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“Thou shalt have no other god before me.”  (Exodus 20:3 KJV)

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If you’re a regular reader - then you know that life’s been full of challenges.
Whether you are or not - just look at your own life - chances are it’s also full of challenges.

Often times - nothing really major -
just a lot of things.

In my case - to name a few

a totaled car after someone hit me - but no one was hurt
a big oak tree falling in the back yard - but nothing was hit
one of the dogs getting away - he got hurt, but recovered quickly
things at work

- as I said - nothing all that major - just a lot of stuff.
Nothing at all like natural disasters / wars / other disasters.

It’s the stuff we all go through - and it’s annoying - stressful - and seems awful.

Sometimes we can look at other people’s situations and say ours isn’t that bad by comparison.
But that’s not peace - that’s relative comparison where we say we shouldn’t feel so bad because it could be worse.


But then a couple weeks ago - something worse happened.

My parents - for health reasons - can’t stay home any more.
It’s up to my sister and I to take care of finding a place for them - getting it set up - and calming all their fears of what’s going to happen.

I say this not to make anyone think we are so great and wonderful -
but to talk about what God is going through all this.


It could be a total mess -
with all the other stress that everyone’s going through -
everyone could just get really mad.
On top of that - we aren’t a close family.  
Maybe 30 years ago I was told to go away and never come back -
mostly because it was too disruptive having someone come to visit.


Obviously - I did eventually go back - and it was kind of an uneasy “truce”.

When my mother had a stroke a few years later - it got harder.
But - that event brought me and my sister closer to each other again.


Fast forward 4 more years - and my father now has Alzheimer’s bad enough that he can’t stay at home any more.  Since my mother’s in a wheelchair from the stroke - she can’t either without him to help her.


This all sounds like a recipe for disaster.

It probably also sounds very familiar to many of you.


Now - fast forward a little bit more to last night.
We had a prayer vigil at church - and two of the verses (which came up as my turn to read) were from Philippians 4:6-7 -

Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Verse 7 is one that I had been thinking about a lot the last couple weeks.

In spite of everything that was happening -

My father is totally confused about what’s happening to him -
my mother is worried and expecting the worst about everything -
my sister (who has the power of attorney for them) is feeling overwhelmed, in spite of lot’s of support from her husband
and I feel totally at peace.

Actually - maybe it’s because of what’s happening - not in spite of it.


To put those verses in context - here’s the entire section from Philippians 4:2-9 -

Exhortations

Phil 4:2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.  3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.


Look again at what Paul says at the end of this section -

9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.


It’s really true - the peace of God will be with you - if you put those things into practice.


I really feel like everything else was preparation for what’s happening now.  
I wasn’t at all peaceful when the little things were going on.
I knew I should have been - but I wasn’t.

I mean - one of my favorite verses in the Bible is

Jn 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

That peace is something I have longed for so much.
I feel it sometimes when things are going well.
But that pales in comparison to what it’s like now - when things aren’t going well at all.
That’s a sense of peace that really is beyond understanding.


Paul gives a simple “formula” here -

Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Yes - simple.
Not easy to do -
but really quite simple.

I think it takes practice -
perseverance -
lots of prayer -
lots of time talking with God - not just “to” Him - but “with” Him -
and lots of learning - from the Holy Spirit -
and lots of surrender - realizing that we really truly can’t do it on our own -
and lots of asking for help.


Paul says - Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
And people do  notice.
My mother said sometimes she calls just because talking to me on the phone is calming.
Trust me - it’s not just hearing me that would calm her.


But the best thing of all -

It’s a chance to really talk about God.

Previous attempts have had little success - or got shut down.

We’ve had a number of talks about things like -

Faith - like how it isn’t about getting what you want now - and it’s not even getting what we think is a positive outcome - but it’s about something that we won’t see or experience until later.  Maybe not until after we die.

Which leads to another topic - dying.  She wants me to pray for her to die.  I explain to her that I can’t do that.  When that happens is up to God.  And maybe He has something else for her to do before she goes.  And maybe that has something to do with how she handles (with His help) the situation she’s in now.  Maybe it’s for someone else to see how her faith helps her.  Maybe it’s for my father to see - or my sister - or her husband and his family - or maybe someone else entirely.

We’ve talked about the book of Habakkuk - see the series of articles beginning with LORD, how long do I have to call out for help? Why don’t you listen to me?”

And we’ve talked about a few of C. S. Lewis’ books.


And we talked about whether or not she’s worth the effort -
or whether I really care about her at all.
That’s one of the things that would have really gotten to me - even a few weeks ago.

It’s kind of disheartening to hear someone say that they aren’t worth it -
and add in that you really don’t care anyway.

It could easily make one wonder if it really is worth it.
Then we give up -
or get mad and then give up -
get mad and then suffer through it anyway.


There’s something Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out - from Matthew 10:17-20 -

Mt 10:17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.  18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Obviously I wasn’t under arrest for my faith here -
but this was a test -
for her and for me -
a test from Satan as to how to respond to what she said.

I didn’t even have to think about an answer -
it just came out.

I told her that whether it was her - my father - my sister - or anyone else -
if I can do something to bring them to God and get to Heaven -
then it’s worth it -
no matter how long it takes -
because that’s what He wants us to do.

So we’ve been talking about God and The Bible quite a bit these last couple weeks.

And it’s not just her and I alone.

My sister sees and hears it.

Her husband is there some of the time - so he sees and hears it.

And the caregivers are there - so they see and hear it.


And now you are reading this - and so you “see” and “hear” it.


So -

My prayer for me - is that I continue walk with God and continue to feel this peace -
no matter what’s happening.

My prayer for them and for you -
if you don’t already have this peace from God beyond all understanding -

Remember Jesus’ words to each of the churches in Revelation -

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


What do you “hear”?


Peace beyond understanding

November 10, 2012

Peace beyond understanding.


Peace that seemed to be beyond reach.