There’s something about the Florida Keys that, in terms of geography, made it perhaps our most anticipated destination of what we are calling our “Nomad Quest”. I’m not sure why we anticipated it so. Maybe it was the destination that seemed the most mysterious because we knew the least about it, save for a line from a Beach Boy’s song and the fact that Key West is one of only locations you can see the Southern Cross, which of course was the title of another familiar 80’s song from our early married years. Maybe we longed to see the Florida Keys because you can so easily watch the sunrise over the Atlantic and the sunset over the Gulf everyday. One thing’s for sure: it’s that place in America you notice in the dead of winter when you’re watching a weather reporter and the whole country is at its iciest, but there it is all glowing yellow on the meteorologist's electronic map, its palm trees, no doubt, swaying in mid-seventy degree weather.
We knew one thing: we wanted to land there in the dead of winter, and that is just what we did. But before we did, we made sure to figure out where we’d worship and were delighted to find out after some digging around, that there actually was a family of God in Key Largo. What an encouragement to know that in one of the most beautiful vacation destinations of our nation, there were still those with their hopes fixed on eternal things, who love God even more than the many pleasures that constantly surround them.
The first thing I noticed when we pulled up to the church building was a banner next to the sign in the front that said, “YOU can understand the Bible! Bible lessons open to all every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday at 10:00am.” What a great idea! I also appreciated that on the main sign, in addition to their name and worship times, also included was the statement “We’re Just Christians”, “All Are Welcome”, “Private Bible Study Upon Request” and even included their phone number.
We were a little late, but warm smiles greeted us. The singing was enthusiastic and the sermon topic was Biblical, precisely worded, well-organized and on a topic exactly for what was needed, given the fact that the pandemic was in full swing and, dare I say, perhaps for Christians the most dreaded presidential inauguration in our country’s history was to take place in three days.
The lesson was on “The Gospel of Peace” and was around the practical things we can do to let the peace of God rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). Here are the passages from which practical applications were made:
Jesus Came To Bring Peace…
He is the Prince of peace promised in Isaiah: “For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace. On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness. From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of armies will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
He offers peace to those who trust and obey His Truth: “Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful. The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.” Isaiah 26:2-4
To offer peace and goodwill to men: “In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And so the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14
Peace the world cannot give: “Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful.” John 14:27
Peace in the midst of tribulation: “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
God now preaches peace through Him: “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Jesus Offers Peace...
With God, through justification: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
With Jew/Gentile, through reconciliation: “But now in Christ Jesus you who previously were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace; and that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:13-18
With oneself, through prayer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7; “Let the peace of Christ, to which you were indeed called in one body, rule in your hearts; and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
With brethren who pursue it: “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you would inherit a blessing. For,
“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,
Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
He must turn away from evil and do good;
He must seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:8-11
With churches, guided by God: “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33
With enemies, by loving them: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:44
The preacher, William LaDent, future encouraged us by reminding us of the following ideas:
We can be at peace. It is something for which Jesus died. If we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ we can have peace with God and peace with one another and peace within our own hearts and minds. What a gift God has given us through Jesus Christ.
Let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts. It takes effort, just as it took Jesus effort not to call upon the power that He had within him to stop the crucifixion. This is a peace we cannot fully understand unless we practice it every day, and unless it's in our hearts and in our minds. It has to be practiced like any other skill that we have developed the course of our lives. But He alone gives a peace that the world cannot give. With that assurance, no matter what's going on in the world or within your own life, how can you not have peace if you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and are trusting and obeying His will?
We must treat each other with respect, not letting personality conflicts separate us as brothers and sisters in Christ, create no division or envy or strife amongst ourselves, but being one the body of Christ. We are a brotherhood and enjoy the feeling of family, and you have this spiritual family no matter where we go. No matter how far you travel, you will always have that with you.
We found this to be quite true with this warm little family of God, as they lingered around at length after worship and offered all kinds of helpful information. We hope to worship many more times with them in the future.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Church of Christ at Key Largo
100695 Overseas Hwy
Key Largo, FL 33037