Colossians at Christmas – Day 19

Peace Can Rule

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 (ESV)

What is rulership? According to the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, the word “rule” could also be interpreted as “act as arbiter.” I love the definition of arbiter, particularly within this verse. An arbiter is “a person with power to decide a dispute” or “a person or agency whose judgment or opinion is considered authoritative” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

​​Let the peace of Christ settle the disputes within. Our issues with peace revolve around our beliefs about God, others, and ourselves (but primarily about God). What are your inward disputes?

Think of an issue this week that has frustrated, angered, or worried you. If you have not resolved it in your heart, then there is a dispute within that needs to be settled. Who are the ones arguing in your mind? What are the messages? 

This could look like:

My spouse does not understand me. My need of connection is not being met.

My boss is so demanding. I can never seem to get anything right.

I do not want to be alone. What if something happens to me?

My kids are about to drive me up the wall. I need a moment where I am not needed!

I am messing up this whole parenting thing.

I do not like the way I look. I could stand to lose a few pounds. 

I wonder what she meant when she said _____? 

What if I said the wrong thing?

In reality, this list is much longer. We could all contribute to the list with our own frustrations and worries. Add to the mix hormones, hunger, tiredness, and physical demands of life and you have a recipe that does not promote peace. 

God knows all of it. He knows we are frail human beings. He knows our breaking points, our stressors, the intensity of life. Because life can be incredibly difficult at times (for some, constantly), Christ offers peace. Peace does not often come in the removal of our circumstances. Peace comes from looking to the authority of Christ to settle the dispute. 

God is always good (even if we do not see it). He is for us. Christ is the only One who has ever sacrificed Himself for you to the extent of being falsely accused, beaten, tortured, and murdered. Then He conquered death! And if that were not enough, He sent the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to us to help us live this life with hope, illuminate the Word of God for us, and make us more like Christ. We are not without resources!

These disputes in our minds come down to this: whose voice will we heed? Whose voice is better – ours or God’s? I think the biggest problem that gets in the way of peace is that we think our rulership is better or will produce better results than God. 

What God offers us is not too good to be true. It is good. And it is true. Be thankful that it is, for we need the Word of God with His promises and character to be true.

Challenge Questions:

What does your internal dispute say about God? (If it is a question about Him that comes up, try turning it into a statement. For example, What if He takes everything away? This would turn into something like, God takes everything away. He is a taker and not a giver. He does not provide. These are examples.)

What truth (Scripture verse or verses) would help you to bring your dispute to the authority of Christ, resulting in peace? (Another shout out to “Preach the Word” by Hayley Morgan – there is an appendix with examples of common thoughts and Scriptures to help.)

Colossians at Christmas – Day 18

Forgiveness

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:13-14

Entire books have been written on the headline of this passage. As much as I would love to walk through the various elements of forgiveness, that will have to be reserved for another time. For today, I would like to provide you with practical steps on how to forgive. 

But first, consider the text. Forgiveness appears to be within the umbrella of love. (1 Corinthians 13 backs this up.) “Bearing with one another” is brought up more than once in New Testament writings. Paul continuously draws the church to unity. Forgiveness reflects love that only Christ can truly give. When we choose to forgive, we look like Christ. Among believers, the aim is unity. 

Think of music. If you are listening to a band and one instrument is not playing the correct notes, or is not in tune, or is off in timing, that person sticks out. The one person impacts the sound of the entire band. They are out of sync, out of unity. 

The same holds true among the church. We are not effective for the kingdom when we are not unified. Love binds us in “perfect harmony.”

Here are a few thoughts to consider regarding forgiveness:

Feelings do not always immediately follow forgiveness.

Do not expect to forget what you have forgiven. Your brain is not designed to do that.

The person you are forgiving may not receive your forgiveness. They may not even know you had to forgive them. 

Forgiveness does not automatically produce reconciliation.

You consistently require forgiveness, too.

A mentor so graciously walked me through the following how-to of forgiveness. I have added the first step, but Mrs. Darlene deserves the credit for it all. Walking through these steps can be so freeing. This exercise can also be very draining, so I recommend that you carve out time to be able to refresh or rest after walking through it. Seek to be alone and undistracted for this. Another tip, do not try forgiving more than one person at the same time. (This is not the only way to forgive, but it is a way that makes it less elusive and works well with how your brain is designed.)

Forgiveness Exercise:

  1. Spend time exploring Scripture about forgiveness. This could be employing a word search on the topic or paying attention to the themes of redemption in your current Bible reading, for example. This does not have to be rushed. The purpose is to focus your mind on what Christ has done to redeem you so you can forgive someone else from that understanding.
  2. Grab paper and a writing utensil. Get alone. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind all of the offenses toward you of the person you are seeking to forgive. 
  3. Write out the offenses. Be specific. You do not have to write an entire paragraph, but your brain and spirit need to acknowledge what you are wanting to forgive. Instead of putting the word “betrayed” write why you feel betrayed. 
  4. Once you have written it all out, go back through the list one-by-one. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. With each offense, say out loud that you forgive that person of the offense through the power of Christ (or the Holy Spirit, or God, whichever name of God you want to use). The reason you want to say it out loud is to emphasize to your brain what you are forgiving. Then, when memories pop up (and they will) you can remind yourself that you have already forgiven it, so you do not need to entertain thinking of the offense any longer.

This Christmas season, I pray that you will walk knowing you are redeemed and hopefully feeling a little lighter upon walking through forgiveness.

Challenge Question: Did someone come to mind as you read this? Are you willing to forgive that person?

Colossians at Christmas – Day 15

Set Your Mind

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV)

One of my personal struggles is anticipated grief. Knowing loss is to come, it makes me sorrowful. While I am learning how to address it and not dwell in such a state for too long, it can still hit me out of nowhere. I will put my children to bed and then weep as images of past loss (in my life or the life of someone I know) or thoughts of future loss send waves of sorrow through my soul. 

Christmastime is difficult for a lot of people I know. This year, several people come to mind who will be experiencing their first Christmas without one they held dear. Life is forever changed. Grief is very real and very heavy. There are no words that can be said to pull anyone out of such grief nor should that be a goal. What grief can do is remind us of the cross and the hope in the resurrection. That does not change the feeling or the reality, but it does provide hope.

There is one verse that continuously pulls me through the flood of images. That verse is nestled within this passage, providing a different kind of image. It offers hope that there is more to this life than even the deepest sorrows cannot address.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

This one gives me an action step to take. Look up. Sorrow often causes us to look down or in. Set – focus – on eternity. Focus on the big picture of glory. Focus on Christ who will one day restore all things unto Himself. 

And this is why:

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” 

Death is a natural part of life. It wasn’t supposed to be. That was not the intention when God created the world and man. But because of sin, death exists. Because of Christ, death no longer has power. Also, because of Christ, we must die twice just as we must be born twice. 

The physical and the spiritual often provide reflective analogies of each other. We are born into this world physically. In order to receive spiritual life, we must be “born again” into Christ. To do so, though, death must occur. Death to the old self, the sinful nature that reigns in our souls. (Remember, this is through and because of what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf). That kingdom ruler must fall in order for the True King to reign. As a result, we are protected by Christ. We are hidden in Him. Even once we reach physical death, it is not the end. It is the entrance into glory.

For the person who may be struggling today, wondering if you should be here: the answer is yes, you are here on this earth for and with a purpose. My encouragement to you (in addition to seeking a solid support system and professional help), is to wait on Christ. Wait until He appears. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” He is coming back!

Christ came so we could know Him now, not just wait to experience Him in eternity. He offers Himself to us in this life. If you are in a place of despair, my prayer is that you would desperately seek Him and cling to Him. Your life is “hidden with Christ” in God. Remember that so far the idea of mystery and being hidden have produced amazing and excellent results when it comes to God. If you are a child of God, Christ already has you. He’s got you covered. Learn what that looks like, what it means. You can know Him and experience Him. 

Challenge question for you today:

What do you tend to set your mind on? 

Please know that the action of setting our minds on Christ is not automatic. It is something that would help if we daily (usually multiple times daily for me) pursued and challenged ourselves to do. If you are not sure what this looks like, start by thinking about Christ. Ask Him to help you. 

Resource: Preach to Yourself by Hayley Morgan (she does a fantastic job with giving practical application on how to adjust our thoughts with truth)

Colossians at Christmas – Day 7

All in Christ

“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:18-20 (ESV)

These verses continue the theme from yesterday. All authority is in Christ. Paul makes it clear that Christ is at the helm of the church. The church is also being held together by Christ. Much like creation begins and exists because of Christ, so does the church. The church would cease to exist without Christ.

“He is the beginning.” He was not merely a part of the beginning, creating. He is the beginning. This is important to recognize. All things begin and end in Christ. Revelation 22:13 states, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Have you noticed the usage of “all” in verses 15-20? I counted 7 (feel free to check). As a counselor, a common area to challenge is all-or-nothing thinking. Words like “always” and “never” tend to be addressed and an attempt is made to eradicate them from one’s vocabulary. I find it fascinating that we tend to function as humans in absolutes that are not truly absolute while ignoring or disbelieving what truly is absolute – the gospel. Regarding God, you can say ‘always’ when it comes to His character. You can also say ‘never’ about Him (for example, He will never leave us). These are not statements that ring true for any other human being. 

Paul wants us to have an “all” understanding of Christ. He is preeminent, meaning He is greater than all, greater than anyone. All means all, y’all!

Going back to Jesus being the exact image and representation of God, He was fully God. There is not an aspect of God that Jesus isn’t. Here again we see the pleasure of God. Only Jesus can fully please God. (See how that truth from verse 10 wrapped back around?) And God was pleased for Jesus to fully embody Him and to be the One to reconcile all of creation unto Himself. 

Ah, reconciliation. Jesus is all about making peace. There is a difference between keeping the peace and making peace. Keeping the peace often involves avoidance, silence, giving in, and passiveness. Making peace requires addressing the issue of conflict and bringing both parties to an agreement and resolution. (Side note: reconciliation is not always appropriate in relationships, but for the purpose of unpacking this verse, we are focusing on the relationship between God and us.) 

The conflict that has been around since Genesis is sin before and against a holy God. Jesus provides the resolution to that conflict – Himself. God wants peace between His creation and Himself. But perfection is required to stand before holiness. Jesus, the only One who could fully please God because He is the only One who is perfect, provides that opportunity. He reconciles our debt of sin and so we can stand faultless and blameless before God. 

I find the last phrase of verse 20 ironic: “making peace by the blood of his cross.” There was nothing about the crucifixion of Christ that was peaceful. He died after enduring grueling torture and what was considered to be a shameful and horrific way to die. His suffering brought our peace. And it is only by the death and resurrection of Christ that we receive our completeness – our “all” – in Him. 

As you consider these verses and how they apply in your life, here is my challenge for you:

Flip the “all.” Remove the “always” and “nevers” from your vocabulary when it comes to statements you make about yourself or others. Try to apply them only to Christ.

For example, “I always mess up.” Always is an absolute term. No, you don’t ‘always’ mess up. It is a given as a living human being that you will ‘mess up’ many times, but it does not make you a mess up. That is not your identity.

Ascribe it to God: Christ is always true. Christ is always faithful. Christ is always perfect (He never messes up). Because He is always true, I can have confidence in what He says. Because He is always faithful, I can trust that He is not going anywhere because of my lack of faithfulness. Because He is perfect, I don’t have to be!

This is an example to get you started. I would love to hear from you as you walk out this challenge today!

Colossians at Christmas – Day 4

Be Strengthened

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” Colossians 1:11 (ESV)

I don’t know what brings you to the need for strength today. Perhaps you are facing pain. Maybe every day has been going at the same speed and there seems to be no change in sight. Stress is a constant. Grief may overwhelm with its surges and constant presence. Finances may look bleak. The thoughts in your mind exhaust you with their self-deprecating tone. Your child won’t sleep through the night and you feel like you are hardly functioning as a human being. Or your 3-year-old (teenager?) has whined one too many times today and it is only 9:00am. 

You need to be strengthened, fellow laborer. Attempts at self-generated strength are not sustainable, but we keep trying. No, what we need is a divine strength. We need a powerful strength. This is the strength that comes from a Creator and Sustainer who knows exactly what is going on and the measure of strength you need for the moment. Dependency on His strength gives us the opportunity to know Him as Mighty God. 

Isaiah 9:6 refers to Jesus as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” These are not words of poetry. They are words of prophecy. They are prophetic words that have been fulfilled in Christ. They are truly names of Jesus – names that directly reveal His character.

We need Him as the Wonderful Counselor. He leads us and provides direction and equipment for us in battle. 

When we need strength, we need Him as our Mighty God. No one has ever existed or will come who is stronger and mightier than our God.

We need Him to be our Everlasting Father – always protecting, always guiding, always leading, always loving.

We need Him as our Prince of Peace, reigning in our hearts, calming and kindly caring for us. He can still our souls.

So when Paul says, “may you be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might,” this is the God He knows will do it.

And we will always have need for the strength of God. Ephesians 6:10 tells us to, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” The world will continue to bring suffering. We will face plenty of opportunities to endure. We can either endure with disgruntled and despairing hearts or we can learn to endure “with patience and joy” – qualities that come from dependency on His strength for endurance.

During this Christmas season, I challenge you to reflect on areas in which you try to function in your own strength. A good place to start is an area in which you are not experiencing peace, feeling stressed, or one in which you are absolutely exhausted.

Plan for Peace

Happy Christmas week!

Christmas may look a little different this year for you. Even if you are attempting to carry on the same traditions as in years gone by, there are extra obstacles to consider or overcome this year (for most). You may feel additional strain as the expectation for Christmas to be special dangles in the corners of your mind. 

Whether you are trying to keep true to tradition, create new traditions, or venturing in the “let’s do something different” realm, there remains expectation and planning. I know I’ve been torn with how to make this Christmas special, figure out what traditions can be created then upheld for years to come, while also still pursuing business as usual. I know I am overly optimistic with the margins in my schedule (picked up on that phrase from Dr. Rhonda Kelley years ago). The staff know I can be quite the dreamer. What I have been gradually learning is that those dreams must be held loosely so they do not become expectations. That is a lot harder to manage at Christmastime, which is my favorite time of the year.

What the Lord sweetly brought to mind today is the thought of approaching this Christmas with the idea of observation over expectation. Stay present, in the moment, rather than trying to check the next thing off the list or forcing fun. Sure, the cooking and baking must commence, the presents need to be wrapped, and various other preparations (last minute gift shopping anyone?) to happen. But I don’t want to get so caught up in all of it that I miss the joy of the moment. 

I want to slow down and let my daughter help bake, watching her focus and delighting in the task. I want to have unrushed conversations with family and friends. I want to look at the Christmas tree and smile because it is beautiful to me. I want to be goofy and laugh at silly antics. I want to be grateful for each chaotic, precious moment. Out of all the plans and attempts to navigate the day/week, this is the plan that brings peace and joy to my heart.

Which reminds me of a verse…

“Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.” Proverbs 12:20

What a gem of a verse! This verse struck me in such sweet and challenging ways. We can plan for peace. This may look like being intent on thinking a certain way (see previous posts regarding challenging our thoughts), having a plan of action going into a difficult situation, or trying to ascertain a peaceful approach to Christmas week, to name a few ideas. So my plan for peace this week is to observe rather than expect. I know this will be a challenge, but I also know that when my focus is on the cherishing and observing rather than the expecting (particularly of myself) I will experience more joy. 

The simplicity in this truth can make us skeptical. But what is the alternative? Stress? Deceit (according to the verse)? Hurt? Disappointment? Frustration? No, thank you. I would rather refocus my attention on planning peace. 

Questions to consider:

  1. What are you expecting of yourself this week?
  2. If you could choose only one task to accomplish for the rest of the week, what would you choose?
  3. Do you observe or expect? What do you not want to miss?
  4. How will you plan for peace this week?

What Rules Your Heart?

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

Forewarning: this is a therapeutic post for me. Be prepared for a peek into the messiness of my mind and emotions in a 24 hour span of time this week. 

I was trying to figure out what we were going to have for supper the next night. There were several factors to consider: what did we have on hand, it needed to go in the crockpot which meant we needed to prepare it that night to go in the next morning, and we would be on a time crunch as we had something else going on that evening. In the middle of this, we had a mound of dishes to do, laundry was going, and I had a few other things to get done on the to-do list (one of those items being to write about peace – ha!). Then my loving husband wanted to share his heart about something he was learning. While this is an act I truly love, I felt stretched thin at the time and not fully present as I was still trying to figure out supper. I thought of something we could have, we started preparing the ingredients, only to discover we were missing a key ingredient that could not be substituted.  

At this point, it was getting later and Steve turns into a pumpkin by 10:00pm. He was getting ready for bed, noticed I was a bit, er, “off,” and asked if I was upset with him. I replied with, “No. I’m just upset, period.” Bless him! I finally started doing the dishes and a few minutes later he came in and asked what he could do to help me. I may have been slightly curt when I said, “the dishes.” He lovingly walked over and started doing them. Together, we were able to get the dishes washed and he saved me a good twenty minutes or so in the task (it was quite a bit). My stress level began reducing and my heart calmed a bit during this act of service. Though residual feelings of tension in my soul spilled into the next day. 

For the most part, I consider myself to be somewhat laid back and even-keeled. (Some may laugh, some may agree.) That is, until the demands on my schedule get to be a little much and it takes every ounce of brain power I have to stay focused on the present. My tendency is to self-protect and prioritize my own to-do list rather than factor in the desires of others. 

It goes kind of like this: I try to help others with their lists and what they would like to do, or try to be present in the moment with my people. Then my own list of responsibilities or desires gets backed up and I feel like I have to go into “selfish” mode to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished.

Now, I consistently encourage “people over tasks,” along with some balance, but I don’t always get the balance well, either. In stress mode I either try to multitask (unsuccessfully) or ignore all responsibility in the name of tiredness and avoid (otherwise known as “veg out”). Add on processing my thoughts and emotions to see why I am feeling stressed and then my brain becomes a little frazzled and overloaded.

Someone asked me this week how I process my thoughts and emotions when I am in this mode. Good question. I think it often looks something like this: I feel my body being tense, realize that patience is waning, then acknowledge my self-critical and others-critical thoughts, question what expectations are not being met (of myself or others), attempt to adjust them and plead with the Holy Spirit to be patience for me and set my heart straight. Sometimes this process takes a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, it can be days, even. 

One thing my husband taught me a long time ago is that feelings don’t always follow forgiveness. This sentiment can also be adapted to choosing truth or what is right in the moment. I wish I could tell you that your feelings will change immediately after aligning them with truth and the Holy Spirit, but it doesn’t always happen so quickly. As a result, sometimes the pursuit of peace involves a fight for it. 

What I realized, albeit a day or so later, is that I was letting my agenda/responsibilities/task list rule my heart rather than the peace of Christ. This will likely happen again as time constraints press in and the margin in my schedule tightens. But my prayer – my desire – is to seek out the rule of Christ in my heart first over and over again. Submitting my timeline to His, my agenda to His, my heart to His results in a much lighter outcome than my own flesh could produce.

Questions to consider:

  1. What tends to push you to the edge of your limits?
  2. How do you find balance between taking care of responsibilities and being present with people?
  3. At what point do you acknowledge you are starting to feel stress? 
  4. What would it look like for the peace of Christ to rule in your heart?

Peace in Relationships/Marriage

I am taking a slight detour today to celebrate marriage as it is my wedding anniversary! There is so much about life with my husband that brings peace. I also want to speak into the subject of relationships and peace.

For those who don’t know the story, I will give you a quick run down. Boy meets girl. Boy dates girl. Boy breaks up with girl. Years later, they reunite and get married. That’s the gist of it. 

There is a little more to it than that…

We met in seminary, where we were actually neighbors. His first memory of me was of me asking him over for dinner (mind you, we were always inviting people over for dinner) and he turned it (me) down because he had P.F. Chang’s in his hand, ready to eat. Around Christmastime, he started coming around a little more to our group gatherings. The following summer we dated. And then broke up.

Over the next few years, we remained friends as best as possible, but still had a hard time resisting attraction. Then I moved back to South Carolina. We both dated other people. 

It had been 4 years since I last saw him when he came to visit in SC. He met with my pastor (two Stephens in conversation, what could happen?!) to talk about what was next for him, which from my understanding, my pastor turned it into a conversation about Steve’s intentions with me. (To this day, I still don’t know exactly what was discussed. What I do know is that Steve went back to Louisiana with a lot to think about.)

2-3 weeks later, Steve called me and said that he didn’t want me to ever feel the despair he felt that day (for an unrelated event) on account of him. He wanted to move to SC to be with me. Which is exactly what he did. And the Lord used that to bring about so much healing in my heart. (I had previous men choose houses or locations over me in the past, so this detail served as a healing balm, unbeknownst to Steve.)

The day he decided he wanted to be with me, a job in Greenville opened up with the company he was with in New Orleans. He applied, was offered the job, and then moved to SC that September. As soon as he arrived, he proposed (another story for another time). We were married 2 ½ months later – December 9th. 

We lovingly joke about how Steve has experienced more life changes with me in 3 years than he likely has in his lifetime. We have had a lot of craziness, a lot of changes (marriage, baby, moves, job changes) and we are so grateful that we have been able to do all of it together. 

Before he came back into the picture, both of us had reached a point of contentment in singleness. We were both really trying to pursue kingdom work. I am not saying that we were “gifted” marriage because we got to a place of contentment. That is not a fair assessment of God or of circumstances. But I am grateful that we are now here together to support one another in kingdom work. We deal with a lot of grief, pain, and suffering in the lives of those we see on a daily basis (he is now in a chaplain residency program). It is refreshing to know that we can come home to peace and safety with one another.

Honestly, if we continued dating back when we first started dating (over 10 years ago), I don’t know that I could say that we would each serve as a place of refuge for the other. Both of us had a lot of pride, stubbornness, and opinions the Lord needed to sanctify before we could be good for one another. Which, God could have done in marriage back then, but it would have been a lot less peaceful for both of us, I think.

We have had arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings (regularly), hurts, and other conflicts. But what helps us work through them is knowing that we are not against each other. A theme this year that the Lord convicted my heart of is this: Am I for my husband, even in my thinking? 

Not everyone has a peaceful marriage. I work with the pains and effects of the sinful and selfish acts of spouses weekly. And it breaks my heart. The enemy loves to steal, kill, and destroy, particularly in relationships with one another. If he can disrupt a unified people, he can distract from the gospel. 

There are three things that I have observed that make marriages hard: selfishness, shame, and unforgiveness/bitterness. Selfishness leads to this idea of pursuing only how the other person can serve you and expecting to be served. Shame keeps us from being open and honest with each other. Shame keeps us from being vulnerable in the healthiest sense. And abuse in all of its forms can stem from either or a combination of both. (Disclaimer: abuse is not okay in any form. If you are abused, seek help and safety first.) 

Forgiveness hinders so many from being able to love well. This applies to all relationships, not just marriage. In marriage, not being for one another, not choosing to forgive even the slightest offenses, builds until it explodes into treating your spouse like the enemy. This is not healthy. We can do better. When we truly forgive one another, we are able to be more like Christ in the most loving act He has done for us.

We are by no means experts in marriage. Three years does not warrant us that kind of credit. But what I can say is that it is possible to pursue peace in your home. It is possible to love well. It is possible to put aside pride, anger, and selfishness to forgive and love not as the world loves, but as Christ does. It is possible to be vulnerable and be safe. It is possible to heal.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17

Questions to consider:

  1. Regarding your closest relationships, are you actively pursuing to be for them in your thinking, as well as actions?
  2. What lie is shame telling you that keeps you from being vulnerable with your close people?
  3. In what ways have you been selfish this week toward your spouse (or others)?
  4. Are you holding onto unforgiveness, no matter how justified you feel?
  5. What would it look like for the “peace of Christ to rule” in your heart and in your home?

Thinking/Speaking Peace

There are new studies out this year that have come to the conclusion that the average person thinks approximately 6,000+ thoughts per day. (Several websites could be cited here.) Other studies, from previous years, suggest our thoughts can be as many as 60,000 per day (I’ve even seen higher estimates). Regardless of the research you choose to follow on this one, that is still a lot of thinking!

No wonder Scripture references the mind frequently!

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2

“…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Romans 7:22-23

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6 (We may come back to this one…)

These are only a few of the many verses that speak of the mind. This is very clear: God cares about our minds. Our minds affect all that we do. Thoughts impact emotions, worship, health, relationships, stress levels, everything.

I am very passionate about the mind and finding hope in changing the way we think. We have access to so many tools that can help us apply biblical principles to our thinking, yet we struggle to admit that we need them. Our own thoughts that we need help with are also the same ones that shame us and prevent us from pursuing or receiving help.

We are so used to our own way of thinking that we hesitate to believe that we can be thinking in lies or even be “wrong” in our thinking. Few people like to be wrong. This faulty premise to thinking is what prevents us from believing that another way of thinking could work. Oh, we may think it will work for someone else, but not for us. Does this sound familiar?

While I would love to spend a lot more time and words on why it is helpful and possible to change our thinking, I want to get right to the practical tips on how. I really want to get you started (or continued) in ways to change your thinking. Here are a few ways (this is just a taste of them) to help change your thoughts:

  1. Acknowledge the thought. The way to speak truth into a thought process or circumstance is by admitting what the original thought is that is driving the challenging emotion. 
  2. Ask yourself, What does this thought say about God? This can be one of the most challenging – and humbling – thoughts to impact our thinking. 
  3. Assess the facts of the thought. What do you know to be true about your thought? Perhaps the thought is, “They won’t like me.” How do you know that to be true? Unless whoever “they” is specifically said that they don’t like you, then it is not a fact. This is an assumption. It is a fear. It is not true and doesn’t think very highly of “they,” either. Then challenge yourself to adjust your thinking on what you know to be true.
  4. Find a Scripture to focus on for the week (or month or however long you want to use it). Put it everywhere – as a pop up on your phone, on a sticky note (or several) at your desk, write it every day, speak it every day, journal about it. Get creative with it to make it stand out to your brain.
  5. Lastly, my favorite. Create a Philippians 4:8 list. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Take each one of these elements of the list and write them as categories. It could look something like this:

True – God does not change, His love is steadfast, He is peace

Honorable – the military, my grandfather

Just – God’s mercy toward me (which feels like the opposite of ‘just’, but it is what I think of)

Pure – my little one, snow

Lovely – mountain views, kindness of a friend

Commendable – friends participating in adoption and foster care

Excellent/praiseworthy – God’s faithfulness and provision

This is what my list looks like and it is subject to change or have additions. And that is
okay. Your list may look different from mine. The key is to put items on your list that you 
could actually spend time thinking about instead of the anxious thought that led you to
need the list. I have the military on mine because I have so many memories as a military
kid that I could spend an entire day thinking on these experiences, if needed. 

The list also works two-fold. Paul provides it as both preventive and prescriptive. When
we use it to prevent, we are purposing to “think about these things” first. When it is used
as a prescription, then the anxious thoughts are already occurring and there is a need to
adjust the thinking. That is when focusing on the list can change the trajectory of our
thinking. 

Our minds are not naturally geared toward thinking in truth. It is not natural for us to have peaceful thoughts. Therefore, in order to pursue loving God with all our minds, then actively seeking to change our thoughts is necessary. And because God is peace, because the Holy Spirit is actively at work within us, we are not without hope in this quest. We don’t have to face the battle of our minds alone. He is with us. He will help us. 

Questions to consider:

  1. Do you speak peace to yourself? 
  2. Which tip listed above do you want to try to apply this week?
  3. Do you believe that it is possible to change the way you think?

Recommendation: Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

Finding Peace – Part 2

Whole. Beautiful. Pure. Peace. Love. Abundance. Connection.

This was the beginning.

Disruption. Shame. Guilt. Stress. Confusion. Sorrow. Pain. Loss. Friction. Disconnection.

This was the fall of mankind. 

Ever since sin entered into the world, war – both externally and internally – exists. Stress and strain is a part of the day-to-day. What an astonishing thought to consider the world truly did know peace once before!

Our souls were designed to be in connection with the Creator. In that connection, we experience a deep, pure peace. This unity in the spirit is what is right and whole, because that is our original design.

In order to bring us back to peace with God, there had to be a major act to reunify what was severed. Such brokenness could only be covered by a pure sacrifice. For it is the putting to death of sin that conquers it. Christ, in wholeness, purity, and perfection, died on the cross to fulfill the need for the sacrifice. And His resurrection proved that He conquered sin, because He conquered death, which is the ultimate effect of sin.

When I think about the gospel, what Christ did on the cross, I tend to connect the act to His great love for us. Another thought is also of His power. Rarely have I considered the death and resurrection of Jesus in terms of peace.

So much violence happened to bring about the greatest offering of peace. Through the cross, we are reconciled to God. The union is no longer broken, but at peace. We are no longer enemies of God. There is peace.

So what does this mean for us now?

We can prepare our hearts with peace. This happens by speaking the gospel (Good News) to ourselves. When those anxious thoughts threaten your mind – your peace – what do you say to them? Do you entertain the rabbit trail of anxiety, thinking of the worst-case-scenario or do you stop it at some point and proclaim the gospel over those thoughts?

Here is what I have to do on a daily basis. (And I am very much aware when I don’t, because I wind up feeling stressed, sad, or irritated.) When thoughts pop up of tragedy, hardship, things I cannot control, etc., I have to remind myself of this: Even if, God. But, God. Those statements are only powerful and helpful if I am believing in the God who is the Gospel. Which means, believing Him to be a God who is love, who is peace, who is joy, who is comfort. The God who took upon ultimate suffering so that I can experience peace – not only in eternity, but in the here and now. 

It is with resurrecting power that He provides peace. Peace that conquered the grave. Peace that passes all understanding. Peace that doesn’t make sense to the world. Peace that is gifted to us in Himself.

If it has been awhile since you experienced peace (perhaps you are having a hard time even remembering a time), I encourage you to get simple with finding it. Focus first on the gospel. Remind yourself of the truth, the power in the magnitude of the sacrifice, and the aim of it being so you can be reconciled to God, thereby receiving peace. When this is the utmost thought, the other anxious, stressful, disrupting thoughts have to come in line to the truth. One will always win out, but we have the option to choose which one.

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

“And, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15)

For more information on Ephesians 6:15, particularly the historical references of preparing the feet, I highly encourage taking the time to read this article: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/how-do-i-put-on-the-gospel-of-peace-as-spiritual-armor.html. This is well worth the time to read! She gives more insight on the gospel of peace and how to wear the shoes of peace. 

Question to consider:

How do you speak the gospel of peace to yourself and to others?