Peace or Sword

There they were. Sitting around the table. Thirteen of them. One was the leader. Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The other twelve were hand picked by Jesus to share his message with the world. They were gathered to observe the Passover meal. And as he broke the bread, Jesus said it was given in remembrance of his body. They drank the wine together, for it was the last time Jesus would partake of it with them.

Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:17-19

After the meal, Jesus raised another toast and proclaimed the cup was the new covenant between God and his people. He confirmed that his blood would be spilled as a sacrifice for all people. Yet the disciples didn’t understand the veiled truth that Jesus was speaking. Oh. He often spoke in parables. Later he would offer explanations of the parables to his chosen twelve. But on this night. On this occasion, Jesus was preparing them for the suffering that lay ahead for him when he walked out the door.

Not everyone is ready for truth when it is spoken, so it is unclear. Truth, at times, is unclear because of unbelief, fear or misunderstanding.

Jesus went on to tell them that one of them sitting at the table would turn against him. This man would turn Jesus over to the authorities. And this act of betrayal would propel Jesus down a path of no return. Oh. He knew it would happen. He was, after all, God Incarnate. He was God in human form come to die a brutal death for the sins of all mankind. And this was the moment. And yet. As he sat there with the twelve, knowing that one would betray him, he offered the cup of wine to everyone. He didn’t share it with only the eleven who would remain faithful until death. He also offered it to the one who had already made arrangements to sell him out. Yet he didn’t speak the man’s name. And the remaining group was unaware of their friend’s impending betrayal. Nor the cost of it for all seated at that table. They had no idea what lay ahead for them even that very night.

But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. Luke 22:21-23

As plans were being put in motion to celebrate the Passover meal, Jesus could have uninvited this one man. He could have offered the man a reason to excuse himself from the dinner. But he didn’t. This man. One of the twelve, chosen specifically by Jesus, would betray him with a kiss in front of the others. His fellow disciples. No one knew he was planning to abdicate his position. Imagine how the eleven felt seeing their brother betray the man they followed and believed. Yet here he was. Kissing Jesus on the cheek to show the authorities and soldiers who had come to make an arrest. He was a traitor and his closest group of friends suddenly saw him in a new light. And it wasn’t a pretty sight.

Sure. It’s obvious that Satan had planted the seed of betrayal in Judas’s heart. There’s no other way to explain it. Judas was the treasurer of the group. So he held all the money. Perhaps he had delved into the funds on different occasions to make his life easier. After all. They didn’t get a paycheck from Jesus. Their loyalty was on them. And a group of donors helped fund their travels. This was not a paying gig. In spite of the fact that Jesus knew in advance that he would be betrayed, he ate the last supper with his traitor. And he loved him still. He was willing to give his life for even back stabbers. Because some backstabbers do repent.

But this traitor. He was hiding in plain sight of the Savior of the world. Oh. Jesus hadn’t been crucified and risen from the dead yet. But Judas traveled with Jesus and the other eleven. He was a follower of the Way. He believed Jesus was the Messiah. But yet. His humanity was evident in the way he conducted business. He was known to pilfer money from the group’s funds. He helped himself to cash when he ran short. Oh. It must not have bothered him. And there’s no evidence that any of the group were aware of his theft. So no one ever confronted him on it.

We’ve all heard the saying. Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer. But that only applies if we recognize the enemy. What if we don’t realize the enemy is in such close quarters? It isn’t even a fair fight. But not all fights are fair.


Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34


So why should we expect any different in our circle of friends?  Why should we expect those closest to us to stand with us when we stand for truth?  Why should we expect allegiance and support when we don’t know the other person’s heart?  We see what they want us to see.  And the reverse is also true. How can we support someone close to us when we disagree with them?  How do we maintain that close relationship when it’s been fractured by disappointment and disbelief?  When trust has been shattered, how do we move forward in the relationship? 

Who sits at the table of fellowship with us?  There may be ones at the table who have turned their allegiance to another.  They may no longer be in a position of agreement on key issues.  They may offer betrayal when least suspected.  Are there any red flags?  Or are we too blind to even consider we’re close to being betrayed?  And then once the traitor has been exposed, what comes of the relationship? 

As believers, we can expect to be fired upon by Satan. We need to know that he will use all his evil ways to lure us away from faith in Christ. When he successfully uses these same tricks on our loved ones, the fallout can be enormous. He will use his wiles against everything we stand for. And everything we hold dear. Even at the expense of relationships and close ties to others. Sometimes the relationships that are severed are the ones we thought would stand the test of time. And then when testing comes, cracks in the relationship appear. At times, there are permanent consequences. Are we ready for that? Do we know who is sitting at the table with us? Of course. It’s impossible for humans to know the full extent of someone else’s intents and purposes. So we must always be careful listeners and godly examples. We must always be fully dressed in the armor of God. We must be peacemakers even when being obedient to the Word of God causes division.

Oh.  Jesus was God come to earth as man.  So he knew the hearts of the men celebrating the Passover meal with him.  He knew one would betray him.  He knew another would deny knowing him, not once, but three times before the rooster crowed.  And he knew that every man sitting there at the table would desert him that very night.  Yet he chose to eat with them.  He broke the bread and drank the wine with this group of disciples.  Knowing all the while that in a few hours he would be standing alone. It’s easy to walk away from friends when they’ve hurt us. But Jesus knew his group of rugged disciples would turn away before they even committed the acts. And he still sat and served them. Knowing the hurt and aloneness he would face in his final hours. Would we do the same for those who will turn against us in our greatest moment of need?

Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against. ‘Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ Luke 12:51-53

Of This I’m Certain

We quickly became friends. We bonded over the complexity and unfamiliarity of a new job. We weren’t sure we would survive the training. It was so intense. We struggled together. Each encouraging the other when we struggled. We worked together for six months. She found something new. Something more suited to her strengths. So she moved on. Just knowing she won’t walk through the door again makes me sad. I walk past her empty office longing to see her. To stop and chat. A new person will soon take her place. Life goes on. But those memories of our time together will live strong.

I know one who won’t leave me when times get tough.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. 
Of this I’m certain.

I think of another dear friend. She has faced tough times. Many tough times. But her faith in God has not wavered. I value her friendship more than I can say. Our bond has held strong through many years of separation. Our work brought us together. Then a move separated us. We met while young. Many years have passed. But I remember the many meaningful conversations. There was a time when I thought I would never see her again this side of heaven. Now we live nearby. Work nearby. We’ve picked up where we left off. It feels so good.

No matter where my path may lead, I have One who walks with me. One who will never leave my side. Of this I’m certain. 


Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. Ecclesiastes 4:9


There’s another friend who has my heart. She has faced loss time and time again. But God has provided the desires of her heart. She listens when he speaks to her. And he does. She speaks words of truth and faith to me. Right when I need it. She encourages me. She prays for me. She is a true friend.

Some friendships are for a season. Others are for life. But with each friendship, there are new learnings. New experiences. New challenges. When does trust set in? Who will open up first? Who will disappoint first?
Friendships are necessary for a good life. True friends build up the other. Support the other. Correct the other. Speak words of truth without fear.

Good friends are hard to find. You never know when one will cross your path. I find that I must always be open to that new person I meet. They may become a new close friend.

Common bonds are so important. And sometimes rare. When you connect with that one special someone, hold on and make that friendship count. Put in the work to build that relationship. Sacrifice. Get real and share. Dare to trust. Have fun. Through the good times and the bad, be the friend. Don’t give up. 

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Of this I’m certain.

Heart Guard

There are families.  Oh.  At one time, they were loving.  They spent time together on a regular basis. They laughed together.  They cried together.  They ate together.  They celebrated together.  They spent holidays together.  Then something happened.  One family member upset another family member.  And that was it.  Or maybe it was a slow fade.  Perhaps over time, enough was enough.  Whatever the situation.  Someone decided they had had enough.  And that was it.  No more holidays together.  No more laughing together.  No more eating together.  No more celebrations.  There was definitely crying.  But not together.

And they call themselves Christians.

Oh.  There was plenty of talking.  About the other person.  But not with the person.  It happens in more Christian families than anyone would want to admit.

I’m not judging.  I’m asking.  How can Christians on different sides of the argument say they love each other but then not be willing to share time?  Family members or friends.  Does it really matter?

I once asked someone the question.  How can a Christian family who won’t spend time together talking out their issues.  Forgiving each other on earth.  How will they all be in heaven together?  How can souls spend eternity together in heaven when they couldn’t spend time on earth together?  It doesn’t add up in my book.

There were two men who did not see eye to eye.  They had harsh words for each other.   Harsh public words.  They weren’t friends.  Perhaps they could have been close colleagues, if they had tried.  Oh.  If they had tried, they would have discovered they had things in common.  They would have also found they disagreed on other topics.  Nevertheless.  They never tried to close the gap.  Several days ago, one man died.  He was called a war hero by some.  The other is called the leader of the free world.  The one who died asked for the other not to attend his funeral.  His request was obliged.

I try to imagine the possibilities that could have been achieved if both men had set aside their differences.  If they had agreed to disagree on some things, and then work together on common ideas.  But no.  They chose to stand their ground and not come together.

What happens if both these men end up in heaven?  Will they be able to come together and celebrate the wedding feast side by side with their Lord and Savior?  Will they be able to welcome and celebrate each other’s spiritual rewards?

Can’t we be better than that?  Can’t we as adults agree that we can still work together.  Can’t we still be colleagues or comrades?  Can’t we still be friends?  Can’t we still be family even if we disagree?


Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Proverbs 4:23


I ask the question because I now find myself in a similar situation.

I felt she had wronged me.  Done me dirty.  Not once.  But twice.  I thought I could call her friend.  I trusted her.  But she hurt me again.  So I’ve let her go.  I’ve let her go as in I can’t see her anymore.  I can’t communicate with her again.  She hurt me and I don’t want to be hurt again.  Oh.  I’m sure I’ll be hurt again.  But I don’t want to be hurt by her.  Ever.  Again.

Does that mean I haven’t forgiven her?  Does that mean I’m holding a grudge?  I don’t have angry thoughts about her.  I don’t wish harm to come to her.  I don’t harbor any ill will against her.  But I don’t trust her.  That’s it.  Plain and simple.

Oh.  We don’t run in the same circles.  Our days are not mixed together.  Our lives aren’t in the same location.  So I have no reason to see her.  If I saw her, it would be accidental.  Unless it was planned.  But I have no plans to see her.

I know healing takes time.  I’m healing.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  Perhaps, in time I would welcome the thought of a conversation.  I don’t know.

But I know my judgment day is coming.  I’m planning to go to heaven someday.  I know she’s planning to go there, as well.  So what happens when we both get to heaven?  When I see her for the first time, how will I respond?  How will I feel?  Will I run to her with arms wide open?  If I can’t do that on earth, can I do that in heaven?  And if I can’t do that on earth, what does that mean?  For me and my eternity?

I have to examine my heart.  Very closely.  Is it ever ok not to reach out?

Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

 

We Really Do Need Each Other

We get home from the dog park and pile out of the car.  As soon as her feet touch the cool concrete of the garage, she lies down for a breather.  Panting hard and enjoying the cool floor, she lies still for what seems like forever.  Not wanting to move.   She’s worn out from the hour spent with other breeds of her own kind.

A liver spotted Dalmatian.  3 Huskies, 2 of them pups.  A friendly Pit Bull.  A Golden Retriever.  Some half breeds.  Some pure bred.  Others are a bundle of mix and all mutt.  But all dogs.  Playful.  Fun loving.  Energetic.  Dogs that love to run and chase balls.  Rough house with each other.  Establishing dominance and order.  Finding a friend for the moment.  It’s a dog’s life, after all.

Once their owners get out of the way, the dogs will navigate amongst themselves and discover the leader of the pack.  The leader is always sure to stand out.  Some dogs hit it off immediately.  Others warm up to each other slowly.    Some dogs are aggressive.  Others so passive, they roll over and submit without a fight.  And then there are the loners.

These dogs need to be with their own kind so they’ll know how to be dogs.  They learn from each other.  Social behaviors.  Pack rules.  Being a lone wolf isn’t all it’s cut out to be.  Dogs need their pack and each dog plays a role.


As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.  Proverbs 27:17


I saw the text immediately.  Pray for me.  She said.  I don’t know who else to turn to.

I stopped everything and prayed for her right then and there.  My friend was in need and I could help by praying.  You see.  I’ve been in similar situations.  I’ve had moments when I needed to reach out to others.  Asking for them to pray for me when I couldn’t.  When I was hurting and confused.  When my world had fallen apart.

We need Christian friends who can hold us up in our time of need.  The Christian walk isn’t for the faint.  And it isn’t to be done alone. We need each other.

I have friends.  Christian friends.  They’re all different.  Some are my age.  Others are  younger.  Some are moms.  Some are grandmothers.  Some work.  Others don’t.  Some are single.  Others are married.  I call them friend.  Friends I count on to encourage me in my Christian walk.

I have a friend who will unexpectedly text me a thoughtful note or an encouraging Scripture right when I need it.  Others have sent texts saying they were praying for me.  Still others ask how I’m doing.  Some ask specifically how they can pray.  I need them.  I need each of these friends. Each one of them has a role in my Christian walk.  They hold me accountable.  They listen to me.  They give godly advice.  They quote Scripture to me.  They pray for me.  I need that.  I need them.  I can’t do this Christian walk alone.

We need fellowship and friendship with each other.  We need fellow Christians to walk alongside us during our heartaches and trials.  When we can’t walk alone.  We need friends who will be Jesus to us right then and there.  That’s how God made us.  That’s what he wants for us.  Oh. We can deny it.  At times, we choose to ignore it and try to be a lone wolf.  Have you heard a lone wolf’s cry?

Reuben Welch said that in the midst of all our likenesses and similarities, there can be fragmentation, division, insecurity and loneliness.  Mostly loneliness.   Oh.  He said that in the late 70’s.  He even wrote a book about it.  But it still holds true today.  Reuben Welch was right.  We really do need each other.