Growing in the Fruit of Peace

Several years ago, I read Elizabeth George’s book, “Loving God with all Your Mind.”  It was the first time I had read her work, and I was intrigued with the title.  It wasn’t the easiest read.  I had to take it in small bites, and it took me several months, but it was so worth the effort.

Growing in the Fruit of Peace

I had no idea how God was going to use that little book in my life in a very short while.  Ms. George shared about a period of time during which she had struggled with depression, and how loving God with her mind pulled her out of darkness and into precious hope.  Unknown to me, our own young daughter was developing serious anxiety, and it was this knowledge of how to love God with abandon, giving up our rights to worry, that provided a life line to pull our daughter back.

It is still fresh to me.  I cannot hold back the tears as I share this with you, but they are tears of thankfulness as I can tell you with full confidence that even in times of struggle, because struggle we all must, God is so very very good.

As Elizabeth George shared in her book, “A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit,”   Peace is the sacrifice of trust.

Ms. George points out that Peace is:

  • not a result of our worldly circumstances, but in the assurance that we have a right relationship with God.
  • not affected by daily challenges, but remains in the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands.
  • is not dependent on the conditions of our life, but upon knowing that God is all-sufficient.  He will supply our every need, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19
  • It is “an inward repose and serenity of soul that indicates a heart at rest–regardless of our circumstances–as we place complete confidence in God minute by minute.”  He is continuously with us.  Psalm 139:7-12

Trusting God

Several years ago I met a Christian woman and song writer when she and her husband answered a Craig’s List ad and came to see the van we had for sale.  She and I ended up spending quite a bit of time visiting, and we stayed in touch through email for a long time after.  She asked me to be praying for their family, as her daughter was making what they felt were foolish choices, so I prayed.

Some months later she sent me an update.  “I had a dream,” she told me.  She and her husband were rowing frantically in a small boat with their daughter, as a storm blew and crashed upon them.  “But then,” she said, “it was like a camera in a movie panned back, and I could see that we were actually rowing inside a fish bowl.”  The bowl was being carried by the hands of God himself, and it was this very act–being carried–that caused the waves that they were struggling to row against.  Just knowing that God was in it brought her peace.

If God is carrying your boat, He is taking you to a better place.

You have to believe that.

You have to have confidence that He will not waste an iota of your struggle.  He will use it to draw you deeper with Him, to grow your faith, and open eyes to His glory.

If God is carrying your boat

Hes taking you to a better place

The word God uses for peace also means rest and tranquility~”of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”`

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Just like joy, and all 9 of the fruit of the Spirit, our peace is positional.  Because of Jesus’s work on the cross we have peace with God.  We are no longer enemies of God.  We are His beloved children.  Because of this, we can rely on all God’s promises, and we can be content in any and every circumstance.

The Secret to Experiencing Peace

In Philippians chapter 4, Paul tells us the secret to experiencing God’s peace.  We also continue to see how all 9 of the Fruit of the Spirit are to be present in a believer’s life, and are interdependent.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” verses 4-7

Did you catch that?  Loving God with all our hearts involves making the conscious choice not to wallow in unfavorable circumstances, but rather, to rejoice in the Lord.  Choose not to be anxious, but instead pray and tell God what you need, trusting in His ability and His desire to meet those needs.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” verse 8

Loving God with all our minds involves meditating on the right things.  How often does anxiety overtake us because we allow ourselves to dwell on the “what if’s”?  My daughter will tell you it is a slippery slope, once you allow yourself to visit there.  What about the “if only’s”?  How often do we lose our focus and take a ride on an emotional roller coaster because, like Lots wife, we look back longingly on the the past that is behind us, or allow the present opportunities to slip through our fingers because we’re dwelling on unrealistic hopes for the future?

All these things: the what if’s, the if only’s, the past, and the future are not “whatever is true.”  The past was true in it’s time, and the future is unknown to us.  Dwelling on them will not provide peace, but is likely to steal it away.

What we do know is that God has plans for us right now today.  He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.  And He wants us to trust Him with all our hearts, leaning on His understanding, acknowledging Him (rejoicing in Him and trusting Him!) and He promises to make our paths straight… Proverbs 3:5,6

He has your back, no matter what storm you encounter.  He is the one carrying your boat.

 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” verse 9

Paul is always saying that, isn’t he?  Follow my example because I’m following God, and God will be with you!

…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” verses 11-13

We quote that last part a lot, don’t we?  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Many times, we take it out of context.

Paul said he knew how to be content in ANY circumstance.  He knew how to get along with little, and he knew how to live with much.  The secret of being filled and going hungry… having an abundance and suffering in need!

How did he do it?  How did he go on through poverty, being stoned, being the recipient of hate talk, being ship wrecked, living under house arrest for many years, and eventually losing his life for the sake of Christ?  All the while, he remained content.  He knew God’s peace.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Paul didn’t have to experience anxiety or worry, doubt or discouragement.  Jesus would empower him to stand firm through anything while experiencing contentment, and we can have this same confidence, because as verse 19 tells us,

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Sometimes we experience wonderful peace in our own storms, but watching our loved ones struggle, that can be harder.  Giving them to God can be a greater exercise in trust, and we need to hold our loved ones with open hands.  God loves them more than we do, and His plans for them are every bit as wonderful and good as the plans we know He has for us.

When our daughter was struggling the most, we did some practical things to help her.  I was able to provide her with Bach Flowers that were helpful for her emotional state.

We used accupressure to help remove the strain that the anxiety placed on her body, and in return, her anxiety was lessened.

But more than anything else, she memorized scripture, taped it up all around her bed, and recited it whenever she felt the temptation to allow her thoughts to go where she knew they shouldn’t.  Instead she reminded herself to love God with her mind and meditate on His truth.    

She continued to rejoice in the Lord, recording the good gifts He has placed in her life in her special notebook… 3 things she’s thankful for each day, and the record is well into the thousands today.

We talked about what God says is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise!

And we prayed, often, asking God to give her His peace.

Our daughter still sometimes experiences worry, but it is temporary because she knows where to go, and instead of being paralyzed by anxiety, she is freed by trust.  It was hard to understand, when we were in that difficult place with her, why she was going through that storm, but when I hear her talk about it today I believe God will someday use her to lead others to peace.  She is uniquely equipped to show true understanding and compassion to others.  God won’t waste her pain, and He won’t waste yours… He will bring it to good.

Praise God for giving us so many reasons to trust in Him, and for making contentment in any circumstance possible!

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not leave (fail) you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

“For I know the plans that I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’”  Jeremiah 29:11   God had just caused His people to be carried into Babylon for 70 of exile.  They were looking for deliverance and He told them to build houses and have families and make a life there—they were being disciplined for their good.

God is good.  His love for us endures forever.  He is faithful.  And not a single thing that will ever happen to us isn’t filtered through His loving hands first.  And everything that he allows, even the tough love, is for our ultimate good and for God’s glory.

Psalm 136 is the all about Giving Thanks to God.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For his lovingkindness is everlasting.  {His love endures forever.}

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

 

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite #2 for Effective Prayer

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite 2

When I was in charge of coordinating the Women’s Events at Camp JIM, I once booked a speaker to share at a retreat on the subject of Forgiving.  The speaker had several talks she had prepared for events and she told me, in all the years she had been traveling, I was the first to ask her to use this seminar.

Wow.

When the topic is the heart warming reminder of our own forgiveness, we’re all over it; but, no one wanted to trudge through a weekend of emotional sludge to let go of their own grievances.  Ouch.

However, we can’t afford not to.  Forgiveness is a prerequisite to to more powerful, effective prayer.

There are several occasions in the New Testament when God promises to hold us to our own standards.  In Matthew 6:12, Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray,

“And forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” TLB

The King James Version says, “forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.”  We all know a debt is something we owe, but did you know that debt, offence and sin can be used interchangeably?  It changes our perspective, doesn’t it?

Do we want to be forgiven “as” (in the same way) we have forgiven others?

Mark 11:24-25 says it even more clearly:

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

God wants us to pray for one another in intercessory prayer.

And we’ve learned that if we want God to hear our prayers, we have to confess all known sins, and seek His forgiveness.  But these verses take that even further by saying that we also need to forgive anyone against whom we are holding a grievance.

Isn’t it easy to hold a grievance?  Without even realizing it, we can nurse it along, holding onto it like an old friend.  It becomes a part of who we are and we may not even realize we’ve developed a critical spirit toward that person who hurt us.

God says forgive.

It is a required of us in order for God to listen to our prayers.

Many years ago, on a Good Friday, tragedy snuck into our family unannounced.  On Saturday my husband took me to see “Passion of the Christ” in the dollar theater in his home town.  Ugh.  I have never been so torn by a movie.  Christ’s suffering was so large on that screen, I know I was swollen and blotchy and pathetic when we came out of the theater and into the light.  I was burdened afresh with the opportunity to meditate on the message of Easter, that Christ’s passion was to save me. It was my sin that brought Him all that pain, but I could rejoice because He is risen and I am forgiven.

The testing came Easter Sunday, when the silent offence came screaming into the light and tore the cover right off my heart.  You know those movies that show a person in shock, experiencing the moment in slow motion, and every sense is cranked up to high?  Too many individuals were affected for me to share the details.  Suffice it to say, no grievance against oneself ever comes close to the pain you enter into when the grievance is against your child.

When the weekend had ended, my heart finally quieted, and my eyes ran dry.  I’m sure God orchestrated our weekend so that I would watch that movie at that exact time.  I knew the choice I faced was no choice at all.

No matter how grieved I was by this offence, a perfect God was more offended, and yet Jesus died to forgive that person who grieved our family.  He died once and for all, for all people, just as much as He died to forgive me.  He loves us all the same.  So how could I refuse to forgive?

How dare I refuse to forgive?

Isn’t that what it boils down to?  The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 depicts it perfectly.

So we make the choice to forgive.

We don’t wait until we feel like it.  Emotions are fickle, and we could wait an eternity without ever “feeling like forgiving”.  Make the choice, even if it means choosing daily.  Healing is a process.

But now comes the awkward, and how do we act when we encounter this person again?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

In her book, “What Happens When Women Pray?” Evelyn Christenson shares that once we commit to forgive, God expects us to illustrate follow through.

Now if anyone has caused pain…  For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”  2 Cor. 2:5,7,8

Paul is writing to the Corinthian church regarding a brother who has grieved the congregation, most likely received church discipline, and has repented.  Paul tells the church to not only forgive him, but to comfort him… and reaffirm their love for him.  What this person has been through has been hard, and feeling ostracized by the church could overwhelm him with grief.

Don’t we do this, as parents?  When our kids have a quarrel, and we mediate, we make sure they reaffirm their love for each other.  “Now give each other a hug!”  I have just about cracked up when scowly faced children say, “I forgive you,” but can barely bring themselves to touch each other.  And yet, once embraced, the tension drains from their bodies, is replaced by a genuine smile, a REAL hug, and fast friends return to play.

confirm forgiveness

It’s easy to say we forgive, but the proof is in the follow through.

Maybe it’s time for a heart to heart, a hug, and tears all around.

Maybe the proof is in doing something to serve this person who has grieved  you.

Perhaps, like our family and the church in Corinth, it is bringing him or her back into your fellowship.

What if they’re not sorry?

The grief and subsequent bitterness will eat you alive if you choose not to forgive.  In Evelyn’s words, your prayer life will become “like straw”.  And as Paul warned the Corinthians, forgive, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

For Christ’s sake, and for yours, you still need to forgive.  Lay it at the foot of the cross.  Pray how God wants you to confirm your love. Perhaps it is as simple as sending a ‘Thinking of You’.  Or, perhaps God has another opportunity prepared for such a time as this.

What if they don’t want anything to do with you?  Then honoring their wishes in keeping your distance may be the best way to confirm your love.  Even if they never know, God will know, and He will give you His peace.

That your prayers may not be hindered: (page 40-41 of “What Happens When Women Pray):

*  Ask God to remind you of anyone whom you need to forgive.

*  Ask forgiveness for the sin of not forgiving that person.

*  Forgive that person, even if you need to ask God to enable you to do so.  He will provide you with the strength and ability.

*  Ask God for as much love as He wants you to have for the person who grieved you.

*  Ask God how He would have you to confirm your love for them.

*  Wait in silence for His answer.

*  Pray, promising God that you will do whatever He has told you.

*  Go do it!

“Lord, forgive me for holding onto grievances.  I forgive ______________ for _____________________.  Give me the heart you want me to have toward him/her.  Show me how you desire for me to confirm my love for them, and give me the strength to follow through.”

You can find the rest of the posts in this series at the end of this post.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

The Light in Us

Have you read missionary Sheila Scorziello’s beautiful blog about the country of Italy where she lives, and the culture and people she loves?  I recently discovered her corner of WordPress, and I am just so delighted to meet her.  Her writing just draws one in.

She wrote a post sharing how Italians celebrate February 2nd, as opposed to the American “Ground Hog Day”.  They call it Candlemas Day.  She wrote,

Candlemas, in many Christian traditions, marks the presentation of the Christ child in the temple. It is also the day when many take their candles to the church for the minister to bless. Using these blessed candles throughout the year serves as a reminder that Christ is the light of the world.”

The Light in Us

As I thought about it, I had to do the math… if Christ was born on December 25th, and in keeping with Levitical tradition, she would have gone with Joseph to the temple for purification rituals 40 days after Christ’s birth.  This would have fallen around February 3rd.  Mary and Joseph brought Jesus with them to the temple, as the first born child was to be set aside to the Lord.

The Bible introduces us to some beautiful people there at the temple that day.  Simeon, an old man and a prophet, had been told by the Spirit of the Lord that he would not die until he laid eyes on God’s promised one.  He recognized Jesus, and taking the baby in his arms, he blessed the Lord, saying,

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation
     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph also.

Anna, a prophetess was also at the temple that day, as she always was, worshipping with fasting and prayer.  Scripture says she came up at that very hour and began giving thanks to God, speaking about him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

After this, when Mary and Joseph had completed what was required of them at the temple, they returned home.  Luke chapter 2 tells of all this, and in verse 40 we are told that Jesus grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.

I know I’m random, but all of this got me to think about the fact that this account is one of the very few we have about Christ as a child.  Only one other is recorded.  Most of what we know of Jesus’s life begins when he started his ministry around age 30.  So that leaves 10,950 days of his life that are not recorded, and yet, we know that the baby grew to be a boy, shared a home and meals and memories with family, had brothers who didn’t always like him, went to school and followed all of the traditions that every Jewish boy was expected to observe.  He had the same kind of relationships we have.  He faced the same temptations we face.  Day after day, year after year, he fulfilled, step by step, every iota  required to grow up into the man who ministered, died and rose again on our behalf.

Every second, Jesus was faithful.  Not only at the end, but every moment of His life that carried Him to the end.

Every moment, God with us…

Precious babe, bearer of hope…

Growing bigger, audacious love….

Son of God, strong and wise and boldly humble…

Light of the world, extinguished on a cross to be ignited in the hearts of men and women across the world… of a kingdom not built with hands or won with swords, but on bowed knees, bent wills, and by the power of the Spirit.  

Children of God, the light of the world (Christ) lives in usMay we bear His brilliance faithfully and authentically in the low and mundane moments of life as well as the moments that crescendo into seasons of fulfillment, as we see God’s plans unfold in miraculous, because it takes all of the moments to hasten the return of Christ.

It takes all of the moments to bear hope to a helpless world.

It takes all of the moments to  love audaciously.

It takes all of the moments to testify loudly.

And it takes all of us.  What a privilege to be part of God’s plans.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galations 6:9-10