Tag Archives: peace

Outsiders on the Inside

16 Aug

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Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:1-2

 

The Christians Peter wrote to were outsiders, scattered all over the Roman Empire, not clustered together in Jerusalem. Outsiders, especially in the First Century lived at the bottom of society. If they had a job it was most likely feeding pigs or washing feet. Some were probably beaten, others had their possessions confiscated, and most likely anyone trying to climb socially avoided them altogether.

These undesirables focused not outwardly, but on their relationship with God. While they saw the haves and the standard of living they enjoyed from the outside, they saw life from the inside of the Kingdom! These believers knew the sanctifying work of the Spirit and the regenerating power of Jesus’ blood.

And they possessed grace and peace – possessions of which those around them knew very little.

The mathematical word multiplied means an abundant increase in something that exists already. Elementary math students know that zero cannot be a multiplier. In other words, zero can’t be reproduced into two or three (or any other number of) piles. It literally doesn’t compute. In order for grace and peace to be multiplied to the Christians Peter addressed, by definition they must already possess them to some degree. In this introduction of his first letter, Peter prays that God will multiply, bestow a many-fold increase in, the amount they already have.

Peter knew what it was to be harassed– and he knew how much greater the grace and peace of God were compared to the life’s difficulties. He reminds his readers that the grace and peace of Jesus do not simply negate the hard stuff of life, they exponentially surpass it.

Abundance is a God-sized concept. He lavishes blessings like grace and peace on us until they fill and overflow our finite containers, spilling over onto those around us.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Put all the hard stuff of you life in one place in your head. Or make an actual list. Include the unfair, as well as things you deserve, that hurt and make life difficult.

Now, in your heart gather up what you have in Christ, all of which you (and I) don’t deserve: grace, peace, forgiveness, redemption, joy, eternal life, inheritance with Christ, a new heart…

Now compare lists.

The troubles we have in this world don’t come close to what we have in Christ. I’m ready to worship God now; I don’t have to wait for Sunday!

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In and Out

7 Dec

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My eyelids were closing.

“Are you up?” my son whispered through the crack at my bedroom door.

Any parent of a teen recognizes this phrase as the I-need-to-talk signal. It almost never comes when I’m fresh in the morning, or after dinner. The invitation comes when I’m spent.

Wisely, I replied, “Sure. What’s up?” and there on my bed a tale begins to unfold through the chink in the aloof adolescent facade. A heart-journey with twists down dirt trails with me following in search of clarity. (I get that way when I’m tired.) The ins and outs of the story start accumulating, revealing what’s hidden. Grateful for polysyllabic communication, I’m now wide awake.

———-

The story had been told along the paths and around life events since the beginning. Waiting children of Abraham knew the details well. On the night God worked his way through the birth canal, no one needed more of the story. They, we, needed his heart.

The heavenly host wasted no time. No declaration of histories and prophecies– just his heart:

Glory to God in the highest
And on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased. Luke 2:14

God’s glory and man’s peace. The essence of Immanuel.

God shrouded himself in mortal flesh and blood, fitted his immense omnipresence into an infant that opened a virgin’s womb, for the two foundational aspects of the universe that were compromised when the first Adam let sin into the Garden.

Adam and Eve exchanged God’s glory for their own superiority, and their peace evaporated before the first swallow of the forbidden fruit.

And there was no going back.

The quest for peace began in the Garden. Adam and Eve knew true peace– which made the loss that much more heart-breaking.

But there was going forward.

Jesus’ birth announcement was that much more wonderful because of what had been lost! PEACE has returned!

What is peace?
The Greek word in this passage, eirene means: one, peace, quietness, rest, set at one again.(1) The comparable word in the Old Testament, shalom, has a similar meaning: peace, completeness, prosperity, and welfare...well-being, welfare or safety of an individual or a group. (2) Well-being and wholeness show up in all the resources I consulted.

This is the peace declared by the angels when Messiah entered into humanity– restoration of what was destroyed in the Garden, God’s heart-intention revealed.

At the birth of God’s Son, heaven could no longer contain the message, giving the shepherds who heard the heavenly host (and us) God’s clear meaning immediately. God’s Christmas gift to the world is shalom peace. Not the kind the world gives, dependent on the intentions of a corrupted world, but perfect peace given by our flawless Creator who is Shalom Peace.

This is the same peace Jesus prayed for his disciples before he went out to the cross, what he left with his disciples.

Peace was his gift as he came into the world and when he went out of it. The journey toward God leads down the trail to his heart, our Peace.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

The craziness that is the Western Christmas season can be anything but peaceful – especially for church worship leaders and teams. What does his declaration of peace mean in our context? How can I have this peace amidst the added rehearsals and productions that are performed to share this peace with the world?

Perhaps more than any other time of the year, making time to spend with our Peace, our Savior, is crucial to our interaction with Him… and with the people who are also harried whom we lead in worshiping our Peace.

There is more at stake here than we realize.

———-

1. Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, 1515. εἰρήνη ĕirēnē.
2. Wikipedia Shalom“.

Peace for Failure

27 Apr

Pounce bw

The environmental buzz word in the 1970’s was ecology. Decades of do-as-we-will left rivers and lakes polluted, landfills oozing nastiness, and roadsides sprinkled with trash.

I convinced four girlfriends to forego our social club to pitch-in and help eradicate this evil. Snoopy and Johnny Horizon motivated us. We sent for the Clean Up America kit, learned the song, and The Litter Gitters took on trash.

Pogo was another champion for ecology. Pogo’s creator, Walt Kelly tweaked Commodore Perry’s victory statement at the Battle of Lake Erie:
“We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”pogo_earthdayYesterday I ran into this quote twice. I take notice of freaky repetition like that.

The first time was in the morning while I was reading John 16:31-33. The second was while reading Invitation to a Journey, by M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. late last night.

John 16:31-33

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The context for John 16 is after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and before his arrest that night in the garden. Jesus let the disciples know ahead of time that they would all desert him. He didn’t scold. He didn’t shame them. In fact, the reason he brought it up was to encourage them.

He tells them these things so in him they may have peace. PEACE.

Jesus says that he knows they (we) are going to fail, but that it’s going to alright.

He doesn’t excuse their abandonment (sin), but before it even happens, he lets them (us) know there is grace for failure.

As I contemplated all this, Pogo’s quote came to mind. (More like crashed into my thoughts with combat boots on, actually.) Often, I am my worst enemy. Especially when I hang on to my failure when Jesus has extended grace.

Mulholland’s use of Pogo’s quote explains further (pages 37-38, emphasis mine):

If, indeed, the work of God’s formation in us is the process of conforming us to the image of Christ, obviously it’s going to take place at the points where we are not yet conformed to that image. This means that one of the first dynamics of holistic spiritual formation will be confrontation. Through some channel– the Scripture, worship, a word of proclamation, the agency of an unbeliever– the Spirit of God may probe some area in which we are not conformed to the image of Christ. That probing will probably always be confrontational, and it will always be a challenge and a call to us in our brokenness to come out of the brokenness into wholeness in Christ. But it will also be a costly call, because that brokenness is who we are.

Sometimes we suffer under the illusion that our incompleteness, our brokenness, our deadness is something like a sweater that we can easily unbutton and slip off. It is not that easy. Our brokenness is us. Like Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” This is what Jesus indicates when he speaks about losing yourself. That in your which has not yet been conformed to the image of Christ is not a simple “thing” in you– it is an essential part of who you are.

To quote one more source:

Failure doesn’t phase you.
Worry doesn’t win.
Lost doesn’t leave you afraid to start again.
Our sin doesn’t shock you.
Our shame doesn’t shame you at all.
Mistakes do not move you.
Terror doesn’t tame.
Death doesn’t doom you to life in the grave.
Our suffering doesn’t scare you.
Our secrets won’t surprise you at all.
At all.

There is nothing above you.
There is nothing beyond you.
There is nothing that you can’t do.
There is no one beside you.
There is no one that’s like you.
There is nothing that you can’t do.
Whatever will come, we’ll rise above.
You fail us not, You fail us not.
No matter the war, our hope is secure.
You fail us not, You fail us not.
You fail us not.

——————–

Ready for Sunday

If my failure doesn’t phase Christ, if I have asked for his forgiveness, why does my failure get in my way?

Jesus was concerned for his disciples (and us) so intensely, that even as arrest and death on the cross loomed in the immediate future, he makes sure to give them the info they will need to get through the next couple of days without him: they will fail, and he gives peace even in, especially in, failure.

How can we be sure?  He has overcome the world. The one who rose from the dead is the one who promises peace. The evidence points to his ability to make it so.

Leaders, I think, beat ourselves up worse than believers in the congregation. We should know better. How did we not see warning signs of danger? How can we go on stage after creating such hurt and messiness?

Because we are no worse or better than anyone else. And because he gives peace.

I am losing myself in him.

Before darkness overtakes you

20 Apr

SMILING_DalmatianMy dad brought him home for us. A wriggly white puppy speckled with black spots. And equipped with sharp puppy teeth and huge paws. My brothers, sister, and I named him Pepper– for the spots he wore and for the energy that wound him up like my brother’s Wizzer.

Cute five pounds grew into strong 40 pounds while I wasn’t looking. Pepper’s body grew into his feet, but his internal discipline didn’t. He shredded everything his puppy teeth and flexing jaw muscles could handle—our toys, the blow-up wading pool, and Dad’s snowmobile seat.

The last offense put him on the list for deportation as soon as another home could be found. While he served his sentence in the garage, he grew crazier and plotted an endless array of techniques to escape when the side door opened.

His favorite (and easiest) attempts were when a 60-pound girl with knobby knees and long blonde-ish hair brought him dinner. I stood outside the wooden door picking at the peeling paint to work up courage and bravery becoming a Marine before turning the rusty knob. Pepper outgunned me. On his back legs he seemed to tower over my slight frame. Confined all day, his puppy-energy-expenditure did not come close to the needed quota. And his teeth. Oh, they were sharp! No wonder I stood there without opening the door.

More than a few times, he lunged at the door when he saw a crack of light and wrenched it free from my shaking hand, dog food raining down around my sneakers as his dish went flying. I screamed, then bolted, too. The game was on for Pepper. I was his terrified, and very unwilling, playmate.

He nipped at my ankles, and my legs pumped faster. More than once he knocked me down and puppy-played with his teeth on my thin skin. Several times he treed me in our little orchard, and I hurled apples down on him. Another game to him (who knew little green balls came from heaven?), and frantic self-preservation for me.

———-

Right after entering Jerusalem to cries of “Hosanna!” from the crowds, Jesus predicted his death on the cross. His heart was troubled even as he encouraged the crowd: “You will have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” (John 12:35)

The crowds still did not know Jesus was Messiah. You can almost hear Jesus pleading with them to understand while he is still among them – before evil came nipping at their heels even though his sacrifice would drive out the prince of this world. (John 12:31)

Again, with just his disciples this time, Jesus entreats them to believe he is the Son of God as he predicts one of them will betray him: “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.” (John 13:19) Yet again, his spirit was troubled.

As he comforts his disciples and prays for them, the mood of John’s Gospel changes. Tension and fear are replaced by Jesus’ deep love for his friends. Three times he encourages them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Instead we are to believe in him for gives divine peace and has overcome the world.

Jesus’ heart was troubled at what lay ahead beyond any crisis or despair we can imagine. (To begin to describe what he suffered would take several posts.) The urgency for his followers to believe who he is in John 12 and 13 melts into the love song of Chapters 14-17. Immediately following, Jesus is arrested, and everything he predicted unfolds – his arrest, crucifixion, and death; Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ abandonment; and his resurrection as he conquered the grave and the prince of this world!

He still has influence, this prince of darkness. Unless you are a hermit without access to the news reports this past week, you have watched the evidence that darkness still has a foothold in this world. The horror at the Boston Marathon is not the end of what evil will do in this world. There will be more – much more. But we do not have to be terrorized like a little girl with a snarling Dalmatian snapping at her heels. Jesus took on trouble so we could have peace.

And peace, wrapped in light, shows up brilliantly against the darkness.

———-

Ready for Sunday

What he suffered for me is reason enough to worship him. That he did it because he loves me makes me love him back.

But it’s still hard to remember this in a way that translates to a practical overcoming attitude. How to remember his peace when faced with evil? I think being prepared is key. One way to prepare is to nurture the relationship by worshiping him. Another is by memorizing his Word. Both cause me to think about the eternal (instead of the temporal) aspects of the situation.

A good verse to memorize: “You, dear children,are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Thank God the people of Boston can breathe a little easier tonight. Praise him that even in the midst of horrendous evil he is greater.

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