(June 30, 2020)
What is peace? Is peace the absence of turmoil? Is peace the state of absolute solitude? Or is an environment free of confict?
Peace is probably one of those things that we as human beings seek after most. It is elusive, plays hard to get, always just out of our reach… or is it?
Can we have peace in the midst of turmoil? Peace without solitude? Peace in conflict?
What does the Bible say about peace? The word “peace” is found over 400 times in Scripture. Many times, it is in reference to “going in peace, or “hold your peace”. In the books of the law, there are numerous references to a “peace offering”, which, as it turns out, refers to a voluntary offering of gratitude or thanksgiving. It got me to thinking… can there really be peace without gratitude? Maybe we would be more at peace if we were more thankful?
Here are some of my personal favorite verses on peace. Let God’s word speak peace into your heart, just as Christ calmed the stormy sea, with His command, “Peace be still.”:
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isa 26:3)
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6)
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Here is one of my all time favorites, in both the ESV and NLT versions: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7 ESV) “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7 NLT)
Let me leave you with a beautiful blessing from the Old Testament, where God commands Moses to have Aaron and the priesthood bless God’s people… “Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” (Numbers 6:23-26)
(June 23, 2020)
I am amazed at the restorative power of rest. Just a few hours of sleep can reset my entire mental construct. Just stepping away from a task for a few minutes can bring me a whole new perspective to the challenge before me. Just a few days away from the regular routine, can renew, refresh and restore.
Author Stephen Covey, in his two books, “First Things First,” and “Seven Habits…” talks about “sharpening the saw”. He tells a story about two lumberjacks, one, a young, strong, somewhat arrogant stripling, the other, an older, more subdued gentleman. The younger challenged the older to a contest to see who could cut down more trees that next day. Morning broke, and after a hearty breakfast of flapjacks, sausage and strong coffee, they set to work. The younger plunged in with gusto, but every time he turned to check on the progress of his elder, it appeared he was simply standing around, gazing up at the tree tops. However, as the sun began to sink below those same tree tops, the pile of logs in the elder’s work space, was remarkably larger than the pile near where the younger had spent his time sweating, grunting and laboring. That night, while sitting around the campfire relaxing after supper, the younger asked, “How do did you do it?” The elder responded, “While you thought I was simply standing around gazing at the treetops, I was actually sharpening my saw.”
In Psalm 23, after we read that the Lord is our Shepherd, and as such, we have everything we need, the psalmist goes on to tell us, (v2) “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” In other words, He “makes us rest.” On purpose. And then in verse 3, “He restoreth my soul…”
In other words, before He can lead me in paths of righteousness, and before I can “walk through the valley…” I need to spend time lying down in the green pastures. I need to take a drink from the still waters, and in those times, my soul is restored. Daily. Maybe even more than once a day.
Let me share a poem I wrote during a very busy time in my life a number of years ago:
In the hustle, bustle and busyness of daily life, Stop.
A moment, your thoughts to ponder.
In the structure, routine and schedule…
Briefly, allow your mind to wander.
Pause. Peer into the Pool of Reflection.
Consider carefully, your course of direction.
In the stillness, of the silence,
Hear the whisper,
Of your heart.
We all need those times, whether it is just a few moments, or maybe it is just a few days, to sharpen the saw… to restore our souls… to hear the whisper, that still, small voice…to reset our priorities…to refresh our perspective… to rekindle our passion…to renew our relationships… to reconnect… with Our Shepherd.
The Waiting Room
(June 15, 2020)
Today, I am in the waiting room. Here in the hospital. Waiting for a family member to have a medical procedure. I will be here for several hours.
Waiting can be hard. Waiting can be frustrating. Waiting can be exhausting. Or, waiting can be restorative. Waiting can be peaceful. Waiting can be restful. Waiting can even be productive.
What do you do when you are forced to wait? Drum your fingers on the counter? Tap your foot nervously? Look at your watch or your phone incessantly? Or do you take advantage of the time, close your eyes for a power nap? Or, maybe do some journaling? Or, pull out the book you’ve been meaning to read?
Life is full of “wait times”. Sometimes we are waiting for God to open a door. We may be waiting for Him to provide a need. Maybe, it is a prayer that we are waiting for an answer for. Maybe we are waiting for that “next phase of life”. Waiting for our children to get old enough to send them to school. Or, waiting for them to graduate. Waiting for our spouse to get that next break in their career. Waiting for a debt to be paid off.
How do you wait? Are you one that is always saying, “I can’t wait until _______ (you fill in the blank). Or, do you fill those wait times with positive and productive things? Have you ever looked back and said, “I’m glad I waited?”
I love that passage in Isaiah 40:31. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”. Another favorite is, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14). In both of these passages, the word that is translated “wait” means to bind or gather together with expectancy, to look for or wait on. I wonder what would happen if, during our “wait times”, we turned our focus and attention to Him, and with faith and expectancy, looked to Him? Maybe, if we could quiet our souls, we could hear His voice. Maybe we could feel Him begin to restore our souls. Maybe, we could feel His hand in ours, and feel the tug in our hearts, as He pulls us to Himself.
Wait for it.
Save Your Family!
(June 8, 2020)
This week, my wife and I are enjoying a week with our grandchildren. What fun we are having! We’ve played army with plastic soldiers and two rubber bands, Ping-Pong, air hockey and a host of other games, but we also went to church together, prayed together, and sang together. We’re also reading the Bible together and praying together at home as well. Last weekend we celebrated our grandson’s milestone birthday (a whole decade old!) with our daughters, mother-in-law and a host of their friends.
Theses types of events get my mind to reminiscing about raising our own children and the memories we made together. The trips we took. The places we visited. The people we met. Together. But also, I remember the milestone events: Each of my children praying at the altar, repenting of their sins. I was there when each of them received the Holy Ghost and when they were baptized. I remember trips to district youth events, conferences and camp meetings where God’s power was so mighty, and I watched as God began to mold them and shape them into His Own children. We were there. Together.
I am reminded of the scripture (1 Peter 3:20-21) where Peter mentions how eight souls were saved by water, by obeying Noah, and entering into the ark. These eight souls were Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives. That’s it. He preached over a 100 years, and all he saved was his own family. But HE SAVED HIS FAMILY!!! I have been in the church for years, and what troubles me most, is when I see “successful saints” in the church… but their families are no longer serving God. I have observed families who are very faithful to church, they never miss a service, but their home life is a sham, and to watch them interact with each other, one would never guess that they are Christians. This is the reality. Sometimes we are most unkind to those we love the most. Brothers and Sisters, these things ought not so to be! (James 3:10)
By today’s standards, Noah failed as a preacher. But, in my eyes, he was a supreme success! He won the hearts of those in his own family! I think there is a lesson in his story for all of us. Bring your family to church. Pray with them, sing with them, worship with them. But also, when you’re not in church, play with them, laugh with them, love them, make memories together with them. Work together. Go fishing together. Go hunting together. Go shopping together. Be human. Be real. Be humble. Forgive each other. Love each other.
One more word from the Scripture: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32). I’m thinking this includes those in our own family.
Before I end this blog, I do need to acknowledge those who have done all the right things, and yet their children have chosen to walk away from their faith. This is a heartbreak to these parents. We do need to pray for these families. There is no guarantee that if you do all the right things, your family will be saved. There is the element of personal choice. However, I do believe that we must do all we can to let Christ’s love reign in our homes, and leave the rest to Him.
Extra Mile People
(June 1, 2020)
In today’s world, it gets harder and harder to find people who are willing to go above and beyond the basic requirements. Our current generation seems focused on only doing the minimums. Part of that may stem from an “entitlement mentality” or “What’s in it for me?” In other words, Unless I am “properly compensated” I am not going to do anything more than what is absolutely necessary.
That is why it is so refreshing to find “extra-mile” people! I had an interaction a number of years ago that I will never forget. I needed to rent a trailer, but before I could do that, I needed to purchase a hitch for my vehicle. I found a “bargain” online from another seller, but when it arrived, I discovered it was missing the necessary mounting hardware. I tried to contact the seller but my calls and emails were ignored. In desperation, I asked the customer service person at the trailer rental agency if they also sold hitches for my vehicle and then proceed to share my sad story with him. He said, “Yes we do, but, if you can tell me the model of the hitch you purchased, I can maybe help you get what you need.” Long story short, because of this person’s extra-mile attitude and conduct, I was able to get the missing hardware locally, and he even sent me a copy of the missing installation instructions, even though it was not his responsibility!
It reminds me of a story in the Old Testament about a servant, some camels, water, and a search for a wife. Isaac needed a wife, and in the culture and custom of the day, his father, Abraham, sent his servant in search of the right candidate. What this servant did was pray for an extra-mile person, (Genesis 24:14) “And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac;…” He had TEN camels! Do you have any idea how much water ONE camel can drink?? According to my “research” (I asked Siri) one thirsty camel can drink up to thirty gallons of water in fifteen minutes! A young girl named, Rebecca, met the servant’s qualifications and proceeded to draw enough water for all ten camels! She became Isaac’s wife and became an important part of God’s chosen people, all because she was willing to go the extra mile!
I am glad to say I belong to a church full of extra-mile people! This past weekend, our staff worked tirelessly, went above and beyond the call of duty, to make our outdoor Pentecost Sunday service possible! What a blessing it was to work with them and see the Joy of the Lord on their faces!
Jesus, in His teachings on the Mount, commanded us, (Matt 5:41) “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” And after a list of several other commands in the same passage, He said, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…” (Matt 5:45). I don’t know how this grabs you, but my interpretation is that my position as a child of God is largely dependant on whether I am an extra-mile person.
I pray that we all are willing to go that extra mile!