Finally…

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

In today’s world, it is so hard to follow the verse above.  We are bombarded with advertising and false news and crises that are happening all around the world.  I have found myself shaking my head over people hating each other because of a political stance.  Somehow, we need to be aware of all these things going on while staying away from the emotional angst that’s flying around us.  If we aren’t careful we’ll find ourselves in a big “to-do” over something that really doesn’t matter.

How do we keep our equilibrium when all this is going on?  How do we keep our environment sane?  My thought is to take this verse completely literally.  Keep your thoughts and your eyes on Jesus.  Go through this world being a peacemaker and the oil on troubled waters.  I know that this isn’t always possible, but as Paul says:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

So, keep your eyes on Jesus and follow the verse above.  Perhaps we can be the quiet, soothing voice among all screaming going on.

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Bonhoeffer on Peacemaking

This is one of the beatitudes we can easily understand. Peace is a blessing and something that we all long for. However, peacemaking is not easy, as we have to renounce our own will and replace it with the will of God.  We all want peace, but do we want to make peace?

finally human

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Jesus’ followers are called to peace. when Jesus called them, they found their peace. Jesus is their peace. Now they are not only to have peace, but they are to make peace. To do this they must renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ. Christ’s kingdom is a realm of peace, and those in Christ’s community greet each other with a greeting of peace. Jesus’ disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer. They preserve community when others destroy it. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice. That is how they overcome evil with good. That is how they are makers of peace in a world of hatred and war. But their peace will never be greater than when they encounter evil people…

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Mountaintop Blessings

Most Christians have had what they describe as a “mountaintop” experience… a time when they felt especially close to God and keenly aware of His presence and blessings.  Some people may associate that time with their conversion;  others with a special time away on a Via de Cristo or other sort of retreat.  At these times, we feel on fire for God.  We are energized and ready to do anything and everything required of us to lead an authentic Christian life.

My devotional reading this morning focused on how mountaintop times, wonderful and blessed as they are do not last.  We can’t recapture them, but we can continue to use them.

“We must learn to live in the ordinary ‘gray’ day according to what we saw on the mountain.”

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chamber

How were you blessed on the mountaintop?  Were things clearer, brighter?  Did you feel loved and called for a special purpose?  Did you experience the joy of Christian fellowship or the peace that passes understanding? Even Jesus and the disciples experienced this:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:2-3 ESV)

Yet, they still had the valley of Calvary ahead of them.  I’ve found that continuing in the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, study and fellowship (even when the day is gray and I don’t really want to) help keep the mountaintop feelings alive and fresh in my life.  These are the daily blessings that keep us growing in the valley.

 

Three Wise Women

See the source imageHave you ever imagined what the Christmas story would have been like if the wise men had been wise women?

Yaaseh Shalom

I recently read a novel (Inside, Outside by Herman Wouk) about Jewish life in America, and I learned this Hebrew phrase.  It is from the final words of the Kaddish, a prayer for the dead and it means, “He will make peace.”  It made me think about how Jesus does that for us.  He speaks about it in what has been called the High Priestly Prayer, in the book of John, Chapter 17.

First of all, through His sacrifice, He makes peace between us and God.  He prays

“…that they may all be one, just as you, the Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us …John 17: 21

He also makes peace between all believers as He brings us into His body, the church:

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be perfectly one.”  John: 17:22-23

What a gift!  He has made peace. Yasseh shalom.

Love Through God Goggles

Welcome to today’s blog post on Ecclesiastes 3…we continue with verse 8

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

Such a contrast between these… love/hate, war/peace… But, God’s Word says, through King Solomon, that there is a proper time for both.

The first thing Verse 8 made me think of when reading it was the saying “love the sinner, hate the sin”. There are many people I know that live in sin… living together/sexual immorality outside of marriage, drug and alcohol addiction, people who are continually dishonest, cheat, or steal. I have friends who live in alternative lifestyles, people who have shopping/spending addictions, I have a friend that is addicted to food, I have people in my life that are dealing with abuse of some kind, friends who have anger management issues. Some of these people are Christians and some of them are not. But they all have one thing in common…my love.

If you have read some of my blogs, or you know me personally, you know that I love people! I have been a people person all my life. I was modelling my love for people, the way Jesus did, before I ever even gave my life to Him. I have always wanted to love people.

Growing up, I got into a lot of trouble. Some of my own doing, but some because of the company I kept. I always gave people the benefit of the doubt, never understood how someone could be cruel to someone else, and I always stood up for people that were picked on because I knew how it felt.

I had a lot of heartache in my childhood. I was picked on, made fun of, called names, had cruel jokes played on me more than once, and not just by kids at school but my own family as well. I never felt as though I really belonged anywhere. I always felt like an outsider and always felt like the “black sheep” of the family.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that Jesus started to change my perspective. I realized how to look at people through what I call, “God goggles”. My opinion of others behavior didn’t change but I was able to look at them with a new filter. One thing I’ve learned in my life is that people who are angry, bitter, committing crimes, abusing others, trying to escape reality with drugs, alcohol, or alternative lifestyles…they are people who are hurting… just like I was when I have displayed some of those traits in my own life. People express the hurt in their hearts in so many ways.

And so that is why I am friends with all types of people. I don’t discriminate. People have asked me “How can you be friends with so and so?” And I tell them, “Just because you can see their sin doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with some of those same sins, you just don’t see it.” With some people I do take more caution for obvious reasons… I can now love them but hate the things they do. How can I do this? I’ve learned something as a Christian that I wished I had learned a long time ago… boundaries. I stick to my boundaries and guarding my heart above all else.

The second thing verse 7 made me think of was war and peace… no, not the book! I thought about war and peace in my heart. There are times in my life when I have been at war with myself, at war with God, at war with other people. There have been times in my life when I have had extreme peace in my heart, contentment within myself, my relationships, and my faith. Like I wrote in yesterday’s blog post, it is possible to be in a state of two opposite conditions of the heart simultaneously.

One for me that comes up often is spiritual warfare. As a warrior in God’s army, I am constantly fighting to protect myself from the devil’s attacks but I am at complete peace because I know that no matter what fiery arrows come my way, God is walking alongside of me. He is my heavenly father, my protector, my healer, my counselor, my provider, my comforter, my strength, and my power. That is where my peace comes from. Without it I would be lost, just like I was before I found it. Without it, I would be just like the lost, hurting people I know, who have no hope.

I love to sing! If you know me, you know that about me too! There is a song that I love to sing when I am praising my Savior for all He is for me… Because of Who You Are by Vicki Yohe. She is my favorite gospel singer. In fact it is one of the songs I have been practicing to sing at church. These are the lyrics…

Because of who you are, I give you glory
Because of who you are, I give you praise
Because of who you are, I will lift my voice and say
Lord, I worship you because of who you are
Lord, I worship you because of who you are

You see your Jehovah, Jehovah Jireh, my provider
Jehovah Nissi, Lord, you reign in victory
Jehovah Shalom, my Prince of Peace
And I worship you because of who you are

The words to this song remind me that I am His and He is mine. He is my everything, just because of who He is.

Who is God to you? Is He your everything? Or do other things hold a higher place in your heart? Are you spending more time with God or with the things of the world?

How about those “God goggles”? Do you look at others through the eyes of Christ? Or do you sit in judgement at the speck of sin in the eyes of others, meanwhile forgetting the log of sin in your own?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of hannahhelpme.com

(and by the way, my chihuahua looks just like this pic!)

In Hot Pursuit

According to the dictionary, to pursue means to chase or run after something or someone.  We pursue the things we really want and are interested in. What are you chasing after in your life?  Is it money?  A beautiful home?  A prestigious job? An expensive car?  A certain someone who attracts you?  If we’re honest, we realize many (if not most) of the things we pursue have to do with worldly approval or success.

The Bible tells us to pursue a whole different set of things.  For example:

“Turn from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 34:14

Pursue is a verb, an action word.  This means I must not only think peace is a nice idea, I must do what I can to promote it.  Maybe this means compromise, or putting another person first.  Certainly it means caring more about the other person than winning or getting my own way.

Here’s another one:

Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…” 1 Corinthians 14:1

Pursuing love means behaving in a loving way to all of God’s children–not just the ones I care about or the ones who treat me well.  It means using my gifts to encourage and support others, not to promote only myself and my own interests.

Finally:

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  1 Timothy 6:11b

Pursuing righteousness and godliness means going against my natural inclination by doing God’s will instead of my own.  Pursuing God’s way means trying to be selfless instead of selfish.

I know I’ll never completely stop pursuing the wrong things;  but staying close to God through study, worship and prayer will help me remind me of the things I really want.

“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18b

Run after God.  Pursue the eternal.