be honest with ourselves, we could all make this a bigger priority…)

Wisdom from Bob

Recently, one of our pastors on staff at First Baptist Decatur retired after 28 years of dedicated service to our congregation. At his last staff meeting, Bob Williamson passed around some nuggets of wisdom he learned throughout his life of ministry and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

  • Your name will go further than you will.

  • The church will change you more than you will ever change the church.

  • You better have the same respect for the janitor that you have for the senior pastor. Everyone deserves that.

  • Every so often you need to step back and ask the question: What are we trying to do to people?

  • Don’t expect the laity to do the jobs you wouldn't be willing to do.

  • Don’t believe all the bad things or all the good things people will say about you. Reality is somewhere in the middle.

  • The work is never finished. It will never all get done. At the end of the day, sometimes you just need to walk away. It will be there in the morning.

  • More often than not, the greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.

Reflecting on wisdom

What kind of things are you learning? What kind of experiences are you sharing with those around you? How might someone pick up the mantle of your understanding and expand it?

Bob said, “Your name will go further than you will,” and it’s got me to thinking a lot about legacy and how committed (or uncommitted) I am to building up others around me and letting them run with the nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned.

Make it a point to seek out someone older and wiser than you this week. Ask them their story. Make your ears attentive. Incline your heart to understanding.

Perhaps then you’ll get a glimpse of God, and catch some wisdom along the way.


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Matt Snyder is a thirty-something writer and Director of Communications at First Baptist Church of Decatur. You can read more of his writing at matthewlasnyder.com

 

Thank you Bob Williamson!

For Retirement (By John O’Donohue)

This is where your life has arrived,
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.

You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.

Have the courage for a new approach to time;
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.

Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire,
To live the dreams you’ve waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.

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Bob Williamson officially retires this Wednesday, October 31, 2018. Thank you for 28 years of service to our church community, Bob! You are deeply loved!

The following are some pictures from our services on Sunday where we prayed over Bob and Margie, as well as a couple from the luncheon afterward.