Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peace...

 
      I sat in the chair and watched the snow fall outside. As the world grew whiter and whiter, the quiet wrapped me in a warm blanket of tranquility. Snow can be so stilling, peaceful...when you're watching it from the inside. I can't help but think about how true this can be of life too.  Life can be peaceful depending on what vantage point you are viewing it from.

   Outside on that snowy day, cars got into accidents. Hurried people awoke to driveways that needed clearing and wind shields that needed scraping. They did their best to get to work without sliding all over the roads. Because I was sitting on the inside, the change in the weather didn't effect me. Where you position yourself can greatly effect your ability to have peace.

     There is a verse in Micah that speaks to this. It reads, "This One will be our peace."  The "One" it speaks of is Jesus. If we position ourselves in Christ... Jesus will be our peace.

  I set out to write about peace a week ago but couldn't finish. The words just weren't fitting together at the time with the message God was communicating to my heart. Today, after I had written two paragraphs I received a phone call that a loved one's test results were in. The doctor told my mother that if what they saw on her chest x-ray was of concern, he would want to speak to her in person. If what they saw was just scar tissue as initially suspected, then she would simply receive a phone call. The wobble of her voice on the other end of the phone...gave away the answer. So here I sat, in the middle of writing about peace...feeling anything but peaceful.

   I took a break and shoved the thoughts aside to make dinner, clean dishes, and do laundry. After all, how does one write about peace at a time like this? How can you find peace in "This One" when you find yourself frustrated with Him? Where is peace when the suffering has been long, it breaks you to watch it, and you can't bear the thought of more possibly being on the way? Where is "This One" in the middle of all of this?

  The thought comes ever so slowly, and only after I have expressed my thoughts and feelings to Him...that perhaps He is in the same place He was when Peter was about to be sifted in Luke 22:32. Jesus (also known as "This One") tells Peter who is about to be sifted, "But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."  Jesus could be preparing the way for us through this next trial by laying the ground work of prayer. This One loves us all just as much as He loved Peter. He loves us enough to intercede for us. Romans 8:34 says this, " Christ Jesus who died- more than that, who is raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." These verses begin grab a hold of my heart and become the beginnings of my vantage point.

   Life can be peaceful depending on what vantage point you are viewing it from. Where you position yourself can greatly effect your ability to have peace. As I turn these thoughts over and over in my mind I receive a text from my mom. " God is in control. Gotta remember that!"  She has already positioned herself. From her vantage point she has peace.

       I hold on tightly to this thought today, that if I position myself in Jesus I will have peace. If my vantage point in life comes from surrender, resting in the palm of His hand...then I will be wrapped in tranquility. I will have peace no matter what happens to the ones I love, or what takes place in the world around me.













Thursday, November 10, 2016

Some Post Election Thoughts...

      There was no peace to be found the day after the election. Truth is, there hasn't been peace since it started. The rain falling from the skies, the lack of sunshine...it's as if the earth itself was mourning. Mourning the hurt, mourning the hate, mourning the judgment, and mourning the fear that we have heaped upon each other. We are still very much a nation divided and what's worse...the Body of Christ is just as divided.

     For months we've behaved like the rest of the world...beating each other with our words and our opinions. We've judged each other over who we were going to vote for...each claiming the other side wasn't truly following Christ because of who they aligned themselves with. Don't think for a second that choosing not to vote, made a way of escape from scrutiny. Not at all... not voting just meant you were considered  un- American or stupid.

     Some of us are cleaning out our friends list on social media. Others no longer want to hear about God. A few are looking for jobs and homes in Canada. Me...I've been helping my sixteen year old daughter sift through how she is going to face those she respects in the faith...that voted for the candidate she disagreed most with, without judging them. I'm working from the premise that we've all been duped.

   We've fallen right into Satan's trap. We've been so caught up in the political machine, so focused on what divides us, and so selfishly obsessed with preserving our own freedoms that we no longer resemble our Savior...the Savior who laid down His life. We fight with each other because we are unwilling to lay down our own lives. It's time that we stop trying to find our peace in this world, stop looking to political leaders to turn the hearts of a nation, and start living like this world is not our home. It's time to live like we answer to a higher Authority. It's time that our love for Christ is stronger than our frustrations and disagreements with each other. Our love for Him should be what defines us, overflowing and spilling out into a hurt, angry, divided, scared, and broken world. It should be what draws them in to meet the Savior, the lover of their souls. Our love for Him should be the porch light in the pitch black of night that we leave on for the prodigals, so that they can find their way home.

     There are several people that I love who are prodigals. Right now they are falling apart at the seams over the words and the behaviors of Christians during this election. Do you know what led them down the road of walking away from God and leaving the church to begin with? It was the Body of Christ. The judgment, the knit-picking, the molds they were expected to fit in had all become too much. They could no longer handle the hypocrisy and the lack of love. These are the same behaviors that have been made manifest among Christians during this election, and have only further cemented the idea that these prodigals can never feel at home in a church again.  If we don't let God's unconditional love get a solid grip on us so that it permeates everything we say and do consistently, no one will take the gospel message seriously. Not only that, but we will continue to hurt and destroy each other with our judgments which will only serve to make for more prodigals. So, how do we do this? How do we stop stepping into Satan's divisive traps? How do we keep from being duped?

 We love one another.

   We love one another with the same love that Christ has loved us. He loved us when we were wrong and didn't know it. He loved us in our ugliest most sinful moments. He loved us in the midst of our stubbornness and pride. He loved us in our depravity. He loved us even when we were blind to the truth.  He loved us even though we did nothing to deserve it. This is how He wants us to love each other. This is how we keep from falling into Satan's divisive traps. This is how we keep from being duped. This is how we stop producing more prodigals. " A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

   "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." By this. Not by who you voted for. Not by what policies you are against. By your love for one another. This is our testimony but during this election we've lost it. It's time Church. It's time to rise up and take it back. We don't need to argue over policies and politics. We live in this world, but it is only our temporary home. We belong to Christ and our future with Him is so much brighter than anything this world has to offer. Stop fighting so hard for the things of this life and start fighting hard to love one another! This is what will win souls, heal hearts, and transform lives. This is what defines us as His!

   I end with a question and a challenge. Who do you belong to? Prove it with your love!
 


 

   

 

   
 
 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dry Bones...

     "The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold,there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD." Ezekiel 37: 1-6

    This passage has captivated my heart and mind for well over a month now. It all started with a song written by Lauren Daigle. She sings these words, "As we call out to dry bones come alive, come alive. We call out to dead hearts come alive, come alive. Up out of the ashes let us see an army rise. We call out to dry bones come alive."  As I listened to it, I couldn't help but ask God how do I call out to dry bones to come alive?  In my search for an answer, I found this passage in Ezekiel. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be Ezekiel?! 

     God takes him out and sets him in the middle of a valley full of very dry bones and then asks him if those same bones can live. Ezekiel  says, "Lord God, You know."  I wonder if it was a reverent remark to holy God, or a shoulder shrugging," if they can it's beyond me" remark. It's moments like these that I wish I could hear tone of voice when I read my Bible. I can only imagine how impossible those bones looked scattered everywhere...how utterly void of life or any hope of ever having life take hold of them again, they looked... I know people who look like this. 

   People whose relationships with God were once vibrant. People who used to serve Christ with reckless abandon, but now spend their time running as far away from Him as they can. I believe we all know people who fit this description. The question is do we care or have we given up? If God were to ask us, whether or not we thought there was any hope of them having a vibrant and healthy relationship with Him again would we say "Lord God, You know." with hope? Would He hear just the slightest glimmer of faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen...in our voice? Or...would He see our shoulders shrug, witness the discouragement on our face, and know that we had given up hope even before we could verbalize our answer to the question? 

    There are moments when I fit into the shoulder shrugging category. Perhaps you do too. Maybe like me, you've been praying for, encouraging, and running after those who are running away from Him. Still, you see no sign of change. Don't give up! Remember that God specializes in the impossible. He specializes in bringing new life out of death...just like He did with the dry bones in Ezekiel.  

     "So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’ So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army." (Ezekiel 37:7-10) Just when it seemed the dry bones were going to remain lifeless, God stepped in. There are two things that have caught my attention here. First, God doesn't bring them to life all at once. He makes them come together, then He adds sinews, next flesh grows, then skin, and finally He breathes into them. He could have just done it all at once. Instead, He built one thing upon another until they were once again made whole and given life. Second, God enlists Ezekiel's help. He didn't need Ezekiel to prophesy in order to bring the dry bones to life. He required it. I believe there is a lot that I can learn from this as I pray for the ones I love who are running away from God. 

   When I pray, I want God to act instantly. As months and years go by, and the prodigals I am praying for show no sign of returning it can easily appear as though God is doing nothing. The truth is that He is busy building one thing upon another until they are made whole again. See, I want the end result. I want them to enjoy a vibrant, life-giving, joy-filled, and loving relationship with Christ- just like they used to. God knows that in order for this to happen and for it to be sustainable, healing has to start at the bone level. Then it must be built upon until finally He can breathe new life in them again. What good would it do to make them whole on the outside, if they aren't whole or structurally sound on the inside? It would be no different than breathing life into those dry bones in Ezekiel but neglecting to add sinews and skin! 

  I also need to speak life just like Ezekiel spoke life. This involves a few important things. When I pray, I need to pray in faith believing that God is in the process of bringing life. If I am given the opportunity to speak anything at all to the prodigal, they must only be words that God gives me. Ezekiel only spoke what God told him to say and God's words brought life. Finally, the way I live my life needs to call out to dry bones so that they will desire life. God tells Ezekiel to say, " O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD." No one will listen to me speak the words God gives me if I am not already living them. They won't hold any weight! 

     I don't know about you, but I want my words to hold weight.  I want my relationship with Christ, my love for Him, and the way I love others to breathe life into every dry and thirsty soul that I come in contact with. People are looking for what we say to match up with what we do. If I say I follow Christ, then my words and my actions need to match His seamlessly. We live in a time when the smallest amount of hypocrisy will be used as a tool in Satan's hands to give those who are running away from God an excuse to run faster and farther. I believe that the best way to call out to dry bones to come alive, is to let Christ's life within me speak. 

    We live in a world full of very dry bones. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to give up? Or are we going to follow Christ so closely, love Him so dearly, and love others the way He loves... so effectively that our lives call out to dry bones and stir up a desire in them to come alive? Will we like Ezekiel, faithfully speak only the life giving words God gives us both in person and in prayer?  It's a tall order especially in the tough times we live in. Are you up for the challenge? Let's look ahead in faith and believe that we like Ezekiel, will see and army rise!