Raising World-Changers, Part 7

Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”

I had intended on having this post up days ago, but I honestly didn’t know how to write about being a peacemaker when the only emotion I was feeling was anger; anger at the depravity of those who committed the Boston bombings, anger at the lack of journalistic integrity in reporting the facts, anger at those in authority who refuse to answer questions they don’t want to deal with. Frankly, instead of acting as an agent of peace, my initial response is to raise a ruckus with my words. I’ll be honest. I want to tell people off, shout from the mountaintop all the injustices I see in both the Christian and non-Christian world. And while I’m at it, I want to make sure God knows that I’m not happy and not having fun. And as long as I’m being so bold, I need Him to know that I’m mad at Him.

As is usually the case, the disciple I relate to the most is Peter, and not the part of Peter that Christ built His church on. Oh no. I’m talking about the Peter who spoke first and asked questions later, who acted on impulse without thinking. The one who cut off the ear of the soldier as he was about to take Jesus away. I would have done the same thing. Imagine Peter’s frustration. Even though he’d been told that this moment would come, that following Christ would be difficult and often unfair, that because of his sin and the sins of the whole world this soldier would drag him off ushering in the beginnings of what would be a long several hours, it still frustrated him to the degree that he took action and not the right kind. I’m sure the flurry of emotion and activity got to him, and he snapped.

How in the world are we suppose act peacefully in a violent world? How do we get our kids to buy into this idea of being someone who seeks peace, despite the situation, rather than succumbing to antagonistic tendencies? The only answer I can come up with is based on a conversation I had with a dear friend and one backed up by Scripture. There is no way to deal with injustices, frustrations, hurt feelings, anything negative without trusting God with all of it; trusting that He knows about whatever it is that’s got our knickers in a stitch, trusting Him to take care of it His way, trusting Him when He says that someday everything will be made right. Really, some days all we have to fall back on is simple trust, and for me that remains one of the most challenging things. But God doesn’t ask something of us He can’t provide, and He doesn’t expect us to give something we don’t have.

“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” (John 14:27, NIV).

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

I’ve always thought that the saying “the joy is in the journey” was a bunch of bunk. Just get me to the destination, already! But if we would allow ourselves to rest in the sovereignty of God, the journey would be much smoother, and we would be better agents of peace. Not only that, but peacemakers are called children of God. It’s another chance to make God famous in the chaos. Everything around us is falling apart, but if God’s children aren’t it would speak volumes to the world. Not everyone would listen and respond positively, but some would. Some would take a second look and wonder where we got our peaceful outlook, not a Pollyanna happiness that everything is alright, but a genuine belief that everything will be alright, and that Someone’s got it all under control.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15a, NIV).

Lord,

Thank you that you see everything. Nothing is a surprise to you. Thank you that you do not ask of us what you will not provide. Help us to be peacemakers, to seek it above everything else, to die to our entitlements so that peace can not only live in us but also flourish spilling out to those around us. And please comfort the people of Boston, Lord we pray.

Amen

Raising World-Changers, Part 6

Matthew 5:8

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (NIV).

Why is a pure heart such a big deal to God?

I was listening to the most fascinating conversation this morning taking place on the radio between a secular talk show host and a rabbi. The rabbi stated that we shouldn’t judge people based on their beliefs but instead on their actions. He gave the example of two different neighbors. On the one side of you lives a guy who believes you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Despite his belief about you, he poisons your cat, yells at your kids, and shoots out the tires on your car because it’s parked in front of his house. On the other side of you is a guy who really can’t stand you and makes sure you know it. He won’t speak or wave and is just plain rude for no reason. But your kids are alone at night, and there’s trouble in the neighborhood so he goes over to check on them to ensure they are safe until you get home. The rabbi asked the host if he had to choose between the two, whom would he rather live next to? The radio host emphatically chose the guy who couldn’t stand him because his actions were good thereby, proving the rabbi’s statement: we can’t judge one another based on their beliefs but on what they do.

This philosophy, though completely understandable in a culture desperate to rid itself of mass shootings and suicide bombings, doesn’t hold water in the Kingdom of God. Good works and belief in truth are not mutually exclusive.

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b, NIV).

“Above all else, guard your heart for it is the well-spring of life” (Prov. 4:23, NIV).

When it comes to good works I think of some friends of my husband and mine. This couple holds to the belief that good works will get you to heaven. We have often said that if that were true, they would get there long before we would because they are such good people in every way.  No question

Here’s what God says about our good works:

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6a, NIV).

I once heard a pastor say that when Scripture talks about our good deeds being like filthy rags that it was likening these rags to that which a woman used back in the Old Testament during her menstrual cycle. Not a pretty picture.

Every once in awhile when I am studying the Bible I will go to the original Greek or Hebrew and see if I can get down to the bare bones of what Scripture is saying. It often times lends deeper meaning to the passage or verse making it come alive. In this particular verse it doesn’t seem necessary because the verse is so straightforward. Upon studying it, however, I found the following quotes absolutely fascinating.

Kardia-heart; “’the affective center of our being’ and the capacity of moral preference” (see P. Hughs, 2 Cor, 354, Helps Word-studies);

“’desire-producer that makes us tick’” (G. Archer), “i.e. our ‘desire-decisions’ that establish who we really are” (Helps Word-studies).

The capacity of moral preference.  We see this everyday in our culture. That which takes resident in the soul of a person meets the rest of the world head-on by one single decision.

What does this have to do with raising a world-changer? It’s hard to do the right thing in a situation that practically begs for bad behavior. For instance, if my kid hasn’t studied for a test and then becomes tempted to cheat off of his neighbor but doesn’t, does it matter why he didn’t? What drives him to refrain from giving into that temptation? An intellectual belief that cheating is wrong may work a couple of times, but not every time. After awhile if a few other kids are doing it and getting away with it, he’s probably going to cave and just go for it. Why? Because his actions are based on a heart attitude. He needs to be driven by a heart that belongs to God. So no matter how unprepared he is for his test, he wouldn’t dream of disobeying God in this way.

An intellectual belief isn’t enough to change behavior. The demons know and believe that God exist, and it hasn’t changed their behavior!

Back to my question of why a pure heart is so important. Because it is the essence of who we are, and from it flows everything we do. If our hearts aren’t right with God, pure in motive, our good deeds are completely worthless. In an effort to know where my kids’ hearts are I’ve started asking them questions like why it’s important to treat others with respect, why we shouldn’t steal, why do they believe church is important, etc. The conversations have been enlightening to say the least.

How about you? Do you know where your kids stand on the important issues? Do you know why they believe what they believe?

Raising World-Changers, Part 5

Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

It’s no secret that mercy defines itself in the life of Christ. Mercifully, He doesn’t give us what our sin deserves and the Father’s holiness demands.

“But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4,5, NIV).

Because of this character quality in Him, He demands it in us. The life of a Christ-follower will be defined by the mercy he/she shows another.

When I was in college a girl on my floor ended up in the infirmary after having her wisdom teeth pulled. She was a mutual friend to both me and my roommate, and she was in excruciating pain. I don’t remember the details. I do remember hearing about how my roommate spent the next 24 hours with her changing the packing in her mouth and sitting with our friend and getting no sleep. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I heard about it because that has always been my roommate’s personality. She breathes mercy on everyone she meets, one of the kindest, most thoughtful people you will ever meet.

Mercy has been shown to me countless times in my life. There is a reason I don’t go to the library very often. Though it is a frugal way to read books, if you’re me every book checked out represents a late fee! One time I owed the library $20 for a couple of books that I had forgotten about. They even started sending me “reminders” in the mail that I had something of theirs. Frustrated with myself for my lack of responsibility, I marched into that library ready to pay. I had made my peace with the fact that my forgetfulness had consequences. Instead, the lady behind the desk, pulled up my account, looked at the amount, looked at me and said, “Oh, we’ll just waive that fee. Have a nice day.” I couldn’t believe it!

Like all of the other character traits in Matthew 5 that Jesus wants us to display, mercy is a heart issue, but for me I find it a little easier to explain this one to my kids. Mercy, like meekness, is how we behave when no one is looking. As parents we put so much emphasis on sports and academic pursuits. We want our kids to be the best they can be, possibly carving out a spot on the scholarship list and making a name for themselves. I admit I have fallen into this thinking of wanting my kids to stand out in whatever it is they are pursuing. There’s nothing wrong with doing your best at whatever you are doing. In fact, anything less is wrong. However, the older I get and the older my kids get, I find I am less interested in their sports abilities and anything else and far more interested in their character.

Before every baseball game I tell my son to play well but to be an encourager and a leader to his teammates. I don’t know how those words play out on the bench, but my message to him is always the same: I couldn’t care less about his baseball abilities. What matters is how he acts towards his teammates. What does he say when a teammate strikes out or misses an easy catch?

I’ll never forget a fifth grade soccer game my son played in. It was the last one of the season. The game was tied, last quarter, and my son made the winning goal…for the other team. Devastation is putting it mildly, and we both could have crawled in a hole. While most of the boys were fussing at him, one teammate came up to him, patted him on the back, and told him it was no big deal. Don’t worry about it.

Mercy. The only thing standing between my son and total self-loathing. Mercy is the one thing that can take a person already aware of their depravity and lift them up to human status. We have the power to make or break the way a person feels about themselves and their circumstances by whether or not we show them mercy. Not only that, but the Bible makes it clear that what goes around comes around. To those who are merciful, mercy will be shown to them. Simple.

So I’m curious. How do you explain mercy in your family? What are some practical ways you are teaching your kids to show mercy in the everyday? I’d love to hear about in the comments section below.