I am convinced that we are all prone to mimic more than we listen. (Thank you Jesus for being the LIVING Word, our example!) So, when I think about my kids and their young budding understanding of God, I ask myself: What is it that I want them to see in me? If I want them to receive the love of Jesus for themselves, then I need to receive it for myself. If I want them to confess their wrongdoings before God and their community, I have to value those for myself. If I want them to choose pleasing God and worshiping him alone, then I must let them see me disappoint others as I do the same.
Stories of Peace
Jesus calmed the storm, he healed the sick, he relieved the tormented. He united tax collectors and fishermen, men and women with one another. Crying out in our hardship, we wonder if he is still that Jesus. Hindsight is always 20/20 they say, and it’s true. We frame all of our stories within their happy endings and when we cannot see that ending, we deem our chapter a tragedy. But if there is a story of the provision of God’s peace, unrest preceded it.
These Beatitudes do not read, “Blessed is the one who gets it right, for they will find peace. Blessed are the winners, for the losers will be content beneath them. Blessed are the honorable, for they will not be questioned. Blessed are those whose lives are pristine, for they will be regarded with favor.” But often in our prayers, those are the realities we are praying for. We want to be blessed with the ability to turn off the noise- freedom from the burdens of others that cloud our days. It doesn’t work that way, because the clamor and brokenness are within us.
“And be yourself our King of Peace”
Jesus is our Peace. His peace is sufficient for today and remains for everlasting tomorrows. The lack of turmoil we beg for is worldly peace, one that quickly vanishes. The peace God can provide endures through even the greatest disasters. So, if you find yourself in a season of suffering, fear, sinfulness, or distress hear this: the Light of the World, The Prince of Peace, The Almighty God, The Wonderful Counselor, has come and is our Emmanuel, God with us.
His presence is our peace because he imparts to us his righteousness. There is no greater peace than a right standing before God.There is no peace without righteousness. There is no righteousness outside of Jesus.
What better way to celebrate Christmas, than to allow him into your suffering, and trust in his eternal Peace? Your story will not be in vain. You will be called blessed because he can take your greatest fears and failures (drowning, sickness, death, and discord) and turn them into stories of victory. How beautiful to see the schemes of the Devil turned into narratives that proclaim his goodness and peace. How wonderful to know that in the moments when we feel so alone, that God can craft this very day, this very week, and this very life into the Grand Story of his redemption.
This is the Gospel.
This is the Good News: one King for all mankind, one redemption story in which we all belong, one Kingdom under God. Lost in our own biographies of war-torn disfunction, Jesus came to reconnect us to the Light; and by doing so, offered us the rest of his story. No longer do we have to try to turn our tragedies into fairy tales, our hero has come. King of Kings, he is the Light of the World.
When those who don't know about the Kingdom of God see Christians, what do they see?
This question has been sitting in our house for a while, about three years, actually.
At first, you might respond:
1) We need to please God, not man, right?
2) We need to be "above reproach" by abstaining from anything questionable. Shouldn't we show them that there is a very different way?
If those questions settle okay with you, I would like to counter with two more questions:
1) What did those far from God think of Jesus (the one and only man whose life was pleasing to God)?
2) Whose reproach? Have you received criticism from people far from God about the way Christians dress, what we eat or drink, our use of four letter words, or what establishments we hang out in?
For us, these questions became crucial to answer. Somehow, amidst sincere desire to live our lives for Jesus and his Kingdom, we could no longer keep up with trying to please God AND other Christians.
Jesus threw caution to the wind when it came to pleasing everyone. And who did he disappoint? Two groups for sure: the religious folk and those who called for unquestioned allegiance.
So we decided to do the same. As it turns out, the narrow path feels a lot more like a rickety rope bridge hanging over the cliffs of arrogance, heresy, and loneliness. Without the Spirit of God himself, it is impossibly dangerous. But he is faithful. We can trust that he will not allow us to wander past the fences of his love, and even more so, find that this way is actually better.
I used to think this Psalm was for those darn valleys that I sometimes found myself in. Ol' David was going through a hard time. Sometimes life sucks. People die. We get sick. We get stressed.
Lately though, my worldview has changed.
Our whole life on earth is in the valley of the shadow of death. Our enemy is always pursuing. We can invest our best effort to making life pleasant, but that is only a mirage because in this world, the pain doesn't stop. Even with our headphones in and the Contemporary Christian Pandora station blaring, no amount of distraction will stop the suffering in and around us. Thankfully, there is hope. In the midst of this bleak life, God has chosen to BE WITH his people. And in His presence, peace is found.
Right here. In the same body that is shaking with anger, grief, or stress, God can grow a green pasture. He can guide us to the still water.
"But how?" we ask.
Pointing, "Look there, my enemy is rushing toward me!"
But He does not fear.
"Sit." God says, commanding, "Eat."
"Let me comfort you with oil and quench your thirst, for I am not afraid of your enemy, and I am not leaving you. I know the way through this valley, and I will guide you to the other side. See that mountain top? I have prepared a place for you. Trust me."
But the story is not over with that.
"Go get the others." He calls out.
"Teach them to follow me."
If suffering pursues us, than establishing our own houses and neighborhoods of propriety is foolishness. When an assailant has targeted you, there are two good options: fight, or flight. Throughout history, God's people have been set apart by The God Who Fights For Us. He has led his people to do seemingly moronic things, with only one explanation for victory: God himself. Are we seen that way now? People who do daring, crazy, radical acts: pushing back the darkness in a way that leaves God Himself as the only explanation for our success?
The life that matters
This broken-turned-beautiful life matters. So what should those far from God see and hear from us?
Our life should tell the story:
I see the brokenness and feel the pain.
But God has shown me the way to peace.
Turmoil may be around every corner, but I know my future is secure.
I am not afraid to meet you wherever you are.
Your mess isn't too messy for me, because the King of all Kings is with me and his holiness and forgiveness are cleansing.
He will be with you too, if you want him. Would you follow him with me?