Is Peace with the World a Reasonable Goal?
Prince of Peace

By now you may have heard about Christian celebrities who have either renounced their faith or are in the process of losing their faith.

The most recent celebrity to do so is Marty Sampson, a lyricist long associated with Hillsong and whose songs many of us have sung in our churches. Sampson wrote:

“I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.”

He has since deleted the comment and qualified it by saying he was “struggling with many parts of the belief system that seem so incoherent with common human morality” and his faith is on “incredibly shaky ground.”

Struggling with doubts and questions is not unusual. Of course, few Christians have the kind of public platforms that people such as Marty Sampson and Josh Harris have.

But as Sampson tries to figure out how to get his spiritual life back on solid ground, it’s worth asking about his goal. Is his goal peace with the world, as he mentioned? Because if it is, then Christianity will never give him what he’s seeking, as these Bible verses attest:

  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
    ~ Romans 12:2 ESV
  • “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” ~ James 4:4 ESV
  •  “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
    ~ I John 3:13 ESV

With growing animosity, our culture has set itself against the God of the Bible. Yes, to the point of hatred, including hatred of those who identify as Christ-followers. Even so, Christians are not to respond with hate in return. We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

But loving our enemies is not the same as being at peace with the world. For the foundation of a Christian’s faith will always put us at odds with a world system that has declared itself too wise to need God and too independent to be accountable to Him. A world which, at best, mocks our faith and, at worst, kills Christians who profess to belief in the God who sent His Son to die for those who hate Him.

Is Sampson, along with others, willing to obtain peace with the world at the cost of compromising or renouncing his Christian beliefs? Does he understand it’s those beliefs that engendered the hostility to begin with?

What about you and me?

  • Is peace with the world worth losing peace with God (Romans 5:1)?
  • Is acceptance by our culture worth giving up the acceptance we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:6)?
  • And is the temporary approval of the world worth losing our eternal identity in Christ (Galatians 1:10)?

Peace—real peace—is found in a relationship with the Prince of Peace. A relationship with the world apart from Jesus Christ can only provide a poor imitation.

The Christian life is the sum of more than just singing emotional songs and quoting Bible verses. It includes a willingness to endure suffering and the loss of the approval of others. Jesus Christ showed us what that looks like:

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Easier said than done? Yes. But not impossible, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Still, the choice is ours to make.

What will you choose?

Anniversaries of Grief and a Year of Firsts
Image by Manie Van der Hoven from Pixabay

Anniversaries are usually celebrated. They often mark days we want to remember. Days of joy that make us thankful. Birthdays. Wedding anniversaries. Adoption days.

But we mark some anniversaries reluctantly. Wishing the day did not exist. Hoping it’s all just a bad dream. The memory of those days brings grief, not celebration. Sadness, not joy. We look back, not ahead.

This past week contained one of those days for me. It marked the first anniversary of my husband’s graduation to heaven. “Graduation to heaven” sounds so much better than “death.” But it doesn’t change the fact that, either way, decades of marriage are suddenly gone.

You probably have similar anniversaries in your own life.

The loss of someone precious.

A traumatic accident.

The end of a marriage or other long-term relationship.

This kind of anniversary represents an event thrust upon us. A day we have no choice as to whether to accept. It’s there. The elephant in the room.

So what’s the point? If God uses all things to work together for the ultimate good of His children (Romans 8:28), how do we process these events? How can they possibly work good in and for us?

Here’s some of the “good” I experienced this past year:

  • The end of myself as I’ve learned reliance on my heavenly Father in a new & deeper way.
  • Development of perseverance when it’s difficult or lonely or I’m just plain weary.
  • Learning humility in asking for help.
  • Accepting a new identity as I’ve had to check a new box: widow. Yet married or widowed, both labels are overridden by my most important identity: a child of God
  • Cultivating a new perspective of the future by accepting uncertainty and embracing God’s sovereignty.
  • And finally, appreciating the reality that heaven feels closer and more real because a part of my heart is there.

As I wrote in a recent social media post:

One year today.
One year since my life partner was called Home.
One year that can feel like one day, and other times, one decade.

One year of living without the one who divided my sorrows and multiplied my joys.
One year of pursuing challenges without my strongest cheerleader. 
One year of learning to live without the one who loved me unconditionally, covered my weaknesses, and celebrated my strengths.

One year of swimming in the sea of my heavenly Father’s grace through His Son, Jesus.
One year of finding comfort in the Holy Spirit who showed me how to enjoy the gift of shared love, and who shows me how to rest in His peace now that it’s gone.

One year of living in hope, looking forward to the day when years will never be counted again.

How are you processing the losses in your life?
How has God grown you in the process?

Time to Clean the Filter

Been thinking about filters this week. Especially since the first of the month is when I switch out the main air conditioner filter.

For the past several years, I’ve had my home’s air conditioning system serviced semi-annually. And I’m compulsive about cleaning and changing the A/C filters.

It all started a few years ago when the A/C unit began leaking—in the house. The A/C technician responded to my frantic call. Turns out nothing was wrong with the system…that is, nothing that couldn’t be corrected by cleaning the filters once a month. The A/C system had to work too hard to pull the air through clogged filters, causing algae to build up in the drainage pipe. Yup, we brought it on ourselves by not changing the filters.

This week I also cleaned the pool filter. The first time I did that years ago, the filter actually changed color as I hosed the sand and dirt from between the accordion folds. Yucch! As the dirt flowed off with the water, I wondered why I waited so long. And also wondered how much dirt was still in the pool because the overloaded filter couldn’t capture any more dirt. Lesson learned. Now the pool filter gets cleaned regularly.

And of course, we even set up spam filters on our computers to protect us from garbage emails and viruses.

Hmmm. Now I’m wondering about my life filters. Am I waiting too long to clean my own filters?

Have I gotten casual about what I read? Is the content of that novel I picked up for some light beach reading really what I want to fill my mind?

Casual about what I watch? Are summer television programs merely fun “escapism,” or are they another way to clog my filters?

What are my filters, anyway?

When I think of filters, I’m reminded of an old children’s song, “Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” The first stanza repeats the title, with good reason. Images stamped in our minds’ eyes often originate through our physical eyes. When Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22), He may very well have been speaking about a filter.

This same children’s song also includes a stanza about our ears. Words and music are powerful influences. God spoke the world into existence with His Word. Jesus is the living Word. The words I listen to nestle deep in my soul and influence me in ways I may never fully realize.

While the first two stanzas of this song speak of what we take in through our eyes and ears, the remainder of the song speaks to what we do. We need to be careful of what we say, how we use our hands, and where we go.

What we take in through our eyes and ears affects what we say, what we do, and where we go. Ultimately, it touches the state of our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) tells us,

“Above all else, guard your heart, everything you do flows from it.”

And Proverbs 4:23-27 (NIV) reminds us of the relationship between the state of our hearts and what we see, what we say, what we do, and where we go:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

Hmmm…sounds a lot like that little children’s song, doesn’t it?

The cleaner we keep our filters, the less dirt we’ll need to clean out of our hearts.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I have some filters that need attending.

How clean are your filters?

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