Finding a lake with no storms

“Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms.  It comes from having Jesus in the boat.”- John Ortberg

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”- John 14:27 (NIV)

In Chapter 10 (“Never Worry Alone”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg states that God wants us to live with bold confidence in His power.  Therefore, with Jesus in the boat, we rest in His non-anxious presence.  Yet, we don’t experience true peace if we fail to venture outside our comfort zones when God calls.

Most importantly, Pastor Ortberg explains, we frequently see this pattern in the Bible.  John writes:

“In the Bible we see a pattern in which God rarely sends people into situations where their comfort level is high.  Rather, He promises to be with them in their fear.  It is God’s presence — not comfortable circumstances — that brings people to the best version of themselves.”

Thus, the peace of Jesus sustains the settled conviction that all things are in God’s hands.  Jesus’ peace runs much deeper than self-help techniques or anxiety reduction.  Also, the Holy Spirit desires to be a non-anxious presence in every life (emphasis John’s).

Furthermore, living in the flow of the Spirit allows God’s perfect love to wash over us until our fear begins to leave.  As the apostle John reminds us in 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love casts out fear.”

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg offers a picture of the mind directed by the Holy Spirit:

” . . . for God does not give us a spirit of timidity.  He gives us a mind of life and peace. . . calls himself our Comforter, and he will be our refuge, our rock, our fortress, and our safety.  He longs to watch over us.  Perfect love casts out fear.”

Today’s question: Do you focus on finding a lake with no storms or sitting with Jesus in the boat?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Never worry alone – defeating toxic anxiety”

Forgiveness- a beautiful word?

“Forgiveness is a beautiful word when you need it.  It is an ugly word when you have to give it.”- Dr. Tony Evans

As Dr. Tony Evans concludes Chapter 9 of Detours, he notes that forgiveness operates on two levels: unilateral and transactional.  In this chapter, Tony explains unilateral forgiveness.  Unilateral forgiveness:

  • occurs when you forgive someone even though the person hasn’t asked for or requested it, nor repented of what they did to you
  • gives you a new level of access to God, a more intimate relationship with Jesus
  • gives you hope in the harm, peace in the problems

So, Tony asks, what if you still feel the pain after you forgive someone?  That doesn’t seem fair, right?  Tony’s answer? – “It may not be fair, but it will set you free.”  The author illustrates.

In years gone by, the bells in the bell towers of English churches hung on a rope.  Therefore, to ring the bells, someone climbed to the top of the bell tower, grabbed the rope, and began to swing it.  However, when the person finally let go of the rope, the bells kept ringing.  The momentum of past swings kept the bells ringing.  Eventually, the past movements and motions slowed down, then stilled.

In conclusion, Dr. Evans applies ringing bells to forgiveness:

“Forgiveness doesn’t stop the bell from ringing . . . the pain from showing up.  But what it does do is allow you to let go of the rope.  It allows you to distance yourself from the offense enough for the natural momentum of life and emotions to finally slow down and eventually be at peace.”

Today’s question: Is forgiveness a beautiful word to you, or an ugly word?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Transactional forgiveness- reboot the relationship”

Inner tranquility

“We equate external control with inner tranquility.”- Judah Smith

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.”- Isaiah 30:5 (NLT)

In Chapter 6 (“A Quiet Soul”) of How’s Your Soul?, Judah Smith notes we live in a loud culture- inundated on a daily basis by noise, activity, and information.  As a result, Judah states, life lived at high intensity produces “extraordinary internal angst.”  Hence, this angst creates anxiety, fear, and an overall sense of desperation.  To enjoy each moment life offers, we must strive for inner peace and rest.

The second king of Israel, David, epitomized the quiet soul.  Specifically, Pastor Smith writes, Psalm 131 gives us insight into King David’s ability to maintain a quiet soul.  Yet, David faced constant stress and pressure. Therefore, Judah examines each of the psalm’s three verses.  He discusses the first part of verse one today.

1.  “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high.”  Judah observes that, to a certain degree, everyone struggles with a God-complex.  Hence, we view ourselves as  God in our own lives.  However, Pastor Smith describes a different principle at work in this verse:

“If you want to have a calm, quiet souls, you have to recognize that you are not in control.  That realization is fundamental to being healthy and peaceful on the inside.”

In contrast, we tend to view this perspective as counterintuitive- assuming that more personal control provides rest and peace.  However, ultimately our efforts guarantee nothing.  Only God possesses that ability.

In conclusion, our culture tends to deify ambition.  The biblical view, in contrast, states that God calls, designs, and wires us for service in His kingdom.  Unless we tether ambition to God’s calling, that ambition takes on a life of its own.  As Judah humorously notes, let God do His job as God.  He’s really good at it!

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you live in inner tranquility?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: A God-category in your life”

Our health and wellness

“Our health and wellness don’t move from the outside in, but from the inside out.”- Judah Smith

As Judah Smith continues Chapter 1 of How’s Your Soul?, he notes that our physical bodies, bank accounts, vehicles, and families get regular attention.  However, we rarely, if ever, focus on our souls.  Routine soul checkups?- almost nonexistent.

Yet, Pastor Smith writes, deep inside we’re looking for things to go well with our souls:

“We have an innate, intuitive sense that we were designed to be at peace both inside and out.  Somehow we sense that happiness, satisfaction, joy, rest, and love are supposed to be the natural state of the human race.”

But reality often lags behind that ideal.  Pain surrounds our inner chaos.  Inside we feel out of alignment.  We’re unsure how to set ourselves straight.

As a result, when we find problems on the inside, our typical fix consists of redoubling our efforts on the outside.  Thinking that internal happiness comes from external success, we throw ourselves into the chase.  Judah describes two common outcomes to this approach.

  1. Try as hard as possible to fix specific circumstances messing with your happiness.  Eventually you discover the futility of this attempt.  So you throw in the towel, resigned to a reality you’d rather avoid.  Next, you devise ways to escape.  As Pastor Smith observes, “you live for moments of happiness that punctuate an otherwise frustrating existence.”
  2. Actually achieve your goals.  Judah emphasizes that this outcome potentially is worse than the first.  Because you get what you always desired, only to discover success doesn’t make you feel any better.  Now your only hope at achieving satisfaction has vaporized.

In conclusion, Judah stresses that God designed life for more than simply surviving.  He encourages:

“This life . . . is meant to be amazing . . . because our souls have found their homes in God.  Fulfillment comes from having a healthy soul.”

Today’s question: Does your health and wellness come from the outside or the inside out?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “All that is within me”

At peace with yourself

“Be at peace with yourself and then you will be able to bring peace to others.”- Thomas A Kempis

In Chapter 12 (“I’m Angry at Myself”) of Anger, Dr. Gary Chapman begins by listing reason you may not be at peace with yourself.  When we experience anger at ourselves, it is because we:

  • perceive ourselves guilty of wrongdoing, unkindness, injustice, or carelessness
  • fall short of our own expectations
  • violate our own strongly held values (perhaps the area of greatest anger)

Most importantly, Gary emphasizes that “anger and guild should lead to repentance and refreshing forgiveness.”  Therefore, he suggests a positive, five-step approach to processing anger toward yourself in a healthy way.  Consequently, Dr. Chapman discusses the first three steps today.

1.  Admit your anger.  First of all, verbally admit that you are experiencing anger toward yourself.  Furthermore, Dr. Chapman encourages you to admit other thoughts and feelings that accompany your anger.  Those thoughts and feeling include disappointment, stupidity, letting people (including yourself and God) down, and irresponsibility.  In conclusion, say them in prayer to God.

2.  Examine your anger.  Most of all, vast differences exist between definitive and distorted anger.  Hence, violating moral principles requires much greater constructive processing than carelessly hitting your thumb with a hammer.

3.  Confess wrongdoing to God and accept His forgiveness.  Finally, Gary stresses that only one appropriate way exists to process anger toward oneself arising from one’s own sin.  In addition, 1 John 1:9 presents this clear Scriptural message:

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you to be at peace with yourself?  Please share.

Please note: new addition to Crown Jewels- “Practice, practice, practice”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Self-forgiveness”

Steadfast anchor

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”- Hebrews 6:19 (ESV)

In Chapter 9 (“The Anchoring Effect”) of If, Mark Batterson discusses what psychologists refer to as the “anchoring effect”- our tendency to rely too heavily on the first fact or first impression.  Once we are anchored to a fact or impression, it becomes the baseline for our decision making.

Referencing Hebrews 6:19, Pastor Batterson notes that the writer speaks of hope as an anchor- a powerful as if.  A ship’s anchor isn’t used just to keep the ship from drifting.  When an anchor is thrown in front of a ship, it enables the ship to navigate through treacherous channels.  The nautical term for this is kedging– the picture painted by the writer of Hebrews.

For better or worse, where you drop anchor determines the outcome.  Mark states that fear gives weight to things that don’t deserve it.  Faith, on the other hand, is being sure of what we hope for (Hebrews 11:1).  Pastor Batterson adds:

“If gratitude is thanking God for things after they happen, then faith is thanking God for things before they happen.”

Anchoring your emotions to your circumstances creates a yoyo effect- up and down, up and down.  When your emotions are anchored to the cross. the cross becomes your fixed point of peace- a steadfast anchor.  Mark summarizes:

“If you want the peace that passes understanding to guard your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7), you’ve got to stay anchored to the right things.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how has Christ been your steadfast anchor?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Response-ability”

A change of heart

“But by forgiving . . . I had a change of heart- I got myself back.”- Raul

June Hunt discusses the lasts four benefits experienced when we forgive as she concludes Chapter 13 of How to Forgive.

2.  Forgiveness brings improved potential.  Ms. Hunt states forgiveness has the power to set you free from the prisons of bitterness, anger, and revenge.  Forgiveness frees you to pursue your life with renewed passion and purpose.  You get yourself back.  June summarizes:

“Energy spent on anger and revenge is energy lost.  Forgiveness reclaims that energy and redirects it to make your life better than ever.”

3.  Forgiveness leads to greater Christlikeness.  Allow the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in you- joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-25).

4.  Forgiveness points others to God.  Forgiveness is never the same when you experience it (in practice) for yourself.  Forgiveness will never again be theoretical.

5.  Forgiveness brings change to the world.  June beautifully explains this transformation:

“True forgiveness always begins in the privacy of a wounded heart as unseen yieldedness to God.  . . . The smallest act of forgiveness radiates outward, like ripples in a pond, and can change the destructive course of families, churches, communities, and even whole societies.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood forgiveness was far more than a political strategy.  In his book Strength to Love, Dr. King wrote:

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  Whoever is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love . . .”

Today’s question: Which benefit(s) of forgiving had the most impact on you?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “Every falling tear”

Tomorrow’s blog: the latest addition to the Annotated Bibliography, How to Forgive

Thanks be to God

Hibjudywiedenkeller

Hib and Judy Wiedenkeller- 50th Anniversary

“O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”- 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

“I’m not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself.  I want it to sound like the composer.”- Leonard Bernstein

In the mid-1980s, when Hales Corners Lutheran Church worshipped at the Grange campus, music director Hib Wiedenkeller established a tradition of alternately presenting the Christmas and Easter portions of the Messiah, complete with orchestra.  As the rehearsal pianist and performance harpsichordist, it was my responsibility to plunk out particularly problematic parts, play the piano score in rehearsal, and use the harpsichord in concert to maintain Hib’s set tempo for the orchestra .  However, there was one complication- my natural tendency to increase the tempo in direct proportion to my excitement.  Practices often were preceded by a smiling, gentle reminder from Hib to play Handel’s Messiah, not my “interpretation.”

Trying to have the harpsichord sound like myself would create musical chaos.  Max Lucado writes in A Gentle Thunder that emotion without knowledge is equally as dangerous as knowledge without emotion.  Knowing how to read the notes must be balanced with communicating the composer’s intent.  Pastor Lucado explains how this applies to our Christian walk:

“We Christians are prone to follow the book while ignoring the music.  We master the doctrine, outline the chapters . . . and stiffly step out on the dance floor of life with no music in our hearts.”

During the desert, land between transitional period following our ministry downsizing or vocation loss, our desire to set the tempo is inversely proportional to our perception of God’s inactivity and silence.  Yet, as Max points out, if we have ever been comforted or God has brought us peace when the world has brought us pain, we have heard the music.  Just as Jesus cry of “It is finished!” was no cry of defeat, neither is coming to the end of ourselves.  We have heard the music.  Pastor Lucado offers these encouraging words:

“A cry of defeat?  Hardly.  Had his (Jesus’) hand not been fastened down I dare say that a triumphant fist would have punched the dark sky.  No, this is no cry of despair.  It is a cry of completion.  A cry of victory.  A cry of fulfillment.  Yes, even a cry of relief.”

Thanks be to God!

 

 

 

 

No falling words

“No Falling Words” is the title of Chapter 15 of Glory Days.  Max Lucado states the theological heart of Joshua is: God keeps His word!  In Joshua 21:45 we read: “Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel.  All came to pass.”

Yet, we live in a world of falling words- broken promises, empty vows, retracted pledges.  Words, however, then to tumble.  Max describes such words as “autumn leaves in November’s wind.”  Promised Land people believe God’s promises and choose faith, as Pastor Lucado explains:

“And Promised Land people risk the choice.  When forced to stand at the crossroads of belief and unbelief, they choose belief.  They place one determined step after the other on a pathway of faith.  Seldom with a skip, usually with a limp.  They make a conscious decision to step toward God, to lean into hope, to heed the call of heaven.  They press into the promises of God.”

When fears surface or when doubts arise, Max encourages you to press into God’s promises and respond with this thought: But God said . . . .  As God’s promises settle over you, you will choose the path of peace even though everything around you tempts you to panic.  Take hold of God’s promises.  They are no falling words.

Today’s question: How can you prepare yourself to stand firm and choose faith when hard times inevitably come?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God fights for you”

God and prayer

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 12 of Glory Days with the observation that, like Greg Pruett, God and prayer are all you have left as well.  Like Joshua, you are facing battle and five kings are bearing down upon you:

“Discouragement, deception, defeat, destruction, death.  They roar into your world like a Hells Angels motorcycle gang.  Their goal is to chase you back into the wilderness.  Don’t give an inch.  Respond in prayer- honest, continual, and audacious prayer.”

As a member of God’s family, you come to God as an heir, not a stranger.  You can approach His throne with confidence.  Paul writes in his epistle to the Philippians:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication make your requests known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”- Philippians 4:6-7

Pastor Lucado emphasizes that the work of Satan must stop when the authority of Christ is proclaimed.  Max adds that “any demonic tongue must mute itself at the presence of truth”- including any force seeking to drive you out of the Promised Land.  It is a battle that we do not fight in vain.  God and prayer are all you need.

Today’s question (from the study guide): Do you find it difficult to bring some things to God?  What holds you back?  How can you find the boldness needed to bring your decisions to God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The measure of Christ’s gift”