Peace is proactive

April 9, 2009

Scripture is full of our agency, our walking and working.

God does not call us to idleness or to frenetic activity. He says both, “Be still and know that I am God,” and “For we are God’s fellow works.”

What does that look like—grace in action, activated grace?

Paul talks less about specific vocations or schedules and more about the fruits of the Spirit, which are our fuel and our destination.

Paul writes that humility, gentleness, and loving patience put the right swing in our gaits. We do not walk too fast or with an inflated sense of self-importance. We are not too focused on our pace or what others say when we seem to slow down. In fact, we have to slow down to notice the countryside or a lonely person who could use a brief conversation and a smile.

Yet, we must walk with eagerness, with bright and peaceful urgency, because we open our arms to unity with the Spirit at every step. Christ walks with us, yet we also journey to meet him face to face. The Prince of Peace glues everything together; peace preserves the unity. You can’t be too concerned with winning arguments and sue for peace at the same time. You can’t make signs of peace with a closed fist. You cannot talk about Sarah’s unscrupulous boyfriend on Saturday night and greet him with a holy kiss in the sanctuary on Sunday morning.

Peace is proactive.

Fullness in Christ and the ability to speak truth in love that comes with maturity depend on how we walk, rather than how far we walk.

We build the kingdom of God through grace activated in humility, gentleness, loving patience, and peacemaking.

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Easter Hallelujah

April 7, 2009

God the Father desires to forgive us.

He loves redemption and restoration. He looks for ways to withhold His righteous judgment, as evident in this passage from 2 Peter 3: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The story of Hosea illustrates that God’s love always precedes his wrath. 

He looks for ways to satisfy his holy wrath and set us free from bondage. In the death and resurrection of Jesus—in Easter and everything it represents—two facets of God’s character emerge.

Think of the seasons. Spring follows winter, rebirth follows death. Summer, harvest, and feasting follow rebirth. Though different, ice and snow and warm rain and sweat both bring cleansing.

God does not send his children out into the desert to die. He plans to call them back into his gardens better prepared to choose a life by his die.sunset

I also think of the cities of refuge in the Old Testament where fugitives could seek refuge. I think of fields left fallow so that the nutrients in the soil might replenish and the celebration of Jubilee every fifty years to forgive debts and redistribute wealth—to give everyone a clean start. 

God has woven into every process and practice of the natural world and Judeo-Christian culture ornate designs of death, cleansing, and rebirth. We will see baptism in every minute detail of our existence if God opens our eyes.

The prostitute Rahab is in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Moses killed an Egyptian in a fit of rage then led the Hebrews to the Promised Land. David seduced Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah, one of David’s Mighty Men, killed, and then conceived Solomon with her. Solomon built the temple. 

God redeems prostitutes, murderers, and adulterers. His power is most evident when he restores those people with the most rotten souls. Every one of us is “the worst of sinners,” and every one of us has hope. 

God can turn pedophiles, rapists, and cannibals into saints. He loves pornographers, pimps, and you.

Accepting Jesus is a lifelong confession of our sins, our bloody hands and our need of a sacrificial lamb and a joyful surrender to God’s ineffable love, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the sweet grace of an empty tomb.

Hallelujah.

I give up

April 2, 2009

I sometimes get frustrated with being left-handed. 

As I write, my hand drags across the fresh ink and smears the words. No matter how lucid or pithy what I’ve written is, the messiness bothers me. Anything worth writing should be clean and legible on the page. I’ve developed a complex—writing slower and slower and taking great care to keep my palm from dragging through my words. 

Despite my fastidiousness, my skin is always darkened with graphite or ink, half a word printed on my pinkie finger or the side of my hand because I was too engrossed—as I should have been—with capturing my thoughts to worry about something so trivial as the cleanliness of the page. I take pride in a well-written page, good penmanship, but I am left-handed so smudges and smears come with the territory. 

In other words, no matter how I careful I am, I still make mistakes. Gritting my teeth and trying harder, sticking with it for just a little longer because just maybe—trying to muscle my way through an uncomfortable situation, conversation, or friendship is exhausting. I become vulnerable to spiritual sickness. Ideal results dance in my head, and I start to believe that I am responsible for making them a reality. 

Perhaps letting go, walking away, giving up—perhaps surrender sometimes connotes the deepest faithfulness, especially if it involves the death of pride—“Father, I cannot do it by my own power”—and confession of my weakness and need of God’s guidance and protection.

I am often unable to take care of myself, and on a regular basis, I stumble into problems and messes that require more than I have to offer. 

Humility can be unbearable until we make a lifestyle out of it.

A dogged commitment to living apart from God can come disguised as perseverence in the interest of justice, reconciliation, or evangelism. We care more about “results” than we do about dwelling in God’s presence.

In what scorched places in your life do you need to throw up your hands and declare before your Maker, “I give up!”?

Confess that you want clean pages, but you’re left-handed.

No amount of effort makes us holy. Effort can kill us quicker than complacency.

You can change

March 31, 2009

You can change.

You are not simply a product of your past or environment, bound with invisible chains to your sins, failures, and family secrets.

Grace means transformation. Grace is real. Grace is true.

The fire of the Holy Spirit can sweep through your life and burn up all the garbage. You can live in freedom. You can taste purity and peace.

What you treat as unbreakable bonds are cobwebs to the risen Christ.

You can change. He can make you holy—washed white and entirely new.

Start asking, and he will come to your desire for him like a moth to a candle.