Step One

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Photo Credit: Kim Clayton Lance

Psalm 37:11 says, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” The meek. The quiet. The gentle. The obedient. 2 Corinthians 13:11 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” The humble. The yielding. The submissive. 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

I was driving my dad to a doctor’s appointment a few days ago and we were reflecting on the convoluted pathway to making things right between two estranged people or entities. Together we have 140+ years between us and similar thoughts about what step one looks like. It is tiny. It is timid. It might backfire. But it is possible. Only possible because of God’s grace and mercy. The kind of grace and mercy that removed the spiritual blinders of our hearts and revealed the power of redemption through Jesus Christ, to me and to my dad.

So here’s the thing. One courageous text, one courageous phone call, one contact, one gesture, one meeting – can be a good step one. Many “start overs” can be involved. Not like a New Year’s resolution, but an honest attempt to lay down our lives again and again. Pain is required. Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Necessary Endings, says that pain is supposed to move us to do something. Step one. That something should reflect hopefulness. That something should encourage forgiveness, but not be confused with reconciliation, because the two things are different.

We can be whole even if reconciliation with a brother doesn’t happen. It takes only one to forgive, but two to reconcile. Reconciliation between humans is the dream, but forgiveness by the one is a wonderful step one. Step one gives you peace and it doesn’t hinge on the other one. And real peace comes from the One Who literally gave His life so that we could be reconciled with the Father. Through the Power of One (Jesus) – the One Who opened our spiritual eyes to know Him as the Loving Reconciler of our broken relationship with God, we have the only reconciliation that really matters.

But don’t stop trying. Take step one. Release the thing that someone owes you. The apology, the correct version of the truth, the acknowledgement of responsibility, the return of property, damage-fixing, comfortable togetherness, kindness, love, respect… Forgiveness doesn’t require a response from the other party. Step one. Endure the hurt and give God the opportunity to manifest the life of Jesus in your reaching out. Release your expectations. Except – always have the expectation that Jesus is continually at work doing His Father’s redemptive work. Always have the hope that reconciliation may occur through the Power of One – Savior. Always believe that forgiveness may lead to reconciliation.

Step one. Chase away the fog of brokenness. Attempt to mend fences. The meek are gentle while obedient. Colossians 3:13-14 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

 

King of Hearts

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Psalm 37:37b says, “…There is a future for the man of peace.” John 14:27 says, “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.” That peace. I want it.

A FaceBook post by Timothy Keller on Black Friday challenged me. He said, “To learn and digest the Word of God requires a fight – we must fight our busy schedules, our distracted minds, our stubborn hearts, and the world’s opinion and disdain.” No kidding. But, I still want that peace. I still want His Word. I’m willing to fight.

The Peace Jesus gives comes with a fight. Our busy schedules. Our lists. Our calendars. Our checkbooks. All the things that expose who we are and where we are heading. With no room for spending time with God in His Word, no room for really hearing Him, no room for knowing the condition of our hearts, Peace comes with a fight.

The Peace Jesus gives comes with an upstream battle. The Black Fridays of our distracted minds, the mania of holiday gift-buying, maybe even slavery to perfectionism – all stand in our way. God’s Word promises to help us replace those frenzied thoughts. Romans 8:6b says, “…The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”  It is the diet that really counts. And has eternal ramifications. But, a fight is required.

The Peace Jesus gives comes with a difficult journey. Our stubborn hearts interrupt forward movement again and again. Romans 3:10-12 reminds us, “…There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away… there is no one who does good, not even one.” But, thankfully, God sought us when we didn’t seek Him. He sent us a Savior and a King. He redeems our stubborn hearts, but a fight worth fighting is required.

The Peace Jesus gives comes with a great struggle. The world’s opinion and disdain. Surely the world’s a very hostile place, spiritually dark, divisive, dying. Opposition to believers is the world’s standard operating procedure. John 8:12 promises, “When Jesus again spoke to the people, He said, ‘I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ” Still, a fight is required. There is still time to invite the King of Light into our lives. Not marginally, but fully.

There are so many implications regarding that special baby in that manger so long ago – the King of our hearts. I John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Only made possible by the incarnation of God through Jesus Christ. God’s one and only Son Who made it possible for us to be God’s legitimate children. The perfect Lamb, the perfect Savior, the perfect Lord, the perfect King.

God freely gives us His Spirit to gradually transform our hearts to resemble King Jesus (the ultimate reason for the Christmas season). Hearts to resemble the thoughts, attitudes, and actions of the Son of God. Unloading our appetite for worldly things. Ending our doubt of God’s goodness. Throwing off sinful habits. More and more love for Him, His Word, and people. But, a fight is required.

Against all the odds, come to the King of Hearts – King Jesus. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37b-38).

Finally Peace. Believe, drink. Flow with living water. Let Jesus be the King of your heart.