No Disappointment

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My Musings – There’s a lot packed into these few verses.  Today, I want to focus on the linkage between peace and suffering.  How is it that some people can be subjected to so much suffering and yet still experience a “peace that surpasses all understanding?

Like a good mystery novel, you need to unravel the clues.  Follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads.

Faith – We gain access to faith through God’s good graces.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, and yet we only have it because He gives (a gift) it to us.

Justification – Only by exercising the faith that God has given us, through His grace (also given), can we be justified (by grace we are saved – justified – through faith).  While exercising our faith is an action, it is not a work, because we know we are not saved by works.  It (salvation) is a gift.  Yet we do not have the gift just because it is offered.  We have to accept it.

Peace – We can only have peace (not as the world gives peace) if we have been justified (reconciled to God).  Genuine peace with God can only happen through reconciliation, which means eliminating the differences that separate us.  These differences would otherwise be irreconcilable if Jesus had not died to satisfy (eliminate) what caused the differences in the first place.  Caused by us (our action), eliminated by the cross (God’s action through HIs Son), offered to us as a free gift (God’s grace), and accepted through faith (our action).

Hope – Hope in the hereafter, where “we shall be like Him,” (“of the glory of God“).  Hope is desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.  Just like peace is not as the world give peace, hope is likewise not as the world experiences hope.  For the world, hope is a desire for something but no assurance.  For the believer, there is belief and expectation (assurance) because of Him who made the promise.  A “hope that does not disappoint us” because of Him who pours it out in love.

Suffering – Curiously linked to both peace and hope.  For the world, peace and suffering rarely coexist.  And hope seems almost futile.  For the Christian, suffering need not destroy hope.  If often magnifies it.  And while suffering does not bring peace, the Christian can experience peace while suffering.  That is what we can rejoice about.  Not that we are experiencing it, but that it magnifies hope and need not rob us of our peace.  Something that truly surpassing understanding.

And All The Rest – A Christian’s hope and peace are not merely intangible feelings.   They have tangible results – perseverance, character and (more) hope.

Another Gift – The Holy Spirit, who lives (and so much more) within us.

And where does the trail of evidence lead? To God. The faith we have is from God.  It is His grace that justifies us through the gift of HIs Son’s death and resurrection.  It is Him who gives us peace and backs up our hope.  The trail of evidence clearly points to Him.

My Advice – Don’t give up hope.

Just Come

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My Musings – The first thing that catches my attention is the word “come.”  Jesus has completed His work.  He came to earth and suffered an excruciating death on the cross.  The old saying “I’ll meet you half way” holds no comparison to the lengths that Christ went to on our behalf.  It is now up to us.  We must come to Him.  Just as we are.  While we are still sinners.  What more could we possibly expect from Him that He has not already done.

The second thing that catches my eye is the word “all.”  We all have sinned.  We all have fallen short.  Nevertheless, we all may come.  Again, just as we are, while we are still sinners.  No fine print.  No “some exclusions may apply.”  “Ya’ll come.”

Third is “weary and burdened.”  Burdened by the load of sin we bear.  Weary of trying to earn our salvation on our own.  Both troubled and afraid by the realization that we cannot.

Fourth, “I will give you rest,” and “you will find rest for your souls.”  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27, NIV 1984).  Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Fifth is the word “learn.”  Once we come to Him there is so much to learn from Him.  He wants to transform us, and to renew our minds now that He has renewed our hearts and we have been made right with Him.

Sixth, “for I am gentle and humble of heart.” What a contrast to the way of the world!  What a contrast to our old self.  “Gentle,” having or showing a mild, kind, or tender temperament or character.  “Humble,” not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.  After all, think of what we were and where we were headed before the “touch of the Master’s hand.”  “Of heart,”one’s innermost character, feelings, or inclinations.  Changed forever by Christ’s redeeming grace.

Finally, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Jesus bore our sins for us.  That load has been lifted from us.  Forever.  Final.  No forfeiture.  All we need to is “come.”  What could be easier.  This is the only real exception to “if it sounds to good to be true, it isn’t.”  Because, “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” – Dwight L. Moody.

My Advice – Just come.  It’s that easy.  He carried the cross on His back for you.  He did the heavy lifting.

 

 

Why Not Rather Be Wronged!

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My Musings – “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” – John Wayne as J.B Books in The Shootist 1976.

As I’ve noted before in my blogs, John Wayne was my favorite actor.  Like many, I admired his swagger.  Also like many, to me this creed that his movie character lived by sounds fair.  Yet it is a worldly creed.  We must aim higher.

Paul states a somewhat other worldly creed in the above condensed verses.  To me the key phrase is “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

How Far – “The problem is, “as far as it depends on [us]” isn’t really that far most of the time.  All too often we are very thin-skinned when it comes to being “wronged,” “insulted” or “laid a hand on.”  But rather than take revenge, we are to “overcome evil with good.

With Everyone – “Other people” are not just family and friends.  Not just fellow Christians.  Not just Americans.  Not just the same ethnic group.  Not just Democrats or Republicans.  Not just those who share our worldview and opinions. Everyone means all people, even our enemies.

Be At Peace – Apparently this means more than avoiding conflict.  When (not if) the “other people” wrong us, insult us or lay a hand on us (essentially act like an enemy) we are to feed them if they are hungry.  Give them something to drink if they are thirsty.  Elsewhere, Jesus says to the extent we do this to the “least of these,” we do it to Him.

If Possible – At last – the fine print, the loophole?  I don’t think so.  There will be times that “as far as it depends on you” will not be far enough no matter how far you bear with it.  But even then “do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, NIV 1984).  Walk away and let God deal with it.

My Advice – These are hard words.  But Kingdom living has a higher calling than worldly living.  Our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, NIV 1984).

 

 

Before God and Man

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My Musing – At first blush, this is a somewhat curious statement, at least to me.  If we strive to keep our conscience clear before God (a high standard indeed), why would we need to concern ourselves about man.  Wouldn’t satisfying the former, automatically satisfy the other?  It is clear that keeping our conscience clear before God is our top priority and that keeping our conscience clear before man should not take precedence.  But the former does not exclude the latter.

Paul states elsewhere to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of all people, and if possible, as far as it depends upon us, we should be a peace with all men. (Romans 12:17-18).  Man is fickle, while God is not.  So a clear conscience before God will not always satisfy man.  Especially if they do not have a relationship with Christ and their only picture of him comes from us.  But we must still strive to have a strive to have a clear conscience, “as far as it depends on us.

The first (and greatest) commandment is to love God (with heart, soul, mind and strength).  We need a clear conscience about that.  But is second is like it.  Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39). We need to keep our conscience clear about that as well.

My Advice – Sleep well with a clear conscience.

Turn His Face

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Numbers 6:24-26 – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”  (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Think about this for a moment.  God.  The Creator. Eternally existent. All powerful. Glory so magnificent and awesome that no one in the flesh can gaze upon Him and live. He needs nothing that we could possibly give Him, yet He longs for us.  A longing so deep that He sent His only Son to dies for us.  He turns His face towards us and shines upon us.  He graciously redeems us, who otherwise are unredeemable. He blesses us, who otherwise deserve a curse.  He will never grow tired of us, but will keep us close to Himself for all eternity to come.

My Advice – Be a peace in these thoughts.

 

As Far As It Depends On You

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Romans 12:18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV 1984)

Attitude – The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.  And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes. (Chuck Swindoll)

Emotions – Emotions don’t settle upon you like a fog.  They are not foisted upon you by others.  No matter how uncomfortable it might make you feel by saying it – others don’t make you mad.  You make you mad.  You make you scared, annoyed or insulted.  You and only create your emotions.

Once you’ve created your own emotions, you have only two options:  You can act on them or be acted on by them.  That is, when it comes to strong emotions, you either find a way to master them or fall hostage to them. (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)

My Musings – Life is full of people thinking the worst of us, saying unkind things about us and doing terrible things to us.  These are the things that are “foisted upon [us] by others.”  We cannot stop them from happening, “we cannot change the inevitable.”  What we can change is how we “react to [them].”  More specifically, do “we act on [master] them” or are we “acted on by [fall hostage to] them?” The choice is ours.

My Advice – Living at peace with certain people will not always depend upon what we think, say or do. “We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.”  Nevertheless, we need not respond in kind.  We must do our best to stay “in charge of [both] our attitudes [and emotions].”  It may not be easy.  Doing the right thing is rarely is.

In Everything

Philippians 4:6-7Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We do not have to live in anxiety, no matter what perilous things we may be going through.   We need only pray. We may not always get what we pray for, but we can always find peace.

My Advice – Don’t let anxiety overwhelm you. You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control how they affect your heart and your mind. Just pray. God will grant you peace in the storm.