Monday, August 14, 2017

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

In the last few blogs I have been writing about peace. First of all, I wrote about how we can be at peace with God and have a relationship with Him. Secondly, I wrote about the yoke or specialty teaching Jesus taught His disciples, which is peace for our souls. Then I wrote about the importance of being led by peace and also the importance of pursuing peace in our relationships. For this final article, I will write about how people that make peace will be blessed.

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” One of the characteristics of a son of God, or a mature and developed Christian, is that they will be peacemakers. And when you are a peacemaker, you will be blessed.

I like the way the Amplified Bible says it, “Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!”

The makers AND maintainers of peace will be blessed regardless of their outward conditions. As Christians, our peace should not be solely determined by our outward circumstances. We can be at peace AND help others be at peace no matter what we are going through. This is possible with the help of Jesus!

When we commit to being a peacemaker, peace keeper, and peace maintainer in our own life, in our own family, and in our close relationships; then that peacemaking will begin to spill over into other areas of our life and into other relationships as well. We need to practice peace and peacemaking in our own lives first and then we can make peace and help others experience peace in their lives. Being a consistent peacemaker will give us opportunities to continue to help others.

Notice in Matthew 5:9 that Jesus didn't say, “Blessed are those who enjoy peace,” or “those that want peace.” He said, “Blessed are those that make peace.” Making peace means there is a situation where peace does not currently exist. Making peace in a situation where there is no peace can be hard work, but this is what we are called to as Christians!

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Peacemakers are not merely people pleasers. At times, peace making may actually stir people up and cause them to become upset because they are comfortable with where they're at and they don't want to change. But those are the kind of situations we are specifically called to help make peace in. That's the way Jesus lived and we are called to live in a similar fashion.

So sometimes we need to call people out (in love) if they are acting out in a hurtful and childlike manner. I speak to my 3 year old son when he throws a tantrum and I correct him. He needs to know what kind of behavior is not acceptable and he also needs to know that such behavior is not supported by myself, explicitly or implicitly. We need to do the same when it comes to social issues and standing up for our neighbors. We need to help make peace where there is no peace. Like in Charlottesville right now, we must hold our white brothers and sisters accountable and attempt to help make peace in a peaceless situation. It's not easy, but it is the Gospel Jesus told us to bring to the world.

Now, I would call Jesus a peacemaker but I definitely wouldn't call Him a people pleaser! People attempted to kill Jesus on numerous occasions because of things He said or did! So don't get peacemaking confused with people pleasing, they are not the same. And don't be surprised when our peacemaking causes people to sometimes react negatively. If people got offended and angry with Jesus, then they're probably going to do the same to us as well! (John 15:18-21)

James 3:18 says, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Those who make peace, the peacemakers, will sow in peace the fruit of righteousness. Being a peacemaker and living in peace gives us the ability to live a righteous life. To live life connected to God, life as it should be, life as God originally intended it to be. But it is impossible to live that way if we don't know how to be people of peace.

One third of the Kingdom of God is peace (Romans 14:17). If we aren't living lives full of peace, then we are missing out on 1/3 of the Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim and let us be a part of! The peacemakers are to become peace diffusers. Peacemakers recover the peace when it is broken, and they are blessed for it.

Jesus has given us the gift and the tools to live in peace, but He won't make us use them. We need to choose to live in peace and make peace and use what He has already given us. It isn't up to Him, it's up to us. The ball is in our court. The choice is ours. So I encourage you today to be a peacemaker in your own life and then be a person that can bring the Prince of Peace—Jesus—into the lives of those who don't yet know Him!

In John 13:35 Jesus said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

If we have been with Jesus and been taught by Him, then we will look and act like Him as well. It's about time we Christians start being who and Whose we claim to be! Make a difference. Make peace and be love to those you come in contact with!

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pursue Peace

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Notice the two qualifiers in this verse. First, it says “if” it is possible, not “it is possible.” Second, it says “as much as depends on you.”

It’s not always possible to live at peace with every single person. There are some people who, no matter what we do, are still going to choose to be angry and hurtful. In those cases, it doesn’t have anything to do with us, it has to do with their pain and their hurt. We are still to love them and pray for them and attempt to be at peace with them. But it takes two in any relationship, and sometimes being at peace with someone is out of our hands. We all have to make our own choice and decision to be at peace with other people.

So Paul says, if it is possible or if others will let you, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably or be at peace with ALL men.

We are to pursue peace with ALL people. No matter their belief, religion, personality, past, criminal record, social status, etc., we are to seek to be at peace with them. There's no asterisk here disqualifying certain people groups or personalities. God doesn't let us off the hook just because it might be difficult or take some hard work. He wants us to attempt to live peaceably with everyone we come in contact with.

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In Romans 12:18 in the New Living Translation it says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Am I doing ALL that I can—everything within my own power and ability—to live in peace with EVERYONE? We are to do our best to live in peace! We are to do nothing on our part to prevent peace!

Very few people operate in the “as much as depends on you”, but instead the “as long as it’s easy and comfortable.” We can’t make someone live at peace with us, but we can be a reflection of Jesus by forgiving and loving them, no matter what their response may be.

When circumstances do arise where it's not possible to be at peace with someone, we need to make sure we aren't the reason it's not possible. We should have already made our choice to attempt to be at peace with them. We can always look to the life of Jesus, for He is our perfect example and the standard we are to compare ourselves to.

We can be at peace with others even if they choose not to be at peace with us. It's very similar to choosing to forgive someone instead of holding a grudge. We can forgive people even if they don't ask for forgiveness or show remorse. That's what Jesus decided to do even while dying on the cross. In Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Jesus chose to be at peace with His executioners and to love them, even if they didn't react or respond in a similar fashion. It would be a very different story if Jesus instead was cussing them out and cursing them! How often is peace lost in our lives and relationships because of the words we say?

In Titus 3:2 in the Voice Bible it says, “Don’t tear down another person with your words. Instead, keep the peace, and be considerate. Be truly humble toward everyone”

In Hebrews 12:14 it says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:” That word “pursue” means to follow after, run after, seek after eagerly and earnestly, and to strive for.

If we don't pursue peace and holiness in our lives, people won't see the Lord! If we aren't living lives full of peace, joy, hope, and love then why would people want to hear from us?

If we are known as the mean or angry person at work or in our family, then why would people ever come to us for help or for spiritual guidance? As followers of Jesus, we should be different! It should be apparent that we are Christians! It was apparent in Jesus' life and in the lives of His disciples.

You will not be an effective witness for Jesus without living a consistent life of peace. So I want to encourage you today to be like Jesus, be someone who does everything in your own power and ability to pursues peace with ALL people.

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Led By Peace

In my last blog I talked about the specialty teaching or yoke of Jesus, which is peace for our souls. One part of following Jesus and being His disciple is becoming a person led by peace instead of being controlled solely by our bad feelings and outward circumstances. Today I want to talk about being a person that is led by peace.

In Colossians 3:15 we are told to let the peace of God rule in our hearts. The phrase “to rule” means: to be an umpire, to decide, to determine, to direct, or to control. So we are to let the peace of God rule, umpire, decide, determine, direct, and control our hearts and our lives.

What does an umpire do in a baseball game? He calls the shots. He calls whether a pitch is a ball or a strike. He determines whether someone is out or safe. Peace is supposed to do the same in our lives. The peace of God should be calling the shots in our lives. We don't have to be controlled by other feelings if we don't want to be!

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How often are the decisions we make in life determined by feelings other than peace? Feelings of frustration, worry, anger, stress, fear, peer pressure, work problems, money problems, family or relationship problems, etc. The list goes on and on, but we aren't supposed to be controlled by (and we don’t have to be controlled by) those feelings and situations. In Colossians 3 Paul encourages us to let God’s peace control our actions and our words.

While growing up I had a father who was abusive and after 13 years of marriage my parents got divorced. I was in 5th grade at that time, and as a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home I became a very angry young man. For a time I hated my dad and wanted little to do with him. I definitely wasn't letting the peace of God rule in my heart. I was letting anger, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness rule in my life.

When I was about 19, Jenny (now my wife) and I first started talking and one time she asked what my middle name was and I told her it was Thomas. She said, “Joel Thomas Juni, I like that.” I responded, “That's the first time I've ever heard someone say my full name and I liked it. I hate my dad and his name is Thomas.” (Maybe not one of the best conversations to have with a brand new promising relationship haha!) But thankfully Jenny was loving and gracious enough to look past my baggage and see the man I could become.

Around the same time as meeting Jenny, I learned a type of prayer where I was able to truly forgive my father and trade those bad feelings for something much better, the peace of God. I learned through experience what 1 Peter 5:7 in the Amplified Bible says, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”

I learned to forgive my dad and trade all of those feelings of worry and stress and cares once and for all for the peace of God. I experienced the peace that surpasses understanding and doesn't make sense to onlookers (Philippians 4:7). I knew and experienced truth for myself and the truth from Jesus set me free from my past (John 8:32).

I now have a great relationship with my dad and love him very much. Jenny and I even named our son Andrew Thomas, after both of his grandpas. I am at peace with my dad even though he has never asked for forgiveness for what he did. The bitterness and anger I held all those years harmed me just as much or more than it harmed him.

I now look up to my dad and can see many great things I can learn from him. I don't see him through my filters of unforgiveness and anger any longer, but instead through a lens of love and the way our Father sees him. I don't write this blog to dishonor him in any way, but instead to point to the goodness of God and the reality of the redemption and making things right again Jesus is able to do in our lives! (Even in, or especially in, unhealthy and difficult situations we may face.)

We can either let peace rule our hearts and our lives or let the cares and burdens of this world rule our lives. We have the choice. And from experience, I can guarantee the peace of God is a much easier, healthier, and more fulfilling way to live!

The man that taught me how to hear from God and deal with my issues in a healthy way is Larry Low. He is a great pastor, friend, and man of God from rural Iowa. I truly believe I owe my life to this man and his teachings. I really don't know where I would be without the truth he shared with me about 10 years ago! He has some great resources on his website including books, dvds, and teachings at

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Yoke of Peace

In my last blog I talked about the importance of understanding that we can be at peace with God, meaning we can choose to have a relationship with God. This week I want to talk about Jesus’ specialty teaching, the yoke of peace.

When we read the Bible it is important to understand that it was written during a particular time period, to a certain people group, and within a certain culture. The Bible is still for us today and the Truth within transcends time and culture, but we still need to read the Bible through the lens of its historical context if we want to understand it fully.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

When we read the word yoke, most of us would think of a wooden beam that connects two animals together, like oxen, in order to pull some sort of heavy load or wagon. While this is one definition of a yoke, this is not the yoke Jesus was talking about in this passage.

During Jesus’ time the Jewish religious leaders were called rabbis. These rabbis were the best of the best—the cream of the crop. In Hebrew culture, becoming a rabbi was every boy’s dream job. If you made the cut after years and years of study, hard work, education, and memorization you could become a rabbi. If you didn't make the cut, you would take part in the family trade or family business.

If you became a rabbi you were allowed to begin to teach others about God and the written and oral Hebrew traditions. The student would become a teacher. The rabbis were able to choose the people they wanted to teach. When asking someone to become a disciple, the rabbis would say something like, “Come follow me.” The students the rabbis chose were then called disciples.

Matthew 4:19-20, “Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

The disciples Jesus chose and asked to follow Him in Matthew 4 were fishermen. They were in the family business of fishing. They hadn't made the cut to become rabbis or disciples, but Jesus still chose them! This is why they dropped their nets and everything else they were doing and left their lives and livelihood to follow Jesus. Their dreams had come true, they didn't have to be fishermen any longer, they could become disciples of a rabbi!

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Once a rabbi chose some people, they would have their own specialty teaching or focus to pass on to their followers, their disciples. This specialty teaching of a rabbi was called a yoke.

In Matthew 11 Jesus told us to learn from Him and take on His yoke, His specialty teaching, and then we would find rest for our souls. Jesus offers ALL who follow Him the gift of peace and rest for your whole person- spirit, soul, and body.

Are you worn out, stressed, exhausted, or tired? Or are you content, at peace, and rested? The answer to that question will tell you whether you're carrying the yoke of Jesus, your own yoke, or someone else’s yoke.

If you've been with Jesus and been taught by Jesus, then you will look and act like Jesus. Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

We can be like our Teacher. We can be like Jesus. A teacher can not force the student, the disciple, to learn. We have the choice to learn and to obey. We have the choice to do something with what we are taught by Jesus. Jesus' yoke, His specialty teaching, was peace and rest for our souls. We can live life in a pain filled world and still look like Jesus!

If a peace filled life seems out of reach or unattainable, then I would love to chat with you sometime. Peace is available and it is wonderful! Remember, Jesus chose fishermen to be His followers. So you don't have to be anything special in your eyes or in other people’s eyes in order to follow Jesus and be chosen by Him. You are already special in His eyes, and He is saying to you today, “Come follow Me!”

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Peace With God

Last month I was given the opportunity to share a devotional once a week in a local newspaper. I figured since the articles were already written, I would also post them here on my blog. During July I shared 5 articles about the importance of being a person of peace. Here is the first article I wrote, which speaks about the fact that we are able to be at peace with God and have relationship with Him.

We are all capable of being a person of peace. No matter what we have done, we are not too far gone. God used people in the Bible that were murderers and adulterers. By today’s standards, Paul would have even been considered a terrorist, and he ended up writing 13 books of the New Testament! So don't you dare think you're a lost cause! God still wants to be in relationship with you. Don't count yourself out!

To begin, I want to introduce the idea that we can be at peace with God. God wants to be at peace with us. God wants to be in relationship with us. We were created to have relationship and fellowship with Him. In Romans 5:1 it says that we can have peace with God through Jesus Christ. So, peace with God is possible because of Jesus!

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When my wife and I have an argument, we are no longer at peace with one another. The argument isn't resolved by avoiding it or sweeping it under the rug, that only allows it to fester and get worse. Instead, we need to come together and speak with one another in order for peace to be reinstated.

In First Corinthians 1:9 it says that we were called into fellowship with God. That word for fellowship means “communion, communication, joint participation, and intimacy.” So we are all called to be at peace with God. Part of our purpose in life is to be in an ever growing intimate relationship with God. We need to be at peace with someone before we will want to have a relationship with them. And we need to have a relationship with someone before we begin to share our lives with them and our deepest secrets and most intimate moments.

When I first met my wife I didn't air out all of my dirty laundry right away, I would have scared her away! But over time, as we built trust and intimacy, I shared all of my life with her. The good and the bad. My wife and I know everything about one another. That is intimacy. But that kind of relationship doesn't just happen over night. It takes time and it takes work. It takes commitment.

There are no shortcuts in getting to know someone, including God. Fellowship is vital to relationship. Building a relationship takes quality time AND quantity of time. My wife and I spent MANY hours on the phone as we got to know one another and as we built our relationship. And within those many hours we shared our hearts. We shared our dreams and hopes and desires. We understood that we would never have a deep relationship until we knew deep things about one another.

The same goes in a relationship with God. We know God only by having fellowship with Him.

I enjoy learning about WWII history. I've read some books, watched some movies, and attended some classes that taught on the subject. Because of my studying and the time I've put into the topic, I know some things about Adolf Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, and Douglas MacArthur.

History talks about what these men did and about some of their character traits. But reading all the history books in the world on the subject does not mean I know these men personally. I could even be an "expert" on the subject without ever knowing the real people. Even though I know some of the history and some of what is recorded about them, I DO NOT know them.

Just because I read a biography or watched a movie about someone doesn’t mean I know them personally. Getting to know someone comes from spending quality time with them. If all you ever do is read your Bible and never fellowship with God, then you will know a lot ABOUT Him but you still might not KNOW Him.

How many religious people are so called "experts" about the Lord, yet have never had a genuine real experience with God!? This shouldn't be the case!

So I want to encourage you to be at peace with God. Pursue a relationship with Him and grow in intimate fellowship with Him. Get to know Him and join a community of believers (a church family) that can join you on that journey. You will not be disappointed!

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel