Today's blogs is one of those times when something else was planned (I was going to write about grammar believe it or not, we'll save that for next week) and the Spirit just takes things in another direction. I was personally challenged with a particular verse of scripture over the weekend, and the Spirit encouraged me to share it with my school family.
On Saturday, I was reading John 14 as part of my preparation for the coming week of teaching in Bible class. I stopped on verse 14:27. I felt compelled to read it over and over. Jesus is talking about sending the Holy Spirit, and then he says these words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
As I was reading this, a picture developed in my mind. I was standing there with Jesus, and he put a gift at my feet. Instead of opening it, I simply look down and cross my arms. A gentle voice asks, "Phil, why won't you open my gift?"
It's a hard question. And one I didn't like. I certainly know about God's peace, I accept it as a truth. I know he is sovereign over all: in control and with a plan. I can even teach about it, and quote other verses about it. But why do I struggle to accept it into my own life on a daily basis? Perhaps it is because I deceive myself into believing I don't deserve it or that I need to earn it. Or perhaps on some level I don't believe it is sufficient.
How dangerous this is! How desperately each of us needs this peace Jesus offers. How quickly we arrive at despair, depression, and doubt. What a stubborn people we can be - foolishly ignoring the good gifts God has for us as his children. He leaves His peace for us, He gives it to us. Why? He desires for us to be free from a troubled heart and a mind gripped with fear. And, He knows we need this freedom for another purpose.
Genesis teaches us that we as humans were made in the image of God, imago dei. Imprinted on each of our lives is the image of the Creator. And I believe that at the root of this imago dei is love. As humans, we are all loving creatures - we all direct our love to something. As Christians, we believe our love should be directed back to our Heavenly Father and his Kingdom.
Fear and lack of peace put our love off aim. The imago dei becomes warped. We're motivated by self-preservation and self-worship. We can't see beyond ourselves. Our love is blinded by fear. And so now we see the deep transformational power of the Peace of God - to allow us to see beyond ourselves. And as we see beyond ourselves we are free to have a restored love - one directed at our Father and his Kingdom.
It has been my challenge the last few days to humbly reach down and open this gift and that Jesus offers his followers. I've been challenged to see what decisions and actions I've selfishly made because I was too afraid to love in the way I should. I've forced myself to look at those areas of my life I insist on painfully trying to accomplish on my own strength. And I've been reminded that the Spirit is there to gently help me again come back to God's peace.
BCS Family, I challenge you. Open God's peace in your lives. To do so requires humility, recognizing that we can not do it on our own, and that we have not earned it. But what transformation awaits us when we do embrace peace through Jesus - the one who has accomplished it all! It frees us to be the people of God. We accept His forgiveness, and then we accept His peace.
Don't just keep reading this post. Stop and reflect. What situation or condition is causing your life to be without peace right now? Take a moment to envision stooping down, picking up the gift of Christ, and opening it for this particular situation.
An outgrowth of this challenge takes us back to community. I really don't think it's possible to embrace God's peace in our lives on a consistent basis without the help of fellow Christians. So along with my challenge comes four smaller challenges.
- Get involved in a church. Friends, please hear this in a loving but stern way. Your family needs to be active in a local church. There's no way around it, this is the way God designed us to function as the Body of Christ. Some of you just sit in the pews, some of you don't go at all. Out of love, I am telling you that you are hurting your family if you don't prioritize this. Find a church that makes much of Jesus, much of scripture, and where you can grow and serve. Then dig in – and you'll find others that can help you unwrap the gift of Christ's peace.
- Confess and Share. We all carry around fear. We all carry around hurt, guilt, struggle. Find those in the body you can be honest with. In order to welcome in God's peace, we need to release those things we are hanging on to, sharing with others allows us to let them go.
- Pray with each other. We talk with our friends, with our family, with our neighbor, and with the stranger in line at the store. And frequently, our discussions turn to those things causing unrest in our lives. When we are with our brothers and sisters in Christ, is prayer a natural part of our conversations and interactions together? Are we bringing each other before the Father?
- Let us pray with you. We are part of your larger Christian community and we value each family and individual in the BCS community. The staff and teachers of BCS are constantly in prayer for our families - if you have a specific prayer request, please let us know. We would love the opportunity to pray along side of you for anything in your life. You can call or email the office for prayer at any time.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
What would Berks Christian school look like if we all helped each other to daily accept God's peace into our lives and into our school? What if we were all freed to love each other fully and shine forth God's image to each other and those around us? Friends, that is the start of revival and of BCS reshaping our community.
Grace and Peace (Christ's peace, open and embraced in all of its transformational
New book recommendations for 9/17/2012: (see links above
- Teaching with Love and Logic, by Jim Fay - for teachers
- Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis - for parents and students
- Love Your God with All Your Mind, by JP Moreland - for everyone
- Be the Change: Your Guide to Freeing Slaves, by Zach Hunter - for students (especially Middle School!)