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not a clue, as usual


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The Coming of Peace

peace on earthIt’s an interesting paradox that the ability to give something away ultimately gives you mastery of that thing. So to claim a mastery over fear, you have to stop clutching your fears so closely to your heart. Not a simple task, to be sure, but I am finding my grip loosening on all the things that cause me fear and anxiety through simple acts of obedience.

There have been major upheavals this past year in my church and at my job at that church. It has left me feeling anxious, a bit scared and a lot confused. But my prayer for the past six months has been, “Lead me on, Lord, I will follow”. This is a very scary prayer because He will lead you to where you need to be which is not usually where you want to be. Yet, through obedience I have allowed God to lead me to an unlikely new church home and found that I have a new found ability to roll with all the uncertainties of changing job responsibilities. Lately, I have been experiencing peace that has allowed me to let go of all the fears and anxiety that I had been holding onto. I’m not sure when this sense of peace started, but I am living out what is described in Philippians 4:7, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Though the same issues surround me, I am coping much better simply because I asked God to lead me. I did not ask for the problems to be solved, just for the strength to follow and peace entered into the picture.

Peace often feels like a distant dream that we will spend our lives reaching for. The world that we live in has always been a cause for anxiety and always will be. Can you imagine the fears and doubts felt by Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi 2,000 years ago? The job before each of them was daunting.

An unwed motherjesus_mary_joseph

A man told to take in that unwed mother

shepherds-1Illiterate peasants told to deliver a grand message

Wealthy kings told to cross a dangerous desert.

All were being asked to leave their comfort zones, and they all did. Relying only their obedience to God through faith, they changed the world in those long ago years. And in their obedience, they found peace. Considering their circumstances, I can only think that they must have been as surprised by the appearance of peace in their lives as I have been. This is a peace that has the ability to steady knocking knees and shaking hands, allowing you to move forward into an unknown future.

Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6 and promises to give that peace away freely (John 14:27) to all who ask for His leadership in their lives. Your fears and doubts will still be there. His peace helps you to gain mastery of them and in that process – let go of what you once held, mistakenly thinking that those fears were security for you.

But even with an inner peace that is spreading within me, where do I see the peace of Christ in the world today? Can we have peace in a world at war? Or in a life in turmoil, in hurting hearts or misspent lives? Yes. That peace is available to all through that little baby born in Bethlehem. I’ve found that the more that I trust Him, the more I am able to be obedient; the more I ask for guidance, the closer I am able to follow and do it all with a growing sense of His peace. I am not saying that I have become a better person (not even close!) but I have become a more dependent (upon God) person.star

We all struggle but as you continue to struggle through this fallen world, reach for Christ and feel that inflow of peace. Let that peace be like a river (Isaiah 48:18) that flows over all the rocks in our riverbed and gives us a smooth surface to float on.

This is true Peace that will give you mastery to let go of all the anxieties that come with the problems of our lives.

True Peace gives you the ability to give away the things that fear made you clutch so tightly – old habits, prejudices and prideful attitudes.

Peace in our hearts will lead us to peace with our world.

Peace while here on earth comes from peace with God.

This is the essence of Peace.

peace of Christ

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A Glimmer of Hope

hopeBetween the Old and New Testament stretch four hundred years of uncomfortable silence. During that time, Isaiah’s words would have brought the first inkling of the idea of Hope.

The people walking in darkness

Have seen a great light;

On those living in the land of the shadow of death

A light has dawned.

Isaiah9:2

This is the beginning of hope; that first glimmer of the idea of a Savior for all people. It would have been a foreign thought, though. When you hope in human terms, it starts very small. Just a flickering of light in your dark surroundings. Only if the situation improves will that flicker grow steady and brighter.

But hope, from God’s perspective, bursts onto the scene with “a great light”. What I love about this verse is that it shows the sheer size of Godly hope with a God who has even the scariest of situations in already in hand and will walk with you through whatever fears, doubts, sorrow or anxiety you may be facing.

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The darkness must come first in order for hope to shine against it. Our trials become a mere backdrop for God to work. Hope appears in the midst of darkness and gives us a target to aim for, a goal to strive for. It forms itself into an anchor that you can cling to.

This is the essence of Hope.

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Advent 2017 – week one


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Sharing the Luck

 

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Walking through the woods last week, my friend and I came across some 4 leaf clovers. I considered myself to be extremely lucky but she told me that it’s only lucky if you give it away to someone else.

“Oh man”, I thought, “Christianity in a nutshell”.

We may not always live like it but being a Christ follower means that we have been freely given grace, mercy, forgiveness and most of all love. Yet, what is it worth if you hoard those things and tuck them away only for yourself?

He gives us grace – a gift of life eternal20171001_114735

He gives us mercy – no punishment for repentant sin

He gives us forgiveness – He’s not going to keep bringing up past hurts (like I tend to do)

He gives us love – a love without strings attached, wider than the sky and deeper than the ocean

But there is a catch. If you have been forgiven, forgive others. If you have received mercy, extend it to others. If you have experienced grace, give others a chance to experience grace. Then, and only then will you have the chance, maybe even the right, to tell others about God’s unending grace, mercy and forgiveness that is so beyond our feeble human limits.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

 John 15:13

And love…..did I forget love? No, it’s just that it is the hardest one to live out in our society. Can I love the one with the gun in a high rise window, or the one driving a truck on a crowded street or the one in the pilot’s seat of the jet streaking towards a tower housing multiple offices and thousands of employees?

Too much to ask?  Let’s bring it down a bit. Can I love my coworker whose snippy comments are driving me crazy? How about the one loud mouth relative who has the capacity to ruin every family gathering and often does? Can I still reach out in friendship to the person down the street who plastered his yard with political slogans last election year that I disagreed with? It’s not going to be easy but He tells me that with His help, it is possible.

And so I keep trying.

I will share the next four leaf clover I find so I can share that luck. But every day I can share love. Whether it is accepted or not, I can share love. And grace, and mercy and forgiveness, but most of all love.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:1-2

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a touch of grace – finding beauty even on a rainy, foggy day


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Step Boldly

I’ve been doing some research about the German pastor/author Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a courageous man who lived during a very dark time in history. His resistance to the Nazi party in Germany during WWII eventually led to his execution just weeks before the war ended. As I leafed through his writings, I found this quote,

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“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin, than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

Those words got me thinking. The Old Testament is all about following the rules. God lays out the Ten Commandments and tells his people to obey. Today, I think most Christians will tell you (myself included) that we are grateful that the Lord spelled it out so completely for us in Exodus 20. It’s a much needed roadmap to help us avoid all the pitfalls of this world. By the time that Jesus shows up in the New Testament, mankind is ready for the next step.

Jesus replied: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

matthew 22.39

This is really the same as the first commandment in Exodus 20:3. Jesus is quoting directly from both Deuteronomy and Leviticus but his words reach beyond telling us what not to do and tell us how to “do”. He tells us to love. That verb “love” resonates through all of Jesus’ teachings.

“Love one another”

“love your neighbor”

“love as I do”

It takes us from how to avoid sin and jumps into how to live lovingly. It shows us the steps from “do not” to “do”.

Anyone who has experienced love can tell you it is not easy. It can be messy, painful, exasperating, joyous, uplifting and turn your world upside down crazy. It is the most difficult command to follow because it encompasses all the other commands. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer was able to cut right through that and instead of cautioning us to watch our steps, he is encouraging us to step boldly.

In both the Old and New Testament we find that God never stopped at just listing the things that we shouldn’t do. God has always instructed, admonished and often has to push us into action. Following Christ has always been more about what you do than the things that you don’t do.

 

 

I’ll just leave you with this favorite verse of mine:

He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Micah 6 8

 

 

 

 

 


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To Be Led by You

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It’s a simple prayer really

I’m not asking for power or wealth

Not even asking for wisdom or health

Just asking to be led by You

 

Of all the things that I think I need

I just need to ask for eyes that can see

And hands and feet to follow faithfully

And just let me by led by You

 

I wish I could live in a world at peace

But I can’t even find peace in my heart

Feeling in need of a little head start

In just being led by You

 

Maybe I just take a single stepp1010195

then someone else comes along

We’re walking your path and humming your song

Just learning to be led by You

 

There are those days when I dare to think bigger

I ask that the guns be laid down

I ask that a cure for pain be found

I just want to be led by You

 

Those are the days that I realizep1010205

War will not stop because of a president’s hand

An executive order won’t heal the land

But only when we let ourselves by led by You

 

So, today here’s what I’ll pray

Lord, take my anger and pride and fear

those things that get in the way and hold me here

And I cannot be led by You

 

Take me from valleys shadowed by doubts

And take me to a shining hilltop place

Where I can run through rivers of grace

And only then be led by You

 

Just let me be led by You.

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a fair question

5096_1197313732195_1677986_nO LORD, what is man that you care for him,

The son of man that you think of him?

Psalm 144:3

A fair question.

Why does God care about us? I know that theologians can (and have) gone on and on about this but the answer is simply that He loves us. I wish I could state it more eloquently. I wish I had the beautifully poetic words that would make the notion of such a love come to life for you. But, honestly, there is no need to complicate things. God is love and He loves his creation.

That’s it – a pure simple truth.

Man is like a breath

His days are like a fleeting shadow

Psalm 144:4

Compared to God’s greatness, we are nothing

He loves us anyway

Our time on earth is momentary

He notices us anyway

Our foolish waywardness has to be frustrating

He shows us a true Way

Our speeches and written words (like this) must be entertaining

He listens anyway

And responds by pointing us to the Word – His Son

Why does He care?

He simply does.

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Anchored in a Foreign Land

How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? Psalm 137:4

 

I hear it all the time these days. People are asking how our country could have fallen into this quagmire of conflicting ideologies that have triggered such hate and fear. Whether you are on the right or left of the political fence, confusion reigns as finger pointing spreads the blame and shame.

So how do Christians respond?

Maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about responding to the world. Truth is, we need only respond to our God who is in control of this upside down world. If we can do that, I think we would find that our actions and words would spring from love and compassion rather than knee-jerk reactionary confrontations with the world we live in.

We may feel that we live in a foreign land, one that does not recognize Christian tenets but that would be short-sighted of us. God’s fingerprints are all over this world and its inhabitants. We sometimes miss what is right in front of us because we are so overwhelmed by the anger on social media feeds fueled by often biased news reporting. No wonder the land seems so foreign to us.

So here’s the best advice I can think of; take it or leave it.

anchorAnchor your life in both heavenly and earthly realms. Your faith must be built and daily
nourished by prayer and the Scriptures. This provides that all- important “hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19) that gives you an open avenue of two-way communication with God. Secondly, do not neglect the earthly anchors God has placed in your life to keep you grounded. Work to protect the relationships you have with your family and friends who love you, will pray for you, will trust you and allow you to trust them. Jesus said it all when he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Finally, and this may seem contradictory, but remember that this is not your home. On the deepest level this is a foreign land; for we are spiritual creatures who will only come into our fullness when we enter into that next realm. In the meantime we have the Holy Spirit who indwells us and keeps us tethered to each world. We may at times feel adrift but we are never really drifting. We are always within reach of eternity even while grappling with a fallen world.

Go ahead and sing the songs of the LORD! Sing them with words of love, joy and peace. Sing them with actions that display the patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22,23) that comes from the Spirit within, the Father above and a Savior who bridges that gap for us.

The land may feel foreign but it’s only temporary and even the temporary can be very beautiful in its fragility.blue-sky-w-rainbow