Publication: Pastoral Letter, December 2001
Dear Friend in Christ:
Peace on earth seems remote in this day of conflict and tragedy. But it also seemed remote when the angels announced it at Jesus’ birth. Peace on earth has always been confined to those of good will_it is not a promise for the wicked.
Peace is not the compromise between good and evil or some appeasement, whether between Israel and Palestinians, the United States and terrorists, or Chamberlain and Hitler. Peace is wholeness and reconciliation that begins when men and women repent and turn to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. His peace is not the absence of war, nor is it at all circumstantial. It is the knowledge of His love and faithfulness, and His presence with us. His peace calms our fears and gives a resolute confidence to our hearts, regardless of the situation.
War is the opposite of peace. It is conflict and hostility. It also begins in the heart. The desire for peace on our part will not mitigate the desire for war in the evil heart. David said, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war” (see Psalm 120:5-7).
Those whose hearts harbor bitterness and conflict, have war within themselves; those who trust God have peace within themselves. Satan who existed in heaven before time, harbored pride and jealousy within himself. He then caused war even in heaven. Peace and war are heart issues.
When trouble comes, do peaceful people defend their loved ones, their nation, and their possessions? One should not need to ask this question, but many seem confused. Some are willing to, but are not sure that they should defend themselves. Then there are others who suggest only appeasement. Many people have no moral foundations for their decisions.
David, who loved peace, slew Goliath, and later led the armies of Israel. The same Jesus who said that those who lived by the sword would die by it, also said that the time would come for His disciples to buy a sword (see Luke 22:36). One of His disciples had two swords.
Civil authority is ordained by God and people are told to submit to it. Submission to authority defines civilization (see Romans 13:1-4). Civil authority is the minister of God to bring wrath upon those who practice evil. Civil government (as opposed to religious government) has a sacred duty to protect its citizenry and is accountable to God for doing so.
Defending people against evil and tyranny does not disturb the peace; it defends the peace. When good people do nothing, evil triumphs…its tyranny knows no peace.
Trouble came to the USA on September 11. It was out there, troubling others, but September 11, it troubled us. It wounded a proud and prosperous people. It came with malice and forethought. It came spiritually, philosophically, psychologically, and it certainly came physically. Trouble came to us_to try to terrify our hearts. In many, many cases, it broke our hearts. And, it is in the heart that we must find peace.
Where does one go when trouble comes? Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me….Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:1,27).
When trouble comes, we look for what we can trust. Money, might, and minds are not enough. That’s why trouble came; we trusted ourselves. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken (see Hebrews 12).
The issue for the believer is to keep the trouble outside of our hearts and minds and not be troubled inside (see Philippians 4:4-7). In Psalm 27, David said, “In the time of trouble, He will hide me.” He could say that because he had sought the Lord and inquired of Him. The situation described in Psalm 27 is one of being surrounded by enemies, yet finding peace. David concludes this great Psalm by saying that he would have fainted unless he had believed to see the goodness of God in the land of the living. Then, he tells us to wait for the Lord and be of good courage.
It is amazing to what lengths people will go, rather than going to God, who has never failed us. Isaiah rebukes Israel for trusting in Egypt, rather than Jehovah. In chapter 30:15, he says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Though history confirms the wisdom of those who trust God, mankind still looks elsewhere.
Jeremiah rebuked Israel’s false prophets for saying, “Peace, peace,” when there was no repentance or peace (see Jeremiah 6:14). Daniel warned that an evil king would lull many to sleep with false peace (see Daniel 8:25). Jesus Himself said the same, as did the apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
“Peace” without repentance is a foolish lullaby for the simple-minded. We have heard this song often since World War II. Who is it that would sing us to sleep in the cradle of comfort? People who would appease our fears by appealing to our apathy. They are political, academic, and yes, even religious. It has been popular to say, “Don’t worry, be happy…but you do not need to repent.” The first two suggestions are only correct if we do repent.
Secularists have “voted out” human depravity. With little or no moral base, therapeutic analysis has replaced good and evil. Light and darkness have fused into a fog that allows no absolutes; confusion has displaced resolve. In recent days, we have not only faced terrorism, but reality itself.
The same mindset that laughed at Churchill prior to World War II, when he attempted to speak at Oxford; the same mindset that sent Chamberlain to grovel before Hitler as he chewed up Europe and murdered Jews; this same mindset still raises its intellectually arrogant voice. Those who are “ever-learning,” but never coming to the knowledge of the truth, would offer us the braying of a donkey in the face of a lion. Only God can bring us to reality_He alone sees it.
One might be sympathetic to the “feel good” demonstrations and the joining of all hands in singing some sweet song, but rest assured, humanistic delusions led us to this uncomfortable place_and that is the real enemy. Strutting in borrowed clothes will one day leave us naked when false peace is stripped away. We need to know who teaches our sons and daughters, who may one day die because of someone’s illusions.
“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Peace is in the Holy Spirit. By obeying the Holy Spirit we can have peace with God when He says confess your sins and repent. We can have the peace of God, when His presence comes into us. We can have peace in God when we trust in Him to guide us.
It is amazing to watch those who find this peace, even in war. The quiet rest and resolve of faith envelopes them and gives their eyes clear discernment. Their words and their actions become powerful, bold, and determined. They are peaceful warriors who do not bear the sword in vain. Their words do not return void. Real peace is powerful. It turns ordinary people into heroes. They face difficulty and danger without fear and depression.
Is such peace possible? Yes. I believe our president has it. David had it as he stood before the giant. Joshua had it. Moses had it, and we can have it too.
Several years ago, someone tried to break into our home. When I invoked the name of Jesus, they fled. But we were left with a feeling of violation and trepidation. I went to Psalm 91. I read no further than verse one. I was then reminded that it was “dwelling in the secret place” that would keep us under the shadow of the Almighty. I had some seeking to do, and that led to some changes.
America has some seeking to do, and that will lead to changes. Then we can find peace in the midst of the storm.
IN THIS SEASON
Our hope is in the Lord, and our desire is to spread this Good News across America and among the nations. Now, as much as at any point in history, there is both the opportunity and the need to extend His Kingdom to hungry, hurting people. CSM is a catalytic ministry that has given birth to many other ministries; we continue to do so. The result is that more than 70 countries globally are being touched today through CSM. Some of the testimonies we receive are heartwarming…some are heart-rending. Frankly, our opportunities presently are greater than our resources.
Would you prayerfully consider standing with us in a special way during this month as we move forward in our mission? Your prayer and financial support are vital to us and to the people worldwide who receive so much through CSM. Also, we are committed to praying for you and yours in this season. Please feel free to fill out the prayer request box on the card enclosed.
May the God of all peace, comfort, joy, and strength be with you and your loved ones in these days. Have a most blessed Christmas and New Year!
Scripture Reference: Psalms, Luke, Romans, John, Hebrews, Philippians, Jeremiah, 1 Thess.