Category Archives: peace

feeling salty

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There’s an expression I’ve become rather fond of in recent days. If someone is being sassy or giving attitude or extra confrontational it is referred to as being “salty”. And perhaps this isn’t really a new expression…in fact it might be rather old, but I love how quickly a word or phrase becomes en vogue and we begin to use it frequently as part of the common vernacular. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago I was in the school office and some of the other teachers asked me if I knew what being salty meant and I quickly attempted to show them the best version of sass that this 6’3″ straight-laced white male could muster on the fly. I’m not sure they got what I was going for, but it maybe communicated my understanding of what being salty meant.

Here’s where a little bit of wordplay can be fun. You might say, isn’t being salty a good quality? After all, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet.” – Matthew 5:13 I’m not sure Jesus was thinking about the disciples being confrontational with each other and throwing shade about every little thing. In fact, a few of the times we see Jesus chastising the disciples is when they’re arguing over who the greatest is…in other words, getting salty over who’s better. Now I know we never struggle with this kind of saltiness in the church. We never get in petty arguments over getting our way or having things done the way we want them or the way they’ve always been. It reminds me of my one Nazarene joke. How many Nazarene’s does it take to change a light bulb? “Hey you can’t change that light bulb, my grandpa put that in”. Even our jokes are a little salty.

Truth be told, I’m just not that salty at all. In fact, I don’t think this is the kind of salt Jesus had in mind at all. I believe he was thinking about salt that brings good flavor to the world. I believe he was thinking about the salt that preserves and brings life to the world around it. When it comes to the current definition of salty, I just don’t feel like I ever need to find myself there. In the closing of his letter to the church at Rome, we read these words from Paul. “Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good. If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.” – Romans 12:16-18 These words of Paul have always been a way that I’ve attempted to live my life by. I don’t want to operate out of saltiness. My way, my opinion, my preference, my comfort, my…fill in the blank just isn’t that important. In fact the only thing that is important is my effort to live at peace. So maybe it’s time to lose the saltiness and actually become salt. I think we all could use it.

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overcome

Yesterday on the drive into school my kids and I ended up on the subject of death. Now granted, this isn’t a subject that often enters our realm of family discussion, but for some reason it came up yesterday. And in my fatherly wisdom I found myself saying these encouraging words, “Well, we all die someday”. Fortunately my son quickly interjected, “That’s ok. Because that’s the way we get to heaven.” (Luckily my kids somehow survive despite their dad’s morbid view of reality). But let’s face it. We all know the two things we are guaranteed in life are “death and taxes”. And sometimes we in the church struggle with our mortality and how to relate it to our immortality. We sometimes think that the blessings of the life to come aren’t real if they don’t somehow resonate in our current setting…but this isn’t really the gospel.

In some of the last teachings we see Jesus delivering to His disciples before his trial and death we read these words from the book of John, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 Oftentimes I think we misread this verse. We see ourselves as the “overcomers” of the world when we are really are only guaranteed to “have trouble”. The word in the verse above we read for trouble or tribulation is the Greek word, thlipsis. It’s most literal translation is “pressure” and it comes from the idea of ruts being worn into a path/road. Tell me that’s not encouraging. In this life you will get potholes. And really it’s the one thing we are guaranteed…this world will eventually end us if Jesus doesn’t return first.

Luckily that’s not where the story ends. Although we may lose, although we may be overcome, beat down, pressured, etc. this is not the End. Jesus tells us to be at peace as he has overcome the world. He has claimed victory over the temporal limitations of this world and made a way through death into life. And so we find peace. Truthfully this isn’t easy. When the ruts worn into us come through things like sickness, brokenness, bills, debts, familial discord, job loss, and grief we long to be the ones who overcome. But at the end of the day we don’t overcome…we take comfort in He who has overcome and speaks these words to us in the final book, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” – Revelation 21:4-5. The faith that we hold onto places it’s confidence in a God who has not only overcome but promises to make all things new. This is how we are not overcome ourselves and find peace even in the midst of the storms of life.

And truthfully, we who are called of Christ are also called to comfort and proclaim good news to those who have been overcome by life and it’s troubles. Our calling is not simply to look to the life to come but also to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Often times we find peace in serving those who themselves can’t find peace.

So may you take heart today. May you find peace and bring peace to others through Christ our Lord; the one who has overcome.


the presence of Christ

This last Wednesday night I had the privelage to bear witness to something amazing. Granted, it came upon the heels of a very difficult experience in the lives of many of our students. And because of that we had planned something a little different for our youth group gathering. We also knew that some of the students most directly effected by the tragic experience would be attending that night. And because of all of that we planned a special prayer time to conclude our service. After said prayer time we made space for this most effected group of students to continue to pray and the remarkable thing was the response of our regular students. Even though they were given the freedom to leave respectfully, they just sat…for half an hour. Not speaking, not fidgeting…just sitting.

Earlier in the evening we had talked about the ancient Jewish practice of sitting Shiva. To sit Shiva, close friends or family members would come and sit with those who were mourning and do little else. What made this last Wednesday night so unique was not that the close friends were those participating in Shiva, but that students who had no direct connection to those mourning were those sitting still. And the only thing that I could think of was the fact that these students, although not directly connected, knew the God who is. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses…” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭4‬:‭14-15‬)

Sometimes people like to fault this current generation of young people with many things. They are inattentive, too busy, distracted, media-dependent, etc. But what I saw Wednesday night spoke volumes in a different direction. Here was a generation that we label as being attention challenged just sitting; being present. Somehow they knew that in their presence, the presence of God was present. Oh I wish we could get that sometimes. We don’t have to have the right words but rather rest in the fact that we serve a High a Priest who is present in our presence and empathizes with us in our weaknesses.

It’s amazing the sermons I receive from students at times. And this is one I will take with me forever.


set apart peace

You ever find yourself clinging to one of those Bible verses and then realize it doesn’t really mean what you thought it meant? Okay, so maybe that doesn’t happen all the time, but it happened to me today. My life as of late has been rather disquieted for a variety of reasons and so I looked to one of those verses for comfort and I reached for Psalm 46:10, “Be Still and know that I am God.” (SPOILER ALERT…I MIGHT RUIN THIS VERSE FOR SOME OF YOU READING AS WELL). I have always thought of this verse as a peaceful reflection of meditation and quiet, but if you ever read the rest of the Psalm you would be left puzzling too. The Psalm is all about conquering and thundering and exaltation and big, loud images of God. And so in my mind I wasn’t sure “be still” fit. And truth be told it didn’t. The word in Hebrew is actually raphah which is best translated “fall down”….which actually fits with the rest of the Psalm. Not that this in anyway means that I don’t think we need to be still in the knowledge of God and in who He is, but the context is a bit different.

So then I found myself seeking for another word of peace that could speak into my life in a better fashion and I stumbled upon a very fitting and familiar passage, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. I love that title, “God, the God of all Peace”. And the word for sanctify is beautiful as well, hagiazō, “set apart”. The God of peace is seeking to set us apart completely from all of the other stuff that is trying to define us. From the hectic hustle and bustle, chaos, anxiety, etc., God is seeking to set us apart, define us differently, give us peace. And the best part about all of this is that it is God’s action and not our own. All to often we speak about sanctification and holiness as if it’s something we accomplish, but that’s Biblical incoherence. God sanctifies, God sets apart, God gives true peace.

It’s easy to find ourselves in the doing and going, and longing to “be still” (Still a little peeved at a Bible translator somewhere). But I take great comfort in the fact that the action being accomplished in my life is being wrought by the God of peace. And maybe sometimes I do need to be still and take joy and comfort in that. So today, may the God of all peace, God himself, continue to set you apart in the midst of all of your non-peaceful hectic existence.


anxiety

The dynamic of the Arp family is usually best described as unpredictable. And for the most part we are cool with that…until we realized we really aren’t. Not so much me, or even my wife or daughter, but rather our son. It kind of took us as surprise as our lives have always been marked by spontaneity. But our son Jonas has always had issues with fits and meltdowns and for a season he seemed to be getting over them. But then we had a family tragedy take place and the wheels came off again. And try as we may we really couldn’t understand how to help him until a family friend (who happens to also be a therapist) suggested that perhaps Jonas has Sensory Processing Disorder. Just to give you the shorthand version, whenever Jonas encounters something that might make you or I anxious it sparks in him the Flight or Fight response. And so the unknown, the unpredictable, etc. all of a sudden became an issue for the Arp family.

I tell you this because it has become a unique thing for us (especially in the midst of a pastoral transition at our church). How do we as parents create an environment for our son that relieves him of anxiety and the unknown? This truly has become a daunting question. In the midst of all that is going on anxiety even weighs heavy on me. But in the book of Philippians the writer Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) in every situation? With thanksgiving? How are we supposed to offer up thanks in the midst of the unknown? But I think there might be something to that. The unknown provides the opportunity for faith, for trust. And as we offer thanks and prayer on the midst of that faith moment we are told that peace which transcends human comprehension guards us. This is a reason to offer thanks.

So I come back to my son. I am trying to teach him what it means to trust us in the midst of the unknown. And as I do so I catch a glimpse of what our Heavenly Father longs for for us in the midst of of walking in faith into the unknown.


grace and peace

Undoubtedly if you have ever been a part of a Stuck in the Middle gathering, or any of our previous youth positions in other churches, you have heard the three words that make up this post. In fact, I recently had the joy of getting to hang with some former students and I asked them, “What three word phrase would you always hear whenever we got together?” And almost in unison they replied, “Grace and Peace”. You see, in every youth gathering/service we had together we would have a time of passing the peace. But instead of uttering the liturgical phrase “The Peace of Christ to You” we pound fists with our neighbor as we utter “Grace and Peace”. And I couldn’t be more excited to have any other words associated with our ministry. But for me the real joy is when the students begin to understand why those words are integral. The significance of this phrase isn’t even probably found where you think it might be.

For better or worse our theology and practices in the modern church in America are probably shaped more by the writings of Paul than by any other writings in scripture. In fact, sometimes I see the main difference between the Modern church vs the Postmodern church is that the former is more Pauline in it’s theological sway while the latter tends to be more Christological. And a lot of this shaping through Pauline doctrine has been amazing. We understand church discipline, organization and morality better through his eyes. We are able to wrestle with justification, atonement and sanctification because of the texts given to us from his letters. However sometimes Paul has been used to oppress and deride members of society; even inside the walls of the church. His writing to Philemon regarding the fair treatment of a slave may have been a crutch for slavery and fodder against the abolitionist movement. His writings in Timothy have led to the oppression and subjugation of women both inside and outside the church walls. And I think the problem isn’t necessarily just a cultural interpretive issue…I think the problem is that we don’t read Paul sequentially.

In every one of Paul’s letters, before he gets into any issues with the local churches or leaders, before he even begins to weigh any theological discussion, we find some variation of the following phrase, “Grace and Peace”*. It was so important for Paul to lay the proper foundation with these churches that it is mentioned in every epistle he wrote! Now think about this with me…before Paul uttered one word of correction, before he gave one jot or tittle of instruction he ushered in Grace and Peace into the lives of his listeners.

What a concept! What would the reputation of the Church in the world look like today if we simply followed that model? What would we look like if before we entered into political arenas or workplace discussions we simply offered Grace freely (for truly that is really the only display of Grace) to those with whom we are about to engage? How effective would we be if in every situation we encounter we were actively seeking to build/make peace (not keep it, there is a significant difference) in creative and non-violent methods? Maybe then we might be getting persecuted and ridiculed for the right reasons instead of  accusations of being judgmental and hypocritical. Maybe then people might scoff at us because we are trying to make a difference by offering Grace and Peace in a world that really understands neither…or maybe we will find ourselves on a cross. But isn’t that where this all begins anyway?

* Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1Thessalonians 1:1, 2Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon1:3


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