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Monday, November 18, 2019

Perfect Peace 3: Life or Death

Fork from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Gareth Jones, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. - Romans 8:6 ESV
Wow... "to set the mind on the flesh is death." That seems really extreme, doesn't it? By the way - when the Bible says "the flesh" it doesn't mean what we mean when we say flesh. It doesn't mean any part of your physical body, at least not directly. It means your human nature, specifically the darker part of it. The part of it that makes you want to cut someone off on the highway when they did the same to you. The part that makes you want to yell at someone when you feel angry. The part of you that wants to eat more dessert than is healthy for you.

So, setting your mind on that is equated to death. We already found out that focusing our minds on Jesus is a catalyst for peace inside, and we found out that we don't really need to be anxious about whether we have all the stuff we need (like food, clothing, shelter) because God knows and promises to provide. But this verse seems to indicate that if we focus on the wrong things, it will lead to some sort of death!

I don't believe that a person who has given his or her heart to Jesus can experience spiritual death in Hell. I think that once you've given that to Him, you can't take it back. If that's the case, and since we all know that it's perfectly possible for us to focus on sinful things, this must be a different kind of death.

The flip side (after the word "but") is focusing on the Spirit, and the result of that is not only life, but peace. Remember, in the Hebrew language, peace means not only inner tranquility, but physical health and material prosperity. Maybe the "death" here manifests itself in lack of inner tranquility, or maybe it manifests itself as getting fat because we ate too much dessert, or maybe it manifests itself in our bodies becoming sick because we spend our time being angry and bitter against others. There are lots of things that could easily fit under the heading "death" here. My personal take is that when we spend all of our time focusing on gratifying our sinful natures, eventually, the "death" will be physical - maybe actually dying early, but maybe the loss of health and quality of life. Think about this passage from Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. - Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV
Maybe I'm wrong and living for the sinful nature doesn't cause physical sickness, but this passage pretty clearly indicates that if you're not putting all your trust in the Lord, you're missing out on some actual physical health benefits available to you. I'm not making this up - I'm just calling them as I see them!

The next time you start to get angry, or anxious, or gluttonous, or whatever Achilles heel your flesh presents to you - take a second to intentionally set your mind on the things of the Spirit. Let's see if God's health plan starts kicking in!

Back to the beginning

Monday, November 11, 2019

Perfect Peace 2: Needs

Delicious junk food-Burger, iced drink and fries (Flip 2019) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2019 Marco Verch, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. - Romans 14:17 ESV
This verse is about more than having Subway and a Diet Coke. I think that when this verse says "it's not about eating and drinking" it's more broadly talking about everything we need. Jesus made a similar statement in Matthew 6:31-33:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Jesus added clothing to the mix. I think we can also add in the car you drive, the job you work, the house you live in, the computer or phone or tablet you're reading this on - anything you need or want. These verses are saying that those things are irrelevant to your inner spiritual life. If you keep your focus on Jesus (as we talked about last time) then you can have peace, joy, and righteousness in your life regardless of whether you have anything to eat, drink, or wear at the moment. Jesus adds a promise that if you seek God's kingdom above those other things, God will provide the eat, drink, and wear things. That's not to say that if you are hungry and have a $5 bill, you should pray that someone will magically bring you your sub sandwich. By all means, head to the restaurant if that's the food you want. But the food should not be your primary focus at any time. Or your clothes or lack of clothes, or your money or lack of money. Seek God's Kingdom first, and see what happens!


Back to the beginning

Monday, November 4, 2019

Perfect Peace 1: Mind

In the Shadow of the Cross from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Sharon Tate Soberon, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. - Isaiah 26:3 ESV
In the Hebrew version of the Bible, the most ancient copies that we have, when a writer wanted to strongly emphasize something they would repeat the word. In English it might be similar to saying "That was really, really fun!" or "I am so, so tired." The part of this verse that usually is translated "perfect peace" is actually "shalom", the Hebrew word for peace, twice. "You keep him in shalom, shalom." Shalom itself is a much broader word than the English word "peace" - shalom means peace in every part of your existence. Our word "peace" means maybe emotional health, sometimes the absence of physical conflict. Shalom is much more comprehensive. It means emotional peace, physical health, even prosperity. Can you imagine that kind of holistic "peace" except double-timed?

This word "mind" is an unusual one. It's not really the word for "mind" at all, it's the word for your creative imagination. We all imagine things all day long - we anticipate what the driver in front of us is going to do, we think about what we want to eat for dinner, we plan to go to or send our kids to college, we think about what to get someone for Christmas. Those are all uses of our imagination, our creativity. What if every time we imagine something, Jesus was part of it? What if we considered our gift-giving in the light of what would be pleasing to God? Would we be more generous? What if we planned out our weekends based on what we might be able to do for others, not just for ourselves? What if we truly approached all of our plans for the future with Jesus in the picture? Maybe you do that already, but I know I certainly fall short many times a day. Maybe that's because, as this verse says, I don't really trust Jesus with all parts of my life. Or maybe it's because I simply forget to keep my focus where it needs to be.

I've started to consciously take a couple of times a day out to focus on Jesus. It's kind of hard when I'm frustrated with something (especially when that something is myself!) but in those hard spots, it seems to reveal the root of the problem (for example, I may think I'm getting angry because I'm having a hard time with a task, but when I take it to Him, I suddenly realize that I'm mostly afraid that I'm inadequate, that I won't be able to do it). I'd like to challenge you this week to give that a try. You may just find that you begin to experience a peace that will blow your mind!

Back to the beginning

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Perfect Peace

Recently I was reading a little book given to me by a friend that is just Scripture verses arranged by topic, and I came to a section on peace. A few verses jumped out at me, and I wanted to share them along with some brief comments of what went through my mind as I was reading them. I will list the references at the end of this post.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
If we focus on God as we go through our day and trust Him, the gift we will receive is perfect peace.

The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
"Eating and drinking" here are not limited to food intake. Those two things here represent things in the physical world around us, specifically things we need (or at least think we need). God's Kingdom is not effected one way or another by the things around us.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Not only does focusing on the things of God result in a life of righteousness, peace, and joy - but the reverse actually results in death! I am of the camp that believes that once you receive God's Salvation through Jesus, you cannot take it back, so I don't think this is talking about spiritual death in Hell. I think this is talking about emotional decay and rot (anxiety, stress, worry) and eventually physical sickness and maybe even untimely physical death.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Jesus said two things: (1) He was leaving us His peace. HIS peace. Imagine the peace that was present inside of Jesus as He walked the Earth. That's what He left for us. (2) We should not "let" our hearts be troubled and afraid. That implies that if we begin to feel those emotions, there is a mechanism available to the Christian to eliminate those things. WHAT? I can switch fear off like I'm turning off a light?? Seems like Jesus was saying that if you are fearful, it's because you let the fear happen.


I'm going to further elaborate on each of these over the next few weeks, so plan on stopping back by - if you want to read more thoughts about peace between now and then, here are some links to a series I wrote about peace a couple of years ago: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 ...or you can click "peace" in the "labels" section at the bottom of this post.


Scriptures quoted (from the English Standard Version of the Bible): Isaiah 26:3, Romans 14:17, Romans 8:6, John 14:27

Thursday, April 25, 2019

I Can't Help But Sing

I've been working on a new worship-style song - I thought I'd share it!






I Can’t Help But Sing
by Michael Jones

You are the One Who gives me breath
I can’t help but sing
You are the music on my lips
I can’t help but sing
  
You’re the One Who gives me life
You have given me a heart to beat
You’ve provided everything
I can’t help but sing

You have wrapped me in Your love
I can’t help but sing
You have clothed me in Your peace
I can’t help but sing


Hallelujah!


Monday, February 18, 2019

Being Sent

For several years now I've had my phone set up with a recurring message that I get every morning, like a text message from God. It's taken from the text of Judges 6:14: "Have I not sent thee?" I set it up during a time when I was working at a job that was really grinding my gears - I felt unappreciated, and sometimes I even felt like I was thrown under the bus by the people above me, used as a scapegoat to unhappy clients. I started to have minor health problems, and began to feel like my life was really not going anywhere. I started trying to find a new job, but nothing was out there for someone with my specific skill set. For over a year I was job hunting, with absolutely no success. It was looking bleak for me!

Then one Sunday my pastor taught about Gideon, and that phrase from his story jumped out at me. Was I in that job for a reason? Had God sent me there, perhaps, to have an impact on the people around me? Could it be that I had a ministry right there, and when that ministry was completed, I would somehow be released from that job when something else opened up? My brain didn't like the idea, but my heart told me yes.

I do know that I had a positive impact on the people around me at that job. I do know that, finally, God released me from that job when He "sent" me to another job. At that job I had a chance to heal from the wounds I had received at the job before, and then at a certain point, God called me to another job that I love so much that I can't imagine a better situation for me to be in. I know I'm "sent" there too, and I remember that every morning when I get my morning "text message from God".

"Have I not sent thee?"

Yep, Lord - I know you have!


Monday, February 11, 2019

Asking for Trouble

In my last post I mentioned that my new musical/devotional podcast, The Word Go Project, has been a wild ride for me, and I promised to talk about why. The short version is this: when you presume to teach people about something from the Word, you'd better be ready for the Holy Spirit to teach you, too!

The idea of The Word Go Project is that human beings need to hear things a certain number of times before they truly sink in and become parts of our psyche. How many of us can remember a song, or a musical jingle, or even a catch phrase from a TV character, years and decades later, just because we heard it over and over for a period of time? I can remember advertisements from TV that I haven't heard since my childhood. A quick Google returns wildly varying results of how many times it takes, from seven all the way up into the forties, but everyone seems to agree that the more times you hear something, the better you remember it.

Additionally, I discovered by listening back to the online versions of church services that I was actually at that the second and third times I hear the same exact message, I glean different information from it! But how many people follow the valuable practice of re-listening to the same message more than once? I'd guess the percentage is really low.

So I thought it would be a cool idea to wrap a useful message in original music, to make it more palatable to listen to more than once. And that's the genesis of The Word Go Project. Each episode is a short devotional - about ten minutes long - with three songs containing roughly the same information as the three points in the devotional. An entire episode, including the songs, rounds out to about twenty minutes, which I'm guessing is probably about the same amount of time your and my pastor preach on a Sunday morning. Hopefully people listen, and listen more than once! You can always find the latest episode at https://www.WordGoProject.com (mobile-friendly... just click the "Play" button!) and you can listen to older episodes at https://podcast.WordGoProject.com.

I decided that a great starting point for The Word Go Project would be the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter five. That gave me an instant list of nine episodes to work up without having to come up with separate ideas for each episode. What I didn't realize was that as I was working on each episode, God would start to reveal ways I needed to work on that topic myself! When I did the episode on Love, I started to see ways that I wasn't loving others the way God wants me to. When I worked on Joy, I started to feel a little down and had to reach out to God to help me out of my funk. I started to feel agitated during the time I worked on Peace, and by the time I got to Patience I started to feel like making these things was taking me FOREVER! I've heard Bible teachers say that when you teach a topic, God deals with you on that topic first - even James in the Bible warned against aspiring to teach unless you are prepared to deal with the consequences.

Well, I wasn't particularly prepared for it at first, but now that I've realized what's happening, it's a little easier to let the Holy Spirit teach me right along with my audience. Right now I'm in the middle of the next episode, "Kindness", and I'm looking for ways to be kind to the people around me. I'm generally a "nice guy" anyway, but God's kind of kindness can sometimes cost you something, and it doesn't ask for a pat on the back for it, either. So that's a challenge I'm trying to face!

Please do listen to The Word Go Project! Listen to it several times, and really let the truths from the Word soak in. Then tell your friends about it, and get them to listen as well. The episodes are literally my gift to you. I'm not getting any money for it at all - in fact, I spend my own money every month to get the episodes out there. I'm not trying to be famous or get attention; my real goal is to strengthen the Body of Christ. I hope it makes a difference in your life today!