I Am Peace?

I saw a rather thought-provoking t-shirt the other day, and engaged briefly with its wearer.  The t-shirt proclaimed, “I Am Peace,” and the good-looking twenty-something was undoubtedly quite sincere in his pursuit of peace.  He talked about working on relationships and communication, and trying to be grateful.  He doesn’t in any way fit the stereotype for the kind of person one might expect to make audaciously arrogant statements.  So his t-shirt and its puffed-up claim have really stuck with me.

Because what is peace?  And where does it come from?  Merriam-Webster says it’s a state of tranquility or quiet, harmony in personal relationships, or freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.  But even the sincerest pursuit of tranquility, or quiet, or harmony, produces meager results, because true peace comes from the Lord.  And peace is a gift not an achievement.  Jesus gives it away (John 14:27) not to the deserving, not to the upright, not to the do-gooders, not to the socially responsible, not to those who don a t-shirt and try hard.  Jesus gives His peace to those who follow Him, who seek Him, who love Him, and who obey Him.  A spirit of peace is void of striving, but t-shirt guy and those like him are defined by striving–sincere striving, admirable striving, but futile striving nonetheless.

It makes me wonder about the gifts God intends for us that we try to secure our own way.  God wants to give us forgiveness and redemption.  He wants to give us eternal life, purpose, and freedom.  He wants to give us peace that transcends all understanding.  So why do we reject the amazing gifts He offers us for free only to pursue them by other means?  It’s an arrogant approach to life, isn’t it?  It might be more subtle than wearing a t-shirt, but we have our ways of telling God, “I’ve got this one.  I’m good.”

So in what areas are you aiming for God’s gifts instead of God himself?

Lord, forgive me for pursuing Your gifts instead of You.  Help me to live a life fully surrendered to you.  Thank you that true freedom and true peace are found in you, and that I don’t have to try to earn these gifts.  Help me to be a minister of peace and love and truth, and may I glorify you with my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Are God’s Promises True?

When all is well in life, it is easy to believe that God is in control, that He loves us, that all things do work together for the good of those who love Him, that He is a God of justice and a God of mercy, that His grace is sufficient.   It is easy to believe God’s promises when we are not grieving or hurting or being asked to trust in suffering we don’t understand.

But all of us have people around us who are all of these things.  We know people who are suffering, people who are grieving, people who are facing questions without answers. People who do not understand the brokenness they wake up with, and bear a grief so heavy it weighs them down, not only spiritually but physically.  Twelve years ago I thought “heartache” was merely an expression.  I hadn’t yet experienced the actual pain of grief, which starts with a jolt and presses with an unrelenting force right on your chest.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a child.  He was twelve years old.  I’d never met him, and I only know his mother from a few brief interactions.  He wasn’t sick.  His death was an unexpected tragedy.  In fact, I chatted with his mom on the phone about meaningless things just hours before he died.

When I learned about the tragedy last Thursday night, I was heartsick that I had taken up even a second of her time.  And I don’t know about you, but when I see people go through really hard things, I worry about their faith.  I worry that they’ll doubt God’s promises, and I pray that they won’t.  Maybe this stems from my own fear that some circumstance could cause me to deny my Savior or my faith.  Because I desperately want to follow and stand for Jesus, no matter the circumstance and no matter the cost.  When darkness comes in my life (and it’s definitely when, not if), I want to be a beacon of light, pointing others to Jesus.

My worries for this mom were ridiculously unfounded — as worries often are.  In fact, this mom is the beacon of beacons from the darkest of places.  She spoke yesterday at the funeral and it was a supernatural work of the Lord.  I was so privileged to be there.  I heard about a tremendous kid — funny, handsome, talented in various ways, smart, a serious student of the Bible.  Despite my fear, despite her heartache, despite the unfathomable loss, yesterday untold numbers of people were encouraged in their faith, strengthened for their own journeys, and reminded of God’s promises.

Such a devout faith in the depths of despair is truly something to behold.  My fervent prayers will continue, but I am so grateful to have witnessed the divine work accomplished through this grieving woman.  Yesterday is a day I will never forget.

Another Maranatha Tidbit

The Rev. Dr. John Guest was the featured speaker the first week I spent at Maranatha.  I missed a couple of his sessions when I had my root canal (you can read about how I ended up getting a root canal on vacation here).  And that was unfortunate because Dr. Guest, a native Brit, was highly entertaining and his love for the Lord inspiring.  Dr. Guest came to know Jesus when Billy Graham was speaking in London for the first time, and has never lost his heart for those who do not know the Lord Jesus.  One night in the tabernacle he played his guitar and sang, “Hey Jude,” and I’m not sure those lyrics have ever sounded so good.  It was so fun, and somehow worshipful too.

Plus, the British are just plain funnier than Americans.  So needless to say I very much enjoyed Dr. Guest.  I mean it’s pretty hard to top the superfecta of British wit, a tender heart, love for Jesus and biblical wisdom!

One of the points that Dr. Guest emphasized was that Jesus wanted his disciples to be rooted and grounded in the authority of Scripture.  Jesus, of course, knew that over time the disciples would begin to doubt their physical and emotional experiences (as we all d0!).   They needed a firm foundation to lean on, so Jesus was constantly pointing them to Scripture.  The disciples needed to learn to trust Scripture — even when they may not have been close to the Lord physically or emotionally.  The same lesson applies to us.  If we are rooted and grounded in the authority of Scripture then we can weather the storms of life, but if we are dependent on emotional or physical experiences, we will live in defeat.  Maybe not all of the time, but enough of the time to make our spiritual life a roller coaster ride it need not be.

Dr. Guest also pointed out that Jesus’ coming and going post-resurrection (of which I had never given much thought) had a specific purpose.  His coming and going was intended to teach the disciples that whether they see Him or not Jesus is there!  I loved this reminder, because it’s such a comfort.  I also wrote about this very point in my book, Sharp Sticks: Essays of Embarrassment and Reflections on Redemption which is now available on Amazon in a print edition.  If you’d like to take a look that particular essay it is called “Jesus in a Chair.”

It is always edifying to hear the fundamentals, isn’t it?  We need to be rooted and established in Scripture (looking forward to getting back to CBS this week); and we are never where Jesus is not.  Thank you, John Guest, for these needful reminders!