Peace Wins the Battle

When you look out over the land of sin in your life it probably looks terribly big and undefeatable. You have been contending with those sins your whole life and more than likely given up and given in because it’s what your heart desires to do. Most of the time we enjoy our sin, we think we will give up sin ‘some day’ but not today, today it’s too hard and we are too tired and people are so annoying. And we fear if we kick sin out life won’t be fun any more.  

Instead of perceiving moving forward in the barren land of sin as something to be dreaded, we need to re-think it as the land of victory. God has already overcome sin and therefore as you move forward by his power you can be victorious, not by your power but by His. Look at the story of David and Goliath, a huge giant stood between David and victory, but he believed God would overcome his enemy…our enemies are Gods enemies…and he picked up five stones and by faith received victory.  

I’ve heard it said David picked up five stones because Goliath had four brothers. If that is true then David was so sure of God’s victory he only picked up one stone for each enemy. Don’t you want to live like that? Instead of trembling at the prospect of once again falling in defeat at the feet of temptation and having the life crushed out of us by sin, we need to follow Davids example and prepare for victory. When Goliath crashed to the ground, the Israelite army rejoiced. Can you imagine their fear and trembling as a boy walked across the field with only a sling shot for protection to do the job of a grown man? A job they were too afraid to do? If he lost the fight, they would be servants of the Philistines.  

The land of fear now rejoiced in freedom from the enemy and that is what happens when we rely on God to overcome our sin for us, we pick up our stones, we prepare to resist, our hearts desire victory and we know our God can defeat the enemy for us. We know our God will defeat the enemy for us because He has promised. Just like the Israelites when God defeats the enemy we rejoice in our freedom. 

David’s weapon of choice was his slingshot and with God’s help he slew the enemy.  We need to carry our weapons into the war against sin.  I’m going to suggest to you that we will not get far in our battle against sin without putting on our shoes of peace. (Ephesians 6:15) Have you ever tried walking across gravel without your shoes on? Or maybe just across pavement that has little pieces of this and that on it? It’s frustrating and painful and annoying isn’t it? And isn’t that how life is when you aren’t wearing your shoes of peace? People are annoying, frustrating situations occur, but with Gods peace those people and situations are no longer annoying. So how do you attain this kind of peace? Only humility can give you this kind of peace. Without humility, when something annoying happens to us, we say something like this,”How dare they do that to me?” When you have Gods humility living in you it no longer matters that someone took your place in line or you were cut off in traffic or your husband never replaces the toilet paper roll. Humility allows us to live in the land of peace.  

The five stones we need to pick up and prepare to fight the enemy with are humility, peace, strength, victory and joy.

The first stone we need to pick up when we face the enemy of temptation is humility. Humility admits we are unable to overcome Goliath on our own. Humility will allow God to slay our giants and create a land of peace for us to live in. Peace will give us strength…isn’t it true that in a roomful of chaos it’s the peaceful person who has strength because nothing can ruffle their feathers? They are not out of control because the peace of God is in control of their land. The strength they now possess will give them victory. Victory over the Goliaths in life. Most of our Goliaths really aren’t that big, they are more like the size of a small stone that has gotten in your shoe, but that small stone is incredibly annoying and inconvenient and might as well be the size of a boulder at the irritation it causes us.  

David’s victory over Goliath caused great joy. Joy for David and joy for the rest of the Israelites. When we live in victory over temptation, including the small irritations of life, then not only do we live in joy but it will create joy in those around us also. So humility will give us peace and peace will give us strength and strength will give us victory and victory gives us joy and joy walks hand in hand with peace.

David walked out to face Goliath with humility knowing only God could slay Goliath. No one else would do it because they were relying only on their own strength to kill Goliath and they knew they couldn’t do it. We don’t need to worry about the death of Goliath, the only death we need to be concerned about is our own. Will we die to self and live in the land of peace or will we continue to shrink our land by holding tightly to what we believe we deserve? Do you want to live your life fighting for your place in line and grumbling about how unfair life is or would you rather live in the land where God fights your battles and you enjoy the rewards of His peace and joy? 

Living in the land of peace does not mean Goliath will no longer tempt you, it also does not mean the little rocks won’t get in your shoes and try to annoy you, what it does mean is that the rocks will no longer annoy you and Goliath will no longer have the power to defeat you. 

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Truth Wants You Dead

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) The truth will make you free! We want to be free. But what do we imagine we will be made free from? The Israelites, when in slavery to the Egyptians, imagined themselves set free from their enemies. Do you have enemies you would like to be set free from? I imagine you do. Maybe your boss or co-workers are annoying. Or maybe your sisters husband is so annoying you can barely tolerate going to family functions. There are no more warm fuzzy Christmas feelings because your brother-in-law stole them all, in fact you are pretty sure he is closely related to the Grinch. Or what about those idiots on the road? The ones that cut you off or fail to use their turn signal? Or the twenty-something single young man who could use some exercise who steals your close parking spot and you’re the one with three kids under the age of five who now needs to drag them into the store from the far end of the parking lot? Or how about all the times you have pulled through a fast food establishment and not gotten what you ordered?

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt they were excited. Truth had set them free. The truth of the prophecy from 400 years before had finally happened. Gods words were true and they rejoiced leaving their enemies behind. The way they saw it the truth had set them free. But they had just begun the journey. God wanted to take them not only further in their physical journey towards the promised land but He also wanted to lead them on a spiritual journey of the heart.

The truth does set you free, but the truth wants you dead.  Dead to self. The truth will set us free from our enemy, but who is our enemy? Not the hateful boss. Not the guy who cuts you off in traffic. Not your brother-in-law. Not the Egyptians. Not the worker at McDonalds. Your real enemy is the devil. It is pointless to become angry at your hateful boss, the guy who cuts you off in traffic, your brother-in-law or the worker at a restaurant. They are not the ones who made you angry. Your anger came from within your own gates. Pride activated your anger and your very own pride caused you to stumble and fall. Truth came to set your heart free. Truth came to shine the light in your heart so you could see the enemy that causes you to stumble comes from within and not from without.

The Israelites thought that once they had been set free from the Egyptians their lives would be perfect living in the land of milk and honey. But they are an example of being set free from their human enemies but still being enslaved to the enemy that lived within their own hearts.

The truth will set you free from self. It will not set you free from annoying people. It is a painful, soul wrenching experience to evict pride. Our pride protects us from reality. Our pride tells us lies we like to believe. It’s my pride that tells me I shouldn’t be cut off in traffic. It’s my pride that says my boss should always be nice to me. It’s my pride that says my fast food order should always be right.

We think if only we were treated as we deserve we would be happy. But I can be pretty sure even kings and queens, who are treated with all kinds of respect, are not always happy. Why? Because true joy does not come from the admiration of our fellow man. True joy is experienced not by seeking our own glory, but by seeking the glory of God.

God’s wisdom and beauty are like a fall day. The leaves fall from the trees and die, but there is a beauty in death to self. The thought of death to self brings a cold chill to the heart like winter. But God will raise up the soul who dies to self believing in Him and His power. The beauty of new life will replace the death and soon the heat of the Holy Spirit will take hold of the heart and the new small plants of spring will bear fruit for Him. The cycle continues, you continue to die to self and God continues to provide new life and fruit.

Beauty Appointments

I finished mixing the waffle mix for the church work bee. I heard Brett turn the shower on. I glanced at the time and congratulated myself we would not be late to the church work bee because of me. I poured the waffle mix into a pitcher and mixed up the ingredients for the gluten-free batter. I followed the list of ingredients and poured them one by one into the mixing bowl. About half-way through the list I read, ‘one teaspoon baking powder’. I looked at my counter covered with the ingredients from the previous batch of waffle mix and realized I had mistakenly put baking soda into the regular waffles instead of baking powder. I glanced at the clock again. Ouch. Now we would be late to the work bee because of me. I quickly typed ‘can I substitute baking soda for baking powder’ into google. Yes! I discovered I could, but, at a rate of one-third less and I would also need to add lemon juice or vinegar to improve the taste.

I grabbed the frying pan, threw it on the burner, and tossed in a spoonful of the batter. I desperately hoped it would taste delicious without any intervention. While it sizzled in the pan I finished up the gluten-free batter. I hurriedly tossed the waffle in the shape of a pancake onto a plate and took a bite, burning my tongue in the process. It seemed to taste ok. I was momentarily relieved the waffle mix was fine and we wouldn’t be late. But a few moments later I spit the pancake out. Yuck. The after taste was awful. I really hoped the lemon juice would improve the flavor because I was out of flour and couldn’t make more mix. While Brett carried out the waffle irons and other things we needed for the work bee to the car, I did some quick calculations and added 24 teaspoons of lemon juice to the mix. I mixed it up and threw another spoonful into the hot pan. I taste tested the new waffle mix and was relieved they were edible.

While Brett skillfully weaved in and out of traffic on the way to the church trying to make up for lost time the phrase, ‘Pride goeth before a fall’ crossed my mind. It only took a few moments to go from congratulating myself we wouldn’t be late because of me to being 15 minutes late because of me. I remembered discussing ‘ beauty appointments’ in the women’s group at church. Those beauty appointments, which God has set up for us, are meant to smooth out the rough edges and make us more beautiful. Unfortunately it always seems as if these beauty appointments are reminiscent of the trips to the salon where the stylist cuts your hair inches shorter than you asked. While you may leave the salon with a great haircut, it didn’t turn out exactly like you had planned.

The waffle mix had one small mix up. Both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents, but the recipe called for just the right amount of baking powder. I had a brain-glitch and reached for the box of baking soda. To fix it required lemon juice.  Lemon juice isn’t so very tasty on it’s own, in fact most people would rather avoid it’s sour taste at full concentration.  But, when added to counteract the mistake it turned a not so tasty waffle mix into an edible one. Sometimes God’s beauty appointments are about as appetizing to us as straight lemon juice, but when added to the mix of our life, it turns out just right.

Take Joseph for example, he certainly had more than one beauty appointment set up by God. First of all Joseph had a couple of dreams which represented his family bowing down to him. Being the youngest of his family he must have looked forward to the day the dreams were fulfilled. But, then came the beauty appointments.  His brothers sold him as a slave.  He was accused by the boss’s wife of attempted rape.  He spent years in prison.  Not so much fun, certainly worse than a bad haircut.

Joseph’s brothers remind me of the waffle mix. Hating their brother Joseph and plotting to kill him, then selling him as a slave was not a good thing.  When I first taste tested the waffle, it tasted fine. It certainly looked fine, but the after taste was awful. I think Joseph’s brothers discovered that sin is like the messed up waffle mix. The sin gets mixed into our lives and we can’t see it. And just like I desperately hoped the waffle mix would be fine without any intervention, it wasn’t. We go through life thinking we are doing just fine. But given enough time the consequences of sin become apparent and it is usually leaves a bitter aftertaste as Joseph’s brothers certainly discovered.

Beauty appointments set up by God at just the time we need them are an opportunity to recognize it’s not our will to be done on this earth, but His.

 

“Humility and death are in their very nature one.  Humility is the bud, in death the fruit is ripened to perfection.” Andrew Murray

Friends With Fear

Comfort zones. We all have a comfort zone we don’t like to leave. But think about it…what keeps you in your comfort zone? Fear. Fear is what keeps you there. Fear of the outside of the comfort zone. But we should be more fearful of staying in our comfort zone than leaving it. Why? Because if it’s fear that keeps us in our comfort zone, then it’s the devil that created it for us. He created a comfort zone for us to comfortably reside in and he created the the fear of stepping outside of it. Your comfort zone has a large cushy couch to relax on. Your comfort zone comes with chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bonbons. The longer you lay on your couch eating chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bonbons, the less power you have to get up and step outside your comfort zone. Fear brings us more bonbons.  Fear keeps the remote at our finger tips. Fear keeps us comfortable in our comfort zone and every time we say, “I can’t do that because it’s outside my comfort zone,” our friend Fear puts up another bar to reinforce our prison.

You get comfortable with Fear, your jailer becomes your friend and you’re happy to stay in your comfortable prison. You could leave if you want to, but you don’t want to because it’s OK to use the excuse…”That’s outside my comfort zone.” And everybody says, “Oh yes, that’s ok, I understand.” Yes, we all understand, because we are all imprisoned in our own little comfort zones and happy to stay there curled up on our comfy couches eating chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bonbons surrounded by soldiers with the first name of Fear. Fear of strangers. Fear of giving up control. Fear of flying. We name our fears and accept them meanwhile forgetting 2Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power…”

I wonder if Peter ever wished as a kid he could walk on water. But, he couldn’t walk on water, and he knew it. Walking on water under his own power was impossible. During the storm when Jesus called Peter to step outside the boat, he was asking Peter to step out of his comfort zone. He was asking Peter to glory in his own weakness and rely on rely on a power outside himself. Despite the precariousness of the storm Peter felt safer in the boat than out of it. But when Jesus said, “Come”, and invited him to walk on water, Peter stepped out of the boat. He stepped out of self reliance and stepped into reliance on God. Peter personally witnessed in his own life the power of God. The others who stayed in the boat saw the power of God at work but did not experience it themselves.

The power to live a life of joy exists only outside your comfort zone. The power to walk on water exists only outside the boat. Jesus is outside the boat walking on the water. Fear does not exist in the presence of Jesus. Therefore your fear is not outside your comfort zone, your fear exists only inside your comfort zone. In the presence of Jesus Peter did not drown in his fear. The others on the boat though continued to rely on their own good common sense to keep themselves safe. If we continue to rely on only what we think is possible, that’s all that’s going to happen. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask for imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20) Step outside your comfort zone. Witness what God can and will do for you. Then go out and witness to others what God has done for you. Do not make the rocks cry out for you. Step out of your comfort zone, step out of your fear, and witness the power of God at work in your life.

Praying The Lords Prayer For Abundance (Part 3)

“Give us this day out daily bread”. Just before Jesus started the Lord’s Prayer he told his disciples God already knew everything they needed. To pray then is to communicate with our father because we love him not because he needs to know our needs. We need to be reminded of our dependence on our father in heaven for everything. To ask for our daily bread is a reminder that our life depends on the Father. Our daily bread is a gift to us from our father in heaven. I’ve heard people bemoan their belief that they didn’t receive any gifts from God. Are you alive and breathing? If so, then you have received the gift of life from God. It is our choice to decide how we use the gift of life. Will we spend it seeking the abundance of God’s treasure or the treasure of this world? God will also give us our spiritual bread and sustain our spiritual life.

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. Our father sent his son Jesus to this earth to die so he could forgive us. Our opportunity to be able to choose an abundant life over death was given to us because God loved us enough to send his son to die for us. What does it cost us to forgive those who sin against us? Our pride is what stands in the way of us forgiving someone. Pride was the original sin of Satan and Adam and Eve believed it. They decided maybe the God they served wasn’t enough and they were missing out and needed more. But the more of this world which they chose brought them death instead of more abundant life. Without repentance sin creates a barrier between us and God. That is what sin is, a wall Satan builds between us and God to prevent communication with Him. When we sin against someone we generally try to avoid them. We see the wall of sin and it’s hard to see God and his forgiveness past the wall of sin. But repentance on our part and forgiveness on the part of God removes the wall and once again we can see the beauty of God. When we communicate with Him, He communicates His love to us and His love is what gives us the power to forgive others. Only with the pure love of God in our hearts can we forgive like he does. Unforgiveness is a heavy burden to carry and it dries up our heart. Forgiveness is an abundance of cool refreshing waters for a dry thirsty soul.

“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. Temptation is a lie Satan tells us. We have the choice to believe the lie he tells us or to let the truth of God deliver us from evil. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness..” 2 Corinthians 12:9 When sin comes knocking at the door of our hearts we have two choices. We can either run to the door and greet sin with a big hug or we can send Grace to the door who will send temptation away and deliver us. God gives us an abundance of grace to deliver us from temptation.

“For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever”. This is an admission on our part that we are nothing. This is our admission of humility. The kingdom belongs to Our Father. The power belongs to Our Father. All the glory belongs to Our Father. Forever. There is not one moment in time that any of it belongs to us. Pride causes us to seek our own kingdoms rather than the kingdom of God. Pride causes us to seek our own power. Pride causes us to seek the glory. But none of it belongs to us, ever. Because forever and forever it all belongs to God. With hearts full of love for him we are to seek to serve him as instantaneously as the angels in heaven. When we do we will see how beautiful and abundant life is when we communicate with our Father who loves us. When we communicate with Him all his power is at our disposal.

Prayer takes us into the presence of God. In his presence our hearts will change and we will reflect his desires. All of our life will be an outpouring of love to him and anything we do will be by his power and for His glory. During our communication of prayer with our father he takes away our worry, he erases our anxiety because we know who our God is. He is the eternal God of heaven and earth and we have nothing to fear. We have anxiety when we serve one of the gods of this earth. We can cling to them in our times of trouble but when they sink we will go down with them because they do not have the power to save us. God gave us the life of his son so we can have a life more abundant. More abundant than a pile of gold in our basements and a red Ferrari racing down the freeway. He gives us the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us the treasures of the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Let us choose our treasure wisely, because where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. We can choose to let our hearts reside in the light of heaven or the darkness of earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in to steal and destroy.

Praying The Lords Prayer for Abundance (Part 2)

Praying the Lord’s Prayer is praying for abundance. Spiritual abundance. The abundance we need to seek is not of this world but the abundance that flows from the throne of God. Jesus showed us how to pray for abundance when he gave us the Lord’s Prayer. The abundance Jesus gives us is the abundance of joy and peace, love for others and an abundance of forgiveness. His kingdom is not of this world and it’s riches.

Let’s take a look at the first phrase of the Lord’s Prayer; “Our Father”. When we have a good relationship with a father we have good communication with him. When Jesus said, ‘Our Father’, he was inviting us to communicate with our Father in heaven. Jesus came to this earth to save mankind, to give us eternal life. A life more abundant. When Jesus said, Our Father, He was not only bringing himself before the throne of God, but reminding God of the people on this earth he had come to save. This is an example to us when we pray to bring with us the names of those we are interceding for. Living a life more abundant means we have good, open communication with our Father in heaven and we love others enough to intercede on their behalf.

“Who art in heaven”. Jesus father was in heaven. Can you imagine how much he must have missed his father? How much he desired his presence? Prayer was the only way he could communicate with his father. In John 18, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this earth”. His kingdom, his home, was in heaven…so is our home in heaven, so is our father in heaven. If our home is truly in heaven and not on this earth than why do we think we need to stockpile this worlds goods? Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21; “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Notice that last phrase, “For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Usually we would think of it as the other way around; Where are heart is, there will our treasure be. Picture owning a big pile of gold. What are you likely to do? You would probably worry about it. How can you keep it safe? Your heart and your thoughts are with your money. On the other hand if you seek first the kingdom of God you will be more concerned about what God wants you to do with the money he gave you. Matthew 6:33 tells us to “seek for the kingdom of God”. I picture God giving us a treasure map and #1 on the treasure map is to find the kingdom of God because that is where the treasure he has for us is hidden. Abundance does not flow from a pile of gold hidden away in our basement. Abundance flows from seeking the heart of God and His will for us.

“Hallowed be Thy name”. Every child in a good relationship with their father believes their father has the powers of Superman. They believe their dad is the best and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. After Jesus greeted his father he told him how wonderful he was, how great he was, how thankful he was that he was his father. He praised his father. When we accept the eternal life Jesus gives us, when we accept a more abundant life, we will praise God too! We won’t be able to help ourselves because an abundant life automatically pours out positivity and praise.

“Thy kingdom come”. We are soldiers in Gods army. We are to bring God’s kingdom to this world by witnessing to others for him in any way he asks us to. Essentially we are to seek first the kingdom of God. (Matt. 6:33)  Jesus certainly sought first the kingdom of his father. He knew his kingdom was not of this earth, he didn’t need to seek the approval of the people here, he only needed to seek the approval of his father in heaven. When we seek first the approval of our father in heaven we will be walking the path he created for us. When we are walking on the path he created for us we do not need to worry because God will provide everything we need. What abundance! No worries. Instead we have peace and joy and are excited to share the abundance of peace and joy God has given us with others

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. The angels in heaven do God’s will instantly with hearts full of love for him. If we seek first the kingdom of God a natural outcome of that is obeying the father with a heart full of love for him. When we have a heart full of love for our father in heaven we will automatically have an abundance of love for our fellow-man. Think how different your life would be if you loved everyone like God does. How eagerly you would rush to do his will. God’s love would flow out of your heart into the empty, hurting, hearts of others and joy would abound.

(To be continued)

Praying The Lords Prayer for Abundance (Part 1)

“…I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 The text clearly says Jesus came so we may have life more abundantly. When we think ‘abundance’ we generally start thinking of the abundance of this world; in short money and everything it provides for us. But if we stop to think about it, what kind of life did Jesus come to give us? John 3:16 says he died so that we could have everlasting life. Now to simplify it, life is just that, life, and then life ends. But to have life more abundantly would be more life, i.e. everlasting life. What does everlasting life entail? Well Jesus died so that we could live with him forever in heaven. We know that sin does not exist in heaven. So in essence He came to take away the sin in our life. So Jesus is not talking about a new red Ferrari, he is talking about living life like he lives. A life full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. A life lived with all these gifts is certainly an abundant life.

But you say God has promised to give us our hearts desires. Yes, he does, Psalm 37:4 does say, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” When we read this verse the sugar plums start to dance in our heads and we are zooming down the freeway in our red Ferrari. But, Jeremiah 17:9, reminds us of this truth, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked…” God gives us everything we want when our hearts are so aligned with his that our hearts only want what he wants. I’m not saying money is bad. The Bible has stories of people who were wealthy, for example Abraham, Job, and Joseph. But, they did not look to their money to save them and provide them with joy and happiness. They trusted in God to give them joy and happiness and provide for their daily needs. They praised God, not their riches.

Riches are not found in money, riches are found in relationships. Only a relationship with Jesus will provide abundance in our lives. Spiritual abundance. Unless Jesus has changed our hearts, the wants and desires which flow from our hearts are deceitful above all things. Pride motivates us to seek the abundance of this world. More money, more shoes, more horsepower under the hood of our car, more square feet in our house and more acreage for it to sit on. More power at work, more gigs on our computers and phones. We think more money will give us more abundance. But looking to the kingdom of this world to supply what we want will not satisfy us with eternal happiness. Only the living water God gives us will provide true abundance of life no matter what the balance in our bank account.

Humility Is Not The Antidote To Pride

Humility is not the antidote to pride. Peace is the antidote to pride. I like to picture a throne sitting in my heart. God’s throne. He created it. He has the right to sit there. But, more often than not over the years, I have been guilty of removing God from His throne in my heart and sitting there myself. It’s a big throne, God sized. When He sits there, He fills up the space. But, when I sit on His throne, it’s too big for me. In fact when I sit on the throne I feel a little lost and small, insecure would be a good way to describe it. It’s a big responsibility to be a god and I’m not really up to the job description that comes with sitting on the throne. But all the same I like to rule my world.

When God sits on the throne, He doesn’t lack anything. He is perfect. He loves perfectly, judges perfectly, forgives perfectly, and the list goes on. When I sit on the throne I have a hard time doing anything perfectly. So I try all kinds of things to make myself look better. I can get really really busy buzzing around doing things and looking like I fill up the entire space of the throne. When I sit on the throne I’m dwarfed by it’s presence so I want to stand out, have things that will make me better than my neighbor. Take for example the need to acquire the latest model iPhone the minute it is available. All of the things I accumulate create excitement and my pride hides really well behind the excitement…so well I don’t even recognize it.

Or other times in life when I am at work, or church, or school and the leadership or a co-worker doesn’t measure up, maybe they are always late, or they messed up a project, I immediately get caught up in the circle of people talking about the “offense.” My pride hides behind my obvious superiority because I am smart enough not to commit such an offense. But, my insecurity is still there. It’s a tough job being perfect and it’s hard to hide imperfection while deluding myself into thinking I am projecting perfection.

Matthew 4 tells the story of Jesus and his disciples on the Sea of Galilee during a storm. A storm so fierce the disciples were afraid they would die. While they trembled with fear, Jesus slept. How could he sleep? Because He had peace. He kept the will of His Father ahead of his own will. When the disciples woke him, He stood up and said, “Peace, be still.” The storm quieted and peace reigned. Peace calmed the physical storm. Peace will also calm your emotional storms. Peace rules over frustrations. Peace rules over the frenzied need to obtain the newest and latest.

Jesus said in John 14:27, “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither be afraid.” Jesus gives us peace. When He gives us peace, we will not be troubled or afraid. When we decide to stop trying to rule our own life and let God sit on His throne in our hearts, we will have peace and peace will silence the storms which pride creates.

Peace gives us strength, strength gives us victory, victory gives us joy, and joy and peace walk hand in hand.

What I Learned From Play Practice

Brett, or Director Brett at the moment, crossed his arms and watched the students rehearse the play. He waved his arms and said, “No, no, no. That’s not how it is. Curtain line!” The actors hurried to sit down and listen to Brett’s thoughts on their performance, or lack there of. I inwardly cringed and waited for the blunt truth of what he thought, but he gently shared several suggestions on how to improve. I quickly pulled out my phone and took notes because what he said would become the basis of this blog post.  
“First of all,” Brett said, “You need to know where you are going and move with purpose.” How true! This idea not only applied to the actors on the stage, but to everyone walking through life. God has a purpose for our life and He wants us to know where He plans for us to go. When we listen for his voice and follow His plan we will know where we are going and move with the purpose He has given us.  
“For we know in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Brett’s next suggestion, “Don’t act, be the person you are.” Too often we act how we think other’s want us to, or do what we think we are ‘supposed’ to do. God has called you. God has things for you to do. We need to listen to God and what he has planned for us. We will not end up living our purpose if we listen to what other’s think we should do.
  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5)
The words of wisdom continued, “Listen to the director when he calls you…otherwise you will miss half of what he says.” We need to stay tuned into the voice of God 24/7. If we only listen when we go to church or prayer meeting we are missing out on so many things God wants to tell us.  
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk ye in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
I had a couple of other thoughts when Brett finished speaking. The play has an expected end. God has an expected end for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) He has a plan for your life…you will arrive at your plan when you listen to God 24/7, act on His will for you life and move forward with a purpose. Just like the audience doesn’t know the ending to the play until it happens, we won’t know the ending either, we just need to know the next right step, which happens when we consistently listen to the voice of God. 
Parts of the play were practiced over and over until they were learned. Sometimes we feel like we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. God wants us to learn to trust Him for help to overcome temptation. God wants us to give thanks for the temptation, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and then allow His grace to deliver us from the temptation. “…My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.  
Sometimes we feel like those actors on the stage this afternoon; they hadn’t all learned their lines well yet, they couldn’t remember where to walk across the stage, they weren’t sure who they were so they compensated by overacting, they were busy talking to a friend and didn’t want to be disturbed by the call of the director and only heard half of what he said and therefore continued into practice even more confused. Take the time today to listen to the voice of God, take the time all day long every day to listen to the voice of God and see where He takes you. It’s time to step out of the stress your own plans cause and time to rest in the freedom of the plan God has for you. Is your own plan not working out so well? Why settle for second best? Why wouldn’t you want to follow God’s plan if His plan is the best? Choose to follow God’s plan and you will have the ultimate life experience because hands down, God has the best plan ever for you! Start living it today.

Agnostic Christianity

I heard a story of a little girl who sat scrunched up at the bottom of a trash can.  She looked up at the circle of blue sky and heard a voice say, “You’re nothing but a piece of trash.”

We hear words.  We read words.  We can choose to believe them.  We can choose not to believe them.  

At first glance the two words in the title of today’s blog appear to contradict each other.  But, I think  there are people who say they believe in God and His words, but they don’t live like they believe the words of God.  Take this Bible text for example; “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is the peace the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27.  

Jesus says He gives us peace and because He gives us peace we are not to be worried or afraid.  But, how many of us live a peaceful, unworried, unafraid life? 

Let me tell you a story to illustrate;  I had just put together a futon frame with my oldest daughter.  The next step to finish the project was to place the mattress on the frame.  It sounds so easy, but it wasn’t.  This wasn’t one of those thin cheap mattress’s,  this was the thick heavy mattress. I gripped one end as tightly as I could while my  daughter held onto the other end.   We counted one, two, three and tried to coordinate tossing the mattress onto the frame.  It didn’t work out so well, we were  both laughing so hard at our puny efforts there was no way we were going to get that thing onto the frame. My skinny 15 year old son walked in the bedroom and said, “Move out of the way and I’ll put it on there.”  I stopped laughing long enough to offer him our help.  I would hold onto my end, my daughter would manage her end and he could help in the middle.    He waved his arms and dismissed us.  “No, just move out of the way and I’ll get it.”   We stepped away from the mattress, but I kept talking even as he moved forward to get the job done.  “Now don’t hurt yourself, we can help you if you need us…”  He ignored my ramblings and bent over, folded the mattress  in half and popped it onto the frame.  Easy peasy.  I was amazed at the strength in his skinny arms and body. He did not need our help.

 Let me say that again– He did not need our help.

Let’s go back to sitting at the bottom of the trash can. When life has put you at the bottom of the trash can and God is standing there offering to help you out, to give you peace, do you look at Him and think He can’t possibly help you?  Do you believe the words the world tells you about being ‘just a piece of trash’?  I think too many times we see God  standing there and we aren’t sure He has enough power to help us out of our situation.  But when God offers to help us we need to be quiet, quit offering to help Him, and quit giving Him advice.  If we just move ourselves out of the way He is perfectly capable of lifting us out of the trash can.  All we need to do is move ourselves…move our pride that says we can do it all ourselves…out of the way.  Then God will give us the gift of peace He has promised us and throw our fear and worry into the trashcan.