Shalom is a very practical thing

“The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.”
(Psalm 29:11)

The question that this raises for me is this: Why don’t I see more peace, in my personal life and in the world around me? If Christmas is the initiation of Peace by way of the incarnation of the Prince of Peace, then where is all the Peace?

Well, what was true before the first advent of the King is still true as we await the second advent. The very definition of sin is our thwarting of God's Shalom.

“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22)

The way of peace they do not know;
__there is no justice in their paths.
They have turned them into crooked roads;
__no one who walks in them will know peace.
(Isaiah 59:8)

Who were the “wicked” that Isaiah was preaching to? It was the People of God.

And who should we, as Christians, point the finger at if we do not see Peace?

Not at those “humanists” and “godless” people in our culture (as the Religious Right is prone to do), but right at ourselves. If Old Testament texts like these are to be applied to anybody, it must be applied to today's analogue of Israel, the Church.

And this teaching on Peace is carried forward for the New Testament Church. The God of Peace that is spoken of so often in the Old Testament has a lot to say to us in the New Testament. Look at some of these passages.

Paul tells the Philippians,

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

It seems, then, that the “God of peace will be with us” when we concentrate our minds and efforts on that which is godly.

He tells the Thessalonians,

“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 notice that Peace is mentioned in the same breath as sanctification.

Peace, then, is found through doing what God’s will is, seeking to bring Shalom into the world around us. Shalom is a practical, active thing. We are promised Shalom as we participate in the mission of God on earth.

“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

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Peace in place of Affliction, Storms, Despair

Reflection on “Peace” at Christmas (Isaiah 54 & 55)

At Christmas, there’s a lot of talk about “Peace,” but I think that very few people really have grasped the true meaning of Christmas Peace. And I think many of those who have not grasped its meaning are professed Christians.

We often talk about peace in individualistic terms (“Oh, I love to hear peaceful Christmas Carols and look at a peacefully-lit Christmas tree and sip on hot chocolate.”) While that is well and good, and the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping calls for those times of quiet and solitude, “Peace” means so much more.

Peace is the Hebrew word, “Shalom”—one of the most significant words in the Hebrew language.

The best definition of Shalom I’ve read came from Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

“We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: The Breviary of Sin, p. 10)

So, when Peace is announced at Christmas, it is a grand thing. It is a glorious thing. It is the very transformation of the world from the way it’s not supposed to be into “the way things ought to be.”

When God looks at us in our fallen world, he sees our storm-battered, afflicted state.

“O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted.” (Isaiah 54:11)

Oh, how we are afflicted.
__Oh, how we are lashed by storms.
____Oh, how we lack comfort.

But, in the midst of this honest assessment, God offers us hope.

__I will build you with stones of turquoise,
__your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
__your gates of sparkling jewels,
__and all your walls of precious stones.
All your sons will be taught by the LORD,
__and great will be your children’s peace.
In righteousness you will be established:
__Tyranny will be far from you;
__you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
__it will not come near you.
(Isaiah 54:11b-14)

God goes on to promise,

You will go out in joy
__and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
__will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
__will clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:12)

So, when we hear, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14), we should listen with hopeful and expectant ears.

God is offering us Shalom!

The person of Jesus at Christmas brings the GOOD NEWS that The Prince of Shalom has tiumphed over affliction, storms, and despair. There is real hope in the here and now (this isn't all pie-in-the-sky, wait for the future stuff). While we await for the return of the King to bring ultimate Shalom, we can cooperate with His Spirit to bring Shalom into an afflicted and storm-battered world (more on this tomorrow).

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Praying for Our Troops during this Christmas Season...

...And that Our Nation Would Learn the Meaning of Peace.

For to us a child is born,
__to us a son is given,
__and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
__Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
__Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
__there will be no end. (The Prophet Isaiah, 9:6-7)

He will judge between the nations
__and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
__and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
__nor will they train for war anymore. (The Prophet Isaiah, 2:4)
__(see also Micah 4:3)

"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
__“Glory to God in the highest,
__and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:12-14)

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (Jesus, in John 14:27)

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God. (Jesus, in Matthew 5:9)

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:17-18)

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Two Very Unusual Drummers

In my last post, I featured videos of my favorite drummers. Here are two more...

...very unusual drummers.

Animusic (computer-animated music) - amazing digital animation and incredible drumming too.

Igor Falecki - 4 year old drummer! (HT: Matt)


My Very Favorite Drummers

#1 (Tie)
Neal Peart of Rush

#1 (Tie)
Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater and multitudinous side projects, including the Neal Morse band (here with a drum solo featuring a little tribute to Neal Peart - listen for it!)

Phil Collins of Genesis (here playing a drum duet with Genesis tour drummer Chester Thompson)

Bill Bruford of Yes, King Crimson, and U.K. (here doing a duet with bassist Tony Levin)

Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) and Asia

Honorable Mention:
Keith Moon of The Who

Terry Bozzio of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

John Bonham of Led Zeppelin

Stewart Copeland of The Police

Carter Beauford of The Dave Matthews Band

Nick D'Virgilio of Spock's Beard


So You Think I'm Bald

Over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight graced the internet with a picture of himself from his master’s degree days.

Wow. That's a lot of hair for a guy who has a distinct lack of stuff on top now.

I had to go all the way back to my college days to find a picture of myself with hair. By the time of my master's degree, most of it had already gone AWOL.

Light in the Darkness

Reflections on Isaiah

19 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. (Isaiah 8:19-22)

"The practices of Egypt and the surrounding nations had at their centre mediums, spiritists, magic, idol worship…They made perfect, logical sense, for they gave access to the forces of nature, which were the source of their economic prosperity. And Egypt was the wealthiest, most successful nation of its day!" (The Advent of Justice: A Book of Meditations, by Brian Walsh, Richard Middleton, Mark Vander Vennen, and Sylvia Keesmaat)

Are we really all that different in the 21st Century Western World? Our “mediums and spiritists” may seem different, but they act the same: our technological innovations, our political manipulations, our Dow Jones Averages, our stock market portfolios, our military might. The United States of America is the wealthiest, most successful nation of its day!

But God is calling to Christians in this nation, “To the law and to the testimony!!” When we stop listening to God’s Word and the testimony of who He is and how we are to be as God’s People, we are in danger. The world is a dark place. Look at the wars, the hunger, the oppression, the evil all around us. Are we a force for change? Are we the “light of the world?” Or are we indecipherable from the darkness?

But hope is not lost. In this darkness, a light has dawned.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)

The light is the Christmas child.

For to us a child is born,
___to us a son is given,
___and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
___Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
___Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
___there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
___and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it

___with justice and righteousness
___from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
___will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

___in the form of a child,
______the Prince of Shalom.

___through his kingdom reign,
______with justice and righteousness.

___shining in the darkness,
______through the person of Jesus,
______and his people living up to their call.

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The Question Wasn't "Who," it was "By How Much?"

...And when the No. 1 player on the No. 1 team hoisted the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, Troy Smith had won by the second-biggest margin in history. (ESPN, Dec 9, 2006)

Rise of Troy: Buckeyes QB wins Heisman Trophy


A Prog-Rock Lover's Christmas Dream

I just saw the Trans-Siberian Orchestra play in Cleveland at QuickenLoans Arena.

All this prog-rock lover can say is, "WOW."

Here's a couple short videos from this year's show:

(Click on image to activate, then click on play button)