Saturday, October 27, 2018


We have spent the better part of this year on love, love and action, love and peace, and the fact that love and peace have great companions.

I think that we get this.  We are trying to put the words of our Master into practice.  We want this thing called life to be built on solid rock not shifting sand.

We are loving one another, to include some people who we don’t really like, and they might not like us either.  But we do our best to love them.

We are not content with just knowing that we are saved.  Our love compels us to reach others with good news.  We do take our commission seriously.

We know that we are being shaped by GodHe is taking our hearts and shaping them like his.  We are being made in the likeness of Christ Jesus.  It’s all about love and we are known by our love.

Sometimes that creates problems for us.  Sometimes we are persecuted.  Some people don’t like us or this whole truth thing.  We know that the truth sets us freeThe world has been blinded and thinks that the truth imprisons them, and they reject it.

We will have trouble in this world.  We follow Jesus and know that trouble is just part of the deal until he comes again.  We are encouraged that he will come againHe has overcome sin and death.  He has overcome the world.
That brings us joy.  This is victory and we are happy about it. 

We even have peace in the midst of the world’s turmoil.  We have peace that goes beyond our understanding. We have a covenant of peace.  God promised not to remove his peace from us.

And we as God’s people are leaning into this love, and love in action, and peace stuff with all we have.  Yes, we are learning to set aside our own understanding and trust God with all of our heart.

Yes!  Do you know what a victory that is?  These are powerful steps in our growth.  We are growing in grace.  We are pressing on towards the goal.  We are living for Christ.  We are a living sacrifice.

Yes, there are hiccups in our discipleship, but we confess and live in the promise of forgiveness, and get right back in our race of faith.

We are getting the hang of this discipleship stuff, this abundant life stuff, and we are tired.  The Spirit revives and rejuvenates us again and again and we continue on, but we need some rest.

We need rest!

God designed us to work and to rest.  The original model was work 6 and rest 1.  God modeled this.  God does not necessarily continue this model for himself.  Jesus said that his Father is always working.

Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.  Rest is essential to our physical health and our spiritual wellbeing.  It is part of the design.

We need rest.  We are designed with rest in mind.

Sometimes that means sleep.  Sometimes it means just letting go of the demands of the world for a time. 

Sometimes it is just to take a load off.

We are designed with rest in mind.  We are to rest from our labors.

Have you ever been on vacation and when you got back, you were so glad to be back because you had to rest from your vacation?

Not everything that we do that’s not work is rest.  Rest is an entity unto itself.  Sometimes we rest when we partake of recreation.  Sometimes a vacation can be rest.  Sometimes solitude can give us rest.  Sometimes gatherings of family and friends bring us rest. 

It’s not the same for everyone.  What is the same is the fact that we are designed for rest.  Go on – Stay on is not our design.  We are all designed for rest.

There is another form of rest known a resting in the verse.  You take a scripture and read it, perhaps memorize it, but say it over and over in the course of the day.  You don’t study it.  You don’t analyze it.  You rest in it.

The 23rd Psalm is an excellent example.  You can analyze this passage from now until Jesus comes again.  That will bear fruit.  On the other hand, you can rest in the verse.  Just come back to this verse time and time again during the course of the day and let God’s holy word work upon you.

Rest involves being relieved of our burdens, at least for a time.  The Greek word for burdened or heavy ladened is φορτίζω:  Phortizó (for-tid'-zo).

It means to be weighted down or overloaded.  Paul reminds us to carry our own load, but we are also called to help others with what they have to carry.  But sometimes we just need to let go of the whole load.

We must rest.  Listen to the words of our Master again.

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

We need rest.  Jesus offers rest, but he really offers Rest Plus.  Plus what?  His way.

Our call is not only to get rid of our burdens but to take on his way.  His yoke is easy.  His burden is light.  He is gentle and humble at his core.  He is love as his Father is love and in him we find rest.

It’s not just come in, take a load off, and rest.  It’s come in, take a load off, rest, and learn from me.

Our carnal mind says, Well…. Learning doesn’t sound like rest but the vacation that exhausts us so that we have to come back to work in order to rest does?

If God designed us with periods of rest in mind (and he did), would we not want to know what the Designer has to say about this matter.

We understand, remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.  We at least get that intellectually.  In today’s world, we struggle to set aside an entire day be that Saturday or Sunday or another day set aside for that purpose.  We struggle.

So we should take the yoke of our Master and learn from him.  The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.  What does that mean?

It means that the Sabbath has self-contained benefits.  We were designed for rest.  The Sabbath was designed to give us that rest.

We think, well I set aside most of this day to rest, then we take a work-related call and while our body is resting in the recliner, our mind is back in the office or on the road or grading papers or calling on customers.

We think we are resting and then find ourselves in a political argument online.  Responding won’t wait until tomorrow.

We wonder if God knows how hard it is to give up a whole day?  Does he really expect that?  The answer is no.  That is not what he expects.

If you have read the Torah you will note that there are other days besides the Sabbath that are to be observed like a Sabbath.  We are to have recurring rest and we are to have feasts and more rest that comes in seasons.

We may not live in tents for a week.  That’s an acquired taste from God’s Chosen People whom he delivered out of bondage in Egypt.  We have been grafted into that family, but none of our natural ancestors lived in tents in the wilderness for 40 years.

It has become our history through the seed of Abraham, Christ Jesus, but it never was our culture.

We may not bring a first fruits offering from our fields, but when we bring food offerings, we know to buy something new and not dig that can of black beans that we bought 8 years ago, thinking it’s only 3 years expired.  We understand first fruits.

We don’t bring sin offerings.  We confess.  God is faithful and just to forgive. Yom Kippur is not really a big deal for us.  Jesus made the offering to atone for our sins.

We don’t do everything like the Law of Moses told his Chosen People to do, but we should understand rest.  We must understand that we are designed for rest.

God modeled rest for us.  Six days he labored—he created.  One day he rested.

Does he do that now?  I don’t think so.  Jesus said that his Father is always working.

So, is he always working or does God take a Sabbath?  Yes.  God took a Sabbath at the end of the creation process.  He had made humankind in his own likeness and modeled rest for us.

But now, he is always on the job.  Could you imagine lifting up your prayer and getting a recording?  Thank you for calling the heavenly realm.  God is out of the office right now for his Sabbath.  Please leave a message.

When Jesus walked the earth in the flesh he needed time away from everyone.  Mountain tops were good for teaching and good for getting away.  The area at Gethsemane seemed to be a good place to rest with his close friends who followed him everywhere.

The Jordan River area was a nice place to retreat and rest.  Jesus took rest in this world.

If you live in a vessel made from mud, you need rest.  If you live in these jars of clay, you need rest.  If you live in a human body, you need rest.

From generation to generation, rest has become more elusive.  Even when you are not at work, you are seldom resting.  We will talk about rest from now until Advent, but for now, know this.  You were designed with rest in mind.

You are designed with rest in mind.

Take a day from your labors and live according to your design.  Rest.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Peace keeps good company

So what does a Christian have to do?  Obey the law?  Get circumcised?  Worship on the Sabbath?  Participate in the feasts established by the Lord?

When we think freedom in Christ, what do we think?  Are we free to do somethings and not others?  Is everything permissible for usPaul said yes, but it’s not all profitable.  Not everything that we are free to do produces good fruit.

First century believers—mostly those who had come from a pagan background—wondered how much of this Jewish culture would they have to adopt now that they professed Jesus as Lord.  They wondered how much of the Hebrew religion they would have to abide in to be real Christians.

Paul’s messages were clear.  It’s all about Christ.  He is the beginning of your salvation.  He is the completion of your salvation.  He is the sine qua non of your salvation.  Without Jesus, you have nothing.

But that did not mean that Jewish Christians did not pressure new believers to continue old ways.  For the Hebrew believer, that’s one thing.  It’s your history and culture and very much who you are.

For the believer who came out of the Gentile world, those things seemed imposed upon someone who professed Jesus as Lord.

Rules and practices and events seemed to overshadow the greatest gift in all of history.  Jesus had made humankind right with God.  Receive the gift and pass from death to life.

But what about the rules and the thou shalt nots?

While the law was a gift from God and given for the people’s own good, it was nothing compared to the glory of ChristOur suffering is nothing compared to the glory we will know with Christ in all eternity.  Our wrestling with our human nature as we navigate a world in which we will have trouble is nothing compared to what is in store for us.

Eye has not seen and ear has not heard what the Lord God has in store for us.  It is all about Christ.

But what about the rules?

Paul told the Galatians, I’m not answering this question by playing by the world’s rules.  Here are some things that there are no rules against. Here are things where rules don’t matter.  Live this way—by God’s Spirit—and this is what will come of it:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We have talked about peace for a few weeks now, but we need to understand that peace keeps good company.  Peace is a natural companion of joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Peace is one of the natural products of our life when we live by the Spirit and not in the flesh.  But peace is not the only fruit.  How about joy?  Do we not desire joy in our lives as we follow Christ?

We will have trouble in the world, but the trouble of the world is not the end of the story.  Jesus has overcome the world and we should live with joy in our hearts. 

God loves us so much that he alone took away our sin, so we could spend eternity with him.  That should be cause enough for joy.

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart but it’s not staying there.  It’s coming out all over me because God’s Spirit lives in me and I’m not holding his Spirit back anymore.

Peace also keeps company with patience.  Many of us have found that we really need peace while learning patience because our human nature is fighting hard against this whole concept of patience. Our culture says that we want it and want it now and we don’t care what it is.  It might be offensive to God and man, but we want it and we want it now.

When we live by the Spirit, our covetous nature gives way to patience.  God has so much in store for me—an eternal inheritance—I don’t have to have everything right now and I surely don’t need the ungodly things of this world.

We will lose this battle when we live solely in the flesh.  Our carnal mind says, I can handle everything.  Jesus said the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Perhaps we see this most clearly in the area of patience.  Patience and peace make excellent companions.

The next running buddy of peace is kindness.  I think that we get that.  The world has enough trouble and hate and discord that we don’t need to add to that.  In our dealings with people, we should be kind.

That does not mean that we water down the truth.  We speak truthfully and with the utmost integrity and we do it kindly.  We practice kindness at every opportunity because that’s who we are.  That is God’s Spirit flowing out of us.

There are Christians in this world who don’t get this.  They think that we should be on the warpath proclaiming God’s wrath.  We can speak truth and good news without withholding our kindness. 

We can very much be a warrior for Christ and be kind at the same time.

And then we come to goodness.  People should taste the goodness of the Lord when they encounter us.  We are the salt of the earth.  Our saltiness should reveal God’s goodness.  How can we do that?

The fruit of having God’s Spirit running the show in our lives is that his goodness cannot be contained.  It will come out and people will taste and know that the Lord is good.

Goodness is a good companion to peace.

Then we come to faithfulness.  That’s a horse of a different color.  That’s a mountain that’s too high to climb.  God is always faithful but people strikeout more than they get on base.  Hey!  It’s World Series time so one baseball analogy is surely mandatory.

We may think that we are faithful in many things but that’s because we seldom examine ourselves deeply.  We should only be a friend of God but too often we are a friend of the world.  The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We cannot win this battle, but God’s Spirit can.  Being faithful to God and each other in the many things that we do with our lives, requires us to be faithful in one thing first.  We must surrender to the Spirit that lives within us and let the Spirit keep us faithful.

We must acknowledge that the Spirit that lives within us is the Spirit of the sovereign Lord.  He reigns not only from heaven but within us.  He reigns.  God is always faithful.

We are faithful to acknowledge that and abide by the Spirit who lives within this holy temple that is a fleshly frame but governed by the Spirit of God.  Then we enjoy faithfulness.

Then peace and faithfulness walk hand-in-hand in our lives.

But what about gentleness?  Does living by the Spirit mean that I am a doormat.  I know that I promised some car wreck analogies, but those will come later.  You get another Marine Corps example here.

As a commanding officer, sometimes I help disciplinary hearings for my Marines.  I didn’t like to.  That’s why you have noncommission officers—sergeants, first sergeants, sergeants major.  They all get a chance to get a wayward Marine back on track.

Occasionally, I would have a Marine brought before me for what is called nonjudicial punishment, knowing that I would not impose punishment on him.  He just needed an extra nudge to get back on track.  Just for the record, I can give a good chewing out.  I can peel the paint off of the walls.  I even turned a black Marine white once.  That’s probably a politically incorrect way to phrase it these days but it happens to be the truth.

I didn’t take his money or his rank, but he just about passed out from my admonishment.  He turned pale and collapsed to his knees.  That sort of upset me because I was just getting warmed up.

What’s that got to do with gentleness?  Maybe Tom doesn’t understand the concept of gentleness.

Or maybe he does.  There were times, when the only just thing to do was take a stripe.  In the Marine Corps rank did not come easily.  Reducing a Marine in rank was a big thing.  Taking his money for a week or two or even a month had an impact as well, but not like taking that stripe away.

So when I did this, I did it gently.  The punishment itself was painful enough.  My words were gentle.  My voice was not raised.  I tried to leave the Marine with hope that one day he might earn that rank again and if he learned from his mistakes, might go on to greater things.

My words and attitude were gentle.  The Marine had enough trouble in the world at that moment.  Raising my voice would be mute compared to taking the stripe.

We can say “no” and do it gently.  We can speak the truth with gentleness.  We don’t need to carry signs and yell at people telling them they are sinners or that they have a one-way ticket to hell.  We will speak the truth that all will stand before God and give an account, but we don’t need to be crude or angry or harsh.  The truth and the Spirit of God will do the heavy lifting.

We will be gentle if the Spirit of God lives within us.  Here’s the thing.  The Spirit of God does live within us and the fruit of gentleness is part of our character as a new creation.  Gentleness is part of living in the Spirit and makes a great companion to peace.

And then we come to self-control.  If I had self-control, then I wouldn’t need so much help from the Sprit!  Shouldn’t this be an oxymoron?  In Christ I am free to live, but I must exercise self-control!  What?

Is it freedom or self-control? 

What we often don’t understand is that living in the freedom of Christ with the Spirit at the helm is probably the only time where we could have self-control.  When we no longer wrestle with the flesh, self-control is our natural countenance.

Why?  It’s the new self that governs, that does no harm, that regards others more highly than we think of ourselves.

The Law of Moses, rules, decrees, directives and the like work from the outside-in.  The Spirit works from the inside out, if we surrender to God’s Spirit.

Do you want a litmus test for whether the Spirit or the flesh governs in this area of self-control?  Drive in traffic—heavy traffic.  I’m talking Dallas, Houston, or Atlanta traffic. Do you wave with your whole hand or just selected fingers?

How’s your vocabulary?  Do your external circumstances govern your internal bearings?  If the Spirit governs, you don’t have to communicate that you don’t like the way some of these yahoos drive.

I’ve been there.  Some guy passes me at 90 then swoops in and matches my speed two feet in front of my bumper.  I don’t signal him digitally, but I think if he thinks two feet is ok, then let’s try one foot.  That was when I had my truck and it had 10 years’ worth of dings.  Now that we have a new car, I’m sure I’ll be more receptive to the leading of the Spirit and exercise better self-control.

We have to surrender to the Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit.  Peace and self-control go together naturally in this born-again person we have become.

Peace keeps good company:  patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Some have noted that I left one out.  Love is listed first among the fruit we have discussed.  We spent over half a year on love.  Love is at the center of everything.

Because punctuation wasn’t really a thing when the Bible was written, scholars have speculated that today, there might be a colon after love.  That means that we would read Paul’s words as:

The fruit of the Spirit is Love:  joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are manifestations of love.

Knowing what we know about love, I think that’s a viable interpretation.  But love is also its own fruit that keeps company with the others.

There is a thinking tool called RAD.  It stands for Recognize, Analyze, and Divide.  You recognize things you already know, analyze them, then divide them into logical categories.  It’s a good tool but sometimes it’s also counterproductive.

While we talked about each of these qualities and attributes of the Spirit separately, they are surely fruit.  They all go together.  They are natural companions of each other.

What’s not natural is the flesh and the Spirit.  The desires of each are in opposition, but we know to please God, we must let his Sprit rule in us.  We must produce the fruit that he desires.

We have examined peace for several weeks, but we need to understand that the peace that comes from God keeps good company.

The covenant of peace that we live within also bears love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Against these things there is no law or rule or system to suppress them.  They are our new nature.  They are the fruit that we produce because God’s Spirit not only lives within us but governs as the sovereign Lord intends.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  As a born again believer, a new creation, a follower of Jesus, we are to produce this sort of fruit.

My prayer is that we have a bumper crop this year.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Covenant of Peace

We have spent a few weeks on God’s peace.  It is:

·       A peace that goes beyond our comprehension.

·       A peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

·       A peace that comes from strength—from God’s strength so much more than our strength.

·       A peace unlike the peace the world seeks and holds on to with such futility.

·       A peace that is with us in times of trial and tribulation for we will have trouble in the world.

·       A peace that separates us from those who seek the things of this world.

·       A peace that reminds us that we are friends of God and not friends of the world.

·       A peace that let’s us fail and get back in our race of faith.

·       A peace that permits us to grow in God’s grace knowing that he will never leave nor forsake us.

·       A peace that has nothing to do with fear.  We fear only God and even then, we do not fear his punishment.

·       A peace that hungers for God’s word and his instruction, and yes, even his discipline.

·       A peace that is present even when we are working our tails off to please our Master.

·       A peace that assures us when we live out our God-given purpose.

·       A peace that the wicked cannot know for they rebel against God.

·       A peace that when we come into fullness in our relationship with God will cast out all fear.

·       A peace that is at home with power, love, and a sound mind because we have nothing to do with the fear of this world.

·       A peace that we know comes from the Lord and is entirely different from what the world seeks.

·       A peace that can only be a gift from God.

·       A peace that becomes unshakable the more we trust the Lord and not our own understanding.

·       A peace that is our sustaining diet.

These should sound familiar.  We have touched on each over the previous weeks.  You might recall a challenge that I gave you not too long ago.

If you have proclaimed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, are trying your best to be his disciple, and don’t have peace; look in the mirror.  See if fear or anxiety is trying to invade your peace.  If that’s the case, kick them to the curb.  They are not from God!

But, sometimes we have doubts.  We wonder if God’s peace can overcome what we have gotten ourselves into.  Could it be that I have turned the wrong way one too many times?  Am I still saved?  Why can’t I let this stuff go?  Why does God’s peace seem elusive?

Did God change his mind about me?  I know that God is love and he loves me, but maybe I don’t deserve his peace.  Maybe I deserve his anger.

But God tells us—the message was first for his chosen people—but it continues to us as disciples of his one and only Son:  I’ve been through this before.  It’s new to you, but I went through this with the generations up to Noah.  People fall short time and again but I am faithful.

There is some broad paraphrasing there, so let’s hear God’s words directly from the scripture in this 10th verse.

“Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

The entire face of the earth might be transformed from mountains to flatlands, but two things will remain unchanged.  God’s unfailing love will never be eroded in any way.

And…  His covenant of peace will not be removed.  We have looked at the attributes of peace, the Benefactor of peace, and those things that invade our peace; but this is the first time that we have talked about a covenant of peace.

Covenant is an interesting word.  It is an agreement, but more than a normal agreement.  It binds the parties together.  Sometimes covenants involved meals together or the cutting of animals into halves.  The Old Testament word most often used is Berit.  When a covenant is given from God, it is a divine bonding.

We see God’s covenants put into effect as early as the 6th chapter of Genesis and God makes a covenant with Noah.  Most of the time we think of God’s covenant with Abram who would later be called Abraham.  This covenant was for the patriarch and his offspring.

In Exodus, we see the heart of God’s covenant with his people.

“‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Here we see a covenant which is contingent on the people obeying God and his laws.  God did as he promised; yet the people fell short time and again.

In Jeremiah, we see the promise of a New Covenant.  That covenant has been realized.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

Through Jesus Christ, we receive this bonding with God.  This is the reason we gather on Sunday mornings to worship.  This is the reason that every day we go into the world as God’s light and love.  This is the beginning of the good news.  This is the covenant that shows the glory of Jesus as far superior to that of the law.

Forgiveness that we did not deserve—grace—is ours when we profess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead.  This is the New Covenant and I’m thinking it has to be in the category of cool beans.

We did not deserve this, but we receive it not just as a fantastic gift but as a covenant of God.

God also has granted us a covenant of peace.  Salvation is fantastic.  Eternal life is beyond our comprehension but within our grasp as a covenant gift of God.  But peace in this life, is that even possible?

It is more than possible.  It is God’s promise.  Understand that we are not talking about peace with the world but peace with God.  Through the one-time divine sacrifice of Christ Jesus, God’s anger against us has been satisfied.  His wrath does not burn against us.

We live within his covenant of peace.

We can mess up our part of a covenant, but God is always faithful.  We can let worry and fear and doubt mess up what God has given so freely, but God will not take his peace away.

Do we grasp this?  God is always faithful.  His promise is peace to us.  We will have trouble in the world, but we may enjoy God’s peace concurrently.  It’s a promise.

If you are my age, not much older or younger, and you made a promise, only one word was needed:  Word.


That was as strong a commitment as you could make.  Word.  It didn’t require a handshake or a written document.  Word.  Especially among Marines.  The word was word.

I will be there.  Word.
You won’t be left behind.  Word.
I’ve got your back.  Word.

I know that I’ve lost the millennials here—could be a chronic condition for them, but God’s covenants are word!

And through Jesus Christ, we have received this covenant of peace.  Many of us have enjoyed God’s peace in many situations.  We testify that his peace goes beyond our understanding.  We affirm that his peace is different from what the world is trying to sell us.

We must know with certainty that God’s covenant of peace will not be withdrawn or removed or vacated.  He is faithful, even when we are not.

“Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Why is it important that we understand that God has given us a covenant of peace?  Isn’t the fact that it is a gift from God enough?

God always provides more than enough.  We not only have a gift.  We have an irrevocable promise.

So, when peace is absent we must understand that God did not withdraw his peace from us.  He didn’t take it away.  We let something disrupt his peace.  Was it worry, fear, or doubt?  Was it reliance on our own understanding over trust in God.  Was it seeking the kingdom of the world over the kingdom of God?

For those who seek the one true God and have eyes to see and ears to hear that we come to him through Christ Jesus, God’s anger will never rest on us.  God’s wrath will not be poured out on us.

We have the promise of salvation.  We also have the promise of peace.  The question for us is will we trust that God’s peace is promised to us?  Will we trust him?

When our peace seems disrupted, will we set aside the things of the world that we have let in and trust God?  He has given us a covenant of peace.