Into the Foolishness of God

The power of coming into agreement with God's Word and will

IMG_0313“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17

A few weeks ago, I was walking past my kitchen table and saw this. My Bible was laid open from the day before, the sun was shining just right through the lights above the table. It lasted just a minute, but I’m glad I caught it. It slowed me down and gave me a smile. I sat down and just thanked God. I thanked Him for His love, His truth, His words to me.

So much wisdom and truth for our lives is contained in His word, and it’s so very easy to walk past it. We run to it in emergencies, but God intends it to be our DAILY bread. The fruit that grows in our lives is a result of constant abiding, not connecting and then disconnecting and then connecting again. A long, continual abiding yields fruit.

We need the wisdom from above. We need it because it’s the only pure thing we have. Our natural ways steer us towards anything but gentleness and mercy. Even on our best days we are still full of selfish, self-centered ambitions.

Gentle? Willing to yield? Not without Jesus.

Satan likes to complicate simple things. He wants to keep us away from these words of life, he wants us to think it’s too hard. Here’s a truth for you today: IT ISN’T!!!

God’s word and the understanding of it should be our very lifeline, not just another thing to check off after all our other lists are done.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17). Do you see where it starts? Right there in His words to us. It’s our launching place from which everything else comes. Faith. Forgiveness. Direction. Wisdom for our actual lives, our very real issues and very big decisions we make.

This was a reminder to me to slow down and remember the simple truth that God loves us so very much and wants to just be with us. The rest will fall into place, we don’t have to strive for it.

Those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). Staying connected to Him keeps us from those consequences of our selfish ways. Our heart starts to beat in sync with His, we step when He steps, we wait when He waits… when we are full of His truth there isn’t room for all the other junk. We can be gentle when others are not. We show mercy. We have forgiveness. Best of all, we don’t go searching for love or accomplishment in all the wrong places.

Give His words a chance. He tells us that He will “open our understanding” so we can understand His words (Luke 24:45). Watch and see… He is closer than we think!

Walls-of-Jerusalem-300x225“When the world says, “Oh, you’re narrow,” you say, “Maybe I am narrow, but the way is narrow, and the path to heaven isn’t as broad as a 16-lane highway. You know why I am too narrow? I’m walking with my God.AW Tozer

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that probably isn’t the most popular of ideas: Christian friend, we need to get back to being narrow.

< sounds of heads imploding, hands going up in protest, fingers starting to point…>

Hold on a minute. Isn’t that what is getting us in all kinds of trouble lately with the world and the people we are supposed to be reaching? Our narrow-mindedness? Our total inability to include others and welcome them no matter what?

First and foremost, lets see what Jesus said about this narrow way:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.” Matthew 7:13

The gospels, by definition are narrow. Jesus presented a choice and just like His disciples, we are free to follow or continue on our own way. Following Him though, comes with some requirements. We have to deny ourselves and carry our cross daily (Luke 9:23). People who followed Jesus in His day lost a lot of things, but what they gained was immeasurable. The point made over and over in the gospels is that of a narrower path than what the world presents to us. We will be mocked because He was mocked. We will be rejected because He was rejected. Not once did Jesus appease anyone or bend the requirements for them. The narrow gate is smaller, but it is always open.

So what to do when the narrow way Jesus told us to take becomes (in the eyes of the world) the narrow-minded way? When standing on truth gets you thrown under the proverbial bus and labeled as a narrow-minded jerk?

Here’s an example fresh in my mind of how tricky this is becoming.

Months ago, popular blogger and Christian writer Jen Hatmaker came out in support of same-sex marriage as holy and acceptable. Predictable pandemonium ensued, many agreed and supported her and many disagreed with her. This is not surprising in the least. She came out with a blog post a few days ago in which she railed against the “Christian Machine” response to her new position and how utterly devastating it was, and linked it to Jesus’ pain and the mourning we feel on Good Friday. The response to this blog post was overwhelming sympathy and many stories from hurt people reiterating their painful experiences with this ‘machine’.

First, I don’t doubt for one second the hurt and pain we in this so-called ‘machine’ can cause one another. Harsh words spoken in an absence of love are no way to represent the true Jesus to people, saved or not. Without love, our message is doomed before it even gets off the ground.

That being said… the message of LOVE also comes with a partner and it’s name is TRUTH.  We’ve lost the conviction that God’s Word must come before the shifting tides of culture or the witty words of human authors. I’m not bashing the author, I think her heart is so very much FOR helping hurting and lost people. I just think we can’t dispose of doctrine along the way. Twisting and contorting scripture to make something appear to be harmless, so that all these hurting and lost people feel included isn’t our job. Our job is to LOVE the people and show them that narrow gate. We don’t need to apologize that it’s narrow, or try and explain the narrowness away… we are to show them to it and declare how fantastic of a gate it is. Demonstrate that it’s not actually confining, mean-spirited, or exclusive in the ways they think it is.

While everyone is focused on the mean-spirited ‘machine’, I have to ask a genuine question: do we even recognize anymore that Biblical discernment is necessary and that sometimes disagreement needs to be voiced? Not in a crazy hateful manner, but in a “speak the truth in love” kind of way. That’s mostly what I saw in response to Jen’s postings. Were some hurtful and wrong? Yes. But the vast majority reacted exactly how you’d expect them to react – with respectful and heartfelt disagreement. Did she lose sponsorships and business deals? Yes. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “betrayal” or a “punishment” as she did. I’m sure that’s how it felt, but in the same way she stood up and declared a belief, so did those who disagreed with her doctrine.

Here’s the thing – it’s not all about same-sex marriage and it’s not all about Jen Hatmaker. It’s about sin and our desperate need for a Savior to deliver us from the grasp of it. He did just that. We are spinning our wheels when we focus on all the ways people have let us down, how the  ‘machine’ has disappointed us, etc. We who disagree aren’t all hateful, spiteful, backwards or closed-minded. A lot of us feel passionate about God’s Word and the freedom it gives when we allow ourselves to be set free by it.

The Bible tells us not to get wrapped up in foolish and ignorant disputes with people or engage in useless idle talk (1 Timothy 1:6, 6:5). Focusing too much on how awful those bad apples are only keeps us from seeing all the well-intentioned believers who may be standing nearby ready to walk us up to that narrow gate. Having pity-parties feels good for a time, but it’s a distraction that keeps us on the wrong path. I read plenty of loving responses to her statements that were also truthful. That’s how it’s done.

The flip-side of this is that we are not to be argumentative, but ready to teach and with all humility correct those who are in opposition to God’s truth, not so that we may be proven right, but so that they may escape the captivity of darkness (2 Timothy 2:25).

THAT’S how you demonstrate the ‘narrow-gate’ without being ‘narrow-minded’ as they say. The internet has created a kind of black and white world in which the end game is all about winning our side. Someone makes a declaration. People react. More people react to those reactions, etc. We need to step back and ask ourselves “what’s my purpose here?” Proving my point? Putting that person in their place? Useless.

Speaking truth in love in order to demonstrate to others the freedom the narrow gate offers? I’ll argue that point all day long.

 

“We want to matter to the people we think matter. We want the people we think matter to single us out. We want them to spend time with us. We want them to invite us in. 

We want in. Left on the wrong side of the door, we can regress into eighth grade versions of ourselves in mere minutes. We worry that we’re too tall, too short, too uncool or unfashionable or uncomfortable in our own skins to fit in. 

There is a voice that whispers all the reasons we deserve to be out – a voice that taunts. There is a voice that relentlessly lists every time we’ve found ourselves on the outside and actually revels in each remembering. There’s a mean girl inside us all who will hypnotize us if we let her. Everyone is on the outside of something, but that is only half the story. The GOOD NEWS is that we are all on the inside of something – often without even realizing it.” Lisa-Jo Baker

I cringe at the thought that there’s still a teenager inside of me someplace, that middle school version of myself that could be in the proverbial clouds one minute and crying in a heap on the floor the next. Friends, non-friends, cliques and classmates were the center of the universe around which everything else revolved. It wasn’t true of course, but that was my reality anyways. One day you’re in the group, the next you get passed a note on pink lined paper informing you “you’re out.” I’ll never forget at some point in seventh grade when I was told there was no more room at the table for me (the literal lunch table) and that I needed to go find a different place to sit. The world may as well have ended. We can all probably remember times like these, they play like cassette tapes in our heads. We have all been there, on the inside and suddenly on the outside. On the flip side, there are probably just as many times when we ourselves dished it out to someone, knowingly or not, and left them on the outside looking in.

In seventh grade I had no concept of a bigger picture, no grasp of how soon it would pass, and no understanding that most of these people wouldn’t matter in a year or two. I didn’t quite yet see Jesus as the friend I really needed, the one who would never leave. He was there, I remember, I just put things ahead of Him in the pecking order. I prayed and prayed to be let back into the group, not realizing I was already on the inside of a lot of other things. I had other friends. I had outside activities. I just chose to focus on the one thing I couldn’t be a part of.

I’ve read some lately about the mentality we develop that somehow there isn’t enough to go around. Enough of what, exactly? Good things. Success, happiness, joy. Invitations, likes on Instagram, places on the team. You name it. We gather our goods around us and hold tightly to them, while giving the side-eye to our neighbor if they have something good as well.

“Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as hiving only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people. The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody.” Steven Covey 

It’s like that idea of holding tightly to a handful of sand, the tighter you grasp, the more you lose.

I thank God for the things I’ve learned since middle school. I acknowledge that I sometimes repeat old patterns of my seventh grade self as well. The biggest thing I’ve learned? Maybe that we are designed by our Maker to be absolutely FILLED with His love first and foremost before we can even attempt to be satisfied by things of the world. Mark 3:14 says that Jesus “appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach…” They were to just BE with Jesus first. Here are the three words I’ve been pondering for a few weeks: ABIDE. DWELL. DELIGHT.

If we aren’t filling ourselves with Jesus first, everything else is going to fail before it even gets started. If we don’t take time to sit at His feet and soak in HIS peace, HIS truth, and HIS words to us, we are going to go out and grasp at everything we come across, begging it to fulfill us in a way that only God can.

If you know in your bones that you are complete in Jesus and fulfilled in Him… His desires become your greatest desires. How interesting. His ways are all about abundance, not lacking or striving. We are never on the outside with Him. When He becomes the center around which everything rotates, those insecurities and troubles don’t seem quite as debilitating anymore.

He tells us that in quietness and confidence is our strength (Isaiah 30:15). We don’t have to strive to get on the inside of anything, we need to simply sit at His feet and be with Him. Allow Him to bless us so we may go be a blessing to others. There is more than enough to go around, no matter what our seventh grade self may whisper to us. We are always on the inside with HIM.

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“You are loved harder and longer and more urgently than the ending of any Jane Austen novel.” Lisa Jo Baker, Never Unfriended

This quote cracked me up. If you’ve ever read through or watched a Jane Austen story, you know for the most part, it all shakes out in the end. The tangled relationships somehow untangle, the unrequited love finally gets acknowledged, romantic awkwardness turns into glorious togetherness… the universe stops colluding against our heroine and starts working in her favor.

We want to be pursued. We want someone to come knocking at our door. Not just in a romantic sense, but in a relational one as well. Since the earliest days in the Garden of Creation, we have been made to relate to one another and our God.

We spend an awful lot of time knocking on one another’s doors only to be disappointed when they don’t answer. We wait in vain on people to come to our doorstep, to pursue us, and we measure our worth by the frequency of knocks at the door.

Sometimes they don’t come. Sometimes all the wrong ones show up on our front porch. Either way, we miss something hugely important: the One who stands and knocks, softly, intentionally, lovingly, and passionately at our door 24/7. (See Revelation 3:20)

Jesus literally never tires of knocking. Ever. He passionately pursues us in a way the would make Mr Darcy look like an amateur.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you…”

What if we allowed Jesus to tell us how ardently HE admires us?

Sadly, our culture values quantity over quality, we rarely allow relationships to root down deep, things get plucked up at the first sign of distress. We show up on doorsteps but rarely remain long enough to be invited in. Jesus not only knocks, but wants to come inside. He pursues, but He doesn’t come where He isn’t welcomed.  Before we are able to give ourselves in friendship, marriage, parenting… we must get our worth from Him alone. Allowing Him to love us and pursue us is a sure-fire way to get filled up with what we really need. Then and only then are we free and capable to give it away.

“…anchoring our identity in the God who is obsessed with spending time with us makes us freely available to give grace to our friends who literally, humanly aren’t able to make themselves that kind of available.” Lisa Jo Baker 

Friends, if we aren’t getting our worth from God, we are going to go crazy trying to get it from the world. Yes, we may be well ahead of some in certain areas, but there’s always something we are chasing as well. It’s a rat race with no end game and it will wear you out and choke out any relational roots that may be worth tending to.

Get filled up to fill others up. We all have doors to knock on and doors to answer. May we   allow ourselves to be pursued and chased after by a God who holds in His hand gifts we could never imagine.

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Our pastor said something at church this morning that really stuck out to me, I jotted it down on the notes section of my phone… (which says a lot, because I barely know how to use the notes section of my phone). He was speaking on evangelism, which at first, made me scrunch up my face and shrink back a bit in my chair. Not so much comfortable with evangelizing,  I have to say. Not in the sense that I usually think of it, anyways. He said there are probably two big reasons why we react this way: we’ve either seen it done really poorly and we don’t want to be ‘that’ Christian, or we’ve seen it done really well and we feel totally inadequate.

It’s the angry loud guy on the corner with a giant sandwich board telling everyone they are going to hell, or Billy Graham himself. No middle ground. So yeah, it’s easy to see how we can push this area aside. It seems impossible, and besides, aren’t certain people just called to evangelize and gifted to do it?

The truth is, we are ALL called to make disciples and spread the good news (Mark 16:15). No special calling required, except our relationship and belief in Jesus and what He accomplished for us.

To evangelize is simply to declare the good news to those still in captivity. He used the verses in Isaiah 52 to paint a beautiful picture of this:

Awake, awake!
Put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city!
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Shall no longer come to you.
2 Shake yourself from the dust, arise;
Sit down, O Jerusalem!
Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion!

Put on the bright garments and take off the mourning clothes. Shake off everything that holds you down and stand up!

Israel was still captive, but God was calling them to anticipate their coming freedom and act accordingly. How much more then, should we, being set free, put on our bright garments and stand up? We are supposed to be known for our JOY, Christians. Not phony, fake smiles and slick Instagram posts, but real, abiding joy that comes and stays despite challenges and in the face of difficulties.

“Live and love in a way that demonstrates the reality of your rescue” he said. Are we living that way? Or are we parading around in our dark mourning clothes all hunkered down in the dirt? Do people recognize something different in us or are we so blended in with the world that nobody would ever know if we were Jesus-followers or atheists?

To evangelize is simply to get up and share the good news. With actual people in our lives. We can demonstrate it in so many ways, but we are called and commanded to do it. We make things way too hard when we think this is something to be left up to the pastors of the world. Taking little steps with the people in our lives can make a huge impact.

Don’t be afraid to declare the good news. We may not all be bold like Billy Graham, but we do have the Holy Spirit and that’s pretty amazing.  As long as it’s not angry yelling on the street corner, I bet we’d be surprised at people’s responses to actual good news. The world needs it the way dry soil needs water. Get out and share Jesus and demonstrate to the people you come across the reality of your rescue.

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“Unless you are convinced that in the blood of Jesus when He died on the cross there was included, as a purchase of that blood, your right to a full, Spirit-filled life – unless you are convinced of that, unless you are convinced that it isn’t an added, unusual, extra, deluxe something that you have to go to God and beg and beat your fists on the chair to get, I recommend this to you: I recommend that you don’t do anything about it yet except to meditate upon scripture bearing on this truth.” AW Tozer

This is a bit of a crude example, but are we signed up for the all-you-can-eat buffet or are we dining à la carte in our spirit lives? Jesus came that we may have LIFE and have it ABUNDANTLY and that includes living in great freedom. He’s like the whole buffet, drink refills and Jell-O desserts included. Paid for in full, and have at it.

We seem to struggle with this. Some people seem to be tangled up more than others. It isn’t that Christ has freed some more than others, it’s that some of us haven’t fully accepted and appropriated what He’s done in our own lives. He’s purchased the buffet for us, but we’re stuck still trying to buy things off the menu. There isn’t some extra-supersized version of freedom that some get and some don’t… He came and freed us all from every sin that ensnares (Hebrews 12:1). All of us. Every sin. Every struggle.

The dots don’t always connect, though. Sure, Jesus came and died for our sins and we’re going to heaven… that’s our big picture. But setting down each little habit, temptation or struggle and accepting there is something better… it’s hard. We waste so much time slogging through the mud thinking ‘oh well that’s just life’ while all the time Jesus is saying ‘no, it’s actually not… I freed you from this already!’ We accept certain little sins and allow them to set up shop in our hearts.

A life of righteousness, peace and joy isn’t just a PERK to be enjoyed by some, it’s our RIGHT as children of God. Tozer said we have to be satisfied and convinced that it’s not abnormal to experience these things. “In a world where everybody was sick, health would be unusual, but it wouldn’t be abnormal. This is unusual only because our spiritual lives are so wretchedly sick and so far down from where they should be.”

Before we can walk this out, we have to realize this is what Jesus came and died for. We don’t need to beg or beat our fists at the skies, our ticket has already been bought and paid for. If we aren’t experiencing it, it’s because we haven’t fully accepted it and are trying to do something in our own power. Jesus is at the buffet! It’s all been provided for us!

If we are fearful or fretful it’s because we aren’t accepting what He’s already provided. Jesus didn’t die for our sins so we would be panicky Christians holding on to our lives with clenched fists trying to figure our next move. When we try to work things out with our intellect or strength we are limiting ourselves to the à la carte menu, which we all know is a huge rip off. Sin makes us freak out, it makes us irrational, and it makes us do really dumb things quite frankly. The enemy wants to keep us there as long as possible, thinking that spirit filled life is unattainable.

In a world where everyone is sick, yes it is unusual to be healthy. You stand out, and that’s a good thing. It isn’t abnormal, though to be well. Not in Christ’s eyes at least. We aren’t perfect, but we are well. Of course sin is sin and we make mistakes, but we also realize we don’t need to be ensnared over them. We have a ticket for the buffet and we are not going to settle for a small plate.

Tozer advises us to just meditate on that for a bit. Don’t fret. Don’t go out and do a bunch of things to fix yourself… just go see what Jesus says about it. He’s quite patient actually and more than willing to show us the way to the buffet.

It may not be perfect, but it can be well with our soul if we will just accept what He’s already purchased for us. Be WELL, friends!

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“and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…” John 15:2

The pruning knife. A much maligned and misunderstood concept for us believers I think. John 15 was always one of my favorite chapters to read, admittedly I didn’t really understand much except that Jesus said He was the vine and we were the branches, and something about staying connected. I always liked the beauty of the grapevine. And the wine part, obviously. That’s the great thing about abiding in Him though, He’s always peeling away layers and showing us more as we rest and grow in Him. We could read the same chapter and verse our entire lives and God would still have something to show us on our last day.

So we read John 15 and take in the big ideas, He is the vine, we are the branches, etc. Something shifts a little when we’re told of certain branches getting pruned so that they will bear even more fruit. One thing I think a lot of us believe is that God’s pruning shears are like a giant weed-whacker. A kind of cosmic machete swinging wildly chopping off this and that from our lives to teach us some kind of lesson. We say things like:

  • Well, what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger!
  • This (sickness, calamity, misfortune) must be God’s will, He wouldn’t give me more than I could bear!

I’ll stop there, you get the point. Is this true? Is God’s pruning basically just Him hacking away at things in our lives? If we are sick or fall on hard times can we call it ‘pruning’?

Here’s something neat I read about pruning vs. other forms of trimming or shearing:

“Pruning is always done by hand (so put away that electric hedge trimmer!). Each branch or stem is cut individually, with cuts carefully placed based on bud growth. Pruning results in a more natural look and is generally better for the health of the plant. It allows you to make more judicious cuts to shape the plant and address specific issues, such as diseased or damaged branches. And by letting light into the interior of the shrub, you encourage growth throughout the entire plant, not just on the branch tips.”

Did you catch that?

  •  Always done by hand. No weed-whackers randomly cutting here and there.
  • Big cuts are sometimes necessary and they address specific issues
  • Attention is taken to let light in to the inside, not just the outside tips

The thing with vines is that they can become so well-rooted and mature they need very little water or fertilizer, but they cannot survive without constant pruning. Last seasons “stuff” will only do damage if kept for this season. Sometimes perfectly healthy wood has to be cut away. We once took a tour of a vineyard where they told us a branch can grow up to ten feet long and get pruned down to just a couple of inches. Those few inches are enough to bear healthy grapes. The sap has to be saved for the fruit, not wasted on extra branches and leaves. Let that sink in: no matter how healthy and mature the vine, it still needs vigorous pruning. 

So in order to prune us, does God send random problems and hardships? Problems are a part of life, but they aren’t necessary to bear good fruit. If we mistakenly accept and welcome them into our lives, we aren’t living Biblically or very intelligently for that matter. The word used for pruning (or purging) actually means to cleanse. This makes complete sense when you read verse 3: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” 

It’s actually through His WORD that he prunes us. Cleanses us. Purges us of all the extra bark and leaves that no longer help us. His word is sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), it’s living and active and it is more than enough to discipline and correct us (2 Timothy 3:16). Words of conviction, but also of comfort. Words that melt down our selfish plans but refine them into better ones.

God doesn’t need the devils help when it comes to helping us bear fruit. That isn’t to say that we don’t learn through trials and hardships, of course we do. Lets not confuse God’s way with the world’s way though. God loves us and desires to make us clean through His words and promises to us. His pruning shears are always handheld and used with the utmost of care. They may humble us, but they won’t destroy us. While the world focuses on what the outer edges of our branches and leaves look like, Jesus wants to make sure light is getting all the way to the inside of us.

Leaves from trees put on a mighty show every autumn, but they aren’t really meant to hang around in big numbers on the vine. The vine is all about the fruit. Jesus is all about our fruit. Abundant fruit. Don’t be afraid of the pruning shears, He’s precise and He knows what He’s up to. True, we may be humbled from a giant log down to a smaller branch. We may feel a bit naked without all our leaves, but never humiliated. Those short, bare vines are the strong ones. They may not be the showiest, but their fruit is abundant and healthy!

 

 

 

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In the Bible, the Hebrew word for peace, shalom is a deeply meaningful word. More than just the absence of conflict, shalom is an expression of wholeness and completeness.

In Colossians 3 Paul gives us a beautiful picture of believers living together in shalom and it’s far more than just a static absence of conflict.

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Bear with each other. Do you know what that means? It means to tolerate or put up with someones wrongdoing. Why? Because the Lord has forgiven us all of far worse. We are told not to enflame their passions, stir their pot, fan the flames… what have you. It’s not that we are doormats to be mistreated, or victims to be abused, but we are not to be so selfish or hard-hearted that we cannot forgive.

God’s people aren’t immune to unforgiveness. Paul is addressing them directly telling them to clothe themselves with humility and kindness so that when offenses happen (and they always will) they don’t rule the heart. He’s showing them a way through it, a proper way to handle it so that the whole community will remain whole, in shalom.

When Paul wrote about the shoes of peace, he wasn’t talking about a flimsy pair of flip-flops. He was talking about the special sandals Roman soldiers wore to battle. Because they typically fought side by side, the thick-soled shoes enabled them to dig their feet firmly into the ground and not slip. The shoes grounded them.

The shoes of peace are an essential part to our offensive armor. It’s not always a bad thing to dig your heels in if it means you’re standing on the truth of shalom.  The enemy likes nothing more than to see our feet slip. If he can disturb the battle lines, he advances. That’s why forgiveness is so necessary in our lives. By harboring bitterness and resentment, we lose ground personally and corporately. As recipients of grace, we are commanded to also give grace. We are commanded to live in shalom and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts no matter what.

An impossible task if we attempt it in the flesh. An absolutely normal and beautiful part of the Christian walk if we allow Jesus to work it out in us. Satan will never stop sowing strife among us… like little seeds of conflict being constantly dropped in the soil of our hearts. Our job is to recognize them and toss them out before they take root and grow into something bigger. Don’t water them. Don’t tend to them. Don’t let bitterness take root.

It may mean we operate differently with people. It may mean we set boundaries so as not to repeat the same mistakes over again. It may mean consequences. Anger itself isn’t a sin, it’s how we deal with it that leads us either to chaos or peace. Without the proper footing, the enemy will drag us off into total chaos. We are called to a higher standard, not an impossible one, but higher than that of the world. The fantastic news is that Jesus made it totally possible for us to live His way. It actually releases us to great freedom. When we go beyond forgiveness to praying for and loving those who hurt us, we slam the door shut on the chaos. The enemy can’t get in. His seeds can’t take root.

The sandals of peace help us hold the line. A shoeless soldier can be brought down by the smallest of rocks. Don’t let the enemy catch you in that state. We walk in peace, in shalom because Jesus made it possible for us to do so. It’s far easier to forgive and walk in freedom than it is to nurture the seeds of resentment.

Forgive. Walk on. Shut the door to the enemy. Enjoy the freedom and the wholeness that Jesus offers.

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“There s a restlessness within us that cannot be satisfied until we rest fully in God.” AW Tozer

Rest. It’s an evasive thing for many of us today. I’ve been struck lately at all the verses in the Bible that address it. We are commanded to rest, not only on the Sabbath, but all the time in our spirits. There is a special kind of rest God gives to His children, a physical but also spiritual kind of rest that is found in Him alone.

Psalm 127:2 says “it is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of toil; For He gives His beloved sleep.” 

This certainly isn’t saying work is vain or unnecessary, we are created to work as well, but it does address the idea of doing it all for self. The previous verse says “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in VAIN who build it…”. He calls it VAIN to rise up early and toil when the only pay you receive is the ‘bread of sorrows’.

The rat race isn’t slowing down. That proverbial hamster wheel is always turning. We can get caught up in it, in trying to further ourselves along, but for what? What is the end game we are after?

If you have kids, you know. The world is different for them than it was for me. Every decision has a ‘next step’, a pro, a con, a benefit, a drawback. They have to plan and decide in ways I never did, and it’s downright weird at times. Everything is about appearances now. The audience is larger. The pressure is greater. Of course there is no perfect job, no perfect school, no perfect marriage, no perfect life, just people trying their best with what they have. And so we toil. That word strikes me for some reason. It just sounds awful. I think of those witches from Macbeth, stirring their pot chanting “double double toil and trouble…” 

Toil is relentless and incessantly working at something that never really has an end. Poor peasants toil in the fields day in and day out because the work is never, ever done. We may not be laboring in the fields, but this verse strikes me as something we should pay attention to, because no matter what our condition, we are always striving for something more.

We are created for it, this searching, desiring, part of us is God-given because like that song says “there’s a God-shaped hole inside all of us…”. With the proper direction, that desire can do wonders. Misdirect it, however, and you are running uphill both ways working for the bread of sorrows. It’s all meaningless when we focus on ourselves. No matter how successful we become, how much our kids accomplish, how polished things may be, we’re still climbing the ladder to nowhere.

The most successful are often the least rested. They have a lot on their shoulders. God never intended for us to live that way. Discipleship comes with a price, and at times we are called to put it all aside and rest. The bread of sorrows isn’t worth the toil. Jesus has something better. “He gives His beloved sleep.”  I don’t think this is just talking about physical sleep, I think it’s talking about a true, genuine rest that comes when we lay it all down and let Him build our house. His directives, His rules, His plans. Without it, we are all spinning our wheels getting nowhere. We rise early, toil, stay up late worrying… for what? For our selves.

Our world simply doesn’t allow us to rest. We are connected. All. The. Time. Sometimes it’s disgraceful, but I’m as guilty as anyone. Anxious, fear-driven people make anxious, fear-driven decisions. We learn it and we pass it on. We eat the bread of our toil nervously and anxiously waiting for the next shoe to drop.

And yet. God says over and over in His Word to us, don’t fall for it. Do not be anxious. Do not fret. Fear not. He tells us we CAN actually lie down and sleep in peace because He is the keeper of our souls and our circumstances, if we allow Him to be.

He gives His beloved sleep. A few verses later in Psalm 128 He connects all these dots and says “when you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.” 

That’s what it’s about. We are created to work, but not toil. We are created to enjoy the fruits of our labors, not spin in the proverbial hamster wheel with all the other hamsters.

Until we rest fully in God, the restlessness will not cease. The world is hard enough, allow Him to build the house, enjoy the fruit, and receive the rest He promises.

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“A servant of God must stand so much alone that he never knows he is alone. We must build our faith not on the fading light, but on the light that never fails. 

Allow nothing to keep you from looking God sternly in the face about yourself and about your doctrine, and every time you preach see that you look God in the face about things first, then the glory will remain all through. A Christian worker is one who perpetually looks in the face of God and then goes forth to talk to people. “Moses was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” Exodus 34:29

We are never called on to parade our doubts or to express the hidden ecstasies of our life with God. The secret of the worker’s life is that he keeps in tune with God all the time.” Oswald Chambers

There is a light that fails us, and a Light that never fails. How amazing to be so focused on the true “Light” first and foremost that we, like Moses, carry His radiance with us naturally and somewhat ‘unaware’.

God first, people after. When we come face to face with His Light, we cannot help but carry it with us. What we see in others is but a reflection of the real thing. Moses eventually had to veil his face because the people couldn’t handle it. He kept it on so the people could not see the glory fading away (2 Corinthians 3:13).

Thankfully, because of Jesus, the veil for us was torn and tossed away. We are made and called to reflect His glory with unveiled faces, every day. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Trying to draw this radiant light from those around us is good, but the very best any of us can do is reflect. Go to the source, stay face to face all the time, abiding in Him. “We are never called to parade our doubts or to express the hidden ecstasies of our life with God…” Share…. yes! Encourage… yes! Parade….no.

We don’t have to climb Mt Sinai to meet our God. We get to sit at the feet of Jesus. Moses couldn’t help but radiate after being in God’s presence and we should be no different. Thankfully, our radiance can be natural and effective, never showy or terror-inducing like that of poor Moses. The lights of the world fail and fade. Like batteries, they have a shelf life. May we never strive to be like all the other lights around us, but focus on the Source of them all, the One who never fades.

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