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Peace Means Shalom

What is inner peace and how do you get more of it? I've learned a lot about that and I must say, few things are more worth pursuing. Inner peace brings with it profound health benefits and also far greater rewards, as Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, informs us. Shalom means literally "Perfect welfare, prosperity, serenity & happiness." Do you want more of that? I know I sure do.

My own search for inner peace began with the peace movement of the 60's and 70's during the Viet Nam war. In 1971 I suddenly realized during my senior year in college that all the hippies weren't wrong about the war. Later that year, when I converted to Christianity from atheism, I felt I had discovered  the peace for which the whole world was searching. It came from the Prince of Peace Himself. In other words, peace was an inside job, not just the absence of war, turmoil or conflict. 

But the peace I found through my conversion was short lived. It wasn't long before the upheaval of learning to live a new way -- of following the Spirit instead of the flesh -- caused me greater anxiety than I had known before.

In 1974 I was asked to start a Coffee House ministry at Geneve-on-the-Lake, Ohio, a resort town on Lake Erie. It was to be a summer time outreach to the thousands of young people and families who flocked there on vacation. I knew that many people who didn't care much about the after life still wanted a better quality of life, so we chose the catchy name, The Geneva Peace Conference for our coffee house. At the time, that name was fresh in people's minds from the peace conferences held in Geneva Switzerland in an attempt to end the Viet Nam war.

We gave out free coffee and conversation, along with offering Christian musical groups, as an inducement for people to stop and share with us. Waiters and waitresses volunteered their time and were free to sit and talk with patrons whenever they wanted. Thousands of people passed through our doors, most hungry for a deeper experience of inner peace.   Many found it there.

Years later, the concept of peace again became central to my life when I resigned from the United Methodist Church. I began a Bible study that grew into a nondenominational church. I had started leading personal growth retreats by then and wanted a name for our new church that reflected the deeper spiritual treasure we felt we had found in Christ. The only word that said it all was shalom, so we became Shalom Christian Fellowship. The many people who wondered if we were a synagogue or some kind of Jews for Jesus type group afforded us an opportunity to explain the wonderful deeper meaning of shalom. After all, who wouldn't want more "Perfect welfare, prosperity, serenity & happiness?"

But how do we really find it? And once we find this elusive treasure, how do we keep from losing it?

The only way I've found to make personal peace a growing instead of decreasing experience is one that's reflected in the Bible's teaching on peace. It's also mirrored in the experience of the hundreds who attended our retreats over the years and the thousands who attended our church seminars. Let me explain.

As I've said before, Jeremiah was the healing prophet. Many years ago, someone prophesied over me that my ministry was to be like Jeremiah's. At the time, I considered that to be bad news. I knew Jeremiah had been dragged through manure for his views and I didn't look forward to that particular personal growth experience! I didn't realize how much Jeremiah focused on healing, nor did I have any idea that my own journey would lead me on that wonderful path as well.

At one point, Jeremiah bemoaned the fact that the priests and prophets had become greedy and corrupted. He said they promised "Peace Peace, but there was no peace." They talked about shalom, shalom, "Perfect welfare, prosperity, serenity & happiness," but they didn't really have the goods to give the people (Jeremiah 6:14).

Ever feel like that? As if advertisements, your job, your marriage, your whole life, even religion, all dangle before you an elusive promise of happiness, prosperity, and well-being but you can never quite grasp it? Even in Jeremiah's day, over 2,500 years ago, this was a problem. Truly there is nothing new under the sun.

Jeremiah then went to the root of the problem. He said these promises had crushed the people by healing their wounds superficially. The consequence for Jeremiah's audience was stunning. In their quest to find the false idols of materialism apart from God, stinking thinking led them astray. When they refused to listen to Jeremiah's stern warnings, their worst enemies conquered them and carried them off into Babylon to serve as their slaves.

Far from being irrelevant, the consequences are no less frightening for us today. Though hopefully our society won't be overtaken by marauding bands of Communist Chinese or Islamist radicals, nevertheless we can still be captivated by our sins and brought into deep bondage. I was thinking of this today as I read the story of a man who was addicted to cocaine and heroine for 16 of the first 30 years of his life. I think of it when I see people scurrying to buy bigger homes and automobiles, or find more sex partners, or become ensnared in life destroying food or work addiction. There are many ways to be slaves, and precious few paths to freedom. In fact, only one leads to "Perfect welfare, prosperity, serenity & happiness."

People often comment about how peaceful I am. It started years ago when I did TV interviews for my first book, TRUE SEXUALITY. I guess producers expected me to be a raving fundamentalist instead of a tranquil advocate for the abundant life. It still happens when I meet people today. "You radiate peace," they say. Some tell me I even have a distinctive aura, though I must confess I've never seen such a thing. If this is true, I must tell you that the only reason I live at a deeper level of peace than most people is directly related to Jeremiah's message. Somehow, by God's grace, I learned early the limitations of both psychology and religion. I set out in 1979 to find whatever I needed to become more whole. Over the years, the retreats I attended and later the retreats I led, showed me ways to heal my wounds at a deeper level. In the wake of that, I've found my own way to a peace that grows and increases as I live, rather than one that diminishes. That's why, for me, anything that helps me advance on my healing journey is worth whatever it takes to get it. No other investment in living pays greater dividends.

You've heard me say it before: Jesus was anointed to heal our brokenness. As we let Him do that, we experience more of the shalom He came to give us; a peace not as the world gives; a peace that truly surpasses all human understanding.

Life is never going to be without conflict, but we needn't be at war within. We especially don't need to be our own worst enemy. As we let Him heal our deepest wounds, that peace, like a deep underground river, flows through our soul, removing old hurts, and along with them the flotsam of life and the debris of our past mistakes. "I've got peace like a river," the old song goes, "I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river in my soul." And with that peace comes, "Perfect welfare, prosperity, serenity & happiness." Want some of that? Who wouldn't? As we used to say in the days of the Jesus movement, there's one way to peace through the power of the cross. Christ has purchased this for us. All we need do is be brave and humble enough to receive it.


Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at  The Ultimate Breakthrough "



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