Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Put Away your Sword

Matthew 26: 52-53, "Put your sword back in its place, Jesus said to him, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?"

I was reminded by a student of mine that I don't need to take matters into my own hands, when I have God.

I was talking about what it means to be a peacemaker. And I said we should live in peace with everyone around us. The Bible says that 'as long as it is in my power, I should."
And it makes sense, right?
We should be kind, and not start trouble.
However, when my student brought up this verse, I realized that there is more to being a peacemaker than I even wanted to admit.

You see, it's one thing to be nice to people. But it's an entirely different and more challenging thing to stay put when people hurt you or someone you care about.

Like when we were kids and someone did something mean to a friend, I wanted to see justice done.
Or like when the girl, who was supposed to be my best friend, made fun of me after I got stitches.
I can still remember it as if it was yesterday.
Second grade. Recess time. And there I was, running after Jeanette until she could not run anymore, I finally socked her in the stomach.
Or during my teenage years, when my sister was badly hurt, and I wanted her offender to also hurt... badly.

And now.... well, now it's easier to show self-control. I guess it's part of maturing in life. I no longer go around chasing people who cause me pain. Oh... but I guess at times, I have. Though no one has noticed. It's one of those "heart issues" that God deals with.

Staying put.... it's easy to do when things seem calm in your life. But when tension makes its residence a permanent one in your life because of hurts and disagreements, it just doesn't seem easy to stay put, let alone trust that God will take care of it.
Did I just admit that it's hard to trust God at times?
I guess I did.

When things seem to be moving along smoothly, of course, I can trust God! But when I'm hurt and in constant suffering; aaaahhhh, that's when it gets tricky.

Are you following here? Have you been there? Been there done that?
I'm sure you have.

You see I'm constantly hearing about people who are suffering and hurting. People I care about are dealing with physical ailments and illnesses. Friends of mine are suffering becasue of broken relationships. Some have been hurt by the animosity of others. Others are hurt because of their own stupid mistakes.
I've been hurt by friends, acquantainces, and loved ones. And I know for me, when that happens, two things occur. First, I break down and then I lash out.

Did I just admit to another flaw?
Wow, I'm on a roll.
How foolish that disciple must have felt-- many say it was Peter-- when Jesus told him to put away his sword. Reminding him that He was in control.
And yet, I also admit to how foolish I've been.... to think that I could handle my cares best. That I could possibly defend myself with my own strength.
I admit... there is no strength here.
None that I could take true credit for.

Though I've tried, time and time again I've been reminded that putting my trust in God, my true defender, is my actual source of strength.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

People Like Me

If you're like me, you struggle.
If you're like me, you don't always say the right thing.
You may not always do the right thing either.
If you're like me, even your thoughts are a bit off track.

If you're like me, you beat yourself up mentally, wishing you could do better.
If you're like me, you don't always do better.

If you're like me, you appreciate the bit of hope, the glimmer of hope that comes when you realize someone still cares for you, regardless of how messed up you are.

My mom was and still is the one person that I can go to and feel accepted, regardless of anything that I have done wrong. She has always assured me that there's a second chance for me, and it comes more times than I can imagine.

I had been married for a little over a year, when I confessed to my mother that I had been in a sexual relationship before getting married. I felt compelled to tell her because of the guilt I had carried for so long. I felt like I had not only deceived her, but also brought shame to her name. Some may think that I had no need to confess to her. In essence, I was already in a marriage. What difference would it make then? To me, it made a the biggest difference. Not only was I able to confess a hidden sin, but I was able to experience a small magnitude of grace from someone who truly cared about me.
My mother's response felt so freeing to me. She not only embraced me but also assured me that I didn't need to carry any more guilt or shame. She accepted my apology, and mostly she accepted me.
Acceptance....it can truly bring a sense of validation for who you are.

If you are anything like me, you have screwed up a lot of things in your life because of your own tendencies and struggles.
If you're like me, you've hurt those you love.
You've been ungrateful and selfish.
You've shunned God, when you didn't get your way.
If you're like me, you have some regrets.

Psalm 19: 12-14, "Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer."

Romans 3:10, "As it is written: there is no righteous, not even one."

Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 8:1, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."

If you're like me, read carefully.... Jesus came for people like me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

God has a Spirit

My daughter informed me yesterday that God has a spirit. And along with that she also informed me that God made Eve out of the rib he took from Adam. She even showed me her ribs to prove she knows what she's talking about. So she told me that God has a spirit and that it lives in us, and she knows why. It's simple.... "So that He can protect our hearts."

And with that, I was quickly reminded of the purpose of the Holy Spirit living in me. I was reminded of the one who co-exists within me, although it often goes unnoticed or unmentioned. I was reminded of His sweet voice. And the soft voice that tugs at my heart every time I'm about to make a dreadful decision. And it's the same voice that encourages me to make the phone call to someone in need or to smile at the person who's looking kind of gloomy. The Holy Spirit living in me. God's spirit. In essence... God.

Not too long ago I was in a McDonald's where I saw a woman and young child eating breakfast. Right away they caught my attention. I guess it was the shabby clothes they wore, and the pale look on their faces. I sensed something was not right. In the meantime, I had purchased a little toy for my own daughter, but was disappointed with the purchase. Something within me began to tug at my heart, and I felt compelled to give the child the toy I had just purchased. I did as the Spirit suggested, and it still brings a smile to face, when I recall the bright look on their faces.
But why does the spirit guide me? Why does it never leave me? Why does it reprimand me and alert me? Why does it counsel me so?
John 14: 16-17 says, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you."

I'm in awe at the response I get. Once again I feel humbled by the grace and love of my Lord. Jesus... not only did he come to bear the weight of my guilty state, but he then assures me that I will not remain alone, when he's gone. He makes sure to provide companionship, guidance and truth..... when He provides His Spirit. Why did He do it? Because He loves us so! Love... revealed in His Spirit... as He's protecting our hearts.
And once again I'm taken back by the grandness of it all. His love... His love for us. For me.
My thoughts are limited. Too limited to fathom such love for me. Therefore, I'm awe of your love for me, and humbled in my human state, Lord.
And I ponder on all that the "world" is living without because they don't know Him. All that they must endure, without the counselor being there to protect their hearts.
And yet, I'm fortunate enough to say that I know Him. He lives with me and is in me.
I heard His loving voice today.