Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Speaking Peace

These things have I spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. John 16:33 NKJV

I was just getting over a long-term illness. For the past two years the situation had been made worse by job pressures, financial pressures, culture changes and loneliness. I was against the wall spiritually and in constant, moderate pain.
Then, my son married on a Caribbean island and I was surprised by being able to attend. Afterward, I had two extra days before my plane left and I spent most of that time sitting in the edge of the surf. No schedule to keep. No appointments or responsibilities; just sand and the anti-inflammatory properties of salt water.
I knew my illness had been getting better for several months still I was shocked when I realized all pain was gone. After years of constantly hurting, there was nothing; only the sound of surf, warm air, the colors of a tropical sunset. And, no pain. The experience happened more than a decade ago, but I clearly remember the peace that settled over my soul like a being wrapped in a fireplace-warmed blanked on a cold winter's day.
What are your memories of peace? A warm fire on a rainy evening? A baby sleeping on your breast? Coming home from a long trip? Or, a long war? Peace.
As Jesus prepared to leave the earth, He wanted His followers to know they had a resource for peace. He warned them it would not be the same kind of temporary peace they enjoyed in the world, [1] but “peace” was the closest word in their language to describe it. The peace would be a real experience and it would come to them through the words He spoke.
Have you experienced this kind of peace? Perhaps it was when the turmoil of guilt ripped at your conscience and you remembered His words about forgiveness. Or maybe you were lonely then suddenly, inexplicably felt Him nearby almost as friend with friend. Were you ever tossing between two options and torn about which way to go when a verse made the path plain and throbbing questions settled into silence?
If you have not experienced these things in a while, do you want to? Pick up a Bible. Peace starts through hearing the things Jesus said. Words were His parting gift to us. Words with the power to provide peace.
[1] John 14:27

Monday, February 20, 2012

Joy to the Full

Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.
John 16:24 NKJV

A conundrum is sometimes defined as a riddle inside an enigma wrapped in a mystery. It's also a fair description of more than one scripture that has challenged me through the years. Like today's verse on asking and receiving. I read it and immediately get lost in a tangled web of sentences that all start with but or what-if.

Yet, when the journey of reason becomes so convoluted I think I may never find my way back, I take a tip from an atheist who's writing I have always admired. Mark Twain said, "It ain't the parts of the Bible I don't understand that bother me. It's the parts I do!" If I'll back off and focus on what I know instead of getting lost down rabbit holes, life-and scripture-make a lot more sense.

From this verse, what I know is when I ask Jesus for something and receive it, the cycle is a whole lot of fun!

I was going through a particularly wearisome time of spiritual dryness. I had just finished one book and was casting about trying to envision the next, but nothing was working and I drifted into such a slough of despond that I wasn't sure I cared if I ever wrote again. Too much hard work. Too little reward. God had many excellent writers in His fold. He didn't need me.

That was when I picked a prayer journal from the shelf and began thumbing through. I was amazed at how many victories had slipped by without my notice. Troubles had been solved. Growth had taken place. Moods had changed. And, all of it had progressed almost stealth through my days. Where had I been when that prayer was answered? Why didn't I notice the cloudy mood I prayed about was lifted in less than seventy-two hours?

I pulled down another journal. Forgotten memories surfaced like neglected friends. With such a body of evidence demonstrating that my efforts and choices made a difference in life, what gave me the right to think new dreams, new prayers and new horizons weren't worth pursuing? The experience was like coming up from under water and taking a deep breath of fresh air. Just like Moses had assured the Israelites, remembering yesterday created courage for tomorrow. [1]

There are still many things I don't understand about this verse. I haven't got a clue how Jesus could give such a powerful blank check to humans who have a penchant for making unreasonable, selfish requests. I don't understand why sometimes when Christians make perfectly logical, needed request; they don't seem to receive from God. But I know I am a weaker, sadder person when I fail to grab hold and bask in the sunshine of each answered prayer no matter how small or large.

[1] Deuteronomy 7:18

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Joy of Being Chosen

You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you. John 15:16 NKJV

Only hours before His crucifixion Jesus looked around at the men who for three-and-a-half years had given up everything to follow Him and said, "It is not that you have chosen me, but that I have chosen you." This was not a statement minimizing their sacrifice but a truth to hold on to if they would weather the fast approaching storm.

Being chosen by Jesus, made them secure. Because He knew their past, nothing back there need haunt them. He saw it all from the beginning and chose them anyway. Because He knew their present, He was never surprised or disappointed by their weakness. He knew their problems better than they did and He chose them anyway. Because He knew their future, no sin they might commit, no failure, no laziness or anger or misconception on their part would ever make Him turn away. He knew these things from the beginning and He chose them anyway.

But there was more.

Being chosen meant that Jesus had a goal in mind for their life. They were chosen to bear fruit. They would never drift without purpose or direction. If in the future they felt their life was going nowhere or wondered about the meaning of it all, they could rest. He had picked them for a purpose and He will not let that purpose fall flat.

Yet, above the security and purpose involved in being chosen, there was one more privilege that outshone them all. Because they were chosen, they had direct access to God the Father. As the fruit of character and life grew inside them, they would know more what it meant to ask "in Jesus name." Using that name, they would ask and asking, they would receive.

Remembering that He had chosen them would provide security and courage in the dark hours just ahead. It was a solid rock in the coming storm. And, it can also be a rock for us. After all, we've been chosen, too.