Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I've been reflecting on how to live out this statement.  It seems to me that discontentment runs rampant in our society.  For those who don't "have" what others "have" there is jealousy.  "They" have a better house, a better car, a better marriage, better children.... And if you find yourself in the "have" category you are always waiting for it to be snatched away or you're left wondering "What did I do to get myself into this situation, and when are all the pieces going to drop?"

So as I reflect on this, I realize that there is never going to be a "state" where we have just enough and therefore we will be content.  There are areas in all of our lives with plenty and there are places in all of our lives with want.  So how do we get to the place of contentment, no matter what situation we find ourselves in?

Paul nailed it when he said, "It is THROUGH Christ." Discontentment is rooted in a mistrust of God's heart and it has nothing to do with our situations.  The question asked by the serpent, still rings true in our hearts today, "Is God's heart towards us really good, or is He holding out on us?"

When we recognize that God's heart towards us is GOOD we can be content in whatever situation we find ourselves.  So when we find ourselves in desperate situations, we don't need to compare ourselves to others, and ask "Why me?"  We instead need to stop and look to God.  He is available in every situation.  Scriptures says in:

                                                              Psalm 139
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 

There is no darkness to God and in every place He is present.  Jesus tells us that, "Eternal life is knowing the Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent."  So the beauty of all this, what ties this all together is the presence of Christ in each and every situation.  We need to stop "comparing" ourselves to others and asking, "Why me?" or "Why not me?"  And instead look to Christ knowing that  whether in plenty or in want He is there with us, walking us through and we can experience the eternal life promised for us today.  It's not that tomorrow will be better or worse.  It's that Christ lives in TODAY.

In Christ,

The Tension of Grace

I read through the Beatitudes this morning and I was struck by how it parrelled with many thoughts I've been sifting through in my own mind the last couple of weeks:

Matthew 5:3-10

*Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

*Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

*Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

*Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

*Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

*Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

*Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

*Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

When I look back through the front half of these verses I see vulnerability, pain, fear, emptiness, boldness, courage and bravery; in essence I see humanity displayed. 

* Poor in spirit



*Hunger and thirsting

*Mercy and compassion

*Pure in heart (vulnerability)

*Peacemakers (those who go into hard and difficult places to pave a way for peace)

*Persecution for choosing the right way

These are the attitudes that Jesus calls blessed.  These are the empty, human places in all of our hearts that make space for God.  The second half of these verses show that it is in these empty places that God is going to come in and fill.  But what is not answered for us in these verses is the how and the when.  Just that it is.  

As I've ministered to individuals over the last 9 years I've found many sitting at the front end of these verses: those poor in spirit from traumatic pain in their past.  Those mourning because of lost dreams whether spiritual, emotional or relational.  Those hunger and thirsting for a deeper reality of God.  Those showing mercy over and over to loved ones and only left feeling hurt by the brunt of rejection.  And do you know how they often feel spiritually in these moments?  The answer is not "blessed."  The answer often is shame, fear, guilt and doubt.  They feel shame that they do not have enough "faith", guilt that their lack of faith has caused these situations to take place.  Frustration that they have a nagging need in their heart for more of God and that they haven't found "satisfaction."  But according to Jesus, these are not the emotions people have to feel during these seasons, they should instead feel "blessed"? 

What exactly is meant by "blessed?"  Is it a feeling? Is it an emotion?  As I stop to step back and look at it I don't think it is either.  Rather, I see it as a protective truth, that people should be able to tuck their minds into when they are in the midst of the first part of these truths.  Because the journey from part 1 of the verses to part 2 can take time and it can be painful and the only way to make it to the other side is by trusting God's heart.  But sadly, what has often been taught to people living in the midst of the first half is that God is disappointed in them, or He wants them to get their act together and so in their very deepest moment of need they end up turning to themselves to try and fix themselves instead of to God to receive the blessed truth of His healing grace in their deepest time of need.

I can give you one example from my own life.  When my niece, Nevaeh died - I "held it together" for a half year.  I knew that she was in heaven and because of that fact, I had "learned" that it wasn't really right for Christians to mourn.  The result of trying to ignore my humanity was that it began to reek havoc in my life. I became filled with fear, anxiety and depression.  It was a struggle to get out of bed every morning and I was in constant fear about my children.  Through a series of events God began to chip away at my religious walls and as I result I began to mourn.  I mourned deeply and I cried out in frustration, fear and pain. It didn't happen all at once.  It happened over a couple of years (and in fact continues to happen), but in each key moment when God put His finger on my heart, I have allowed myself to truly mourn.  And do you know what I received?  Not a pep talk of," Just get your act together."  Not rejection.  Not a lecture from God that I shouldn't question Him or have doubts or fear.  No, what I received was true, lasting, life-giving, healing comfort.  

Beloved, what I see when I look at Jesus, is God breaking through all the barriers, the misconceptions, the lies, the separation that kept us from understanding and accessing His heart and I see Him coming in taking on our humanity and showing us that God is able to meet us in our humanity.  What I don't see is Jesus showing us that humanity is a cinch and if you just try hard enough you will never experience pain.  Jesus wept before Lazurus' tomb, Jesus sweated blood before the cross, Jesus cried out on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  Jesus was not afraid to wear the fullness of humanity: the agony, the doubt, the fear, the loneliness, the rejection and at times the blindness to the hand of God.  Why? Because He knew that there was a second half to it: the place where God meets us and fills in our emptiness:

*theirs is the kingdom of heaven

*they will be comforted

*they will inherit the earth

*they shall obtain mercy

*they shall see God

*they shall be called the children of God

*great is their reward in heaven

There is a place of tension between part 1 and part 2.  And that is where Jesus steps in and gives us His grace,the enabling power of God.  So if you find yourself in the midst of part 1 of these verses I encourage you to hunker into the blessed protection of God.  He is not disappointed in you, He is not waiting for you to get your act together, He is not ashamed of you rather He says, "I've walked this way before you, I will now walk beside you and yes, I will even walk behind you (Psalm 139:5)."  Fear tells you that if you open yourself up like this - to being real and not holding yourself together - you will fall flat on your face and perhaps find out that in fact God isn't real.  But Jesus, says no, if you open yourself up in this way, you will find God and that He is big enough to meet you in your deepest, darkest places of agony and fear.

In Christ,

P.S. If you have enjoyed the podcast version of these posts, please take time to rate it on Itunes.  Thanks!

When Christ Comes In

Click here to listen to the Podcast version of this post.

I've slowly been reading through Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright.  In the beginning of the book, he goes in-depth looking at the reasons why it is intellectually reasonable to believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historically true event.  Pondering the resurrection's reality has caused me to ask the question, "Since this is true, what does it mean for today?" Because, I'll admit that being a "seasoned" Christian, it is easy for me to lose the awe of it and to forget its lasting effect on my day to day life.  But the current needs of my heart have opened wide the door for me to want to grow in my understanding of how this reality of Jesus effects my today.

The other day, I was listening to a sermon titled, Chosen One, that was talking about Jesus visiting the disciples after His resurrection.  As I was listening, I was struck by the similarities between Genesis 3 and how Jesus found the disciples after the resurrection.  In both scenarios, the main characters are hiding - hiding out of fear.  In both situations, it is God Himself who comes and seeks them out.  But instead of a separation taking place as it did in Genesis we see that after the resurrection when Jesus comes in He proclaims, "Peace to you."  

The disciples were hiding in fear and God's immediate response is, "Peace."  How many times do we do the very same thing?  When we are afraid, ashamed we want to go and hide.  Hide in fear, hide in separation, hide thinking that it will somehow make us safe or that our hiding will protect us from an "assumedly" disappointed  God.  But what if we would stop to listen, stop to hear what Jesus and our Father actually have to say to us, "Peace, peace, peace, peace."  I find it completely fascinating that this is indeed the message first proclaimed to us by the angels, "Peace among men in whom He is well pleased."  This is the message that Christ lived out and continued to proclaim after His resurrection, "That there is peace between God and man."  When we allow Jesus to walk through the doors of our hearts, into our places of fear He proclaims peace.  It wasn't just a message for 2,000 years ago, it is a message for today, for our hearts now.  

As I was meditating on these thoughts above, I ran across a song that has since become an anthem for me in this thought process.  It is  called, "Peace is Broken Out" by Ceili Rain.   

(If you get this post via e-mail you'll need to click through to either Youtube or watch it on my website).  

I loved how they intertwined the peace proclaimed by the angels with the larger picture of how that message still rings out into our wide-world problems and into our everyday realities. It shows how we can integrate that truth into the fabric of our lives and how we can share it with our neighbors.

So, beloved, let us remember that peace has broken out.  May you allow Jesus to come through the door of your heart and speak to your fears.  And from that place, may you in turn be invigorated to share the beautiful reality of that peace with your neighbors.

In Christ,

Daily Prayer

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