The Most Important Peace

Psalm 34:11-14, peace, repentance, confessionThe correct understanding and application of scripture is of vital importance.  God’s Word is literally life and wisdom incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ.  When we seek to grow in our knowledge of the Bible and to go deeper into the study of the Word then we are really seeking to grow our relationship with Jesus.  And that is an endeavor that will always be worthwhile and eternally profitable.

As we discussed Psalm 34:19 last week I mentioned that the entire chapter was worth careful study and contains wonderful wisdom and encouragement for the believer.  As I originally read through and studied Psalm 34 I completely misunderstood verse 14 and it is that verse (with a few more) that we will be looking at this time.

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.  Psalm 34:11-14

In verses 11 through 13 we have an invitation to listen to the speaker as he imparts Godly wisdom to us.  If we heed his instruction then we will learn to fear (respect and admire) the God of eternity who is our creator.  His follow-up questions to this bold statement are good ones.  Do we desire life?  Do we truly want to see “good” during our time on earth?

If so, we must learn to tame our tongues and ultimately depart from evil and towards good.  Sounds simple but we know, because of human nature, it really isn’t.  Choosing to do good and seek a relationship with God while denying that fallen human nature can only be accomplished with God’s help and through God’s grace.

But what about that very last line of verse 14?  “Seek peace and pursue it”.  At first glance, this bit of instruction seems to come out of left field.  Thus far the speaker has been talking about personal behavior and that which comes from within.  If we take “peace” to mean the absence of conflict and violence then that would seem to point more towards our outward behavior towards others.  And initially, that is exactly how I read and understood verse 14.  But what if the speaker is talking about a different kind of peace?  What if he means inner peace that comes only from being in right relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ?

See, the only way any of us can truly be at peace is when we know our sins have been forgiven and we are walking in the light of His love.  And when we sin against Him and do not confess our sins it creates inner conflict and we are doing the opposite of verse 14.  To “seek peace and pursue it” is to make confession and repentance a priority!

Once I understood what verse 14 was really saying it really connected the entire thought from verse 11 all the way through verse 14.  And because of my initial misunderstanding of verse 14 I almost missed a powerful and life changing truth from God’s Word.  (Thank God that He led me to the commentary of Charles H Spurgeon who’s work inspired me to write this and to share what I had learned!)

Ultimately, the most important peace is the peace of God in our hearts and that peace will guard our hearts and minds no matter what this life might bring against us.  It is one of God’s most amazing gifts to us but it is an easy gift to miss if we don’t make it a priority and continually seek after it.

When All You Can Do Is Pray That Love Wins

redemption, reconciliation, repentanceAt times it is difficult to pin down a single topic or theme for a blog post.  The desire to write is there and the impetus to tell of God and His glory remains constant and strong but the specific direction is unclear.  So I’m just going to tell you what’s on my heart at this moment.

What I know is this: God is real.  God is good.  God is still working and changing lives.

I know God is real because of the way that He has touched me personally and changed me as well as the evidence I see of Him in other lives around me.  I know God is good because, limited though I am, I see His handiwork and the evidence of His greatness every day.  And I know God is still working and changing lives because of the testimony of other believers who are not afraid to show up and speak out about their love for Jesus.

Even though I know God and see Him working I am still in this world and just like everyone else, I have problems and obstacles in my life.  My heart is broken and has been broken these last few weeks over the separation and estrangement of two people that I know and love very much.  I see what they are going through and I hurt for both of them as does all of their family and friends.  My prayer for them is, and has been since the beginning, that love would win and that healing and reconciliation take place.

The thing is, only God can do something like that.  Only God can take the pile of ashes that we so often create with our best efforts and turn them and us into something beautiful and worthwhile.  Apart from God we are broken and miserable but with God we are healed and we are changed.

What is the key to this healing and this great change?  Faith and repentance.  By faith we believe that God is the only one who can change us and when we throw everything we have and everything we are at His feet and cry out to God with our whole heart, then and only then, can He begin to make us new.  He will absolutely turn a life around 180 degrees from ruin to righteousness and from destruction to deliverance.

Will God intervene in the situation that I have described between these two estranged loved ones?  I believe that He desires to and I believe that He certainly is able.  How it all comes to pass will depend on the hearts and wills of those involved.  Sometimes we realize we are in trouble rather quickly and turn it over to the Lord and sometimes we run for many years before we realize that it is all in vain if God’s hand isn’t in it.

My prayer is that somewhere down the road, in God’s perfect timing, I will be able to look in to the eyes of these folks and see lives that have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I look forward to that day.

 

The Good the Bad and the Rest

repentance, sin, confessionLife constantly surprises me.  You would think after 39 years I would be accustomed to the way that things work, but that just isn’t so.

My mistake is in thinking that I can attain some level of mastery in being a human being.  To be a human is to be error prone, selfish and often blind to what is most important.  So even if I do things right for a while, just wait, something stupid is coming.  I will inevitably muck something up and then spend a few days contemplating where I went wrong and what I can do to fix it.

This is basic human thinking.  Thankfully, I am no longer fully human.

Christ lives in me.  God in the flesh.  That means that I am to show the attributes and characteristics of God in how I think and act.  When I make a mistake I need to own up to it and realize that I am forgiven based on what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross at Calvary.  I am not to carry around a load of guilt and shame and cause that to make me hide from God.

The Good is that Jesus’ love for me does not change or diminish based on my behavior.  If I am on point one day and listening to the Spirit’s voice then I will produce the fruits of the Spirit and good things will come from that.  But God will not love me any more than He does right now.

Nor will He love me less when I display my fleshly characteristics and am selfish or thoughtless.  God’s love is constant and His offer of grace and forgiveness does not change.  This is a mighty and wonderful truth that I must never forget.  God loves me.  Right now, just like I am.

The Bad comes in when I do try and hide from God, either intentionally by ignoring His voice or unintentionally by wallowing in guilt and shame.  Either way, my focus is not where it should be.  Instead of focusing on Him, I become like Peter who focused on the wind and the waves and began to sink.  In this case, my “wind” and my “waves” are me and my problem.  And it is always a bad idea when I focus on anything other than God who is Sovereign.

So what’s the Rest of this process?  The Rest is what happens in between the absolute truth of God’s grace and redemption and the Bad of my sin and rebellion.  The Rest is where I must take the right steps to confess my sin and make Jesus the Lord of my life once again.  The Rest is always up to me and will always come down to my willingness to repent.

Action Hero Repentance

repentance, submission, forgiveness

Sorry guys, but you aren’t the type of action hero I am looking for this week.

While I concede that “hero” and “repentance” aren’t words that are normally found together in a sentence, it is my position that they should be.

 

 

In fact, I believe the best, most true kind of repentance requires heroic action.

Allow me to explain.

A hero is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities”.  While the commission of sin is never admirable and should never be applauded, admitting our faults and failures and taking action to turn from them most certainly should be applauded.  The honest person who is most open about their failures and reliance on God is the person that God can most use for His glory.  And I can certainly admire a person like that!

True repentance requires action.  Sometimes it requires heroic action.  True repentance isn’t just feeling bad about sin or even admitting that we have made a mistake.  True repentance turns away from the sin and the mistake and moves in the completely opposite direction.  Nothing shows God that we are more serious about walking with Him than when we turn away from sin and start living our lives differently.

Here is what true repentance looks like in real life:  If I know that I have wronged someone I go to that person and admit that I have wrong them and ask for their forgiveness.  If I know that I am tempted by lustful thoughts when viewing certain TV shows or movies, I no longer watch those TV shows or movies.  If too much time spent on social media sites and internet gaming is interfering with my walk with God, then I reduce or eliminate my exposure to those things until Jesus is first in my life again.

True repentance always, always, always requires us to act differently.  It may start with a realization and conviction by the Holy Spirit and it should involve confession; absolutely.  But until there is a motion made by us to cease our sin and to turn away from it, our repentance is not complete.

Do you want freedom from sin and to overcome that which binds you?  Then start to act differently.  God has a way of taking our small, stumbling steps made in weakness and amplifying them with His strength until we are taking great, God sized strides over and through our previous mistakes.

But it must start with our first step.  It must begin with a heroic effort on our part to really want to change and be different.  Show the Lord that you are serious and take action.  Engage yourself in action hero repentance and watch as God works a miracle in your life.