The unopened gift: ignoring God's peace
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.
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
What is Berks Christian School?
This is, on some level, a silly question. One could safely say that the answer is found right in the question itself. Or, as my calculus teacher used to be famous for saying, "the answer is intuitively obvious to the casual observer." (as a side note, this was highly irritating to students like myself struggling through his limits and derivatives.)
Of course, Berks Christian is a school. We have teachers, students, books, and bells. Lessons are presented, homework is assigned, and tests are crammed for. (Well, I am a realist after all.) We learn to read, recite, and reason. We practice multiplication, musical scales, and scripture memorization. We create timelines, compile book reports, and code webpages. But for all of this (and much more), it seems a surface definition of who we are. Webster may be happy but my heart finds it wanting.
I think a better description of Berks Christian is a learning community. The word community speaks to some deeper truths of who we are: an interacting population with a shared history, and unified motivations. We are people who have joint ownership and participation, sharing a like goal and fellowship. In this model, we are not just our roles (teachers, students, parents) but we are participants in a shared community centered around what brings us together - Christian education.
But perhaps best of all, we are a learning family. In this model, we are not just a community circled around a common goal, but we are members of a family centered around a common leader - Jesus Christ. And that's what a family is: a group of individuals with a common ancestry, under one head, and unified by our shared characteristics. We don't necessarily always agree (or get along) but we do share a familial bond. This bond is the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit. From this springs our learning, exploring, growing and discipling.
As many times as I can put put pen to paper (er, that is... fingers to keyboard) I will say it: BCS is all about Jesus, because everything is about Jesus! He is the head of our learning community.
Since we are best described as family, I now have a question to pose to you: Do you treat BCS like a hotel or like a home? Are we on vacation, or are we caring for our living space in the rhythms of daily life?
You know how it goes at a hotel. You've paid for the room and you have certain expectations. But the only expectation for yourself is that you've paid, and you are there to enjoy the experience. You don't bother to make the bed or hang up the towels. Someone else will pick up that wrapper on the floor. If something breaks, just dial the front desk. And your food can be brought to the door while you flip through the channels. Any mess isn't your problem and you might even just make one for the fun of it, because we've got no intention of staying past checkout time.
At home of course, it's a different ballgame. Not only do we clean up after ourselves, but we train our children to do the same. We take careful assessment of our home and prioritize projects to take care of. We'll spend some of our spare time making improvements and upgrades because we know this where we spend most of our time and we want it to be nice. We'll even pull out the fridge every once and a while to clean the dust that has accumulated. (Well, some of us do.) The point is, we value our home - we take care of it. There's a sense of ownership and responsibility.
I think the application of the analogy is fairly intuitive. Being part of BCS is an investment, and not just a financial one. We've got common goals and shared responsibilities. If BCS is truly going to be a family, we must choose to treat BCS like our educational home, not educational hotel.
So Berks Christian School family, I challenge you. Will you treat BCS like your educational home? Will you commit your family to be a fully engaged part of the BCS family? For God's glory, will you take ownership in the school that is yours - the families, the stakeholders? Dig in - pick up some towels off the floor, start on that new deck expansion, patch the hole in the wall, or just help to put the dishes away after dinner. Each of us have a part to play, what's yours?
To make sure that I give credit where it is due, I owe the metaphor of "Hotel and Home" to Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.
Grace and Peace my friends! (and welcome home!),
New to the reading recommendations this week (see links above)
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.