Weekend Walk, 03/24/2012

Hiding the Word:

Last Wednesday night, one of our church’s Awana leaders asked me and another lady from our church choir to listen to a child recite John 3:16.

He did a great job.  He rattled it off with little effort and we each gave him a high-five to celebrate.

Then my fellow verse-listener asked, “Do you know what John 3:17 says?”

I didn’t!  I blanked completely, although I’m pretty sure my girls have learned it before for Awana, but in that moment I couldn’t tell you at all what it said.

So, she recited it for us.  Just as simple as that.  And it was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

I’ve read several times recently about how early God-followers mostly recited or read aloud God’s Word and twice in one month I have listened to someone doing nothing more than quoting a verse or reading a passage from Scripture.  It’s uniquely powerful.

I still remember the very first time my oldest daughter quoted a Scripture verse she had learned from Awana.  “God loved us . . . and sent His Son.”  I cried when I heard her little voice speaking the Word of God.

So, for the verse of the week, I’m going to meditate on that precious Scripture my choir friend quoted for us on Wednesday night, and, to keep it in context, I’m going to study it together with John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17). 

Weekend Rerun:

A Puzzle of Peace
Originally posted on 04/29/2011

You will keep him in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you”
Isaiah 26:3

Five days a week at noon I journey to the school and wait in the line of minivans to pick up my daughters from their classes.  By that time each day, my baby girl is tired and ready for lunch and a nap, so the lull of the car bounces her to sleep almost daily.  I have the joy of watching.  Have you ever watched a baby fall asleep?  Her breathing slows down ever so slightly.  My little one folds her blanket over and snuggles it against her cheeks.  Then the eyelids start to linger ever so slightly with each blink—closing for longer, and longer, and longer each time until finally  . . . sleep.

It’s peace demonstrated for me on an almost daily basis.  The quiet rest, the feeling of safety, the calm, the trust.  Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

Somehow over time, though, most of us lose that miraculous peace, the absolute trust that you are loved and cared for so you can rest and leave the driving to someone else.  It’s not present in my heart all of the time.  I may let God do the driving, but I’m usually the passenger holding a map and questioning the navigational choices of my Divine Driver.

Do You really want us to turn there, God?
Do You know where You are going, God?
Do You have a destination in mind for me, a plan, a hope and a future?
Do You know any shortcuts that can get us there faster?

This often-elusive fruit of the spirit—peace—-is not a fairy tale or a figment of our Christian imaginations.  It’s there available to us.  Yet, sometimes I reject the peace that God offers me by failing to discipline my emotions and thoughts.  I pray for peace for myself and others, the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and think that God’s peace is going to enter my heart miraculously and with little effort on my part.  It’s a prayer that we sometimes use as a magical spell instead of allowing God to change our hearts so that peace becomes possible.

The bottom line is some of our behaviors need to change, some of our thought patterns need to be stirred up a little bit and some of our emotions bossed around. 

Right before Paul talks about this incomprehensible peace that God offers, he tells the Philippian church “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:5). Peace starts with a thankful heart.  In all of our anxieties, “in every situation,” begin by giving thanks.  The worries that infect and plague us cannot coexist with the antibiotic of gratitude.

Paul also tells the church that God’s peace will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Peace requires the active discipline of standing guard over our hearts and minds and refusing admittance to whatever thoughts aren’t peace-full.  Paul wrote out a clear test for determining whether a thought should gain entry: “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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” (Phil. 4:8).

It’s not that my thoughts are blatantly sinful or wrong, but I do have an internal dialogue of whining that certainly isn’t “lovely or admirable.”  And I have a tendency to dwell not on “whatever is true,” but instead on “whatever might be true.”  It’s when I allow myself to get caught up in “what if’s” that I trade in peace for worry and trust for anxiety.  “What if this happens?  What if that happens?  What would we do in this situation and in that situation?”  I sometimes live in hypotheticals that may never ever become a reality instead of focusing on what is true—-God is faithful; God promises to walk with me through everything; God loves me.  Dwelling on the truths of God’s promises instead of the questionable reality of our circumstances is our responsibility.  This discipline of taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” is what prepares our hearts to receive His perfect peace.

Paul gives us one final piece of this peace puzzle.  He says, “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 (Philippians 4:9).  Peace occurs when we follow God’s instructions.   We can’t choose to disobey God’s commands, live how we want to live, do what we want to do, and then wonder why our circumstances are difficult.  There are consequences to every choice and it’s by choosing righteousness—-doing what God would have us do—–that we enjoy the peace of God’s blessing.  Isaiah wrote, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Have you been longing for peace lately?  Maybe you’re in circumstances that have you fretful and anxious.  Maybe you are in the middle of tough decisions and you aren’t sure what to do.  Maybe you have taken a step out in faith and you are waiting in hopeful anticipation of what God is going to do.  Maybe you worry over whether you’re good enough at being a parent; are you making the right decisions, handling things the best way for your child?

I pray peace over you, a supernatural rest for your heart and mind.  Our God is faithful and trustworthy and you can relax knowing that He is the one doing the driving.  But, don’t neglect your responsibility to make yourself a vessel prepared to receive the peace He gives.  Are there some bad habits that you need to break, some misassumptions you need to relinquish?  Do you need to be more disciplined about your thought life and more in control of your emotions?  Do you need to cease the “what if’s” and put an end to planning out hypotheticals?  Do you need to change some of your behaviors and pursue righteousness instead?

It’s not necessarily going to be easy and it certainly won’t be a one-time event.  No, it’s a moment-by-moment choice to trust God or not, to rest in Him or take over from Him, to do it God’s way or to demand our own way, but in the yielding of our hearts, minds and choices there is God-given peace.


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Keeping It Simple and Sweet

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord and He answered me by setting me free”
(Psalm 118:5).

I grew up in a family of five kids.  Life at our house was rowdy, busy, loud and fun.  We were always joking.  We were forever playing games.

Like canasta

Now, canasta was “the family game.”  Sure, we plowed through rounds of Monopoly or Yahtzee, Scrabble, Othello or Clue pretty frequently, too.  Playing canasta, though, was like an initiation rite for us.  Friends and boyfriends or girlfriends all gathered around the table at some point and we began the canasta lessons

Okay, so first we are going to tell you about points.  You see the goal is to reach 5000 points before anyone else.  So, Jokers are worth 50.  Got that?  And Aces and 2’s are 20 points.  Now, Jokers and 2’s are wild cards, but everything else is a natural card.  Cards 8 and higher are worth 10 points and anything less than that is worth 5 points.  Except for 3’s, you see, because red 3’s are special.  If you get one of those, you have to put it down right away on your board and you get 100 points for that at the end of the hand and you get another card to replace it.  Unless you don’t put anything else on the board the whole round in which case the red 3 counts against you.  Got it?  Okay, so now let’s talk about how to freeze the deck . . .

It was dizzying really, trying to explain this game to a newcomer.

Sometimes, it may feel like it’s just as complicated to explain the gospel of grace.

It’s not because grace is so convoluted or hard to understand.  It’s us.  We tangle the web until it’s a jumble of mis-explanations and unnecessary additions.

But Jesus said we should have faith like a child and that means that God’s Good News, the Gospel, is simple enough for a child to understand.

Last night, I listened to my oldest daughter recite her memory verse for church.  Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We broke the verse down and chatted about it.  And as complicated as it may have sounded at first, the message was simple.

We sin and so we’ve earned death.  But because of Jesus, God gave us eternal life.

That’s the whole salvation message right there.  Simple.  Straightforward.  And easy enough for my child to understand during a simple evening chat on our living room sofa.

She learned the verse that summed up Jesus’ entire purpose for coming to this earth: “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).  And she can tell you in one quick verse how we accept the gift of eternal life: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

So, why do we make it so difficult?  Why do we add in requirements and make judgements?  Why do we create hierarchies of sin and levels of righteousness?  Why do we create rituals and blessings that hinge on extra expectations?

That’s what the Pharisees did.  They tried to trip Jesus up with complicated questions about the after-life and regulations about the Sabbath and whose sin was to blame for a man’s blindness.  They delighted in the complexity of the law and rejected the simplicity of grace.

In the same way, we ourselves stumble into being spiritual lawmakers at times.  But we are always doomed to failure in that system of rules and regulations and hoops to jump through.  We become chained, trapped and imprisoned by the law.

Paul called it slavery.  He said it was a “yoke of bondage” that we accept even though “Christ has made us free” (Galatians 5:4).

Free.  Free from condemnation.  Free from perpetually feeling less than.  Free from always having to perform to earn approval, salvation, and nearness to God.  Free from the oppressiveness of perfection.

That’s not to say that God lacks depth or that it’s enough to skirt the surface of the Bible, dwelling in a shallow and superficial understanding of our faith.  Just because the gospel that God has crafted is simple, doesn’t mean God is.

Even Paul, the accomplished Jewish scholar and rhetorical expert, admitted sometimes God was just too much for him to fathom.  He exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33).

And so we plunge the depths of God’s Word, rolling up our sleeves and becoming students of the Bible, not to earn religious accolades, but to know Him.  We want to worship Him in “spirit and an in truth.”  We want to love Him not just with our heart and soul, but with our mind also.

But at the end of the day, we need to be able to explain grace to a child, partly so we can maintain our own focus.

When I was an English teacher, I occasionally marked students’ papers with K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple and Sweet.  That’s what our God did for us.  He knew our propensity to miss the point because we’re ensnared in confusion, so He kept grace simple.  He placed the freedom of the gospel within easy grasp.

If we’re making it difficult, if we’re expecting perfection, if we’re demanding impossible standards and if we’re imposing obstacles to salvation, we’re missing just how simple and sweet God’s grace really is.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King