Day 5: “Peace. Not Problems.”

Photo: izismile.com

We all have the ability to take our minds off what’s bothering us. Unfortunately, the headaches of life are often addressed with unhealthy medication God never prescribed… alcohol, overeating, pornography, drugs, overspending. Anything to escape the reality of the obstacles you face. Retreating into Netflix, shutting others out, worrying incessantly… whether extreme or subtle, your concerns are not meant to be numbed away.

Problems can become crushing if you let them. Their roots can take hold and produce prolific weeds in your life, making the real issues hard to see. They become buried underneath the growth of unwanted tangled vines as they seek to attach themselves to your heart and soul. Strangled by their embrace, your desire to fend off these pests becomes so overwhelming you don’t know where to turn.

You may be praying and fasting around a specific dilemma you’re facing. Over these 21 days, you are rehearsing putting those issues at the foot of the cross, allowing yourself to release your grip on finding a solution and fixing what’s wrong. When you allow Jesus to lead the way, your answers will surely come. But they won’t come by avoidance; and they won’t appear through high blood pressure and angst. The solution isn’t found in self-medicating or avoidance.

Peace isn’t the absence of problems. It’s found in the person of Jesus who meets you in your struggle.

As you allow God to prune and garden your life over this time of prayer and fasting, he may expose some roots you weren’t aware of. Your vulnerability before him may feel uncomfortable or even unwanted. Remember: He comes lovingly and gently to dig down below your pain and pluck out your predicaments. What’s left behind is a tender heart, viable and strong, unmasked and unafraid of the future.

Your Heavenly Father wants to minister to you right in the midst of your quandary. Imagine yourself replacing that which you have forgone in your fast with a greater portion of your God. Be filled with more of Jesus – his presence, his peace, his promises, his problem-solving.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
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The Church Matters, Part 2

I am of the mindset that the more healthy churches our country has, the better off we will be both socially and economically. While many people are moving towards the philosophy that the more government intervention we have, the better off we will be, I disagree.

It is absolutely true that we should take care of those less fortunate than ourselves and it is “better to give than to receive.” I believe that is my responsibility as a citizen and Christian!  It is interesting that as our country is increasingly moving toward a more secular model and as our government’s entitlement spending is going up, poverty is actually increasing. More and more people are becoming disenchanted with our politicians who can’t seem to agree on anything (just look at the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street Movements).

This climate provides the perfect chance for more healthy churches to step up and provide solutions for our communities.  The church is the place where people who are broken can become whole, where self-esteem and character can be built, and where every aspect of our lives can be dealt with (not just our pocketbooks).

Believers in the very first church were totally committed to its cause.  As a matter of fact, they sold all of their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need.  They worshipped together, met in homes, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. Discipleship happened through relationship and a community of believers who were doing life together.  The Bible says that everyday the Lord added to their groups those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47).

I want to change the perception of the church from irrelevant, boring, and “old-fashioned” to relevant, life-giving, and fun!  Instead of a place to check off our religious “duties,” I want to see churches committed to serving others.  Churches full of loving, generous people who are free from sin and bondage in their own lives.  People who are bold in sharing what Christ has done in their lives.  Churches where young people are being taught they they are our country’s future leaders and that they can make a difference in their world.

Instead of waiting on the government to fix our problems, the church can be the place where the poor can be fed and loved around the clock, not just when the food lines are open. The church is a place where the addicted can be truly set free and the diseased can be healed. People who were once broken can find purpose in using their lives to impact others.

Instead of expecting my taxes will resolve social issues, I want to give more money to my local church that’s making a difference in my community.  Our churches should be the light for a lost and dying world.

I love America.  I believe our democratic capitalist nation is amazing.  I want the government to keep me safe through local police and federal military.  I love our clean air and water and our awesome roads and bridges.  I am so thankful for education for my kids and the freedom I have to express my viewpoint in this blog.

At the end of the day, I wish more Christians would believe that the church can make a significant positive impact on our nations toughest problems.  We, as Christians, need to rise up and come together.  We need to live in freedom and generosity in our own lives so we stop losing credibility with those who say there is no God.  We need to be an example in word, in deed and in conduct of people who embrace children and the elderly.  A people who love the sick and minorities.  A people who walk in humility believing Jesus when He said that the last shall be first.  That true love is to lay down one’s life for another.  To love your neighbor as you love yourself.

The protesters on wall street aren’t going to bring about the change that’s needed.  The government isn’t going to solve our social problems.  We can’t rely on the public school system to educate our youth on how make a difference in our communities.  The local church can and should.

***Disclaimer: this blog post isn’t meant to make light of big problems like economic and healthcare crises or poverty.  My hope is to start a dialogue about how each and every one of us through our local churches can take responsibility to make a difference in our communities.  I welcome your comments!