Love is the only root for peace. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

FROM KIEV TO FERGUSON: STABLE WORDS IN AN UNSTABLE WORLD

A memorial to those killed during Ukraine's Maidan Revolution in Kiev. (Photo by Ben May / RZIM)

Just a few hours ago I stood at the square in Kiev where one year ago over a million people gathered to protest Russia’s ruthless attempt at breaking Ukraine. The pictures, the flowers, the memory of the many dead scream in the silence. Ukrainian youth and others paid with their lives, and the pictures reveal the savagery of the oppressors. It was a biting cold sixteen degrees as I recorded a message there while passersby stopped to listen.

As I now fly back, I see another scene: a burning building and the threatening destruction in Ferguson, MO, the aftermath of the tragic death of a young man there. There are huge differences between these stories but the cries are similar. Sadly, speechmakers often exploit such scenarios, provoking our baser instincts.

When the jury in Missouri spoke, the words of supposed comfort were predictable: “We are a nation of laws.” That generally means “We did not want this outcome.”

Going back across the Scriptures, we see the same search for laws that would help people live with each other. That’s the key, isn’t it? To live and not die. To the mindset of that day, they sought laws that reflected order and communal relationships. They often ran afoul of the disparate hungers within themselves. So the legal system moved towards social ethics and their enforcement. But much of it made no inner corrective. They became a nation of laws that ended up breeding lawlessness.

For living together in harmony, Moses gave 613 laws to help build their community. About half a millennium later, David, in the fifteenth psalm, reduced them to eleven. Isaiah, in his opening chapter, reduced them further to six. Micah, in his sixth chapter, narrowed them down to three: “To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly before your God.”

How much further could one go to find the essence of the law? Jesus, in the 22nd chapter of Matthew, was asked which was the greatest commandment. The point was to see if he would earn the wrath of the political or religious leaders who dictated social or religious practice with scores of laws. Jesus, knowing their intent, surprised them. He did not reduce the laws to one. He could have done that. Instead, he reduced them down to two: “To love the Lord your God with all our heart, strength, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” “On these two,” he said, “hang all of the laws and the prophets.”

That caught them off guard. You see, they could easily mystify or silence the first but they would still be left with having to live out the second. They could have exalted the second but they would have rendered it without foundation by losing the first.

All the platitudes of political double-speak remind us that if we hope in politics and laws we will make the suicidal blunder of thinking that laws change hearts. They do not. Societal laws are always at the mercy of power brokers, as language without integrity of heart lends itself to the machinations of demagogues. Oftentimes those machinations will dress up their own violations with noble purposes. Few evils rise to the insidious level as those that mask reality with purportedly benign intentions, cosmetically hiding a cancerous, self-serving motive.

We see again and again in the ebb and flow of history how laws have the power of letters but they never win the soul of a person. Courts, agencies, police, military, EPA, FAA, FTC, IRS, the politically correct enforcers…my goodness, we have enough laws to make Rome look like a toy shop. All over the world we hear more talk about brotherhood and yet in reality we see more hoods than brothers.

But, thank God, there is a law above our laws. There must be a law above our laws that gets to the innermost being of a person and breaks the pursuit of autocracy within. That happens when we admit that the heart must humble itself before God, and this brings change. That surrender of the heart to God disarms the individual and engenders a love from God and for His will.

We look around today at the environment and mourn the abuse. Fair enough. But here is the greatest mystery of all. Why do we never think of the “invironment”? What stalks us within? Is there nothing sacred about this body? Is it only the trees that need protection? Is there nothing sacred about my relationships so long as I can pop something into the mouth to negate the behavior of the night before? Is there nothing sacred about work so long as the government will pay my bills? Is success all in the power to enforce and not in the power to change for eternal truths? Has the family no place in the building blocks of a society? Is politics purely left and right without any up and down? Ah! There’s the question.

Having left that question unanswered, we are producing a generation of young people that are ready to cry “justice” when wronged but seldom think of what is right in personal responsibility. They know everything about outer space and very little about inner space. They know how to hate; they simply don’t know how or why to love.

As Ferguson is being torn apart, what is the answer?

Picture two scenarios. Here’s one: the police officer who stands at the center of the story walks into the crowd to speak to them. What do you think will happen? In any crowd that feels victimized, there will be some who will want to take the law into their own hands and their “justice” would not look pretty. The ends to them would justify the means, the very thing of which they accused the police officer.

Few would want to witness such a scene. When Love is dead, glimpses of hell rise as unforgiveness wafts from the burning pyre. That is the end of a so-called nation of laws that has left the inner self unchanged. Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, all had their laws. Their stones speak.

Here’s the other: Michael Brown’s parents ask to speak to the officer. They visit him, give him a picture of their son, look him in the eye, speak of their irreparable loss, weep with anguish for what happened. Reach out their arms and say, “Because of Jesus, we forgive you, we hold no ill will.” I realize we are talking about the almost impossible. But just think with me. What if that were to happen? It will be so riveting that if the eyes close, it will be to picture heaven. When love lives, grace abounds and life rises.

The first scenario is easier to give in to and satisfies the search for revenge but leaves a pall of death…Michael Brown, the police officer and yes, more catastrophically, the future. It will change nothing except build more hate and distrust. The power for inflicting pain would have won the day. The victory would be pyrrhic.

The second is almost unimaginable but will spell life. The embrace of the parent for the one accused will put a light in a dark city that will shine around the world and give the shining possibility of hope. It is only unimaginable without God. With God it is possible. When Jacob met Esau, his brother, he said, “I see in your face the face of God.” He said it because he found grace and forgiveness when he could have, by law, expected death. Esau didn’t say, “We are a family of laws.”

As we look at the Christmas season, we see the love of God at work. He sends and gives His Son so that we might not have to live with mere laws. We hear enough that we are a nation of laws. Laws don’t change flaws. They just reveal them. How about becoming a nation of grace? In Him, law and love converge. He brings the work of grace within us to make us hunger after the true, the good, and the beautiful. That rises beyond mere laws. It is not surprising that the Christmas message first came to a simple woman who just wanted to build a home, and then to a carpenter, one working with his hands. It was heralded to a band of shepherds, strangely blending their work, both for the temple and the home. They knew about lambs and sheep. We were the sheep. We awaited a lamb that could be the ultimate sacrifice to bring us to God.

Sudden happenings through ordinary people can change history with profound truths.

Who stood in Mary and Joseph’s way? Religious and political authorities. Why? Because they lived by the power to enforce laws. Someone who transcended those laws would spell danger to their power. Herod felt threatened and wished to silence the message. We still have the Herods today. “Silence the Christmas songs!” “Don’t let our children hear the message in our schools.” “Take away anything that tells the Christmas story.” Why? “Because we have our laws.” Yes, Herod’s ghost looms large. Is it any wonder our young feel helpless?

Caesar felt threatened because he wanted to be all powerful. Caesar knew how to make laws. He knew nothing about grace. His empire is gone and his crown rolled in the dust. He was powerless to build an eternal city. We still have the Caesars today.

The high priest felt threatened because he wanted to be the dispenser of salvation. Why give it free? Pilate felt threatened and so didn’t even wait for the answers.

We still have such interrogators today. Our academics surely know how to ask questions but never give a platform to hear the answers. Standing in front of a microphone is easy. Taming the heart is ever elusive. Times may change, people don’t.

At the square in Kiev there is a section dedicated to the “Heavenly Hundred” memorializing the dead but with pointers to heaven. These died so that others may live. It is a reflection of a greater truth. Gospel truths sneak upon us in strange ways. It seems as though death is the loudest voice calling for life.

Several years ago, terrorists broke into two hotels in Mumbai and opened random fire. So many were killed. The carnage was bloody. One Indian actor was found alive amidst the pile of bodies under a table where several had dived for cover. In an interview he was asked, “Why didn’t they also shoot you when they walked by?” He said, “I was so covered with someone else’s blood that they thought it was mine and left me for dead.”

He didn’t know it but he hinted at the Gospel. The blood of our Savior saves us.

Here’s the Christmas scene. What a contrast: a stable, a baby, talking about a throne and a king. Where is the penultimate scene for that child? On a hill. A hill called Calvary. A place least expected. A place where blood was shed and we were covered. The Son cries out to the Father to forgive the murderers. He cries out to those closest to him to comfort and take care of his mother. He tells all of us that the price has been paid for our isolated selves, isolated from God and from each other. What a story! May we hear the story afresh. It is our only hope:

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

He opened the door to heaven.

When I finished my brief talk at the square in Kiev, our guide—whom I had met just moments before—walked up to me and wiping away her tears, kissed me on both sides of my face and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Hope is attached to love. Love is the only root for peace. But it starts with love for God as we receive His gift at Christmas. All other gifts are wrapped in paper. His gift was wrapped in his grace.

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. A grace-filled Christmas season is my prayer for the streets of Ferguson, the square in Kiev, and indeed, for our troubled world.

 

Reblogged from RZIM

18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing With My Kids

reblogged from: http://www.challies.com/

18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing With My Kids

October 23, 2013
Like most parents, I have those moments where guilt and regret comes over me like a wave. I consider then how much of my parenting time has already passed by and how little remains. My oldest child, my son, is thirteen. He is already a teenager, just one year away from high school, just eight years from the age I was when I left home to get married. My girls are following close behind him. When that wave rises up, when I feel like I could drown beneath all that regret, I sometimes consider those things I will never regret.

Here are 18 things I know I will not regret doing with my kids.

1. Praying with them for them. It baffles me that one of the things that most intimidates me is praying with my kids. I don’t mean praying with the whole family before or after a meal, but praying with my daughter for my daughter or with my son for my son. Yet this kind of prayer lets them see that I am concerned for what concerns them and it lets us join in prayer together for those very things. I know I need to prioritize this because I will never regret praying with them for them.

2. Reading books to them. As summer turns to fall, as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, we spend many of our evenings together in the living room as I read books aloud. We’ve read our way across this world and across many others; we’ve read forward in history and we’ve read about days long past; we’ve met heroes and villains; and we have experienced it all together as a family. I will never regret reading books to my children.

I know I will never regret all those goodnight kisses.

3. Kissing them goodnight. The days get long and I get so weary. By the time the children head to bed I am sometimes so worn down that the very last thing I want to do is see the kids to bed and to kiss them goodnight. But I am always glad I did and often find these the times where the children are most tender, most eager to speak, and most eager to listen. I know I will never regret all those goodnight kisses. 

4. Taking them to church. There is such joy in sitting in church together as a family, worshipping the Lord together and hearing from him in his Word together. I do not take my children to church so they can learn good manners or be better people; I take them to church so they can learn who they are, so they can learn who God is, and so they can encounter and experience Grace. I will never regret prioritizing church.

5. Taking them out for breakfast. One much-loved tradition in our family is taking my children out for breakfast on Saturday mornings—one of them each week. It’s a tradition I have lost and revived and lost again and revived again. It is a tradition worth maintaining. The $10 or $20 expense and the time it takes pales in comparison to the investment in their lives. I will never regret our breakfast daddy dates.

 

 

 

 

6. Letting my friends be their friends. I love it when my children befriend, and are befriended by, my friends. I want my children to have friends who are older and wiser than they are and friends who can help them in those areas where I am weak. I will never regret encouraging my friends to be their friends.

7. Doing family devotions. Family devotions is a difficult discipline to maintain, and especially as the kids get older and have more lessons and responsibilities. But we commit and re-commit and persevere because these are precious times—just a few minutes together to read the Bible, to talk about what we’ve heard, and to pray. I know I will never regret a single moment spent pursuing the Lord together.

8. Disciplining them. I hate disciplining my children; I hate having to discipline them. Yet I am absolutely convinced that to refuse to discipline them is to refuse to love and respect them. The lost privilege, the stern talking-to, the time spent alone in their room—these are all seen as hatred in the moment, but seen as love later on. I will never regret lovingly disciplining my children.

9. Doing special things. Life is largely lived in the mundane and love is mostly shown in the day-to-day. But there is also value in the afternoons at the ballgame, the evenings at the ballet, the business trips with dad. I will never regret doing those special things with my children.

10. Asking their forgiveness. I have more trouble apologizing to my children than to anyone else. Somewhere way in the back of my mind I am convinced that to apologize to them is to show weakness; but at my best times I know that to apologize to them—to ask their forgiveness when I have sinned against them—is honoring to God and to them. I will never regret those times I have asked their forgiveness.

11. Forgiving them. My great weakness is one of my kids’ great strengths; when they sin they are almost always quick to seek my forgiveness. I will never regret sincerely and immediately granting the forgiveness they ask.

12. Loving their mother. I know that the stability of a mother and father who are firmly committed to one another brings stability to the whole family. I can love my children by assuring them of my love for their mother through my words and deeds and affection. I will never regret regularly affirming my love for their mother.

Tree13. Identifying God’s Grace. As my children make professions of faith and as they begin to grow in godly character, it has been a joy to see God’s grace in their lives. I am learning to tell them what I am seeing, to commend them for it, and to point to the One who has generated it. I know I’ll never regret identifying this kind of grace in their lives.

14. Expressing affection. I love to walk hand-in-hand with my daughters and I love to hug my son before he goes off to school. This physical affection makes them feel safe and loved while teaching boundaries and platonic, appropriate touch. I will never regret continuing to express physical affection.

15. Planning little surprises. The small and occasional gifts when I return home from a speaking engagement; a single rose for my girls when I buy their mother a bouquet of flowers; the dinner at McDonald’s for no reason at all. I will never regret planning and delivering these special little surprises.

16. Giving them my full attention. I almost always have an electronic device within reach and often I have two or three of them. It is so easy to break out of a conversation with every buzz or beep, to break eye contact and to break concentration. I know I’ll never regret giving my children my full attention when they have something to say.

The gospel is not merely a gateway to the Christian life, but the very source of hope and joy in the Christian life.

17. Pointing to the gospel. The gospel is not merely a gateway to the Christian life, but the very source of hope and joy in the Christian life. We need to return to the gospel again and again; we need the gospel every day. And I will never regret pointing my children to the gospel. 

18. Telling them “I love you”. I love my children dearly and I can show that love in each of the ways I’ve listed above. But when they head off to school, when they go out with friends, when they call me at the office, when we FaceTime from afar, I will never regret telling them one more time, “I love you.”

What are some things you will never regret doing with your kids?

Where There Is Injury

Have you ever found the taste of revenge sweet? Does there lurk in your heart, as in mine at times, a desire for at least the milder forms of revenge if you have been hurt–a desire to see the person apologize, an urge to remind him that he was nasty to you, or even the temptation to pay him back somehow? It was not God’s plan that man should take revenge. That He has reserved for Himself, and when we seize that power we are taking a huge risk. It is, in another form, the risk Adam and Eve took when they ate the forbidden fruit–arrogating to themselves powers, lethal burdens, for which they were never designed.

 

What if God paid us for our sins? What if He were not Love? His mercy is everlasting and has brought us salvation and forgiveness. Remembering that, and how we ourselves have offended Him times without number, shall we dare to retaliate when someone sins against us? Think of the measure of forgiveness God has offered us. Think of the price. Think what the cross means. Then pray the prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace–
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon….
For it is in forgiving that we are forgiven,
It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Author: Elisabeth Elliot || Source: A Lamp For My Feet