Peace That Passes Our Understanding

Today we visited Cornersville First Baptist to worship. I enjoy going there because they are full of Baptist tradition and it reminds me of when I first accepted Jesus into my life. It was at a Baptist church. However, I claim no denomination because there are some doctrinal issues I have with all the churches I have attended. So I guess you’d consider me non-denom but I believe that is becoming a denomination within itself.

The pastor, who is a very good friend of mine, spoke about peace today. He challenged the church to keep in mind Jesus did not come into this world to give us peace as the world knows peace which is without war and strife. Rather he came to give us another type of peace. An eternal peace.

John 14:27 says, “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.”

As I sat and reflected on the peace given by Jesus, I felt the Holy Spirit remind me that Jesus is eternal and what he brings is also eternal. Therefore, the peace he gives us is an eternal peace.

Philippians 4:7 says,  “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

By reading Philippians we see that the peace given to us passes understanding. In other words, when we feel the warmth of God’s peace come over us, it can leave us in awe because against all feelings we feel a something we shouldn’t. His peace stands in the face of conflict.

We can not understand eternity and the peace that Jesus gives us is eternal just as he is. Therefore, his gifts to us are difficult to wrap our minds around because even he is difficult to understand sometimes since we are finite and he is infinite. The peace he gives us is not understandable because eternity is not understandable.

So all we can do is trust that he is who he says he is and he will do what he said he will do and give us eternal blessings that last longer than worldly offerings.

 

The Real Peace Rock

jungle-book-peace-rock

A new chapter turned in my life. We signed my son up for the cub scouts. I volunteered to be the cub master and a den leader. The cub scouts were started in the 1930’s and were inspired by The Jungle Book. I went to Wal-Mart and bought the movie to watch with my family so we could get a better understanding of the concept of being in a pack or a den, having an Akela and BALOO training. It’s really cool stuff.

In the movie, there is a place that is called Peace Rock where all the animals of the jungle call a truce due to the drought and are able to go to Peace Rock and drink the water without fear of being attacked by prey. Peace Rock is the only place to find water in the whole jungle due to the drought and some animals would die of dehydration or die of attack if there were no truce.

Ironically (or is it) there is a real Peace Rock. His name is Jesus. When we are spiritually dry, everyone can go to the rock and drink from the water of life and find peace where there is no condemnation.

No matter where you are in life. No matter who you are in life. No matter what you are in life. There is a Peace Rock. He is the rock of our salvation. He is the peace that passes all understanding.

Droughts will come in our life. You may feel like giving up. You may feel like death is better than life. You may feel like you are gripped by unrest. You may feel there is nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, nowhere to find shelter. However Jesus is the answer to all our doubts.

He is our Peace Rock.

Scripture references

John 4:14 – “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Philippians 4:7 – “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

Psalm 18:2 – “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Giving My All

I know it sounds crazy but I tend to be one of the few that give 1,000% when I do something. Recently, I’ve thrown myself into a few things and I am sitting here in McDonald’s (mooching internet) and thinking; Am I exhausted? Am I Tired? Why do I give so much? Why do I care so much? Why doesn’t everyone else give as much? Do I need to continue? Is it really worth it? Do people see it or care? We can all be vulnerable at asking questions like that and sometimes it is healthy as long as we don’t allow a critical spirit to control us.

I started a church, Village Church. I am working on my Bachelor’s in Christian Leadership. I do sports commentary for the local high school (Cornersville, Tn) on the radio along with ALL the show prep. I am now a den leader in the Cub Scouts. On top of that I am a worshiper of God, a husband and a father. That’s a lot to balance in a day, week, or even a year. Oh, and I’m sucking air. That means I have a life to live with all the freedoms and baggage.

I’m not saying this to complain. Not at all. But sometimes, I do sit here and wonder is it really worth it. Does everyone else give so much? Y’know, 1,000% or maybe even 150%? I don’t know because I don’t know enough of what goes on in the lives of those around me to make a judgement call such as that.

What I do know is this. After I sat here with my head in my hands just praying for all the things going on and all the lives impacted and all the lives around me that are experiencing pain, this one thing comes to mind.

Is it worth it? YES!

Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I bet you caught it didn’t you. We are not told to do things for ourselves nor are we to do things for others. We are to do everything for God. That means everything I do should be in worship to Him; Worship meaning my response to who He is and what He has done, is doing, and will do in my life. So my life is a response.

I have to remember that. Everything I do is responding in worship to Him. So therefore Whatever it is, I’m doing it for His glory and giving thanks while doing it. When I’m scouting with First Graders, do it for the God’s glory. When I’m on the radio with Cornersville athletes, do it for the God’s glory. When I’m teaching at the High School, do it for the God’s glory.When I’m being a husband or father, do it for the God’s glory. WHATEVER it is, do it for the God’s glory.

This keeps me motivated because I know my ultimate reward is Him and being in His presence in His kingdom one day. Since He served us through death, we serve one another in life.

Can doing be draining? Sure. Is it tiring? Absolutely. Does it make you want to quit sometimes? You bet it does. But then I have to continue to turn to God’s word and hear Him say, “Don’t grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” (Galatians 6:9).

I have hope in the only one that gives eternal hope! I need Him to help me continue to give my all, knowing that in due time, we all who did not grow weary shall reap a harvest worth giving Him praise for.

What keeps you motivated when you want to quit?

When Life Gets Numb

We are all in different walks of life and at different levels of maturity. Where one person may be learning a lesson in business, another may have already learned it and has moved on. Where one person is learning a lesson in friendship, another has learned and moved on. We can all take a moment to lend a helping hand where others need it rather than point a finger at the immaturity or failings.

In this thing called life, we all have the potential to lose focus or desire. We want to give up when we feel like life is becoming overwhelming. I recently had a talk with a young woman whose life is bearing down so hard, she has become numb to her situation. She has lost all care and it really doesn’t matter what happens because of the numbness she feels.

Numbness

Have you ever sat on your leg or laid on your arm too long? You know that numb feeling you get when you do that? That’s about the way she feels. Numb to life. She feels nothing. She has no response to her surroundings. You could emotionally hurt her, physically beat her, spiritually defeat her, verbally damage her and she wouldn’t feel it because she has grown numb to life; even to the point of asking if life has a point.

Pins and Needles

The loss of value in life is a dangerous place to be. In order to find that value, it does not get much easier. You know that pins and needles feeling you get when the feeling starts to come back after the initial numbness? I hate that part. But it’s necessary. In order to get some sort of sensation back into your arm or leg or whatever numbness you are experiencing, you have to go through the pins and needles. It is not fun. It will make you question if it is really worth it. The numbness felt better. But we must persevere.

Getting Feeling Back

This is where this verse is valuable.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Psalm 51:12

David, someone who we would consider a powerhouse in the faith, had those moments too. He wrote this psalm after being called out by Nathan for committing adultery with Bathsheba. He needed a restoration because life was becoming to hard for him. Shame, guilt, frustration, hollowness, and numbness were setting in. He was becoming overwhelmed. Thankfully, he recognized it before it was too late and turned to the only one who could help.

As we all should, he turned to God to render him worthy to breathe the next breath again. He wanted to feel useful. He wanted redemption. He wanted to experience the joy found in God again. He wanted to experience being in unstrained relationship with God. So he asked God to restore that joy knowing full well that pins and needles would be next. Maybe if he saw Bathsheba, he’d have to look away or worse, apologize. Maybe he had to face those he had hurt.

Wounds do not heal quickly. It takes time. That is why David asks God to sustain him with a willing spirit. He knew that his spirit was easily distracted with worldly things. Only God can sustain our spirit. When the pins and needles come it will be tempting to numb it up again. But we have to persevere to get back to the point we can feel again.

Where do you turn when life gets numb? What about when the pins and needles start to take shape?

We Are Not Called To Be Safe

On the way home from a recent backpacking trip, I heard a Christian Radio station give their tagline: A safe place for the family.

Safe: protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost

Take a minute to think about what safe means to you. Does it mean you won’t hear cussing on the radio? Does it mean you won’t hear sexual lyrics in your songs? Does it mean you won’t see Rated anything but G in your book stores? Does it mean you won’t have smokers standing outside your church door? Does it mean you won’t have prostitutes or drug dealers coming to your church meetings? Does it mean your ministries are only going to the elderly and leaving out the homeless? Does it mean your youth groups, men’s and women’s ministries aren’t reaching out to those who need Jesus and only doing car washes and food drives? Just ruminate on that word safe for a minute.

Now let me ask you…

Are our churches, book stores, radio stations and ministries or whatever else we slap the Christian label on supposed to be safe? Because the last time I checked, Jesus never mentioned anything about us being safe.

He said we’d be hated (Matthew 10:22). Hatred is not safe.

He said we’d die for our faith (Matthew 16:25). We can’t die if we’re being safe.

He said we should go after the sick (Mark 2:17). Sick people are not safe.

He said to be rule-breakers (Mark 3:1-6). Breaking rules is not safe.

Never does the bible mention anything about our places of worship or our worship in itself being safe. As a matter of fact, being safe does not reach the very people who need to hear the gospel! We have the gospel because there is bad news and those who need the gospel are bad news. Bad news is not safe.

I recall God saying the only safe place was in his arms (Deut. 33:27). He is our fortress (Psalm 144:2). He is our rock (Psalm 18:2). He is our shelter (Psalm 46). It is his wings’ shadows that we hide under (Psalm 91:4).

By saying the church or our media is our safe haven is replacing God’s place in our life with our ministries. And replacing God with something or someone who is not God… is one danger you definitely don’t want to experience.

Guerrilla Warfare and the Church

It doesn’t impress people when I tell them I am a pastor. It doesn’t impress people when I tell them I have a position at the local church. It doesn’t impress people when I can give proper exegetical, hermeneutical or theological analysis of the scriptures. Frankly, I don’t think it impresses people when they find out I’m a christian. Why? I believe we have ruined the true identification of what it means to be Christian. Christianity has become like an overbearing sour lemon drop (unless your into that sorta thing). Which is why the standard approach to sharing the gospel doesn’t work anymore. That is, informing people that they are sinful and in need of a savior and inviting them to church.

People aren’t interested in church anymore because that’s where money hungry preachers are. That’s where hypocritical church-goers are. That is where gossiping housewives are. That is where legalistic elders are. That is is where drama-heavy youth groups are. Church is off-limits because limits to sinning is off. Sinning is actually overlooked as long as it benefits the establishment.

Picture if you will. The British have lined up on one side of the field. The Colonists are lined up on the opposite side of the field. Each army have their muskets in hand and the eight-pounders are lined behind the infantry. The calvary is off to the side and the officers are on a hilltop overseeing the battlefield while the fife and drum corps are nearby to give signal.

The signal is given to commence!

The infantry line up within yards of one another. The British take first shot creating a hole in the left side of the wall of Colonists. As the British reload, the Colonists take their first shot. And on and on they go taking turns hoping that their respectful Minié ball found its target. In the end, thousands of soldiers are slaughtered in the name of war.

But what really won the war? It wasn’t their weapons. It wasn’t their fortitude. It was their approach. It was their guerrilla warfare.

The Colonists did not mass in front of the British but chose to sneak around and fire behind trees and stone walls. One of the greatest accounts of guerrilla warfare is Washington crossing the Delaware. On Christmas, of all days, while the Hessian army was celebrating, Washington crossed the half-frozen Delaware at night (who’d have thunk) and attacked with vengeance by the break of light the next morning while the Hessian army still lay sleeping in their tents half groggy from their celebration. They didn’t expect such a thing to happen because, as the British would say, it wasn’t gentlemanly to fight with such incivility.

Now let’s apply said analogy (bear with me). The Colonists are the Christians and the British are those who haven’t accepted the message of Christ; call them what you will; unsaved, sinners, Non-Christians, unbelievers, unchurched. They both march on the battlefield of life and take shots trying to overcome the other.

The real problem is that both sides are lined up with no protection, nothing standing in between them for cover. They are in the open air slinging their form of ammunition hoping it will knock the enemy off its feet. The Christians hail their scriptures. Those who don’t know Christ sling their cynicism.

The Christians consider their enemy are those who don’t show up on Sunday morning. Vice-versa, those who don’t know Christ know their enemy by those who do go to church (and show up at Golden Corral in a three-piece suit on a blistering Summer day, being rude to the waitress and loud because the whole church decided to show up with the exception of Aunt Faye who left church early because her roast was burning and the preacher was being long-winded). But I digress.

Those who don’t know Christ run or create a defense mechanism when approached by the Christian. The Christian rebuttals in anger and disgust because the one who doesn’t know Christ won’t just “get it and believe, and go to church, and get baptized, and sing the songs and quit cussing, drinking and smoking and stay home on Saturday nights.” So the fight continues without end.

But what won the war for the colonists can win the war for the Christians.

Guerrilla warfare.

What if church (as we know it with four songs, offering, announcements and preaching) was not the goal? What if telling (showing if need be) them about Christ and when the time comes, that is when the Holy Spirit sees fit to begin a change in their lives, we join the effort to make them disciples were the end goal? By infiltrating the enemy, it means going where they are, being with them and exemplifying Jesus in the midst. Not condemning. Not judging. Not pointing fingers. Not thumping them with bible. But being amongst them and showing them the life of Christ and how beneficial it can be to the human soul. What if we asked people to belong in community of believers before believing what the community believes? Disciples are made in the trenches of life, not the pews of the church.

I do believe we can make a greater impact in this war on Hell when we take a guerrilla warfare approach and infiltrate the enemy’s lifestyle and invite them to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). That means work with them, eat with them, play with them, live life with them and invite them, not to church, but to experience Jesus.

I’m just trying to find a more concrete way for people to experience Jesus and not a service on Sunday morning, for them to experience a life change instead of a schedule change. I am just convinced this is the way, guerrilla warfare.

Planting Through the Tears

Planting with tears

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy, They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. Psalm 126:5-6

Just recently, we planted our garden for this year. A day before, I had pulled a muscle in my back. Running the tiller, working the garden hoe, lining off my rows, planting the seeds all put my sore back through more abuse. I wasn’t in tears but I came close a few times when the tiller would jerk or bending over the wrong way made me flinch.

Amanda Baublet wrote a great commentary infusing a commentary of John Piper’s in her blog on this very scripture. In a nutshell, she shares Piper’s thoughts that no matter what we are going through, even when the tears are falling we still need to press on. I agree. However, I would like to add a differing commentary. Not one that is polemical but one from a different perspective.

As Carrie and I set out to plant Village Church, we knew we wanted to “plant” something different, especially for this community. A house church or a community of believers meeting in someone’s house to worship, connect and serve is very different from the churches that normally meet in this area. We knew that we wanted to keep it simple and focus heavily on the difference being made in who the person becomes rather than what the person does. Heart transformation rather than trading information is key to what drives our mission at Village Church. We’re not so concerned with numerical growth as we are spiritual growth. Numbers are important but a wide and shallow lake serves no purpose when a narrow and deep river has power.

In order to commit to this form of church, we knew that we would have to make some changes in our ways of reaching people. We don’t advertise because we want folks to be relational. We don’t put a sign out front because we want our folks to be invitational. We pray about who God is leading us to and speak only to those and the rest simply do not get invited. Not that they aren’t welcome if they find out about us and want to come. We are intentional and laser-focused. In doing so, we are small and slow in our start.

Each day, I wake up and ask God to lead me to those who He wants at our church. I also ask Him to help me disciple in the throes of life rather than in a church service. I want my whole life to be Christian rather than Sunday morning. I want to read my bible with others where I work or play and not just at church. I want to reach folks and make a difference in every place rather than a church setting.

Do you know how hard this is? It means I don’t compartmentalize. I structure my whole life to revolve around the gospel and its truths. Therefore no matter where I am at or what I am doing I am able to preach and teach and share Jesus. And you know what? Tears are involved.

When folks are going though a hard life, they hear about someone who loves them by someone who is showing love for them and tears begin. Sometimes, folks won’t listen and tears follow the hard conversations. I get ridiculed, left alone, made fun of, looked at weird, called preacher (in a derogatory kind of way), and laughed at because I choose to follow Jesus. Tears flow.

Other times, I get called on because I have hope, faith, and love. I have answers (supposedly). I know how to reach  out to a God that they need a connection with. I have a moral authority and structure that guides my life and makes me look stable. I look like I have it all together when really all I have is joy in the One who holds it all together. And when they come to me to “ask me a question,” tears flow.

Tears. The garden of life is watered with tears. Joyful tears. Sorrowful tears. Tears none the less.

But soon (not soon enough), the harvest will come with shouts of joy. The harvest will be heard with singing. The harvest will be worth it because there will be no more tears.The work done through tears will be wiped away and joy will come and the singing will be loud and nobody will care if it’s in tune. I don’t know what the harvest will bring but I do know that as I plant and water, God will bring growth and when harvest day comes, I will be shouting with acclimation that God is good and the harvest is plentiful.

So, whatever you may be going through as you plant, tears may be a part of it and that’s ok. Let them tears fall. But know this, as they fall, one day joy will wipe them away because the harvest day has come.