Monday, September 24, 2012

Peace...Part 2

So this week we have a special speaker at Rock Island First Nazarene. Norm Moore. Gifted speaker, amazing heart for the Lord. We would drive great distances to hear him, so to have him at our home church is a gift. I don't know what he spoke of Sunday morning - I was with the kids learning more about choices, sin and God's Epic story. But last night our focus was on Isaiah 9:6b

 "and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, PRINCE OF PEACE."

Don't you just love it when God is talking with someone else about the same things He keeps whispering in your ear? Ya me too. It really is amazing to me to know and see God work like that. The following is my breakdown but not an outline, or a word for word account. It reflects what God is speaking to me as I process thru the seeds that were planted.

So Pastor Moore lead off with these questions: 1) Is there peace in your heart? 2) Is there peace in your mind? 3) Is there peace in your home? 4) Is there peace in your church?

"Peace I leave with you, MY peace I give to 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

1) Peace in my heart - are things settled correctly between God and me?
2) Peace in my mind - who's voice do I hear?  Do voices from my broken past and lies of the devil drowned out the truth my heavenly Father speaks to me now?
3) Peace in my home - Well, there are people who live there besides me. They think their own thoughts, make their own choices, and have their own ya, peace at home is sometimes problematic.
4) Peace in my church - Again, its a church filled with people. You've heard the saying "where two or more are gathered there is conflict".  The same types of people you have at your church, we have at ours. We are human. We are flawed. We are a group of people trying to figure out how to journey together toward deeper relationship with God, but we are not perfect. Sometimes we forget that we are all part of the same body - and no part was meant to function alone. But our love runs deep, for God and for each other.
Then Pastor Moore transitioned to what I will call peace breakers, peace stealers, peace inhibitors. It's not pretty. The bolded words are his, what follows is my application of what he said.

Unconfessed Sin - actions, thoughts, attitudes. Where there is unconfessed sin there is not peace.
Unsurrendered will - when I usurp my authority, plans or priorities over Gods there is not peace.
Unforgiveness of self and others - when my hard heart says to my stubborn mind that my sins against God or others sins against me (or the ones I love) are too big for the cleansing, healing, restoring power of the Blood of Jesus Christ - there is not peace.
Grudges and the desire for vindication or revenge - when I hold my desire to "settle things" over God's ability to handle things in His way and in His time, there is not peace.
Selfishness - When my desire for my way above the needs of others or the desire of God determines my actions, attitudes, conversations and thoughts, there is not peace.
Pride - When my ego prevents me from apologizing, or accepting anther's apology, there is no peace.

Pastor Moore also had us practice saying a few phrases "I am sorry. I was wrong. I don't have to have my own way. Please forgive me."

Jehovah Shalom - the God of Peace; Jesus Christ - the Prince of Peace.
The God of Peace does His part - He has extended Himself to me and He is Peace.
The Prince of Peace - Well, He wants me to do my part.

I can choose if my heart is troubled.  I can choose if I am dismayed. I can choose if I allow things to creep into the depths of who I am and become peace stealers, peace breakers and peace inhibitors. This may require me to offer some sincere apologies and seek forgiveness of God and others. This may require me to reconcile with God the truth that some people will never admit their fault or offer an apology - and yet I must still forgive. It's not about releasing them. It's about releasing me, and stepping back into the stream of peace - true peace - that only God can provide.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Nothing Changed But Me

So this past evening can only be described as one of those moments were God clearly said to me OK - WATCH THIS - PAY ATTENTION, WE HAVE STUFF TO TAKE CARE OF MY DEAR DAUGHTER.

The last couple of weeks have been stacked full of some of the longest and most stress and conflict prone days I have faced in quite a long time. I sent out an email that ended "pray for me please, it's been a long day". The instant reply was "it's only 10:15am." I wasn't really sure that God was paying much attention so I decided to fill Him in on the glorious details that He may have missed. I am hormonal. I am sleep deprived (Matt's working midnights - so neither of us are sleeping well) There is tooth drama, family health concerns, people issues, car problems. My days are not filled with the things we in the average chick flick. No music in the background, no pathway of rose petals, just real life with 19 loads of dirty laundry and dishes that don't wash themselves. My journey is full of people who are sometimes just like me. They are fighting, kicking and running themselves ragged just trying to keep their heads above the watery complications of life, depending on the strength of self instead of the provision of God. And all of their splashing and thrashing is making waves that are intensifying the rocking my own cute little boat.

Today I began my assigned reading  for the next 2 weeks in a study group that has just started to "Journey thru the Book of James". Since I am the one that gave the homework, I knew what it was - the second half of the first chapter. You know the "quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry for mans anger does not bring about the righteousness God desires" part. Then as part of our preparation for spiritual revival, there was corporate prayer at the church this evening.  Prayer is foundational, fundamental and not optional in the life a Jesus follower. And let me tell you we prayed... we cried out to God to dwell in our hearts; we sought God's power and wisdom and revelation; we petitioned for our church family to grasp how wide and long and and high and deep is the love of Jesus and to be rooted and established in His love; we hunger to know His love that surpasses knowledge and to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:13-19) We prayed for our church, for our leaders, for our family and our community. And God said to me "Give me that person, that problem, that worry. I got it. Be filled with my love, my power, my indwelling."  When God's love fills my heart, my mind, my soul - there is no room for anger, fear or doubt. For me there was Peace, a calm that only God could provide. Nothing had changed - except me.

Then I came home, did the wrap up the night thing, made Matt's dinner and sent him off to work. Said goodnight to the boys in stages, as they each made the long treck from the TV or computer to the bedroom. Started the dishwasher, returned a few emails, shuffled the 12th or perhaps the 13th load of laundry for the day and then finally did what I should have done first thing this morning. With no excuses left, no chores or children calling my name, I turned off the noise of the day and opened up my personal study on the names of God. Today's name - which I read for the first time tonight is Jehovah Shalom - My God is Peace! The note says "not a peace found in any situation, but in the person hood of God. Not the absence of conflict but the relationship I have with God in the midst of trials, difficulties or hard times."

Well look at that. He did know. My God is the God of Peace. This is a promise and a statement of fact. A unique name of God given to Gideon in the midst of a faith changing moment. Gideon had chosen to set conventional wisdom aside and fully surrender to the will and way of God. Moreover, God's way did not fit nicely into a predictable pattern of conflict resolution or cost/benefit analysis. And He didn't wave a magic wand and poof the the issues that Gideon faced away - there was real work to be done, but it was God's work done God's way. So I wont sit around and wait for God to wave some random magic wand in my direction either. Problems will continue to roll my direction from time to time, unexpected hardship will creep up. But at the end of the day I know that regardless of how wind whipped and tossed around I feel, God is holding me safely in His hands;there is love; I am calm;there is peace; He is my peace.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Chains Are Gone...

The Lord says: "Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, (Jehovah M'Kaddesh) who makes you holy."
 (Leviticus 20:7-8)

"My chains are gone, I've been set free. My God and Savior has ransomed me. And like flood His mercies reign. Unending love, amazing grace."

Jehovah M'Kaddesh - God who sanctifies. With this name of God, I can boldly declare that I AM SET FREE. The chains and bondage of sin's power are broken and life with a pure heart by the power of indwelling of the Holy Spirit is possible.

 There is no sin that is stronger than the power of God. No habit, no addiction, no past wrong that stains too dark for the blood of Jesus Christ to wash clean. There is no inner struggle, no emotional or mental wound that is too deep for God to be able to heal. God wants to clean up my heart, make it like His, transform me from the inside out and use me for His purpose. And when God forgives, heals and restores, He does it fully, completely and permanently. But I have to do my part. It requires my full surrender to His power, authority and will. God is a gentleman. He will never force Himself on me. He doesn't manipulate. Jesus freely and fully has provided salvation - forgiveness of my sins. Now, God calls me to something more - full acceptance of and surrender to His Lordship. God wants everything. My dreams, my fears, my failures. My relationships, my future, my finances. Nothing hidden, nothing held back.

To claim God as sanctifier, to ask Him to fill the heart, soul, mind, spirit and body of a believer fully and completely for forever is a moment.  The moment a believer completely surrenders to God everything that is, was or ever will can for some be highly emotional. For others, it is a choice, a logical next step in the Christian journey that focuses on the understanding that this sanctification is something God desires for all of His children.

To claim God as sanctifier is also a lifelong process of obedience and relationship. God desires for the process to continue into eternity. Staying in His will, staying under His authority, continuing to give to Him all of those little parts of me and my life that I want to hold onto - it's a day by day choice.  Each day I choose. Today do I stay close to God? Today do I live my life by His standard? Today do I seek first His kingdom, His righteousness, His will? Today do I believe that His way is not just better than mine, but that His way is the only way?

Jehovah M'Kaddesh - today I call on you to continue to sanctify my life. I give to you my husband - who you gave to me. I give to you my children - because they are yours, and my love for them pales in comparison to yours. I give you my family - and I ask you God to be undeniable real in their lives today. I surrender to you the details of my day - I have a plan, but God I want to seek your purpose. Don't let me miss your voice God. Amen

Friday, September 7, 2012

50 Shades of . . . Sin

Jehovah Tsidkenu - God our Righteousness

But what does that mean for me?  Merriam Webster defines righteousness as acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin. Ok - that is more workable but I'm still not really there. So I'll just review what I know about the righteousness of God (Jehovah Tsidkenu).

 I live in a world that says "all things are subjective and there is not clear right or wrong", and thus it is usually the popular opinion of the culture and or my government that sets standards of rightness or wrongness. These are moral laws, and they can shift. Shades of Sin. Shades of right, degrees of wrong. There is a difference between stealing an apple to feed your hungry child and embezzling your companies retirement fund.  To abuse an animal is wrong and you will face heavy fines and jail time, but to abort a child is not - it's considered a health care choice. My employer must pay me a fair wage for the time I spend at work; but making a few personal calls, commenting on a few face book posts, updating my fantasy football stats or march madness brackets, scanning Craig's list, amazon, and YouTube - just to clear my mind a bit and refocus - well, that doesn't hurt anybody. I don't call it "cheating" when google or my best friend helps me write a paper or finish my homework - its cooperative learning. And EVERYONE knows it's only speeding if there is a cop with a radar gun on the road I take to work!

Yet, I know that God sets the standard for all of His creation, and His standards are timeless and unfaltering. This is divine law - God's law - the highest and most holy standard. God's righteousness is directly linked to His holiness. Righteousness is the behavior that follows holiness. But more than that it is a result of the way that my relationship with God impacts and alters me from the inside out. I can fake how I act on the outside, but I cannot fake who I am on the inside. Apart from God, my character will never reflect His holiness. Righteousness is a gift extended to me from God. By grace thru faith I am saved - it's a gift from God to me - and it's not at all about me - so there is no room for me to brag. God extends His forgiveness to me - Jesus bridges the gap and covers all that was wrong and broken, all that separated me from God.  Everything God has ever done or ever will do is fully and completely right and righteous. God is always faithful to His standard of holiness. He doesn't discriminate. He doesn't excuse "wrong" for the greater "right." 

And you God are calling me. You want my heart to be like yours. You want our relationship to be deep and personal. The more people spend time with me, the more I want them to see you God. Continue to do your work in me - from the inside out.