Ruled By Peace

About a month ago, on choir Sunday, I was eating breakfast in the consecration room between worship services and talking with one of the guitar players.  As we got to know each other, he said something that surprised me and really made me think.  Before he met Christ, he said, he was into playing heavy metal, but he gave it up because he felt like it was no longer compatible with his faith.  I asked why that was; couldn’t he begin writing songs with a positive message instead and reach out to the same demographic as before?  He shook his head. “Christian music is an entirely different genre altogether.  I don’t like it when artists take a worldly genre and try to slap a Christian label on it.  You see, even if I were to give Christian lyrics to my music, heavy metal is not Christian.  It’s angry music.  Not peaceful music.”

This idea intrigued me, but I didn’t think too much about it again until recently when I came across a couple of passages in Colossians and Ephesians.  I encourage you to read the whole section to better appreciate the context, but I will paraphrase below:

Colossians 3:5-15.  Rid yourself of anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, because you have taken off your old self with its practices and put on the new self.  As God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves instead with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Ephesians 4:22-5:21. Put off your old self and be made new in the attitude of your minds.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger. Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

When I read that, I started thinking about it in big picture terms.  What characterizes a life of peace?  Let me add a little disclaimer that I don’t get offended or “judge” people who drink or swear.  Because honestly, when looking at these concepts, using euphemisms for swear words means the same thing; and I don’t think alcohol is necessarily wrong, but I think it can be, just like comforting yourself by overeating or numbing yourself by — I don’t know, compulsive shopping, or whatever it is you depend on instead of allowing yourself to be filled with the Spirit.

It’s not a matter of doing something wrong, but of having the wrong mindset.  Thinking about it in terms of what my guitarist friend said, I realized that the reason Paul condemns “filthy language” and “unwholesome talk” is because profanity is a language of anger, not of peace.  The same goes for yelling any kind of euphemism in anger.  It’s not the swearing that shouldn’t be there; it’s the attitude.  Likewise, he speaks against drunkenness because it often leads to debauchery.  We all know how the crazy parties go: blaring music, strangers hooking up with strangers, people puking all over the floor.  Later, it turns into hangovers and unproductivity.  At best, it’s an artificial way to relieve stress other than allowing the calming peace of the Spirit to rule your heart.  At worst, it’s disorder and confusion — not the fruit of the Spirit or the outward expression of His reign.

Those of you who think you’re golden because you don’t drink or curse, don’t consider yourself exempt from this.  Look a little deeper into your heart.  What are you ruled by?  Do you show evidence of the Spirit’s presence?  Or do you freak out when you’re late for work, or when your kids track in mud, or when anything else goes the slightest bit wrong that you can’t control?  Do you choose stress and anger?  Or do you choose peace?

The other day, I came across this post by Joanne Kraft that neatly tied up the package of my wandering thoughts and put a bow on top.  You can read it here. In the post, she talks about how her home and family have always been surrendered to the Spirit, and people can literally feel His presence in the place that they have dedicated to Christ’s rule.  I teared up as I read it, remembering how every week that I worked at Deer Run, on Sunday afternoons before the kids came, I would walk around my cabin touching every bed frame and praying over the cabin, asking God to bless it as a safe space and inviting His peace to rule there.

And thinking through all of these things, I want to live a life of peace wherever I go and wherever I settle down.  I want to create a home where, in the midst of the chaos and disorder of this broken world, broken people can tangibly experience the spiritual rest and calm that Christ offers.  A home where no voices are raised in anger, where stress is cast away and confusion has no place.  A home that is ruled by peace.

High Ropes

We spent Sunday afternoon on the high ropes course. How do I describe the high ropes course? Terrifying. Exhilarating. Incredible. Most people went in pairs, but since there was an odd number of us, Natalie and Josh and I all went together, with me in the middle. The first two stretches weren’t too bad, but I was pretty sure I was going to die when we got to the third one.

We were walking a rope 40 feet above the ground with “swinging vines” to hold onto. Usually with a pair of people, the first person will pass the rope to the second person and they will slowly make their way from there. With a trio, it was slightly more complicated, but was also an important lesson to learn.

Because I was in the middle, I had pretty much no control. I had my fingers laced through Natalie’s and Josh’s so our sweaty hands wouldn’t slip, and they had to pass the rope over me. All I could do was hold on and keep moving, which is sometimes true of life as well. I edged along, leaning so far forward in my harness that I was terrified, and my safety cables were cutting into my chest (I have an epic bruise coming). At one point Natalie lost her balance and started to fall backwards, which started to pull me backwards, and I screamed and held tightly to Josh. Definitely the scariest moment I’ve experienced in a while.

Once we got past the third stretch, we had to separate to get to the top of the tree. Josh took the swinging ladder and I climbed the rock post, and we each took the zip line down. The zip line was pretty difficult for me, too. Once Jake had secured me, he looked at me and said, “Okay, it’s all you now.” I was like, “Huh, what? Me what?” He clarified, “You can go whenever you’re ready.” My first thought was, “That would be, like, never.” For about three seconds I actually thought I was going to chicken out. But then I took a deep breath and scooted off the edge.

It wasn’t until we were all debriefing after worship that night that Josh confessed he was terrified of heights. Natalie and I would never have guessed — he was so calm and encouraging.

Andrea was sharing the notes that she’d taken. “Lauren was kinda freaking out up there, but she was still watching out for Josh and every few seconds I would hear her say, ‘You okay, babe? You okay, babe?'” I flushed bright red as everyone in the room burst out laughing. Hence my camp name was born: I am now Babe.

The next morning I was reading in Ephesians and came across 4:29 — “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” It really hit home after my experience with the high ropes course the day before. I think this verse means so much more than the “don’t swear” value we assign it. Josh was a perfect example of this — he was terrified, but he never let us know it, and was constantly encouraging us from behind. He could have complained, but instead the only words that came out of his mouth were helpful comments to calm us and encourage us “according to our needs.”

Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 10:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Praying to Know Him More

Ephesians 1:17 — “[I pray] that you may know Him more…”

It seems that most of our prayers are centered around two things:

1) Our own (usually physical) well-being. Example: “Lord, be with Joe’s 98-year-old grandma who is in the hospital, and heal her and give her many more years on this earth.” Or, if we’re feeling bold and sharing our emotional problems, it’s something more like, “God, I’m really stressed, just help me to relax.”

2) What we want. Example: “Lord, I desperately need a new car, please provide.” “Father, help me ace this test.” “God, make him ask me out!”

Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with those prayers. I’ve prayed them myself. But the problem with that is that we’re making prayer all about us, when prayer is about a relationship with God. So what better request is there than what Paul prayed for the Ephesians?

Materialism is such a deeply ingrained part of our culture that it has infiltrated our faith. We want, we need, we deserve. But God must love answering the prayer, “Let me know You more, Father.” How it must touch His heart when His children ask only for more of Him!

Try setting everything aside just to talk to God about your relationship with Him. Ask Him to be with you. Ask Him to reveal more of Himself to you. Pray for Him to use you as an instrument of revival wherever you are… and see if it doesn’t change your life.

Published in: on November 14, 2011 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Random Thoughts on Truth & Love

Ephesians 4:15“Speak the truth in love.”  Truth without love is accusation. Love without truth is flattery. Love is not a sugar coating for the truth; it is a healing balm for the truth. Sometimes the truth hurts, but love does not hide it to avoid confrontation. Love exposes the truth and opens the wound, but it does not leave it vulnerable to the possibility of infection; it gently cleans and heals the wound. When love speaks the painful truth, it doesn’t point fingers or cast blame. It doesn’t leave the hearer helpless. It offers hope.

1st Corinthians 13:7“Love always protects.” Love protects the hearer from unnecessary criticism, ridicule, or anything beyond humble sincerity. But sometimes it also protects from a fate worse than the temporary unease that comes from hearing the truth.

Matthew 5:4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” If, in your eagerness to dodge conflict and soothe feelings, you keep others from mourning over their sin, you also keep them from comfort. They head blindly down the wrong path, and all you do is smile and wave an eternal goodbye. They need to hear the truth from someone who genuinely cares. That person is you.

Norman Elrod — “Love should be a requirement for speaking. Anything. Ever.”

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 9:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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More on Love

Ephesians 4:2“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

At first glance, because of the way society has taught us to view these traits, this makes love sound rather like a doormat. But there is a beautiful strength behind each of these words that, when understood correctly, makes love sound a bit more like…armor.

Humility is a kind of transparency — it sees things the way they are. It is not prideful, but neither does it grovel. Humility is characterized by quiet strength and dignity. Defensiveness shows uneasiness; humility takes tremendous security, because it acknowledges that your worth is not based on others’ opinions.

Gentleness builds on humility. Humility is the attitude; gentleness is the action. It is understanding and responding to the needs of others in a way that builds them up. Gentleness takes confidence; only the strong can strengthen the weak.

Patience takes both humility and gentleness, along with a determination to persevere. People are going to screw up; the question is whether you are you secure enough to let offense go, and strong enough to wait on them while they figure it out.

Love encompasses all of these characteristics; loving someone unconditionally just might be the hardest thing you can do. But actively practicing this kind of love builds character — and it builds relationships that will withstand anything.

Published in: on May 18, 2011 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Spiritual Warfare

Ephesians 6:12“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

If we truly understand that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, suddenly it makes a lot more sense that Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. Our fight is not against our enemies but for our enemies’ souls. Our war is with Satan and the power he exercises over this world. Those who have wronged us are prisoners of war; they are merely pawns in his game.  If we truly understand the nature of the spiritual battle in which we are engaged, suddenly offenses seem less personal and holding grudges seems very trivial.

When our anger against others remains unchecked, we are fighting the wrong opponent and unknowingly fueling the fire of conflict; we are trying to solve a spiritual problem with human effort. Spiritual battles can be won only through spiritual means. When we see the conflict for what it really is, we can let go of our anger and get down on our knees in prayer. When we relinquish control and invite God to fight the battle for us, we find that maybe it was never about settling scores with our enemies…maybe it was about setting our enemies free.

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Life Worthy of the Call

Ephesians 4:1“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

How do you live a life worthy of the call? What does that even mean?

The parable of the talents (Matthew 25) gives an excellent insight into this concept of a worthy life. The master “entrusted his property” to his servants; he gave them a charge to keep and trusted them to expand his estate. The first two servants rose to the challenge to do their best with what they were given and prove themselves worthy of the task. The third was a coward, too afraid to put himself out there and take a risk to make his master known. He didn’t even have enough pride in himself to want to succeed. Ultimately, he showed that he wasn’t worth the trust his master had put in him.

God has given us each a charge to expand His kingdom. We represent what He stands for, and we have a responsibility to portray our faith in a way that glorifies Him.

So…a life worthy of the call. It means you live up to the calling and fulfill it. It means you live a life that deserves the honor of God’s attention and make good the trust God has put in you to accomplish what He has asked of you. Don’t live in a way that demeans His name or discredits His righteous cause; step up to the plate and make yourself worthy of the calling you have received.

Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Life of Love

“Be imitators of God and live a life of love, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her as a sacrifice to God.”Ephesians 5:1-2.

I was really convicted by this verse last night. A life of love…what does that look like? Can a life truly be defined by love? Everyone is characterized by something. Maybe an obsessions with a sports team, or a passion for politics, or some kind of reputation that precedes them. But is “love” the first word people think of when describing what characterizes you as a person? Are you patient, humble, and forgiving enough that it can be said that you truly live a life of love?

Dang…that can’t be said about me. Yet. But I’m working towards a goal. And when my time here is up, I hope it can be written on my tombstone, “She lived a life of love.” Because in the end, the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Published in: on May 13, 2011 at 1:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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