March 19, 2014

SHALOM ALEICHEM (Peace be unto you)

Peace be with you/upon you this good day! I wish you "Shalom Aleichem!"

Peace - sweet words that bring us such comfort and hope. We seek peace, we pray for peace, and we long for peace. Yet, often we spend our days without peace. We struggle with our selves and with others. We read about lack of peace in the news, we see pictures of unrest (no peace) on the TV. We watch movies that feature unrest in families, in communities, and in the world. We live in a world without peace, and a world that cultivates tension and creates unrest.

Our spirits were not designed to be without peace. In fact, God created us to be at peace. Our beginning in the Garden was to be filled with peace -- peace between man and God, peace between man and woman, and peace between man and the creation. Peace was to rule everything, to be everything, to keep everything.

We know the story (Gen 3) whereby sin entered in and shattered that peaceful reality. We now live out our days in the world that became of that sin act. We live without peace, and we feel the effects and ramifications of that missing peace.

The WORD of God tells us that Jesus Christ came to bring peace. He is our mediator, our broker, who brings us back into fellowship with God, and restores to us that blessed peace. He is our PEACE. He has given us PEACE. Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we now have access to His Perfect Peace.  Paul writes about this Peace in Philippians 4:

"Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:5-7 NIV)

The past couple weeks have been so frustrating for me. I have been struggling with school (Regent) and with my classes at GCU. I have been feeling overwhelmed by the lack of resources I have, and the fact that I am facing such great uncertainty when it comes to summer and fall teaching opportunities. I am stressed over my responsibilities here at home, and then coupled with my own fear of failure, I am struggling to hang on, to hold on to the promises of God.

God has promised such Good to me. I know the promises from His Word, but I believe that I have been given promises based upon my faith as well. These are prayers I have asked according to His will, and in doing so, I must be faithful to God to receive them. I know that some people might not believe this is the case, that God gives us conditional promises, but I believe that He does. I believe that there are times when we pray for things, within His will, that are given to us through our faith. We must believe that He is able to provide for us, and that He will do what He says.

I have struggled with this idea because growing up, I never was taught to ask God for things, and then believe that they could be provided. I was taught that God gave what He wanted, and if it was "His will" then so be it. I used to think that bad things happened because it was God's will. I believed that good things happened also because of His will. I took the idea of praying for what you needed (Matt. 7:11) based on the idea that God will only grant your request if He decides to do so.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matt. 7:11)

And, if He says no, then so be it. My Pastor recently talked about this, how sometimes God says "yes, no or not now." I believed this was the case, but recently, I have come to think otherwise. I have come to believe that the WORD encourages us to ask in faith, and to believe that our requests are not being pigeon holed into three buckets. God is a God of YES, and not NO! The key criteria is living within His will and asking for things that exist within that will.

I want to believe that what I have asked for will come to pass. It is not a matter of spinning the God-wheel and seeing where my request will land, but rather it is a matter of my faith, my belief, my resting in the One who is able to do more abundantly than anything I could ever ask for or want.

As I sit here today, I am humbled over this fact. I have been striving to perform, to be accepted, to overcome, to be good "enough" in so many areas. God has already approved my work. He has already said "it is good enough" yet I don't believe Him. I think it is not good enough. I think it is not the best it could be. I want to prove to God, to my friends, to my family, to my peers, to my students, to my professors, et al. that I am good enough to (fill in the blank):
  • provide
  • teach
  • study
  • research
  • graduate
  • parent
  • minister
  • write
  • and the list goes on...
Yes, I want to be approved. I want to be approved by man and not God. God has said "it is good enough." He has already told me that I have done well, that He is well-pleased, yet for some reason His Word to me is not good enough, it is NOT what I want to hear. I want the approval of men more than the approval of God. Shame on me for being that way. Shame on me for even desiring it.

In my heart of hearts, I know better. This semester has taught me that there is a root within me that seeks this approval more than anything else. This is my deepest need, my dearest desire. This is the one desire that I place at the altar of my heart above all else. This is the desire that must be rooted out and it must go now. I have lived with this need my entire life. I am going to be 52 this year, and this is still the primary motivation that drives me to perform. I need to hear the words that I am approved. If not, I spend all my time thinking about how I have failed, that I am a failure, that I am worthless and that I am an imposter (a sham!)

God has revealed this weakness to me. This has been long in coming, and it has been brought to light this week, specifically. I realize now how I have allowed this need to drive me, to control me. God is saying for me to stop striving, to rest. I hear Him, and I listen, but I don't obey. I push on, working even harder, doubting myself and His abilities in my life. It is all about me doing the work, me overcoming, me being all that I can be. Yet, He patiently waits for me, calling me to rest in Him, to let things go. I say "yes, Lord, I let this go." It doesn't last. I strive again, I move on, I press on. I am constantly trying to do everything I can to make things better, to be approved, to be OK. God says "I have already done that for you. There is nothing more for you to do. You must rest now."

I have come to the end, once again, of all things. I feel that I have come full-circle and I am now back where I started. I am released to live my life fully within His boundaries and control. I can do nothing. He can do everything. I am emptied of myself, my pride, my ambition, and my desire to be in control. He has regained the authority in my life, and I am once again following, humbly this time, after Him. He knows me. He knows what I can and cannot do. He understands my needs, and He knows my heart. He is good to me. He knows me well.

I rest now in the knowledge that I have made this mess unto myself because I chose not to believe the promises of God. I chose to doubt His authority and His ability, and as a result, I was left to handle things on my own, within my own strength. I do not want to handle things this way, I do not want to be on my own. I know that I cannot do everything He is asking of me. I know now that to accomplish His will, there can be none of me in it. I must be emptied out completely, and He must fill me to the full. It is all of Him, and none of me. It is all about His Glory, and about Him receiving Glory. I let this go now, and I rest. I give up, I give in, and I accept the peace that comes from knowing He will have His way in me and through me. He will do it. He will overcome. He will succeed. He will champion, and He will be the victor.

God be praised this day, and forever more. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

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