Stress vs. Serenity

Stress!  It’s everywhere!  Am I right?  It can easily seep into every area of our lives.  It can create emotional breakdowns, physical ailments, mental confusion, and social stress.

Have you ever noticed that when dealing with others, we are much more impatient when we harbor stress?  Or that circumstances seem so much more overwhelming when we are in the midst of stress?

What is the opposite of stress?

Peace…. calm… clarity…

So how do we wrap ourselves in serenity? Read More

God’s Love vs Human Love

Have you ever been disappointed by love? Maybe your heart was broken by the one that you loved. Maybe those that are supposed to love unconditionally (parent’s) abandoned you. Somehow, in some form, we have all been disappointed, betrayed, hurt, or negatively impacted by “love.”

God’s love is so different from the love that we have come to understand and believe in our world today. Love to us has become a feeling. It’s fleeting, flimsy and just plain weak; that is, compared to the true love that God offers. We have come to believe that  we are at the mercy of love, rather than knowing that love is a choice. We hear people say often, “Well, we fell out of love”, or “We simply dont love each other anymore.” Because of what love has become in our world it’s no wonder many people don’t truly understand the love of God.

Do you know, even for the most righteous person, the one who walks the walk and talks the talk, His love is not fully comprehendable.

One of the aspects of the Bible that I really appreciate is how the authors, all throughout, have put human attributes on God. All in order that we, as humans, might be able to understand Him better. God’s hands (Psalm 31:5), His eyes (Proverbs 15:3), His arm (Isaiah 62:8), and the voice of God (Ezekiel 10:5). The problem, however, with this is the very thing we do best as humans: mess it up. I’ve been guilty if it, and I know I’m not alone; the process of taking more human, sinful traits and projecting these characteristics and tendencies onto the Lord. If doing such and such makes Him smile and pleased, then doing this sinful act clearly makes him sad and disappointed. There are a lot of assumptions made in a statement or a thought process such as this. And there is not a whole lot of truth in it.

When we begin to place our fallen, human characteristics on God, several things begin to happen:

1) We are calling God a liar. From His mouth it has been told to us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways. They’re higher.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, paraphrased);

2) We place God in a box, which leads to the third point;

3) His characteristics become human rather than that of the One True God. We strip Him of His sovreignty, His omnipresence, and His omnipotence. Everything that makes God who He is quickly disappears.

4) Ultimately, then, this leaves us completely devoid of hope. Without God, there is not Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no salvation. And without salvation, there is no hope.

God’s love is far beyond our understanding. I’m not convinced we’ll even understand it once we reach Heaven. God’s love is without conditions, it is the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow, nothing can separate us from the love of God. And because of His love we are able to experience true love, therefore being able to love others as He has loved us.

We are human, so we cannot do this perfectly. But as the Church we should set the example: forgive as you have been forgiven, offer grace and mercy as He gives us daily, live as a child of God not as a child of the Devil. Can you imagine the revolution, the revival we could have in our lives, homes, and community if we loved with even an ounce of the love that God shows us!?

Start today, ask God to change your heart and mind, ask Him to reveal His love to you so you can show it to others. Ask Him for a willing heart, a confidence that can’t be shaken, and courage to obey when it’s hard. When you ask, He will always answer. When you ask, you will receive (Matthew 21:22Jorhn 16:24, 1 John 3:22James 4:3). This will not be easy; I’ve adopted the slogan, “Being Christian is not for the faint of heart.” God is going to break you and mold you, to make you more like Him. While it’s no cake walk, the rewards are eternal, the joy that comes from serving Him with abandon is beyond describable, the relationship you forge with God is priceless. The rewards reaped from sowing in God’s love, will far outweigh any hardship you might experience.

Colossians 3:12

John 14:21

Prayer: God, we give you our lives and hearts. Take us deeper than we’ve ever been, farther than we dare go on our own. Jesus, make us more like You. Give us willing, obedient hearts, completely dependent on You. We love You, and look forward to Your plans with hope, peace and joy. In Your powerful name we pray, let it be so!

Armor of God: Gospel of Peace

Ephesians 6:15

…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (NIV)
I was having a conversation with a friend recently about the state of Portland, OR. It’s this strange microcosm of anything goes” mentality. It’s as though they are convinced everyone believes the same thing that they do, on any subject. While they accept some varying degrees of opinion on the social and political issues of today, there is a point that most believe the line is crossed. They scream for tolerance and coexistence, yet condemn those of us who would dare be on the opposing side. They are walking around in darkness.
Physical darkness literally surrounds our eyes so that we can’t see where we are going. Spiritual darkness surrounds our heart, mind, and soul so that we cannot truly see where we’ve been, where we are are, or where we are going. When you walk in the darkness, there is one thing that you crave, and you seek earnestly, and you desire most of all. Whether you acknowledge it or not? well, that’s a different story. Peace. 
The Greek word for peace here in Ephesians 6:15 is eirene (i-ray’-nay’). It’s this idea of wholeness. God’s gift of wholeness. It’s derived from eiro which means to join, tie together into a whole. This brings new life to the word peace for me. I’ve always thought of peace as a sense of wellbeing, tranquility, or lack of chaos…a feeling. I had never thought of it as a state of being…a choice, a lifestyle. Feelings come and go. Peace does not have to. Joy does not have to. Love does not have to. All three are choices.
If we look at Scripture we’ll get a picture of what peace truly is. Psalm 29:11 The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.” John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” James 3:18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!”
Think back to a time you experienced God’s peace during a situation that, according to the world, you should have been like a chicken with your head cut off? 
If you haven’t experienced this peace, consider asking God to show you. Spend time talking with Him and pondering what it would take to experience His peace. 
Perhaps you need to examine your life to determine if you are a part of God’s family.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you.” We can see here it’s a benefit of having believed in and followed after Jesus, but it can be taken away. If you are ever in a situation where there is no peace, I can guarantee that it is not the Lord’s work, but your own. Look at Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He can’t not be who He is. Double negative’s, I know… But it’s true right? God can’t go against His nature, He doesn’t lie. So if Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and Jesus lives in you, but you have no peace, well that’s not God’s fault. I’ll give you an example of my life: I was faced with this extraordinarily heavy situation last week. The rest of the day I was distracted, easily frustrated, and all along I kept thinking I was handling the situation rather well. And while I may have been through the world’s perspective, I know I could have done much better through biblical filters. At any moment, I could have actually stopped to pray or read Scripture. Rather than throwing up half-hearted prayers. I was not in severe chaos or turmoil, but I can tell you that I didn’t have godly peace. You see how the level of peace we experience can be directly correlated to our choices? 
I want to move onto this idea of the Gospel of peace. Really, just this word Gospel.
Gospel. What is it? It literally means God’s good news. We have come to this place in the Church where the gospel has morphed into, essentially, the prayer of salvation. The gospel is that Jesus came to Earth as human, lived, died, and lived again for all people because He loves us that much. That’s the shortened version. What I mean by that, is that the Gospel is not simply how one comes to salvation, it is the entirety of the God’s Word. God’s good news did not begin when Jesus came to Earth, God’s good news came In the beginning.” Check out John 1:1-3 Jesus is the Word, and the Word was with God at the beginning. Jesus has always been. If Jesus is our way to salvation, the way, the truth, and the life,” and He was at the beginning of time, then the gospel began at the beginning of time.
If the Gospel was simply the sinner’s prayer then we would be free to do and act any way that pleased us after accepting the Lord into our life. But that’s not what God requires of us. He requires our whole lives, not just a one and done moment. The Gospel, the whole of the Gospel, the whole ofScripture is our path to righteousness.
There’s this great book I’m reading by JD Greear, Gospel. He has created something he calls The Gospel Prayer:
“In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that would make You love me less. Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy. As You have been to me, so I will be to others. As I pray, I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”
Are you living in the victory of the Gospel? We are promised freedom and peace. Does your life reflect that to those around you? Are you living in such a way that makes the Gospel seem like it’s a one and done moment? Or are you living as if the Gospel is truly the Word of God. If we aren’t actively applying the truth of the Gospel to our walks than what good is the knowledge we’re ingesting.
Romans 10:15 How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things.”
Philippians 4:6-7 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.” 
Here in Ephesians 6:15 it says we are to shod our feet.” Our feet are the foundation of our body, right? We are to put the Gospel as our foundation, and tie or attach it, making it a part of us. We are to be one and the same with the Gospel and all it contains. The Gospel, God’s good news, provides peace beyond all that we understand. Psalm 119:165 Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.” When you are grounded, founded, and tied to God, His law, and His Gospel we will not stumble.
So then I ask, are your feet firmly rooted in God’s Word, or are you trusting yourself to get through your days? What does your foundation look like? Is it cracked, sloppily put together, in need of some maintenance, maybe you need a full overhaul? Are you growing in the Lord?
Your Bible either says to shod your feet with the preparation or readiness. This word in Greek hetoimasia (het-oy-mas-ee’-ah) means foundation or firm footing. Get this: Roman soldiers shoes were cleated. These cleats were designed to allow a firm foundation in the midst of their battle. It allowed them to keep their ground, to stand firm. It would even give them the advantage over the enemy. It allowed them to push forward through the enemies attacks, and to take ground from the enemy. The same and even more is true of God’s Word. 
Therefore, it is of vital importance that we are firmly rooted in God’s Word. Where we plant our feet determines the path on which we walk. We walk on a path of righteousness (Prov. 2:20, 8:20). We walk with the Lord (Ps. 119:3). We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). When we walk in integrity we walk on solid ground (Prov. 10:9). 
Where are you feet planted? Are you standing firm in the Lord?
What is the main message of the Bible? God loves you and wants to be in relationship with you. If you have that as a foundation upon which you walk…well then, my friends, the Devil ain’t got no hold on you! There is hope for any situation you are currently facing, or any situation that may arise. We have a choice: life or death, peace or chaos, flesh or Spirit. I’d like to leave you with this truth: Galatians 5:24, 2:20, Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires…I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”