“Stayer” or “Walker”

This is one of those books that you could read many times and grow each time. This being my first read, I’m already seeing growth.

Here’s a quote that stuck out to me today:

If you stay free from offense, you will stay in the will of God.

Offense is easy to create and to receive. Bevere declares it’s a trap, the bait of Satan. When we take the bait, we are in for some rough going. Been there, done that.

This quote makes something clear-where we stay has much to do with our freedom and peace, our relationship with God and others. Where we stay is entirely up to us. If we choose to stay close to God, we will choose to stay free from offense. If we choose to stay offended, we choose to not stay, to distance ourself, to walk away from God and what he’s working in and for us.

Simply put, here’s a new mantra based on this quote: I’d rather be a “stayer” with God than a “walker” from God. In allowing God to search my heart, it’s clear I have an offense that requires a better choice. Time to give up the bait.

You taken the bait? Ready to give it up?

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“Which Way?”

I have a new favorite verse. At least for today.

“This is what the Lord says: Stand by the roadways and look. Ask about the ancient paths, “Which is the way to what is good?” Then take it and find rest for yourselves. But they protested, “We won’t!””‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭6:16‬ ‭CSB‬‬

(Check out how these translations ask the question: ESV, NIV, NKJV “Where the good way is?” The Message paraphrases it as the “tried-and-true road.”)

The visual is so clear, yet we seem blind.

Rest doesn’t have to be that hard. Temptations draw us away convincing us rest is a myth. But according to God’s message through Jeremiah, rest has been found by all our preceding generations. In this day of great change and progress, God’s message is still the same:

“Stop hurrying about looking for a new way. Cease driving up and down the road chasing disguised lights of hope. Search out those who have heavenly peace. Humbly ask them the road to it. Join me on that road where rest awaits anyone who trusts rather than protests.”

Leadership Points

If you aspire to be a leader…If you currently have a leadership post…If you wonder how you’re doing as a leader, here are some points to consider (random and not exhaustive), especially for those serving the church world.

  • The only person to fear is the Holy Spirit.
  • Weigh carefully every “yes” and every “no.”
  • Be ready to say at any time, “I messed up.”
  • Expect disappointment, but don’t let it root bitterness.
  • Going to bed angry is always a bad choice.
  • You will never regret praying.
  • Professional Counselors are your friends.
  • Your weaknesses aren’t meant to bring you shame. They are reminders that you shouldn’t go it alone.
  • Horizontal affirmation will never be enough.
  • When you think you’ve communicated something well, ask yourself, “Did Grandma get that?”
  • God determines when you’re done.
  • The broader your reading the deeper your growth.
  • Your awe of God level produces your peace and contentment level.
  • Arrive prepared. Confess if you aren’t.
  • Assume you can always build more trust.
  • Thank the person or group who discovered the solution.
  • Believe someone else is the smartest person in the room.
  • You must meet people where they in order to lead them where they need to go.

Keeping Sane

Possibilities. Endless they are.

If you allowed yourself, you could drive yourself nuts thinking about them. All the “what could/should have beens,” “if onlys,” or “just supposes” are quite mind blowing. For instance:

  • What if Cain hadn’t killed his brother?
  • If only Moses hadn’t struck the rock.
  • What could have been Samson’s legacy?
  • What if Ruth didn’t follow Naomi?
  • Just suppose Israel never selected king #1.
  • If only David hadn’t stayed home.
  • Just suppose Esther wasn’t successful.

Those are just a few before Jesus decided to make his earthly appearance-before he showed us that overthinking the possibilities is unnecessary when he’s in the picture.

As we consider the past, live out the present, and look into the future, in order to keep our sanity we must keep Jesus in the picture. He helps us make sense of it all. For those wanting perfect peace, keep your mind stayed on Jesus.

You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

Live How You Want to Die

Since Saturday I’ve had quite a few interactions with people giving me reason to ponder this question: How is it some people die happy and others don’t?

I say since Saturday because that’s the day some of our church family gathered to remember the life of Buna Brannon. She lived a full life. And I’m not just referring to her age of 84. Buna lived a full life because she chose to live it to its fullest.

By the time I met Mrs. Buna, she was already retired, 76 years of age. Nothing kept her down. Not illness. Not emotions. Not people. She made a choice to live life how she wanted, not how others wanted. And the foundation of that choice was her faith, how she understood God wanted her to live. And because of that faith, she lived happily, joyfully, actively, and extremely generously. And that’s also how she died. Until days before her living was done, she gave to others and thought of others which brought her joy, peace, and purpose. She had lived life in such a way that she was more than ready to leave it as she lived it.

However you live is probably how you’re going to die. It’s sad to watch people live unlike how they probably want to die. Angry. Depressed. Judging. Discontent. Proud. Buna made the choice to live with joy, with hard work, with purpose, and with love. And that’s what everyone will remember about her. She died how she lived.

If you want to die happily, live happily.

If you want to die sacrificially, live sacrificially.

If you want to die peacefully, live peacefully.

If you want to die regretless, live regretless.

The choice is clearly all yours.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #28-5 Hearts

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them, but the righteous are as bold as a lion…Happy is the one who is always reverent, but one who hardens his heart falls into trouble. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭28‬:‭1‬,14 HCSB)

The guilty heart breeds loneliness.

The bold heart stands in the right.

The reverent heart knows who’s king. 

The heart open to God finds security and peace.

The humble heart is strong.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #16-Character Pleases God

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him…Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s temper, than capturing a city.  Proverbs 16:7,32 HCSB

God is more concerned about your character than your position. These two verses reveal a few things about character that pleases God:

  • God is pleased with those who pursue peace rather than picking fights or insisting on their position.
  • God is pleased with those who aren’t ruined by the pursuit of power but rather patiently surrender to his power.
  • God is pleased with those who discipline themselves even when capable of achieving rank or position.

Fruity Fridays: Seen Peace

by Jeremy Nixon, a nobody fireman trying to do it right, but mostly getting it wrong

Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace… 


We’ve walked through what love and joy means over the last couple of months; but today, today we enter into peace. At least my prayer is that you can enter this day, week, month and year with peace, a true peace. With the election being over and hate crimes surfacing, racism, discrimination, x vs. y, red vs. blue and everything else going on in America, to say that tension is like cutting butter with a knife is an understatement. So my prayer for you and me this year is that we could have peace. The God-sized peace that is talked about in the Bible. But, what is peace?

 

Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, and Paul writes that if we live by the Spirit then we are free and we can stand firm knowing that we are doing what God has called us to. Peace is supposed to rule in hearts. (Col. 3:15) In 1 Peter we are called to cast all of our anxiety on the Lord because he cares for us. He also calls us to seek peace and pursue it, turning away from evil and doing good. James tells us that peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. Proverbs 12 tells us that those who promote peace have joy…and we all know how important joy is.  

 

I see a trend of the fruits. One leads right into another. They go hand in hand, and I don’t believe that you can have one without the other. Psalm 29:11 says the Lord gives strength to his people and the Lord blesses his people with PEACE.  

 

Paul calls us, in Romans 12, to live at peace with everyone. WOW. That seems like a hard statement living in the world we are in today. It’s easy to get anxious and worry about different things in our lives: our children, our homes, making ends meet, or work. And the media seems to show that there is so much hate in our world, but I believe and trust that God is up to something BIG. If we can stand firm and let the fruit of peace happen in our lives, it will overflow into the world. It has to start with you. It has to start with me. You all know about the snowball effect. God wants to use you, and me, to spread his peace to all nations, and I believe that if we are seeking first His kingdom and listening to what the Lord says, he will give us peace. He promises it.  

 

When we need peace, He promises to give us a peace that surpasses all understanding. The best thing that we can do when we are filled with anxiety and worry is to find a quiet place to pray and seek His kingdom. God wants us to live a life that is full of peace. He wants to do BIG things in your life. Let your fruit be seen.

Fruity Fridays: Peace is a Product

Lots of ads are promising peace. That’s not what they say, but that’s what they’re subliminally promising the consumer.

  • You’ll find “peace” when your hair is straight
  • You’ll enjoy “peace” when you sway in that hammock in Aruba
  • You’ll secure “peace” when your retirement portfolio has “x” cash value

Peace is a product of contentment. Be picky where you buy it, what you become dependent on to guarantee it.

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭

The key to the peace of mind that Isaiah guarantees is built on trust in God. That trust, like any other trust in our lives, is built through shared experiences and time. That trust comes through what Paul is writing about in Galatians 5, walking with the Spirit. Only through a consistent walk can we have the product of peace. We will want less of what we see in ads and more of the Creator of all things.

I am finishing a book by Dallas Willard entitled The Allure of Gentleness. He said this about living and acting with God, about walking with the Spirit:

One of the problems as a church is that so many of the wonderful statements in the scriptures that are meant to reflect the honest experiences of those who have learned to live in interaction with God are in fact ritualistically and magically quoted by people who don’t believe a bit of it, because they are scared to death! Nothing has ever happened to them that they are certain is the personal hand of God in their lives. And it drains the life out of those verses.

One passage he references is Psalm 23. If a Christian walks in belief that “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” peace is a normal, everyday product of that belief; God’s hand will be seen and will produce peace. Willard says that Psalm 23 wasn’t written just to recite at funerals. Those 6 verses, when sewn into the fabric of life, dispel fear and produce peace. 

The product we need is God’s presence. Take Psalm 23 with you today. Look for God’s hand. Experience the product of peace.

Fruity Fridays: Internal Peace

by Eric Vorhies

I have a mother that worries. But I guess everyone has a mother that worries. The difference is that my mother’s worry has in many ways robbed her more often than it has protected her. It has taken moments that should have been enjoyable and given her stress. Since observing this while growing up, I knew that there had to be a better way. I just didn’t know it was going to come from the Dalai Lama in the Brad Pitt movie “Seven Years in Tibet.”

“If you have a problem and can fix it, then why worry about it. If you have a problem and can’t fix it, then why worry about it.”

My mind was blown. That articulated why there was no reason to worry…and that might worry some of you right now.

This week’s fruit is peace. I wrestled with how I divided peace and joy because they seem to be so similar and overlap greatly. I landed on the difference being timing. Joy is the ability to be happy despite our present circumstances. Peace is the absence of conflict and, which in many ways, is the opposite of worry – the feeling of uncertainty about how a situation will eventually play out.

Here’s an example from my life to better illustrate – I live in Florida. To me, it’s like living in an over-developed swamp. It always hot and muggy, and everything here, from gators to mosquitoes, is trying to kill you. Now, have I enjoyed Florida? Most definitely. I have met so many great people and have had the best jobs ever here. But I have not always had peace about living here. Though the plan has always been to be here for a period and then move, I worried that it might not happen, or not happen soon enough. Despite finding much joy here, I had this internal conflict for a long time. Though both joy and peace are closely related to our given situation, I think joy is focused more on the present and peace is concerned with the future.

Let’s be clear about something. The peace that God offers is not an outward one. It’s not a peace that will protect you and your family from harm. It’s not even a peace that guarantees that you have the right to bear arms, read your Bible, go to college, and not be picked on. The peace that God offers is an internal one. One that says, “Eric, even though you live in a swamp, it’s ok, and it will be ok if you never really leave.” It’s a peace that overcomes conflict within a person. It overcomes fear and inadequacy.

Now, let me lean in a little bit…

Are you lacking peace?

Not sure? Well, are you easily offended? Do you rant on social media? Are you the Angry Aaron or the Nervous Nelly in your group? Do you think of all the ways that something can go wrong before you consider that it doesn’t really matter? What worry is robbing you of your time and energy?

Is it how you will be paying for Christmas? Maybe it is something much deeper, like a sense of failure or shame. Fear and regret?

Philippians 4:6-9 – Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — If there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Look, external conflict is unavoidable, and sometimes you will need to take action against it. But internal conflict, the unseen battle that people wage war with, that is unnecessary. If we can fix it, then don’t worry. If we can’t, don’t worry. You don’t have to stew on how things are wrong in the world….You can think about how things are right in the world. Yes, the glass is half empty of water. But it is half full of water and half full of air, and man I know some people who could use that air and take a breather. Am I right?

I can say all of this because my worries will be taken care of…and taken care of by God. I don’t have the time and energy to put toward worrying. I have an amazing wife, three young boys, and, praise God, I’m busy packing to move out of Florida. I will not give fear and worry power, because, my God, who willingly bears that burden for me, IS WAYYYY more powerful. And that right there….that gives me PEACE.

Don’t be like my mom in this way. Don’t let worry rob you of the peace that God wants you to have.

PS – My mom has other characteristics that everyone should have, but that’s a different blog