Like A River

1 Peter 3:10-12 (NIV)
For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

(The Message)
Whoever wants to embrace life
and see the day fill up with good,
Here’s what you do:
Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
run after peace for all you’re worth.
God looks on all this with approval,
listening and responding well to what he’s asked;
But he turns his back on those who do evil things.

The Message paraphrase above keeps catching my heart.  I want to embrace my life. I want to see my days fill up with good.

I think what gets my attention is the way it says, Here’s what you do. Like instructions. No, not like. Instructions! And yet how often do I skim past the instruction in God’s Word? How often do I dismiss obedience because it feels so hard.

Lately, a lot.

They must seek peace and pursue it.

Run after peace for all you’re worth.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want the fairy dust of life. You know, wish upon a star (or a Bible verse) and without breaking a sweat reap the good fruit of the work I resist doing.

This work of obedience.

In my last post I wrote about the tyrant of expecting to have our own way. I mentioned my struggles of late with my wants and needs getting out of balance and my loss of freedom to embrace and enjoy my life. I wrote how I knew, deep down, I would live in freedom again.

Well, I got something to say y’all. (That is born and raised in NC talk.) Smile…

Now, what I have to say today is meant first and foremost, absolutely and positively, for me. I’ve been cringing this morning. I’ve had one of those moments when you begin to see something in your life and although it’s hard to look at, you feel hope. Because you know, deep down, the truth will set you free. So, if you identify and are willing to chew on it with me then I guess that’s why I’m sharing. If it doesn’t apply to your life right now or you are unwilling to absorb it then you just keep on doing what you’re doing until you need it or you’re finally ready.

I DVR Joyce Meyer. I don’t always watch it but sometimes I make a cup of coffee and sit down to hear “Mama Joyce.” Today she talked about Christians who live with a “low-level misery.”

Something is wrong…I’ve lost my joy…I don’t know what’s happened…I’ve lost my peace.

Often, she says, they want prayer and may even credit their misery to the devil but have yet to ask God if they have offended Him in some way. Joyce went on to say something I have heard before, probably written on this blog, and the truth of it stings me.

It doesn’t matter how we behave at church. That’s not really who we are. Who I really am is the person I am at home.

Now, I have acquired a real distaste for faking it. So, I don’t make a habit of trying to pretend I’m always perfect and happy and Praise God the sun is out. Pretending gets us nowhere. Ever. But here’s my problem. I’ve let who I am at home, the way I treat my husband and children sometimes, be excused. Stress. Adjusting. A Season.

How about this one: sin.

I understand, trust me, how stress and life changes affect us. I understand sometimes we coast and sometimes it’s uphill all the way. Adjusting and changing seasons are a very real part of life. But the real danger, the joy-depleter and peace-stealer, is in excusing our sin.

The scripture above tells us what to do if we want to embrace life and enjoy fellowship with God. Don’t say hurtful things, turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.

When I think of running after peace for all I’m worth, I instantly think of peace with others. Absolutely! But how about something more today as we consider these verses? How about peace with God? I’ve heard peace described as an umpire. Jesus-peace can guide us in our decisions, big and seemingly small. Is something “in” or “out?” As Jesus-followers we have peace with God, but we can also have the peace of God at the ready if we learn to listen and obey.

If I pursue, run after, peace with God then I’m not waiting on fairy dust and wish upon a star. I’m ready to make some choices in my pursuit. I’m ready to break a sweat and choose His way in the details, in spite of raging emotions that beg me to choose otherwise.

See, fairy dust living is wishing, hoping and a lot of self-pity but no changing. I’ve been a fairy dust kind of girl and it never, ever brought me peace. I get the low-level misery thing. And honestly, I see it all around me when I think about it. She’s right, though. Much of the time our weighted down living is due to a lack of peace and that lack of peace might just be related more to our sin than the circumstances we look to as an excuse. Here’s why I’m willing to go out on a limb with this. Jesus is greater, right? He’s greater than any circumstance, any changing season, any wound, any need. Well maybe we agree with that in theory or in our Sunday best, but how do we know until we have to choose His way when it’s hard to do so? When we stop making excuses about our sin and run after peace with all we’ve got, we discover He is enough. More than enough. It’s how we experience genuine peace and joy…in finding out, for ourselves, that saying no to sin and yes to God is empowering! We do it once and gleefully discover we are ready to do it again! Life begins to change! We are empowered to follow whole-heartedly as His Spirit fills and overwhelms us…as we say yes, yes, yes to Jesus in the details of our lives.

I’m going to share something that might sound crazy. As I was talking to God about all of this, right in the middle of praying, I thought about a book I’m reading. It’s not a terrible book but it’s not edifying really. I know He led my thoughts to this book as a choice. See, my flesh (sinful human nature) really wants to finish it. But I sense on the inside He’s asking me to go ahead and return it to the library (I love real books and I love my small town library.) I’m almost finished. It’s the last one in a series! But let me tell you something. I am in pursuit of peace and I have some choices to make. The kind of choices that really must be hashed out between Jesus and me, not my friends or my mother or my husband (I love you all!) So my book is sitting on the kitchen counter awaiting its return this afternoon. Although I’ll never know what happened with Ave Maria MacChesney and Jack Mac (seriously had me laughing out loud!) I already have the peace of obedience. He has something else for me, my heart and my mind right now. And I’m going to choose to make room for it. Not because I’m strong or mature or good.

Because I’m desperate in the best of ways.

I am who I am at home. I am who I am in the details of my life and so are you. Let’s stop pretending we are sweet note-taking Sunday people through and through. Let’s get real about how we treat our spouse and kids after church and every other day of the week. About how we hold offense toward family members. About how we gossip and judge and say hurtful things. Anyone can smile and seem Christian for an hour a week. What? God’s not bigger than changes in life? He’s not bigger than needs and hopes and wants?

He’s also bigger than my sin. Thank you, Jesus.

Excuses are really just sin-management 101. And I’ll be the first to say I have a big, fat A+. Have I been through some changes? Have I been confused? Yes and yes! And have I given myself permission to mistreat others, have a sour attitude, an ungrateful heart and meltdowns in the name of stress? I sure have. In the mean time, as Joyce describes, I’ve cried out to God asking why? Where’s my peace? Where’s my joy? I’ve conversed, I’ve read, I’ve blogged! But you know what I skirted around until today?

My sin in the midst of the changes and confusion. No matter why, sin is still sin. Regardless of what we’ve been through in life, sin gets in the way of peace and joy and freedom. Thankfully, my junky heart still craves His Word and the truth stares me down like a western draw at high-noon: I’m choosing. Every day, I’m choosing.

Pursue Peace. Run after it for all I’m worth. Start with repentance and follow up with obedience. Let my emotions and flesh and selfish nature scream a scream of death. Because over the screeches of dying flesh I hear a whoosh…feel cool sprays of joy on my heart.

Peace like a river.

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