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Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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Good Goodbyes-No Other Gods Session 5

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The mama swallow clung to the wall just below her peeping chicks. Perched on the edge of the mud nest in the eaves, her babies flapped their tiny wings. Every few minutes, she would take flight, circling back to the nest and squawking at her chicks, encouraging them to spread their wings and fly. One by one, the babies wobbled out of the nest, plummeted a few feet and then discovered what they were made to do. There was one tiny bird, however, that clung to the nest long after the others had flown off. The mama squawked insistently, darting back and forth near her little one to encourage him to fly. When he finally did, we couldn’t help cheering, feeling privileged to have witnessed his momentous first flight.

I thought about that moment as I read Kelly Minter’s fifth lesson in No Other Gods entitled “Good Goodbyes.” Like the mother swallow urging her chicks to take flight, Minter encourages us to examine the things in our lives that we might need to bid farewell if we’re serious about eliminating idols. For many of us, staying in the cozy, warm nest feels a lot more comfortable and secure than launching out. Although the freedom of flying beckons us, we’re more worried about plummeting to the ground.

Ironically, some of the things God calls us to bid farewell didn’t start out as idols, they were actually good things that helped us to grow. But once we start relying on them to fill us or to provide comfort or security, they can become idols.  And then it’s time to say goodbye. For me, this has often been related to the desire to belong. I’ve spent a good portion of my life viewing myself as an outlier, someone often on the outside looking in. So when I’ve found a person or group where I feel accepted and included, I can latch on pretty tightly—to a degree that often becomes unhealthy. Regardless of whether it’s people in a women’s Bible study, an accountability group or a few close friends, I always need to monitor how much I’m looking to them for identity and reassurance. There are times when God has had to remove me from a group before I’m able to see that I was clinging to it more tightly than I should have been. Here are a few other situations where good goodbyes may be in order:

A role you’re used to playing:

Maybe you’re so accustomed to being in charge, leading or hosting that you’re preventing others from having the opportunity to grow and be stretched in new ways. This could be true in a family, a church, a small group, a volunteer organization or at work.

On the other hand, maybe you’re used to being served and being a participant. You like having little or no responsibility so that you can come and go as you please. Or maybe you’re accustomed to playing the cynic, always seeing what’s wrong with a group so that you have an excuse for never engaging it on a deeper level.

Regardless of which description you identify with above, if you’re in a position that is causing you to be stagnant or that is preventing others the opportunity for growth, it may be time for a “good goodbye” to that role.

A person you’re depending on:

 God brings people into our lives at different seasons to pour into us, to nurture us and to help us develop our potential. Sometimes he blesses us with a partner in ministry that brings the perfect amount of balance and support. But just like the mama bird has to urge her chicks out of the nest, there comes a time when we need to spread our wings and fly. When we begin to depend upon a specific person to continue feeding and supporting us, we may be unintentionally making a new idol.

Even Jesus, the ultimate mentor, left the earth so that his disciples could learn to rely on the Holy Spirit (see John 14 for more on this). Jesus’ physical departure from earth catapulted Peter and the apostles into key leadership roles in the burgeoning Christian church. Think about the power and authority Peter showed in the book of Acts compared to his impulsivity and immaturity in the gospels. Through relying on the Holy Spirit, he led many disciples in spreading the good news of the gospel in Jerusalem, “Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b, NIV)

Similarly, there may come a time when you’re called to move on from people you depend on or partner with. It can be a “good goodbye” if you take the things you’ve learned from them, rely on the Holy Spirit, spread your wings and fly.

 A group you value:

 As Christians, we are called into community. When we find like-minded people we can journey beside in life, this is a true blessing. In Acts chapter 2 the fellowship of believers enjoyed meeting together daily to break bread and grow in faith. We know they weren’t a closed group because Scripture tells us “they added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b). Eventually, however, the believers scattered in the face of persecution and in the process they spread the gospel far and wide.  It was probably painful for the fellowship to break apart, but ultimately it enabled them to impact many more people.

Sometimes a “good goodbye” may be in order when we want to remain part of a particular group so much that we’re holding ourselves back from a new calling God has for us. If we lock arms with others and look inward instead of trusting God’s leading, we are dangerously close to making that cherished group into an idol.

Jeremy Camp’s song “Christ in Me” challenges me to remember that when I relinquish my idols and fix my gaze on Jesus, I find true freedom. Click on the link to hear a musical inspiration for saying “good goodbyes.”

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Seeking Biblical Truth in the Post-Truth Era: No Other Gods Session 3

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(Third in a series of posts inspired by Kelly Minter’s Bible Study No Other Gods.)

Turning up the volume on the radio, I wasn’t sure I’d heard the announcer correctly. She was sharing her thoughts on the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016. It is an annual event for the dictionary staff to narrow down a list of words that highlight the ways the English language is changing in response to current events. In case you haven’t heard yet, this year’s word is “post-truth.” The official definition is: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” So, basically, post-truth means defining what is true based on feelings and personal beliefs rather than actual facts.

For followers of Jesus, navigating life in the era of “post-truth” means we must swim against the current of our culture. While people around us are deciding what they want to be true based on their feelings, we must hold firmly to the truth of God’s Word. I see a clear connection here to what I’m learning about lies in No Other Gods. Author Kelly Minter says, “I don’t see God’s heart in Scripture telling us to separate ourselves with a self-righteous finger that points at all the ‘sinners’ in pop culture. Instead God clearly teaches us to love all people. But loving is very different from putting ourselves in the way of messages that oppose His truth. It’s different than leaving open doors for the lies of culture to waltz into our hearts.” (No Other Gods, p. 67)

The lies of our culture permeate our lives, subtly and continually influencing us to revise our stance on what is actually truth. Reading through 2 Timothy 3, it’s easy to see connections to our world today: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4, NIV)

So many examples from current culture come to mind as I read this that it’s hard to know where to start. With the onslaught of technology and the rise of social media, it’s become commonplace to embrace and celebrate every one of those things. It’s not hard to see pleasure and comfort are valued more than almost anything else. Many movies, shows, theater productions, magazines, popular songs and famous people model and promote living in a way that lacks self-control and values self-absorption (and pretty much everything else listed).

As followers of Jesus, however, we are called to a different standard. We cannot afford to be “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3:7, NIV) God’s Word is our standard of truth, but it’s up to us to absorb what we learn and then to live like we believe it. In a world that no longer cares about actual truth, this is especially challenging. The more we make choices that honor God, the more unusual we will appear to others in our culture.

Now that you’ve seen what NOT to embrace, maybe you’d like some specifics to help you understand how to honor God and stay aligned with truth.  Here is a great start: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”  The final statement of this passage explains what we gain as a result: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8, NIV)

I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to follow Jesus, I don’t want my endeavors to be ineffective or unproductive.  I don’t want to ride the fence and dabble in my faith while simultaneously letting the world shape my values and opinions.

I also don’t want to be someone who knows the truth of God’s Word but chooses to embrace the lies of the world or let my emotions lead me.  People like this are in the worst position of all: If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21, NIV)

Living according to God’s Word is the path to freedom, hope, wisdom joy, and salvation. Our culture continually feeds us lies to distract us from this truth. God’s ways and plans are best, but the Enemy will stop at nothing to make us forget this. He loves to lure people into compromising what they know is right so that they can find fleeting acceptance, false hope or temporary comfort. But we know better, don’t we? Hold tightly to God’s Word and continue to study it diligently. Although you can’t entirely remove yourself from the lies that permeate our culture, you can learn to identify them and reject them when you know the truth.

In Session 3 of No Other Gods, Kelly Minter includes lyrics to a song about lies written and performed by one of the “NOGS.” To hear “Liar’s Dream” by Alli Rogers, click on the link. If you have your book handy, you can follow along by reading the lyrics on pages 71-2.

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Strangers Here- Women of the Word Part 6

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How did Rahab feel standing on the plains of Canaan looking at the charred remains of Jericho? Her home had been reduced to rubble and all of her friends and neighbors were now dead. They’d trusted the thick walls of stone to protect them rather than submitting to the living God that led the Israelites. For six days the people of Jericho watched with a mix of fear and curiosity as the Israelites marched around the city’s perimeter carrying the Ark of the Covenant. They’d heard the stories about this mighty God, but Rahab alone had chosen to believe and follow Him.

Trusting the God of the Israelites had made Rahab a stranger in her own city. But when the walls came down on the seventh day of the Israelites’ marching, she faced a new challenge as a stranger in their camp. From an earthly perspective, she was an outsider in both places. In Jericho her faith in God kept her apart. With the Israelites, her status as a foreigner and a prostitute probably didn’t win her many friends.

The Bible doesn’t tell us the story of how Rahab integrated into their community. Beyond what’s recorded in Joshua, chapters 2 and 6, we have little information about her.  We don’t know how she and Salmon met or when they decided to marry. In fact, it’s not until we read the New Testament that we learn they had a child. Matthew 1:5 tells us that Salmon and Rahab were the parents of Boaz and the great great grandparents of King David. The genealogy continues through the centuries until it ends triumphantly at Jesus, the Messiah.

Still, Rahab had no idea she would end up in the family line of a great king and the Savior of the world. So why did she risk it all? Why did she abandon the people of her city? Why was she willing to accept its destruction? Why did she want to live among the ones who had obliterated all that she knew and loved?

The answer is simple, really. Rahab’s eyes weren’t on her earthly surroundings–they were on God. She told the Israelite spies: “The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11b, NIV) She knew it was futile to fight against Him or to try and preserve her city and way of life. She held those things lightly in comparison with knowing and following the living God.

Long before the words of the New Testament were inspired, she exemplified the call for all believers to live as strangers in the world. We are simply travelers passing through this life on our way to something better. The apostle Peter urges believers saying: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” (1 Peter 1:13-15, NIV 1984 edition)

Peter reminds us to fix our eyes on Jesus and to be holy or “set apart.” Living this way means not placing our hope in worldly things like financial security, physical health, or even significant relationships and meaningful endeavors. The good things we experience in this life are blessings from God, but not our ultimate hope. Followers of Jesus know these things lack lasting value compared to the hope we have through Him. We hold them loosely, knowing they are only a small taste of the true joy, security and peace that await us.

Peter continues writing in this passage: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:17-19, NIV 1984 edition)

Rahab lived as a stranger in reverent fear. She saw God’s power and let her awe of Him guide her choices. She knew what He had to offer was better than anything else. Her example inspires and humbles me. And it makes me wonder. Am I living a life set apart for God? Do I see myself as a stranger here? Do I hold loosely to worldly comforts and pleasures, or do I put my hope and security in them? Am I attaching myself too tightly to material possessions? Am I investing my time in things that are eternal or wasting it on frivolous activities with no lasting value? Am I like the people of Jericho, fortifying my earthly protections when I should be surrendering to the One True God?

Rahab became a stranger in her city when she chose to accept a God no one else acknowledged. And she was an outsider in the Israelite camp because she was a Canaanite. But she was never a stranger to God. He knew her, loved her and had a plan for her. He redeemed her life and then placed her in a family line that would ultimately produce the Redeemer of the whole world.

It couldn’t have been easy for Rahab. There were probably days when living for God meant being lonely.  Maybe she thought she would never belong anywhere. I think we can relate with her difficulties. There are days when it’s hard to be set apart. It doesn’t always feel good to live as a stranger in our world. It can be painful, lonely and uncomfortable. But God promises this is all temporary—which is why our hope is in Him, both for this life and the one to come.

Maybe you recognize the symbol in the photo at the top of this post. The “N-O-T-W” on my family’s bulletin board is a simple reminder that we are “Not of This World” –we were made for something more. The song “Strangers Here” by Tenth Avenue North also offers a great perspective on the joys and challenges of living set apart. Click on the link below and be encouraged:

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The Paths We Choose- Sermon on the Mount Part 9

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It starts even before my feet touch the floor each morning. I lie in bed and decide if I want to get up or stay wrapped in the warmth of my fleece sheets until I hear my kids stirring. The choice to linger in bed means I’ll spend little or no time reading my Bible, praying and inviting God to prepare me for the day. My mind and heart know getting up early is the better choice, but my body lags behind, not wanting to emerge from the cozy cocoon. And that’s only the first choice in my day, which is why Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are so striking:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV)

The paths we choose determine the trajectory of our lives. It starts with the decision to surrender to Jesus, but applying His words requires making choices daily. Reading Jesus’ teaching throughout the sermon, I see how our daily decisions affect our walks with Him and color our perspectives. We can choose the wide path of least resistance, or we can choose the narrow path that leads to life in Him.

For example, if we really believe we are the salt and light He describes in Matthew 5:13-16, this means we are intentional about spending time with people who don’t know Jesus yet. When we enter a room, we look for ways to bless others and let God use us. Conversely, we walk towards the wide gate when we enter a group setting focused on ourselves, our insecurities or the attention we expect to receive from others. People who choose the narrow path see opportunities to be salt and light wherever they are because they invite the Holy Spirit to work through them continually.

Entering through the narrow gate also means opting out of situations that don’t honor God. There may be lonely moments when we choose not to join in a conversation riddled with gossip or an activity that celebrates sin. This is especially challenging for people pleasers and those who like to fit in with the crowd (Yes, I struggle with this too). Jesus said that “only a few find it” for a reason. It’s hard to differ from the crowd, but well worth it.

We choose the narrow path when we show love to those who have hurt us and when we pray for those who make life difficult. Every time we choose to offer grace when someone deserves judgment, we take a step closer to the narrow gate.

Walking the narrow path means surrendering our finances and our material possessions to God. It’s recognizing that everything we have is on loan from Him. We are simply His stewards and have been entrusted to make wise use of His resources. People on the narrow path decide not to put their hope in financial security because they know that God is the One who provides ultimate security.   Choosing this perspective frees us to be generous and to discover the joy of using our resources to bless others.

We choose the narrow path when we ask, seek and knock boldly and persistently knowing that our Father in heaven wants to lavish us with spiritual blessings. We walk toward the narrow gate when our prayers align with His will as we seek to further His kingdom on earth. When we choose to be positive and encouraging instead of negative and critical, we choose the narrow path.

A few times in our lives we make big choices, but every day we make small choices that impact the direction we take. Sometimes we may veer off the narrow path and experience painful consequences as one poor choice leads to another and another. But God in His infinite mercy and grace is always ready to welcome us back again. And with each choice we make to do things God’s way, we find more joy and fulfillment. Wise decisions spur us onward toward the path of life, hope, joy and peace found only in Him.

Francesca Battistelli’s song “It’s Your Life” reminds us that when our hearts beat for Jesus, it shows in our daily choices. Click on the link to hear the song.

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Everything is Opposite- Sermon on the Mount Part 2

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Squinting at the scoreboard above our high school’s pool, I was surprised to see how many goals were posted on the “Guest” side for the evening’s water polo game.   My son and his teammates had been playing well and I was sure they’d scored a few more goals than the board showed for our home team. After a few minutes of confusion, I recalled we weren’t originally scheduled to host the game. The location had changed because our opponent’s pool was having maintenance issues, making us the “Guest” team in our own pool.

Turning to the fans surrounding me in the stands, I reminded them that our goals were being logged on the “Guest” side of the board. Most breathed a sigh of relief. Few of their sons had remembered to tell them this important detail before rushing out the door. Every time new fans arrived we told them the same information: “We’re the guest team tonight.” It’s always helpful to know how to read the scoreboard accurately so you can cheer for the right team.

As I opened the pages to Jen Wilkin’s Sermon on the Mount Bible study this week, my experience at the water polo game seemed like a fitting analogy. Reading Jesus’ opening words in the Sermon on the Mount evoked that same disconcerting “everything is opposite” sort of feeling.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10, ESV)

In the world’s eyes, few of the descriptions listed by Jesus would be considered a blessing—no one wants to be poor in spirit, mourning or meek. Few people in our world value righteousness, give mercy or show purity of heart. Fewer still strive to be peacemakers or feel blessed in the face of persecution.  Most of the things our world values are completely opposite.

However, as followers of Christ, we don’t see things from the world’s perspective. We know we’re just travelers passing through on our way to our true home in heaven. Jesus makes this clear in John 15 when He explains “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19a, NIV).

Our citizenship is in heaven. While we’re here on earth, our purpose is to be a dwelling for the Holy Spirit to bring God’s light into the world. (Paul talks about this in Ephesians 2:19-22, if you want to read more). In essence, we’re on the “Guest” team while we’re here and are called to invite others onto it with us by sharing the good news of Jesus with them.

Living the kind of opposite life Jesus describes is difficult, especially when the world around us doesn’t see value in what we’re doing. There can be lonely moments when we’re the only ones in the stands cheering for the “Guest” team because no one else cares about what matters to God. What I’m realizing, though, is that being blessed doesn’t always mean experiencing comfort or ease on this side of heaven.  We live with the tension of knowing Jesus has claimed the victory over sin, death and Satan, but our world has not yet embraced this truth. When the game ends, however, all people will look at the scoreboard and see that the “Guest” team has posted the win.

I thank God for blessing me with fellow travelers on my faith journey who walk beside me to encourage and challenge me as we strive together to live like Jesus. It’s a blessing to live an “everything is opposite” kind of life with others who know we’re just passing through on our way to a better place. It’s all about having our focus in the right place.

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What’s Your Prayer Strategy?

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I just finished the last page of my prayer journal a few days ago. The first time I wrote in one from cover to cover was during my freshman year in college. Since then I’ve filled countless blank books with a variety of prayers. My attic has a large plastic bin filled with them. I’m not picky about how they look– some are beautifully covered with fabric or leather; others are castaway composition books from my kids’ backpacks. Most have papers folded inside with prayer requests from different people or groups I’m involved with.

As I’ve grown in my faith and knowledge of Scripture, my prayers have changed and matured over the years.   These days I pray a lot less about fixing circumstances and a lot more about seeing God’s will be done. I’ve also grown more strategic and less reactionary in my prayers.

Strategic prayers envision the ways God can move in a given situation and then invite Him to do it. Praying this way involves studying Scripture to learn the will of God and then aligning your prayers with it.

The first time I learned about praying strategically was in college when I got involved in a campus ministry. My Bible study leaders encouraged me to pray, inviting God to use me in the lives of others around me. The answer I received from Him felt daunting, but clear. The people I’d have the most opportunity to impact were the girls in the sorority I’d recently pledged. Before joining it, I’d prayed fervently that God would place me in the house where He wanted me. I envisioned Him leading me to a house that had a small but mighty group of Christians who would show me how to be a light in the darkness.  After pledging, I quickly discovered I was the only person actively pursuing God in a house of 160 girls. To say I was intimidated to shine for Jesus among them would be an understatement–especially considering I was a lowly freshman with no clout. I was disheartened and confused.  However, through the encouragement of several godly mentors, I started praying that the Lord would give me courage and move in the hearts of girls in the house.

My prayers weren’t answered overnight. There were many hard and lonely moments during my college years, but I stuck to my prayer strategy and found encouragement from a few scattered Christian friends who were doing the same for their fraternities and sororities. Ultimately, we saw God move in the hearts and lives of many students who were part of a system typically known more for celebrating sin than pursuing righteousness. By my senior year I was leading a Bible study that was consistently attended by 10 girls in my house. I was also part of a thriving ministry with Christians in other fraternities and sororities that focused on sharing the gospel with the Greek system at large.

Since then, I’ve learned the value of praying strategically about many areas of my life. My journals are filled with prayers asking God to impact my marriage, my children, and my community. My husband and I pray for our finances and the stewardship of the resources God has given us. We pray He would lead us to the people He wants to impact through us. And we pray to be equipped for serving well and engaging in spiritual battle.

Recently I saw “War Room,” a movie that beautifully illustrates the idea of praying strategically.   It emphasizes the value of making time to be intentional with your prayers in the same way you would be strategic with other goals in your life. The way characters in the movie are transformed is not exaggerated for dramatic effect. I know it’s real, because I’ve seen it in my life and in the lives of many people around me. If you haven’t gone to see it yet, put it at the top of your “to do” list.

In the meantime, start thinking about your prayer strategy for the next 4-6 months. Take some time to think about the people and places in your life where you would like to see God work. Write your goals down and return to the list daily to pray. Keep track of the ways God answers prayers and be sure to thank Him. Then, ask Him to show you what new strategy He’s prompting you to add. Get a journal or write lists and verses on paper and tape them in your closet like the characters in “War Room.” The logistics of your prayer strategy don’t really matter– the important part is that you have one.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)

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Feet Fitted with the Readiness of Peace

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Peace is an absence of strife or anxiety. It is tranquility and serenity. Most of us long for a larger dose of it in our lives, both individually and globally.   When I imagine peace, I picture my anxieties put to rest. All is right within me and in the world around me. My relationships are harmonious, my surroundings are orderly and there is nothing to cause stress or discord. It seems, however, that these moments of peace are rare, mostly because they are based on exterior circumstances that are not within my control.

In both First and Second Thessalonians, Paul describes the Father as “the God of peace” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, NIV) and “the Lord of peace” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, NIV). Sometimes we want to interpret this to mean our lives will be free from difficulty. However, it’s no secret that the world is full of strife and discord. It’s been that way since Adam and Eve’s first bite of the apple in the garden.

We can be assured, however, that God will give us peace, regardless of our circumstances. When we surrender our illusion of control and trust Him, we’ll find a peace that “transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7, NIV)

Beth Moore reminds us that we can trust in God’s peace even as spiritual battles rage all around us. “Peace never means more than in the context of war. Maybe one day in eternity God will let us see what was going on over our heads in the unseen realm while we were just trying to get through another day.” (Children of the Day, p. 206)

Paul gives a clear illustration of the weaponry we need to fight and defend ourselves in spiritual battle:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV)

Among the items listed in our spiritual armor are “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Verse 15) This contrasts the usual image I have of peace as being restful. I picture peace involving kicking off my shoes and lying down to relax. Here, however, peace comes from the readiness of putting on shoes and preparing for battle. And what is it that makes us ready? Knowing the “gospel of peace.” This kind of peace comes from Truth planted deep inside us that is based on trust in God. It is nothing like the peace that comes from exterior circumstances and the absence of strife. It is being ready for anything that comes our way because we know the almighty God has fit us for battle.

Beth Moore’s lesson on peace in Week 8, Day 4 of Children of the Day cites several verses in Deuteronomy that reassure us in times of battle. All of them say essentially the same thing: “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22, NIV) God goes before us and fights the battle for us. We get to reap the benefits of His victory.

Giving some context to these words in Deuteronomy is helpful. God gives these promises to the Israelites as they are traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land.   In order to take the land, they will have to engage in battle. God reassures them that He will go before them and fight for them.

Beth Moore’s lesson doesn’t mention what happens next, but I think it’s a good warning for us. Despite God’s many promises, the people give in to fear and do not trust Him. He reassures them numerous times, but they fail to believe He’ll come through for them. The Old Testament book of Numbers 14 tells the sad story of the Israelites losing heart when they reach the Promised Land. Before entering it, they send in spies to scout it out. The spies return saying: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large… We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”   (Numbers 13:27,28,31, NIV)

The Israelites panic upon hearing the spies’ report. “That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’” (Numbers 14:1-3, NIV) They want to return to the land where they and their ancestors were enslaved for four hundred years.   In response, God pronounces this judgment against them: “For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.” (Numbers 14:34-35, NIV)

God never promised the people peaceful circumstances, but He did promise He would go before them and that He would be with them. Instead of finding peace in that, they put their trust in their own logic. The odds looked like they were against them and they weren’t willing to believe the Lord, despite the fact that He’d never failed them before.

God equips us with what we need every time He invites us to grow past our comfort levels. However, we have a choice to make. Will we trust Him and fit our feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace or will we shrink back in fear?

It’s unlikely that He’s called you into a literal battle recently, however there are many other places He may be urging you to go with Him. Maybe it’s…

-Walking into the hospital room of a loved one

-Gearing up to have your contentious college student home for the holidays

-Facing a challenging situation at work

-Dealing with a relationship fraught with tension

-Preparing for a medical procedure you’re dreading

-Figuring out your finances and making a plan to get out of debt

-Answering the call to serve somewhere outside your comfort zone

-Pushing through your hesitation and sharing Jesus’ love with a hurting person

-Receiving the diagnosis you dreaded hearing

-Hosting houseguests with a gracious attitude

-Navigating the emotions of your unpredictable teenager

-Facing another sleep-deprived day caring for your little ones

-Showing grace to extended family members who make the holidays a challenge

Wherever your feet take you, I hope you’ll be praying as you put on your shoes each morning. Try something simple like this: “God please fit my feet with the readiness that comes from gospel of peace.” Take time to examine His word and to arm yourself with Truth as you face your day. Then, rest assured that God is with you wherever you go.

If you’re in a quiet, contemplative mood, you’ll be blessed by Laura Story’s song “Perfect Peace.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xizx6XM8o70

If you’re looking for a song that will make you stand up and shout, don’t miss Chris Tomlin’s “Whom Shall I Fear?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOkImV2cJDg

Moore, Beth; Children of the Day; Lifeway Press, 2014