Saturday, January 21, 2017

Know Jesus Know Peace

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Isaiah 26;3

My husband recently convinced me to see the new Star Wars movie, Rouge One. One of the scenes that resonated with me is when Chirrut, a blind warrior walks across battlefield with bullets racing all around him while saying, "I am one with the Force, the Force is with me." He chanted it over and over blindly walking to a destination he could not see. To me, he was the picture of peace, fulfilling his purpose, unfazed by the conflict and chaos that raged all around him. 

What is peace to you?  Is it the absence of conflict? Is it a feeling of transcending time and space? Is it the calm after the storm? What about in the midst of the storm? Is it worth dying for? Is it being comfortable and safe?  Is it even possible to achieve?  

I admit my desire for peace is often about being comfortable and safe. I try my best to not rock the boat, not to upset people and stick to my own business. My view of peace is pretty shallow compared to God's peace. The Hebrew word "shalom" is often translated "peace" but means so much more. "Shalom" contains the idea of abundant life, freedom, no conflict with other people and peace in our relationship with God.  Shalom would be the state of being if life was perfect in every way. No worry, no stress, no conflict. Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Perfect peace, first of all means peace with God.  Abundant life. Life with purpose. Life without fear of anything except God's power, might and holiness. Jesus said, "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." John 14:27

As much as I want peace, what happens when our desire for peace and comfort conflicts with another's desires? Jesus knew that conflict would be a part of the call to follow him. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." This verse seems to contradict John 14:27 that says Jesus would give us peace.  His peace is not as the world gives. It is peace that passes all understanding. It is peace that surrounds us in the midst of conflict.

Being with Christ results in peace even in the midst of scary and difficult situations. This reminds me of a story about a fishing boat caught in a bad storm. After a busy day, Jesus was napping in the stern of the boat when the storm came up.  The boat started taking on water. Jesus's terrified friends,some who were even professional fishermen, woke him up because they thought they were all going to die.  Mark 4:39 explains that Jesus "awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”"  Then the wind ceased and the water was calm.   Jesus then asked them these questions, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 

For Jesus, the Son of God this wasn't a difficult situation. He was there when the world began, when the galaxies were created, when the waters separated and dry land appeared.  Nothing is too hard for him. His friends quickly realized that the only thing on earth or in the heavens they should fear was Jesus because He was so powerful even the wind and waves obeyed him.  

I have to admit I settle for temporal peace that is comfortable and conflict-free rather than the perfect peace and abundant life that comes from being in God's will even in the midst of the storm. I am often a cozy chicken afraid of people's opinions rather than humbled by the magnificence of the God who made the universe and everyone in it. 

A couple of my friends had some tough conversations that took them out of their comfort zone this week. One friend's daughter, who is African American was called a hateful word.  Since she goes to a very small school, my friend, her husband and her daughter were called into the principal's office to explain to the other girl and her family why her name calling was hateful.  Honestly, my friend's daughter didn't want to go. She didn't want to make a big deal of it and she just wanted peace.  I don't blame her.  Sometimes it is easier to be insulted than to stand up and say that something was wrong and risk being insulted again.  It wasn't easy but my friend went to the meeting. She kindly explained why what the little girl said was so hurtful and then gave her a big hug told her she loved her and forgave her. Peace came with the hard work of truth and forgiveness. 

Another friend went to the principal's office at her kid's school last week because she was upset that the school had requested everyone wear colorful clothes in support of gay pride. She was very upset that something personal and private like one's sexual preferences was being made into a big deal at her kid's school. Many of her friends didn't want to cause conflict so they just planned on keeping their kids home.   I believe that my friend was very brave, she risked a great deal asking the politically incorrect question, "Why is this private matter appropriate for school?" Her meeting with the principal went well. The school hadn't intended to make everyone wear colorful clothes. It wasn't required or even expected. Once things were cleared up everyone involved felt heard and valued.

I respect people who stand up for what they believe in and am often challenged by the boldness some of my friends have to fight and stand up for things that are important to them. I have friends who are vigilant in fighting things like animal abuse, suicide, and abortion.  I have realized that my fear of speaking up is driven less by love of God and more by my fear of people.

There is a bumper sticker that caught my attention several years ago that said, "No Jesus, No peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace."   It was a cute play on words that is resonating with me as I ponder my friends' and my quest for peace.  Some of my friends don't know peace because they don't know Jesus.  As I observe their lives, their lack of peace drives their passions. A sense of injustice and a desire to right the wrongs in the world drives their protests, arguments and deep hurts.   

I also have friends who know Jesus and they know peace even in the midst of the storm.  Peace comes from being in the midst of God's will, fulfilling His purpose.  They are like Chirrut in Rouge One walking with inner peace even as bullets surround them. They are consumed by a conviction that gets them out of bed on Saturday mornings to provide a safe place for women contemplating abortion, they volunteer in areas run by drug cartels, they learned Arabic to minister to Muslims in America, and they sit beside women who are learning how to live after years of human trafficking. They have found perfect peace even as the challenges of this life crash over their lives.

How have you experienced perfect peace in the midst of the storm?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What Are You Good at?

Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:11

"Introduce yourself and share one thing that you are good at doing." It seemed like a simple assignment for our new woman's Bible study class on The Power of Words.  As the ladies went around the room, one mentioned being compassionate, another mentioned being dependable.  There was a lady who was good at shopping which I think is a super practical skill and one I aspire to get better at.   I said I was good at being a friend.  

I found it interesting that most of the ladies in the group didn't just say what they were good but also pointed out a problem or a weakness.  For example, immediately after saying "I am dependable" one lady explained that since she was dependable, she expected others to be dependable and was often disappointed and frustrated when they let her down.  Another said that she was empathetic and would cry with a friend if they were having a rough day but that others had made fun of her for crying. Several ladies talked about their truthfulness that got them into trouble if they were too blunt. Even the lady who said she was funny, qualified it by saying that she was sometimes too funny. 

I couldn't help but wonder why almost everyone in the room felt they needed to qualify and diminish what they were good at.  Was it humility, being realistic, just how girls have learned to talk or was there something more going on?
          Are we afraid of admitting what we are good at because it might make some one feel bad because they aren't as funny or good at being dependable?  
          Have we been taught to put ourselves down so others don't?   You know pride goes before a fall...
          Do we discount the good things in our lives and in our family members because we just don't think we are good enough?  

I am not sure what was going through all those ladies' minds but it reminded me of a lesson my middle schooler grudgingly learned during his Cotillion class on compliments. The elegant instructor talked to the kids about the importance of genuinely complimenting someone and how to properly receive a compliment.  She looked at the girls in the room and said emphatically, "Ladies, if someone gives you a compliment, just say, 'Thank you'. Don't reply 'This old thing' or ' I want a new one" or 'Thanks but...'.   You are arguing with the person who gave the compliment and putting down her judgment."   

Could we be guilty of treating ourselves, our family members and our Creator with disrespect because we don't accept who we are in Christ? In Christ, you are a new creation.  In Christ, you can do all things. In Christ is the fullness of life. In Christ, you are made perfect. In Christ, you have all that to need. In Christ, you are patient, loving, kind,gentle and you have self-control. 

I can imagine your argument that you aren't perfect and you don't have all you need because I would say the same thing. It might be something like, "I am not all these things and neither are my kids or husband. Plus, I don't want them to be prideful or lie to them." Reread the last paragraph, Christ is all this and more. If Christ is in you, then you than you have every spiritual blessing.  If Christ is in your husband and your kids then they are perfect in Christ.  You are not bragging, you are not inflating your husband's ego and you are not giving your kids a trophy just for participation. You are not lying. You are acknowledging the power of Christ in their lives. 

Here'a how this translates into everyday life. Rather than stoking pride, start your sentences with "God has given you ....", "In Christ, I have ...", or "Jesus has blessed you with ...."

What if you told your husband, "Wow, God has given you the ability to work hard."  "I can see how God has blessed you with energy."  For your kids try, "I can see God's kindness in how you helped me." "God helped you know how to study for that test."   Next time you get a compliment, try replying, "Thanks, it is the grace of God that I was able to do this. If you aspire to be good at shopping like I do, you can acknowledge that it is God who guided your steps and led you to the perfect item at the best price.  You'll be amazed at the transformation in your heart and the people around you.  I can't wait to hear about all the marvelous things you can do in Christ.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Beautiful Design

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

Something happens when you post a picture of your messy laundry room for all the world to see on your blogyou find the time to clean it up! I put away the laundry, gave a jacket back to a friend, took a bunch of stuff to a local charity, put all the hanging clothes the closet, and returned several items to stores. It took a couple hours work over several days. But the end result was amazing and truly freeing.  Now when I walk into my laundry room, I don't have that overwhelming "ugh" feeling that comes from living with stuff I don't want to deal with.   

After I got rid of  the clutter that was covering almost every flat surface in my laundry room, I noticed a funny thing about my dryer. It seemed that the instrument panel labeling was damaged.  A blue plastic film was ripped and peeling away in places. Once I started peeling it off, I thought,    "I might as well finish the job and and at least make it look smoother and not ragged." This is the slightly compulsive mindset that motivates me when I bite my nails, fortunately,  it had a much better result on my dryer. 

As I peeled away the blue plastic film, I realized that the plastic was intended to be removed.  Removing it revealed the beautiful pattern the designer's had incorporated on the front of my dryer. I had lived with this dryer for almost 15 years, it worked fine and I could have gone another 15 years and never once realized that I was missing out on how it was designed to look!  15 years of laundry!  Countless loads of dried clothes and I never realized it was supposed to look different. What if we are doing that with our lives as well?

What if you are missing out on the blessings and beauty that the Designer has already put your messy places because you haven't let him have His way in your life? 

What if our relationships with our kids and parents, friends and spouse are covered with a hazy film that makes life harder because we haven't asked the Designer's opinion on what He intended for us to have?   What if our job and our finances are a struggle because we haven't bothered to find our Designer's plan for our time and money? What if our physical and mental health is a struggle because we haven't sought his wisdom and purpose? What if we don't have His perspective because we simply haven't asked for it?  To quote last week's blog, "If God created you... He knows what is best for you.  He has a plan for your life that requires His participation in every part."  Our job is to ask.  Matthew 7:7-8 says "ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find." 

Psalm 139:13-16 is a beautiful passage detailing how God designed each of us in our mother's womb. 

" For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be."

If I hadn't invited all of you to see my messy laundry room, I am sure that my dryer would still be covered in the blue plastic that was supposed to be removed after purchase so many years ago. It is never too late for a miraculous transformation to occur in our lives.  Just because we lived with a mess till now doesn't mean it defines us. As the year begins, now is the time to ask your Creator to reveal His plans for your life.  You will be surprised and amazed at the beauty that is right before your eyes.  

Ask God to reveal if you are you holding on to things that have served their purpose but were designed to be removed?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Years Resolution

Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial 1 Corinthians 10:23

I've been thinking about how we live out our faith through our words, actions, thoughts, relationships and even our diet. What if walking by faith meant that you asked Jesus how to live in every part of your life.  As a little girl I memorized a scripture, "Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone answers the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me." Revelation 3:20 

When I was younger, I understood that this scripture meant Jesus wanted to have a relationship with me and all I had to do was let him in.  It is a beautiful picture and illustrates the truth that Christianity is unique among world religions in that God pursues a relationship with us rather than mankind having to pursue a relationship with God. 

As I have gotten older, I realized that this picture of letting Jesus into my heart and life is kind of like when my friends come over. When they visit I am fine with them seeing my living room and "formal areas" but quite honestly I make a point of closing the laundry room door if I have company. Dirty laundry, clean laundry, cleaning supplies, items to return  and jackets all clutter up a small disorganized room that I don't want anyone seeing. 

Just like my laundry room, there are parts of our lives that we don't want Jesus to see.  I have a lot of friends who love Jesus but have decided to let their faith influence only one or two parts of their lives. We'd rather shut the door and make sure he stayed in the formal areas like church on Sunday or maybe at the kitchen table when we say a blessing. But we don't want him in our kitchen because God doesn't care about what we eat, right?  We don't want him in our bedroom 'cause His definition of marriage is old fashioned. We don't want him looking at our Netflix recently watched or browsing history. We don't want him in our closets or looking at our checkbook because we worked hard for our money.  

I have learned that when I shut the door on letting Jesus into any part of my life I am missing out on the blessings He has for me.  I have a good friend who has her own home organizing business. Imagine if I invited her over to organize the neatest room in my house.  She could definitely help me but I am missing the benefit of her perspective if I won't let her help me with my messy areas.  

We need to invite Jesus into the messy areas. Ask for His help and wisdom in the places you struggle.  Seek Him. Study His Word. There are hundreds of scriptures on food and relationships and thousands of verses on money.   He gave us our minds and bodies to bless others and to worship him. If you seek Him and ask, He will reveal your unique purpose and how He wants you to fulfill it.   I hesitated to do this because I was afraid that he would ask me to give up something that I really loved.  The truth is I have.  I have given up big things and small things. My former love affair with ice cream is proof of a small but life changing thing I have given up.  If God calls you to give something up, ask Him to replace it. He will.  Don't stay in the land of fear and grief.  He has given me greater blessings than anything I have given up. 

If God created you... He knows what is best for you.  He has a plan for your life that requires His participation in every part.  

As I am beginning this year,  I have been challenged to seek God's perspective on what I eat, how I exercise, how I spend my time and money, what I fill my mind with and who I spend time with. 

Are you tired living in the mess?  Is there a room in your heart that you haven't invited Jesus into?  He is patiently waiting.  This is the year to invite him in. Don't forget to ask him to fill the empty spaces, He will and give you more than you could ask or imagine.  He has health, healing, strength and purity waiting. Let me know how it goes.  

I am off to do some laundry.