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Putting aside the social and political issues many find themselves embroiled in today, have you taken a moment to recognize that we generally enjoy a moderate level of peace and civility in society?  And if you can't see that, then isn't this something you would want, and would enjoy?  Unfortunately, many have either forgotten, or they haven't taken the time to see, that peace and civility don't come about by chance... they come at a price.  They come by people -- all of us -- choosing to be civil, moral and just.  There are those who are determined to lead us down a road of strife and hatred few of us have seen the results of.  If we follow, our world is going to change, and not for the better.  The peace and civility we have enjoyed will go away, and we will reap the terrible and unforeseen consequences of our actions.  Stop lashing out at others believing you are somehow justified in doing so.  Stop vilifying others, lying about others, and assuming the worst of them.  And stop allowing people to stir up strife and anger within you.  We are more alike than we are different.  Choose to have respect for your fellow man regardless of whether you agree or disagree with them; the state of our households, our communities, and our country depends on it.  Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV) You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy."  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

As we know, there are those who doubt God's existence.  In fact, there are Christians who, while they believe, still question at times.  But if I can reassure anyone, let me tell you, God exists, and He wants to have a relationship with you.  This isn't an unqualified opinion based on belief or assumption.  It's not derived from emotion, coincidence, or delusion as some might believe.  Neither is it rooted in what we've been told to believe.  This comes from someone who has pursued God for himself, who has walked with God through troubling times, and who has been very close to Him for many years.  I've seen Him, I've heard Him, and I've felt His presence... He is real.  And the best part is, you can know Him too.  No, you don't have to go to church more, or adhere to a set of rules, or meet with man's approval before He will acknowledge you.  All you really need is the desire to know Him, and the will to act on it.  Pursue God like you mean it, and keep pursuing Him.  Read about Him in His word, talk to Him, ask Him questions, and listen for His answer.  Prove that you want to know Him.  Do this and in time you will begin to perceive Him for yourself.  God very much desires to have a relationship with you, but He's waiting for you to feel the same way and act on it.  Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

You know those little things that annoy us?  Those things that get under our skin, ruin our day, and maybe even cause us to act out in unsavory ways?  While most of us want to change these annoyances, in reality, sometimes what needs to change is... ourselves.  The fact is, sometimes God uses these things to teach us something, or to highlight character issues we need to deal with -- such as anger, envy, impatience, issues with authority, and more.  These can be tools in God's hand to mold us and shape us into the person He wants us to be.  And, escape isn't a good option.  I've known those who have tried to eradicate anything that vexes them from their life, and done so by almost any means possible, including running away from them.  Yet, regardless of their efforts, these things persisted, and even followed them wherever they went.  Stop fighting, and stop running; instead, take these things to the Lord and ask Him to highlight anything He might be trying to change in you.  Then, when He does, do as He directs; it's the quickest way to resolution.  James 1:2-4 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

We often see blessings as an immediate, tangible satisfaction; something that gives us what we want, or that pleases us in the short-term.  While this can be so, blessings -- particularly God's blessings -- can be more broad than that.  For example, when God intervenes in our life because we're going down a bad road, that's a blessing.  It may not be very comfortable when He does, or very pleasing in the short-term, however, long-term it can keep us from bearing some rather stiff consequences.  Conversely, if we were to continue going down a bad road, it may please us in the short-term, however, in the end, we will pay a heavier price.  Ultimately, blessings are always good things, but their benefits may not be as apparent, or as immediate, as we might hope.  Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV) The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Some say the Bible is out of date and no longer relevant for today.  Well, consider this: The Bible tells us...  ...not to steal from others (Exodus 20:15) ...not to lie about others (Exodus 20:16) ...not to murder one another (Exodus 20:13) ...to love one another (Mark 12:31) ...to treat each other with respect (Romans 12:10) ...to defend the poor, abused and oppressed (Isaiah 1:17) ...and that we're stronger together than we are apart (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)  If you don't like people stealing your things, lying about you, or trying to kill you... if you want to be loved, and have people come to your aid when you need help... then maybe the Bible isn't so out of date after all.  But also, if you don't like these things, then don't be too quick to write off the other parts of the Bible -- the parts that you may not understand or agree with -- because this is what the thieves, liars and murderers do.


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