The Rest Of The Story

My body.  My choice.  My rights.  My way.  The whole world is looking out for their own selves to the detriment of kindness and respect for one another.  Everywhere we look the attitude is me, me, and more of me.  Selfishness has taken over.  In the meantime, mental illness is on the rise, broken and dysfunctional families have become the norm, and outright hatred for others who don’t believe as we do is rampant.  Violence is reported on every news channel.  People go missing, parents are murdering their children, children are lacking respect for their parents and authority figures.  What in the world is happening all around us?  Has our arch enemy won?  Is evil really going to triumph over all?   

It is so easy to become disheartened when we focus on the world around us.  Our joy can be zapped away if we keep our eyesight on this current darkness.  We can spiral down into a pit of lost hope.  Is there a way to maintain joy and peace in the midst of our present chaos?  Oh, yes!

It’s all a matter of our focal point.  It’s a matter of knowing the rest of the story.  Jesus regularly warned His disciples that in this world there would be tribulations, but He went on to say, we can be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.  He also assured them that He would give His peace.  How does that work?

Lately I have been dwelling on the Old Testament verse, Isaiah 26:3 which reads, “You (the Lord Himself)  will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”  You see, when troubles swirl around us, it’s human nature to dwell on those problems.  We try to think of ways to solve them.  We want to be rid of them so we think and think and think.  That’s human nature.  The thing is, as Christians we have something available to us that is far better than our human nature.  It’s a supernatural nature.  It’s the nature of Jesus Christ, and it’s available to us.  How do we acquire this supernatural nature?

When we receive Jesus Christ into our lives, the Holy Spirit comes to reside within.  Therefore, we have available to us, His own peace and courage and wisdom and joy.  We can function in that peace by what we meditate upon.  If we have troubles and fix our thoughts on those things that disturb us, then naturally turmoil will reign in our hearts.  If, on the other hand, we fix our thoughts on the One who is able to do above all we can even imagine, then supernaturally, Holy joy and peace will sit on the throne of our hearts.  

To maintain such spiritual focus takes practice.  Begin now.  Ask the Lord to keep thoughts of all that’s possible in Him, to settle in your being and rule your minds.  Peace will come.   

A Wisdom Like No Other

We would all like to be wiser.  There are ways to gain wisdom.  Education gives knowledge, and practice of things learned brings about wisdom.  Life situations are better walked through when wisdom has been gained through experience.  The study of psychology explains emotional tools we can use to make us stronger in mind and behavior as we face the uncertainties and hard knocks of relationships with ourselves and with others.

All of the above helps us to attain knowledge that may lead to wisdom, but does it give us lasting joy, peace, meaning in life, and hope that never fades?  What is the difference between wisdom learned on earth and wisdom given by God?  Let’s take a look at Proverbs 3:13-18: “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.  For wisdom is more profitable that silver, and her wages are better than gold.  Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.  She offers you a long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left.  She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying.  Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”

Wisdom we gain on earth is profitable.  It will help us in difficult situations.  It will help us to be stronger in broken relationships and in dealing with circumstances that frighten us.  Learning and practicing wisdom through education and practice is not a bad thing, but it will never take us to the heights of hope and joy that the wisdom from God can take us.  You see, the wisdom of the world is incomplete.  The wisdom of the world cannot help us to understand the riches of life in the spiritual realm.

In the spiritual realm we learn to take hold of a joy that surpasses any other happiness found on earth.  In the spiritual realm we come to understand the value that God Himself places on each one of us; we know that we are precious to Him and loved beyond measure.  This love surpasses any earthly love.  (If one has not experienced the personal love of God, the above will make no sense, because spiritual wisdom can only be gained by those who know Jesus Christ personally.)  Spiritual wisdom gives us insight to life after death; the light that those in Christ will live in for eternity, and the darkness that those who reject Christ will live in, also for eternity.  Do you see the explanation of the above scripture in Proverbs 3:18 ; “…wisdom is a tree of life…”  

There are many ways to gain wisdom to help us educationally and relationally on this earth, but there is only one way to gain the wisdom of God that will let us soar the heights of splendor, dive deep into pure love, and embrace hope for an amazing, eternal future.

Such wisdom is available to anyone who reaches out to take this gift from God; given through receiving His Son Jesus, believing He died and rose again, conquering death, forgiving all sin, granting eternal life with Him.  This wisdom is literally from out of this world.

The Eye Of A Storm

Like many of you, I have been keeping track of Hurricane Matthew, praying for the residents of Florida as they batten down the hatches to face the storm’s wrath.  It’s always interesting to me to note that in the middle of every hurricane, there is the center of the storm where everything is calm and peaceful.  The mighty winds, often full of destruction, circle around the eye of the storm.

Do you remember the story of Jesus walking on the water?  It’s recorded in Matthew 14 and also in Mark and John.  Can you imagine the scene?  The disciples, the men who Jesus was investing time in, teaching and showing them great lessons on earth that would help them through all their days, were in the boat.  Most of these men were fishermen.  Their fathers had been fishermen.  They grew up knowing the water and the weather.  Therefore, because of their knowledge, we know that the storm that swept upon them had to be potentially deadly, because they were frantic.

Imagine them on deck.  Waves are washing over the bow.  Wild water is spraying in their faces.  The wind is lashing against their efforts to pull in the sails.  The roar of the storm complicates their efforts to hear each other call out instructions.  They are soaked and cold and scared; this storm is a bad one.

In the midst of their desperate attempts to save the boat and their lives, something unimaginable happens.  Look!  Someone must have called out.  What’s that?  They peer across the darkness of the water.  The lightening cracks and a flash of light reveals something that takes their breath away.  Each of them grabs hold of something to steady them against the force of wind.  It’s, it’s…Jesus!  NO!  It’s a ghost!  Poor men.  There they are fighting with diminishing hopes to get back to shore, when another fear overcomes them. Of all things to deal with, they don’t need a ghost!  Suddenly, they hear something they recognize.  “Don’t be afraid!  Take courage; I am here.”  Can it be?  Is it really Jesus?  Did He just do the impossible, walking on water to get to them in the storm?

Yes, they would find out for certain in the moments to follow, that it was indeed Jesus.  Can you imagine the wonder and the thrill that must have come over them?  Jesus was a master teacher and what a visual aid He used to capture their attention. They would never forget that incident.

The good news for all of us is that Jesus still walks through the storms of our lives to come to us. Remember the times in life when perhaps you were in a difficult situation and you saw no way out?  Have you ever felt like you were failing in all areas of your life, so tired of hoping you could get a grip on things, only to fail in your own eyes time and time again?  Do storms of grief take hold of all your senses when your relationships rock with turmoil?  Does fear of job loss or financial uncertainty sweep over you like a hurricane churning up the water?  Does poor health take its toll on peace, ripping away courage like destructive winds exploding onto unsuspecting shores?

Never forget, just as every hurricane has a peaceful eye in its core, Jesus is always in our midst, too.  He still walks on water into our storm-filled lives, calling out to us, “Don’t be afraid!  Take courage; I am here!”  Storms only persist in our personal worlds when we try to battle the winds of discontent in our own strength.  No matter your personal pain, strain your ears to hear because His voice is always there, His love is ever present, His hope and courage never cease as He calls out to you, “Don’t be afraid!  I am here!”