Peace that Surpasses


I just left the hospital (Wednesday). In the room was a father and mother who have just been married 59 years. Next to them in the bed was their first born. The son has been suffering for months with disease. He is not in pain today. He will breathe his last soon.

There are some things that make absolutely no sense most humans. In the midst of it faith has been shining brightly. Not some superficial faith that we cling to during hard times but a faith that genuinely delivers that which is distinctly divine. As I was preparing to leave the room the father turned to me and said, “I have the deepest peace, a peace inside of me that can only come from God. I don’t have it in me to have this kind of peace.”

I have known this family for many, many years. There is one in that family who has prayed for her family through IT ALL. After 59 years and six kids, and a multitude of grandchildren, I have prayed with and cried with this mother/grandmother. She is among the ‘Who’s Who’ of saintly women. If ever I needed someone to pray for God’s hand to be at work, I would call her number. Today I was able to witness a smidgen of the millions of blessings God has granted this lady. I was so moved when her husband turned to me and said what I shared above.  I was reminded of the passage in Philippians which reads in the 17th Century English version, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

For those who speak little 17th Century English, a more modern translation might due: “Because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.” I believe these two translations suffice to give you insight but the RJG translation might help you sense the advantage and purpose of such peace. “Since you are God’s in Christ Jesus, the God who stockpiles peace, deep inner-peace, the kind of peace that cannot be explained and is impossible to describe, but once this peace which originates in the factory of Heaven and has been delivered by the Son Himself to your innermost portions will squeeze out all fear, all anxiety, all anxiousness with a peace that surpasses the minds ability to understand. Not only will all negative earthly experiences that do not originate in Heaven be eradicated from your heart and mind but you will feel secure, safe with a high degree of certainty that God is trustworthy and able!”

I hope that in the face of earth’s most hideous trials, I will be able to turn to those watching my plight and say, “I have the deepest peace, a peace inside of me at that can only come from God.”

Nobody Likes A Fraud

Nobody likes a Fraud!

I live in world where integrity is large.  At least the religious community holds it up, talks about it and points it out when behavior mocks it. There are seasons in my life when integrity was never in question.  Yet temptation is real and has a powerful influence on my psychic. Temptation haunts me. The fact that I find myself battling temptation frustrates me. I am not talking about acting on the temptation, I’m talking about the fact that my mind and heart will entertain the option of sinning frustrates me. Recently I was sharing my frustration with a friend.  “You are human,” was the response.

“I know.” But the fact that I know I am tempted does not seem to lessen my frustration. I have a knowledge-based understanding of this fact. I am keenly aware that I am 100% man.  I have made a commitment to Christ to overcome temptation by saying, “NO!” to sin. With His power, as a guarantee He has made to me that I have the power to say “NO!”  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

There are certain areas of life I seem to be more susceptible to reoccurring temptations. At least I am aware of some areas in my life. Likely I am susceptible in a lot of areas but I may be too dense to be aware of it or I might just disagree with the Spirit and give myself permission to live in the mire of entertaining certain temptations. I tend to be a creature of habit so certain temptations are featured on the big screen of my mind. I wish that I could say “No” once and then it would go away FOREVER. I must like reruns or watching the same show over and over again because when my mind gets turned on the same temptations are in Technicolor and the volume seems to be cranked up to eardrum shattering levels.  

In Paul’s writing to the struggling believers at Corinth, there is one phrase that plagues me. No temptation has overtaken you … The two key words, overtaken you, is distinctly personal. That is exactly how I feel. I have confessed to the church family my soul and mind are the battleground of my daily existence at Christmas time. This week has been another season of which the thoughts of opportunities to be impatient, short, curt and rude.  When I get this way, I tend to be judgmental and testy. I can be condescending and critical. Most of the time the Spirit stops me short of expressing myself aloud but the fact that I have such thoughts bouncing around in my head frustrates me. So at what point have I yielding to temptation or have won the battle? Some have advised me to pray but when I pray about things I want to stop thinking about, it kind of keeps me thinking about them while I am praying and serves as a reminder to think about what I don’t want to think about. So I simply cry out, “God help me!”  

It seems the best piece of advice I have found if I want to overcome that which seems to have overcome me in this world of temptation is in another of Paul’s letters to some guys in Philippi, Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:8 ERV, 7 NIV

Is it a Sin to want to Sin?

Some days I just feel like throwing caution to the wind and sin.  I know it’s wrong. I know it’s common. I use this excuse, that it is common, to justify my thinking about wanting to do that which I know I shouldn’t. Eventually it somehow transfers from shouldn’t to I don’t want to do that. I suppose that is the Holy Spirit at work. The Holy Spirit at work and lots of experiences that have convinced me that sin hurts. It hurts me and those around me. The Bible says it hurts God too; though the possibility of me hurting God is incomprehensible at this point in my life.  

So I ask, “Is wanting to sin a temptation? Is being tempted to sin a sin? Is thinking about wanting to do that which God forbids a sin?” I’m reminded of Jesus’ tale of the two sons who were instructed by their father to work the vineyard. One said, “I will not,” but changed his thinking and went. The other told his dad, “I’ll go” but didn’t. Jesus asked, “Which of the two obeyed?” Of course the first son obeyed. Somehow it is the messed up son that decides to obey is the great example in this parable.

Now, I believe I sin when I entertain thoughts that I know God has told me to avoid. But then I think I’ve obeyed God when I think thoughts but do not do them.  It’s complicated! Like when I was young, I often thought of beating the bullies at school with a broomstick. If I had been more courageous I might have done it but fear of them taking the broomstick away from me and beating me with it stymied that temptation.

If temptation were limited to one or two areas of my life I might feel I have made some progress in this arena of dealing with sin. If there were some areas God would allow me to separate from my Christianity then I could throw caution to the wind and go for it.  As I read the Bible and the Holy Spirit is at work in my life teaching me, guiding me and loving me, I cannot find any area of life that does not belong to God if I am a child of the Father.

Eating is a good place to start. We all do it. It is necessary. God sanctions it.  But there are some things I eat I know I should not. Now is that a sin? If God orders me to take care of this “temple” of His and I don’t it is sin. What about the eating too much, is that sin?  I think so. What about not eating what I should, is that sin? I reckon. Enough of that, my head will explode if I think too much about food.

What about my time? No, let’s not go there. Sex! Yes, sex, it’s a revealing topic.  But there are so many ways to sin in this aspect of life. There is the looking part, it is kind of covered in lust.  Then acts of homosexuality, faithfulness to one’s spouse, abstinence, fornication, dressing like a woman when you’re a man, and vice versa, etc. etc. Is there an area of my life that is all my own and God does not meddle? I think not. I think I will just read my Bible every morning to keep me on track as the Spirit empowers me to say “Yes” to that which pleases Him and “No” that those things that bring harm to my present and future.

Don’t Put God In A Box

Listening to people who wrestle with understanding the scope of God and His activity in us and around us, I often want to say, “Don’t put God in a box.”  

Defensively they respond, “Oh, I’m not.”  But telling someone what God can or cannot or would not do places limitations on a God who has none. The journey to investigating God and His ways has no limits. In other words, we keep learning more and more about God as we progress in our understandings and experiences with Him. It is like the Christmas gift that comes in a big box. You open it and you see there is yet another wrapped box and then another and then another. God is so big He will never fit in a box. There will always be another aspect of God to unwrap or to realize.  

It reminds me of dialogue in Shrek, the movie.

Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. No.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Shrek: No.
Donkey: Oh, you leave ‘em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.
Shrek: No. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody likes onions.

Some people see God as an ogre. I researched the definition: a monster in fairy tales, usually represented as a hideous giant who feeds on human flesh.

Most people want a God they can clearly define, understand and explain. To me, this is pure foolishness. I have to have a God that is much larger than my mind and yet revealing enough for me to relate to daily.

My mind has limitations. I generally can only dwell upon one aspect of God and His ways at a time.  Like it or not, God is just so He judges. He tells us not to be judgmental. He warns of hanging out with people who are unbecoming in character. He orders us to reach out and share love, His love with people with unbecoming character. This illustrates the complexity of God’s nature. He orders me to be a good steward of the things of this world and cautions me to understand that I am not of the world.  It’s complicated! If it was not so complicated I would be left to “my understandings” and considering the limitations regarding my understanding, I would not have much to look forward to tomorrow. Gloriously, the rest of today and certainly tomorrow, I have plenty to look forward to because tomorrow I have another box to open with God about God. Fortunately, God has layers to keep us focused for the rest of our lives!