Better Together 2: Stirring the Pot

Several years ago, one of my former professors called Joleen and I "peacemakers." I’m not really sure what he saw in us, but I do remember one time when I was about 11 years old. My family was getting ready to move out of California. Me, my sister, and three of my cousins were visiting my grandparents in Pismo Beach, CA (where my granddad was serving as a pastor).

While we were there, we played baseball in a sandlot with some other kids from the neighborhood. While I don’t remember the details, there was some sort of dispute that broke up the game. I don’t remember what I said exactly, but I somehow orchestrated some kind of peace agreement with the factions, and we continued playing (incidentally, I didn’t particularly care about each one’s personal happiness; I just wanted to play the game!).

However, I still struggle with the tension between peacekeeping and peacemaking.

Here’s my point …
Peacekeepers want to make everyone happy; peacemakers want to make everyone healthy!

Peacekeepers want to maintain the status quo, they don’t want to stir the water or rock the boat. But peacemakers know that sometimes you have to stir things up in order to reach resolution.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. (Matthew 5.9)

Read Romans 12.1-18

So, what do we do?
I want to encourage you to address a broken relationship this week. Don’t try to make others happy, seek healthy resolution and restoration.

To do that, you may need to stir the pot! One of the few things I remember from college chemistry lab was that stirring water causes the water to heat faster (as molecules are knocked against each other).

There’s a line from the movie "Runaway Bride," where the bride (played by Julia Roberts), at one point, searches for a word to call the reporter (who’s writing about her tendency to run away from weddings), and she comes up with "pot stirrer." While she meant it as a slam, it’s a great word for peacemakers! In fact, Jesus was the master pot-stirrer! (If Jesus simply would not have stir the pot on the sabbath, perhaps he could have had a long, prosperous career as a rabbi!)

This week’s challenge
Is there someone with whom you have a broken relationship? I challenge you this week to do something about it. Pick up the phone or stop by for a visit. Take a step toward health and resolution, and making peace with that person.

My hope and prayer is that we will be a community of peacemakers, not peacekeepers! Peacekeepers want to make everyone happy; peacemakers want to make everyone healthy!

O God, thank you for the peace we have with you through Jesus Christ, a peace that passes all understanding. Help us to take your peace and share it with our families, co-workers, classmates, and neighbors. Help us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers!

Brave Hearts

When I face a giant, my natural reaction is to want to run away. That’s normal; it’s called fear. Somehow I think that if I run away and ignore the giant, it will go away!

What about you? Do you ever do that?

Lost hearts run away from giants; brave hearts run toward them!

1 Samuel 17 – David & Goliath

The Israelites ran away after hearing and seeing Goliath. "As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright" (1 Samuel 17.24). David, upon hearing the giant, volunteers to take on the giant.  David says to Saul: "Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll go fight this Philistine!" (1 Samuel 17.32)

After exchanging trash talk, David runs toward the giant! "As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it from his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead." (1 Samuel 17.48-49)

Lost hearts run away from giants; brave hearts run toward them!

Are you a brave heart?
Remember David was "a boy," he wasn’t considered king material or soldier material, but he had a brave heart!

It’s really about HEART and PERSPECTIVE!
Next to God, there are no giants! Lost hearts are always focused on how big the giant is; brave hearts are always focused on how big God is!

What about the giant you’re facing right now?
Are you focused on the size of the giant or on God?  What do you need to do about it this week?

Toward the end of David’s life, Scripture reports on the battle with other descendants of the giants: "These four Philistines were descended from the giants of Gath, but they were killed by David and his warriors." It all started with David!

What would this Valley look like if we stop running away from the giants and we start running toward them with brave hearts?

O God, even when our knees are knocking and there are knots in our stomach, give us courage to run toward the giants in our lives! And as we do, help us to be good models for others so that they will be able to kill the giants in their lives, too! Amen.

Better Together 1: Love One Another

Better Together
As the "body of Christ,” we are connected to one another. We need each other. We are better together than we are apart!

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to love people with a sacrificial/unconditional love sometimes. What about you? Is it hard to love others (even those closest to you) with a sacrificial love?

But it’s important that we learn to love one another because …

Withholding love kills. Love gives life!

Fortunately, Scripture provides us with some great examples of loving (or not loving) one another. Today, we’re going to look at a passage that includes both a negative example and a positive one!

Read 1 John 3.11-18

Cain – negative example!
Cain is highlighted as a negative example. Someone who hated his brother so much that he brutally murdered him.

John’s words remind me of a few things Jesus said during his time on earth:

"For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8.44)

"When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you." (John 15.18)

"You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell." (Matthew 5.21-22)

Jesus – positive example!
So on the one hand we have the example of Cain. But on the other hand, we have Jesus, as the best example of someone who love others, enough to lay down his own life.

"I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it––the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends." (John 15.12-13)

Withholding love kills. Love gives life!
How can you and I live in such a way that we give life, rather than take life?

This week, don’t just tell people that you love them – show them …

  • Do something special for a spouse/family member
  • Perform an act of kindness for a stranger
  • Be kind to an "enemy"
  • Seek forgiveness of someone you’ve hurt
  • Forgive someone who’s hurt you

What would it look like this week – in our homes / schools / workplaces / neighborhoods – for us to love others with a sacrificial/self-giving love?

Withholding love kills. Love gives life!

"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." (John 13.35)

How well do you show love for others? In what ways are you showing love through your actions?

How will you express love for someone this week? Who is God placing on your heart?

O God, thank you for showing us what real love is. As we experience your love in deeper and more intimate ways, help us to love our brothers and sisters in ways that please and honor you. Amen.

Sabbath: Find Your Rhythm!

Life is busy. We live in a world of fast food, microwave ovens, cell phones, and things like Gogurt (yogurt for those on the go). Life is so busy that it’s easy for our lives to get out of rhythm!

A few statements have been working on me, some for only a few weeks; others for more than a decade …

  • “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.”
  • “Unbusy pastor.”
  • “Planned neglect.”
  • “Choosing to cheat.”

The Point
Practicing sabbath time will restore rhythm to you life!

“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.” (Lily Tomlin)

"Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20.8)

What is Sabbath?
24-hour period in which there is nothing urgent. But its not just a day, the Sabbath overflows/spills over into the rest of your life. It’s a worldview, a way to live. Literally, sabbath means “to cease, desist, pause, rest.”

“Sabbath does not come just once a week. Every day needs a holy hiatus. Every week needs to be well ventilated with sabbaticals.” (Leonard Sweet)

“Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.” (Rabbi Abraham Heschel)

The root of the word Sabbath means “to catch one’s breath.” Interestingly, the words for Spirit in the Scriptures (ruach and pneuma) are the same words for breath and wind.

"But if you turn away from them, they panic. When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust. When you send your Spirit, new life is born to replenish all the living of the earth." (Psalm 104.29-30)

I once heard that 99% of our energy should come from breathing; however, most of us access 10-20% of it.  I think it’s similar with God’s Spirit. We have access to God’s Spirit in our lives, yet most of us do not "access" God’s Spirit nearly enough!

When we work and work and work, and don’t take breaks for rest, we get out of rhythm. But God built rhythm into the system from the very beginning. There’s a rhythm in the creation story (Genesis 1-2). God made the world six days, and rested one. That’s the rhythm God operated in. God didn’t really need to rest, but he wanted to build rhythm into the system.

“There is a time for everything …” (Ecclesiastes 3). God created the world with four seasons. Rhythm is built into the system!

Rhythm is about knowing when to play and when not to play. It’s learning when to be on and when to be off. It’s the difference between making music and just making noise. When we don’t have rhythm, our life is less and less music and more and more noise.

Jesus, an example of someone who lived out of God’s rhythm!
“Jesus was accused of being a Sabbath-breaker, but the truth was the opposite: Jesus was a master Sabbath-keeper!” (Leonard Sweet)

Amazingly, when you read the Gospels, there’s absolutely no sense that Jesus was ever in a hurry. Think about it, Jesus had only three years to save the world, and he was never in a hurry!

I imagine if God told me I had three years to change the world, I’d work non-stop around the clock for the entire three years, trying to accomplish everything I possibly could. But Jesus never got in a hurry. He lived in God’s rhythm … engage … disengage.

Jesus gives, produces, and serves. Then he gets up and goes out alone to pray. There’s a rhythm. Jesus knew the importance of sabbath time. Jesus engaged people a lot, but he often took time to disengage – to get away and spend time with God. Jesus modeled the kind of rhythm we need to live with in our own lives.

"But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer." (Luke 5.16)

“It is not so much that we ‘keep the sabbath’ as that the sabbath keeps us – keeps us whole, keeps us sane, keeps us spiritually alive.” (Leonard Sweet)

If your life is out of rhythm — if you’re tired — I invite you to begin practicing sabbath time!

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11.28-30)

“Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there while I give you the tablets of stone that I have inscribed with my instructions and commands. Then you will teach the people from them." (Exodus 24.12)

O God, thank you for creating a rhythm for us to live in. Help us to take time today and this week to begin practicing sabbath time so that you may restore a healthy rhythm to our lives! Amen.