Saturday, April 14, 2012

Perfect Peace - God's Timing

 In this next installment of "Perfect Peace - Hope for the Weary Soul," we're going to look at something almost every believer in the US probably struggles with to some extent. Some to a great extent. Let's start looking at this passage in Isaiah that should get us right into it.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  --Isaiah 55:8-9 

People who worry often have one thing in common: they have lots of thoughts.

Consider your present situation, the one that concerns you the most (the thing you’re always thinking about). How many thoughts have you had about it? Dozens, hundreds?

For some time I’ve been seeking to become simpler in my outlook on life, and far more dependent on God than on myself. But a while ago I discovered a basic problem, an inner conflict between that desire and the man I had become.

I had become someone who thinks way too much.

I think too much and pray too little. Hours in thought, minutes in prayer. That was me.

The sheer volume of thoughts I’d pile up trying to figure out solutions to my problems revealed whose mind and whose thoughts I trusted in the most. Mine. But I also realized, many of my problems were too big to think my way out of. And looking back, many of the solutions I came up with just made matters worse. They left me weary and more fearful as I stood gazing into an uncertain future.

But this promise in Isaiah 55:8 brings good news. God also has thoughts, many thoughts, about the very situations that perplex us. His thoughts and His ways (what He does with His thoughts) are not just a little different than ours. God says, they are not the same at all.

We don’t think like He does or do things the way He does.

But there’s more. God’s thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than ours. The gap between our ideas and His are as high as the heavens are above the earth.

That’s no small gap.

God feels no stress as He manages the wonders of a universe. I feel stress as I ponder an unpaid bill. As I pondered this gap between God’s wisdom and mine, I realized why I found it hard to trust in God’s thoughts and ways, and often prefer my own (foolish as that may be).

God’s ways seem much slower than mine

Whatever my situation, I can usually think of a handful of things that, if done right away, would fix my problem. If I were God, I’d do those few things right now and solve this problem immediately.

But that’s not what happens.

I don’t have the power to pull off what I’m thinking and God refuses to cooperate. So my problem continues, far longer than I think it should. I do pray, at least some. But then I look for an instant breakthrough. When it doesn’t come, I’m tempted to stop praying and start thinking some more. More of my thoughts, not His.

Once as I prayed and pondered this passage, I believe the Holy Spirit began to speak to me about God’s apparent slowness. I realized that God’s ways are slower because He takes all the necessary details into account in His solutions. I may think of 3 things that need to happen. If God would just do these 3 things, my trial could be over. But God sees 30 things (or maybe 300 things) that need to happen. His thoughts are perfect and His ways are, as well.

Now might be a good time to mention the "Slow Children at Play" sign. When I used to see this sign, it seemed like it was an insult to children, rather than a warning to motorists. That's because it doesn't appear to have any pause after the word "Slow" (it intends to tell motorists to slow down, because children are at play around here). We might think the sign should read, "Slow God at Work."

But God’s plan only seems slower because God is infinitely wise…and we are not. When we look back at other situations God has rescued us from, we can plainly see this is true. We see His wisdom unveiled and vindicated. We see dozens of things God caused or allowed to happen―things we had never considered―that resulted in just the right solution to our dilemma.

We see things that, at the time, appeared to show God either not paying attention to our troubles or moving way too slow. Here's a prayer that might help get our thoughts a little more in sync with His:

Lord, today I defer to your wisdom and thank You for the evidences of grace already visible in this situation. I thank you even more for the promises in Your Word and Your abounding patience toward me. And for all the testimonies of past situations where Your faithfulness has passed every test. Help me to trust you fully in this new situation and release it completely into Your capable hands. Help me to pray more about this throughout the day, and think less. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Perfect Peace - The Holy Spirit's Role

This is the 5th post on my blog on the topic of "Perfect Peace - Hope for the Weary Soul." Another foundational discussion, building on the last one where we talked about how true peace is actually a person, or...comes to us by having a close relationship with that person, Jesus Christ. I'm referring to more than the mere fact of whether one is a Christian.

Clearly, you can be a Christian and not enjoy Perfect Peace. But this is something God intends for us to experience. To help us, He provides the most wonderful gift. The gift of Himself. The gift of the Holy Spirit.

But how many of us really know the third Person of the Trinity? God, the Holy Spirit?

Of all the Gospels, God tells us the most about what happened at the Last Supper in the Gospel of John. Four whole chapters in fact (John 13-16). Jesus said a great deal to His Disciples on that last evening and, apparently, God wanted us to hear it. One of the primary topics Jesus discussed was the Holy Spirit. But first, let’s look at something Jesus said about Himself.

“I am the Vine, you are the Branches.” (John 15:5)

This is a familiar passage and a powerful metaphor. Because it is familiar, we can sometimes forget what was happening when Jesus said it. It was the eve of His death. After three years of being with His disciples day and night, Jesus was about to leave them. And not just for a short journey. He was about to die a violent death at the hands of his enemies.

Yet Jesus shares this picture of a Vine and Branches, specifically drawing attention to the closeness of the disciples’ union with Him. Jesus was the Vine and they were the Branches, which meant they were to live in complete dependence upon Him. The disciples would have known all about vineyards, vines and branches. They would know the branches must remain connected to the vine to receive life, and to have any chance of bearing fruit. Jesus uses this metaphor to show His disciples how they should relate to Him.

They must remain this close. But how can they? He is leaving them this very night, for good.

To strengthen this idea of total dependence Jesus adds these words: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” And yet, this very night, He will be taken away from them. Still, He tells them here, in essence, don’t do anything from now on apart from me.

In light of what was about to happen that night, it might make more sense for Jesus to say, “Remember Me always.” He actually does say this earlier in the night when He led them through the first sacrament of Communion. Then He used the metaphor of His body like Bread being broken, and His blood was like the wine they would drink. And He did say, “Do this in memory of me.”

But here, a little while later that night, we have this new metaphor with the Vine and Branches. Jesus isn’t speaking of remembering Him. He’s talking about an ongoing relationship with Him that He wants them to have, well beyond the horrific events of this night. And clearly, He intends this relationship to be so real, so close and so strong that the best way to describe it is to call to mind the relationship between a Vine and its Branches.

The reason John wrote down all these extra words about the Last Supper is because he knew this is also the kind of relationship Jesus wants to have with everyone who would believe in Him. That includes you and me. Today, right now. And He wants this kind of relationship with us every day we live on this earth, until the time we see Him face to face in Heaven.

Looking back at that moment, it must have been perplexing to consider how such an intimate, ongoing relationship with Christ could be possible, since He was about to die and be taken from them that very night.

But Jesus doesn’t leave them in confusion, to ponder a nice but irrelevant metaphor that can’t possibly connect to real life. He tells them exactly how this new, intimate, dependent relationship with Him would be possible. In fact, experiencing it for themselves was part of the reason He was about to give His life for them (and for us) on the cross.

This is why He introduces them to the Holy Spirit that night, the third Person in the Trinity.

He is the One who had been with Jesus from the beginning, and whose sweet Presence and fellowship united Jesus to His Father while He was on earth. Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit six times that night (that makes introducing the Holy Spirit the primary topic of the night).

The first time, Jesus said this: “If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth…” (John 14:15-17). Here, Jesus identifies the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth.” Then He says He is coming as “another Helper” (Jesus being the first Helper). And then, to offset the sad news that He would be leaving them physically that night, Jesus says, “He will abide (remain) with you forever.”

In the very next verse, Jesus adds this: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

This can only mean that a primary role of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers is to serve as a living link to Jesus. Jesus comes to us through the union we have with the Holy Spirit. And not only Jesus, but the Father as well. A few verses later in verse 23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

The Father and the Son make their home in our hearts through the person of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who unites the Branches to the Vine.

After the Last Supper, it is abundantly clear that the early disciples got what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit. We see them constantly talking about the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts and the epistles. And it is very evident…they related to Him in a personal and dependent way.
In contrast, I’d say many modern Christians don’t get what Jesus said, and don’t relate to the Holy Spirit the same way. In my observation, as a Christian for over 35 years (25 years as a pastor), I’d say many modern Christians relate to a “different Trinity” than what the apostles and early Christians experienced.

Instead of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, for some of us, I think our “functional Trinity” looks more like:

•    The Father, Son and The Church
•    The Father, Son and The Bible
•    The Father, Son and Theology
•    The Father, Son and The Pastor

Many of us depend on things like the church (people in the church), the Bible, theology books, or a pastor in a way God didn’t intend. Certainly, these are important things, good things, necessary things. But they are not the Vine and cannot give us life and peace. They are a means God uses to help us. But we must learn to relate and depend on the other, primary “Helper” Jesus talked about at the Last Supper.

The Holy Spirit.

We need the Holy Spirit every bit as much as Jesus said we would, every bit as much as the early disciples did. Especially if we have any hope of experiencing Perfect Peace. The Good News is…if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit already lives within you, and is eager to help you draw closer to God.

It’s my hope that over the course of time, you will become much more familiar with this most precious gift―the Holy Spirit―and become far more comfortable relating to Him. Not just every day but, as Jesus did, throughout every moment of every day.

For it is the Holy Spirit who will help us to keep “our minds stayed on Him.” Let's close with this challenging question? Do you believe in the Trinity? If you are a Christian, likely you do. But is your "functional Trinity" the Father, Son AND the Holy Spirit?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Perfect Peace - True Peace is a Person

True Peace is a Person?

This is the 4th post in the Perfect Peace series. You can find the others by scrolling down a bit or looking on the right sidebar for the label "Perfect Peace - Hope for the Weary Soul." Last time, we talked about the Foundation of True Peace (something that has to be in place for us to ever experience real peace inside). Feel free to read it if you're just starting now. Basically, we're talking about the need for our hearts to be at peace with God, and what keeps that from being real.

In earlier posts, I’ve talked about what Perfect Peace is. The secret is found in this Scripture (and in dozens more like it, which we’ll meditate on in future posts):

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You,because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Do you see the promise here? What is being offered to us? Perfect Peace. Do you also see what this perfect peace hinges on? What makes it possible?

You will keep him…”  “…whose mind is stayed on You…”  “…because he trusts in You.”

You, you, you (not you or me, but Him).

Perfect Peace is not an elusive state of mind or the mere absence of trouble in one’s life. It’s found in a close relationship with a Person. The Scriptures tell us this person is Jesus Christ. Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3). Jesus is the "You" Isaiah is talking about. Perfect Peace is held out to us as a promise by God to those who keep their minds “stayed” (focused, set or fixed) on Christ.

You might think, well, I already know Jesus; I am a Christian (I’m sure that’s true for many reading this blog). So then…you already know the secret to Perfect Peace.

Then why do you still fret and worry?

I’m not trying to confuse you or make this complicated. But clearly there is more to experiencing Perfect Peace than just being a Christian. If Perfect Peace came automatically with conversion, Christians would never worry or fear, never become anxious, never fret.

If you’re like me, you’ve known moments of real peace. Moments when you’ve trusted God fully for your life, for everything going on in your life. And in those moments, you knew real peace. The problem is…the word “moments.”

The moments didn’t last.

The promise of Isaiah 26:3 is not to have moments of peace in our lives. The promise is that God would “keep us in Perfect Peace.” This sounds a lot more stable and lasting than mere moments.

So why is it that most of us only know moments of peace?

I believe the problem stems from our embedded tendency to want to live independent from God. Simply put, we don’t want to need God as much as we do.

Think about the first thing Adam and Eve did after The Fall. They hid from God and tried to fix the problem themselves. This is the inherited tendency of all mankind. We’d prefer it if God would make this perfect peace something we receive once, then it stays with us the rest of our lives, regardless of how close to God we live, day to day.

It is true we experience peace with God when we are saved (what we looked at last time). In that, His wrath is removed from us and we are no longer His enemies. But the peace that calms our fears and worries, the peace that assures us everything will be okay (even when it seems things are anything but)…this peace is not something that comes once in full measure, and stays with us the rest of our lives.

But I don’t need to tell you that. You already know this (it’s why you’re reading this blog). The perfect peace Isaiah is referring to is not a one-time gift given at conversion. It’s a gift given to those who draw near to God each day and stay near to God throughout the day.

Because this peace is a person. It is directly connected to the level of relationship we maintain with Jesus Christ. He will keep us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him. Jesus enjoyed this peace and experienced it every day on earth, because He kept His mind stayed on His Father. He wants us to enjoy this same level of peace as we keep our minds stayed on Him.

To help us experience this grace, Jesus gives us a wonderful gift. The gift of Himself. God is willing to relate to us in a day to day, abiding relationship.

Next time we'll talk what the Lord has done to make it possible for us to experience an ever-deepening relationship with Him, so that we can experience a fresh dose of God's peace every day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Updates - The Discovery is Releasing!

It's Wednesday as I write this, mid-week in the last week of March. My 6th novel and newest release, The Discovery, is scheduled to release on April 1st. But it's already out in all the online stores like Amazon, B&N and The Kindle, Nook and other Ebook versions should release on time, April 1st (but that's not far away...just this Sunday).

Click here to go to my website if you'd like a shortcut to order it online. Beneath the book cover on my homepage are 3 buttons to order from whichever online store you prefer.

Some Great Early Reviews

There are already 7 Customer reviews up on Amazon as of today, 6 of them give it 5 Stars. Here are a couple of clips:

"This is a story within a story so masterfully developed by Dan Walsh that it is almost impossible to describe...When done I realized the story was so satisfying it should be read slowly and every word, line, allowed to melt in the mind. I'll reread it that way, as soon as I can get it out of my wife's grip."

--Harold Wolf "Doc" (Wells, IN)

"A suspense Dan Walsh? I couldn't get my mind around it. So unlike his writing, until ... I read more. Until I was captivated, enthralled, with the story of an impossible love, a doomed life. A life pre-determined by the circumstances of war; a life that held value, but where no value could be found. Walsh has such a unique gift of writing that he draws the reader into not only the story, but the era...I don't remember ever reading a complete novel within a novel, but Walsh integrates the two masterfully. When Michael discovers his famous novelist grandfather's hidden manuscript, we aren't just told about the effect it has on him, nor are we given only snippets of it. We read it with him, the complete novel. What a treat to read two books, one inserted in the other, with two separate heroes, Michael and Ben...The Discovery is two stories twined together, yet separate. It's a keep you on the edge of your seat novel(s). Another keeper for your Walsh collection."

--Bonnie Engstrom, (Scotsdale, AZ)

"The Discovery is such a profound novel and so incredibly moving that I finished it in less than 24 hours. Michael Warner's grandfather has died and left him his house in Charleston and made him an instant millionaire, but no one knows anything about the grandfather's early life. Absolutely nothing. He was an incredibly famous writer but never had his picture taken for a book jacket, never published a photo with an interview. Nothing. When Michael takes possession of the house, he finds an old yellowed paged manuscript written by his grandfather, which he presumes was a novel his grandfather had written but never published. Michael begins to read and then things get very interesting. I will not reveal more so as not to spoil this book for those who haven't read it, but the book was worth every cent I paid for it. It was incredibly moving and if someone doesn't make a Hallmark movie of it, it's is a crying shame!"

-- Susan Snodgrass (SC)

 What's Up Next for The Discovery?

Magnolia Plantation
Discover The Discovery's Settings - Charleston Pics - Two weeks ago, my wife Cindi and I took a getaway to 2 of the historic cities featured in the book, Charleston and Savannah. We toured all the places Michael and Ben visit in the story and took pictures. You can see them on my Author Page on Facebook, by clicking here. If you haven't already "Liked" the page, just click on Like to get past the Welcome box. Then click on "Photos." You'll see the album with The Discovery pics right near the front.

Local Book signings in the Daytona Beach Area - There are 2 Booksignings planned near my hometown. But neither one are in local Bookstores. In both, I will do an old fashioned Book Reading, as well as some Q&A with the audience. The first will be in Port Orange at the Java Jungle, a local coffeehouse with a nice meeting room on the side. It will be on April 10th at 7pm. The 2nd is at the end of the month, Saturday, April 28th, at the Halifax Historical Museum in the downtown area on Beach Street. This one should be especially fun. The staff down there helped me a lot with the research for the book, and much of the story actually takes place nearby, in the 1940's.

Two Major Blogs Featuring The Discovery - In the first week of April, I will be visiting 2 highly traveled blogs on the internet. The first blog is called Seekerville on Thursday, April 5th. It's got hundreds of members and thousands of people visit it each month, many of them Christian writers seeking to write fiction more effectively (I recommend this blog to every one who asks me for advice about writing). I've written an article for writers and will be meeting with them throughout the day to talk about this and my new book. The 2nd blog is with a friend and a real sweet lady from Texas, Lena Nelson Dooley. Lena's written dozens of books. She'll be interviewing me on her blog, A Christian Writer's World, and giving away a free book. I'll be visiting Lena's blog on April 8th.

Major Blog Tour throughout the US and Canada - In the 2nd week of April, from the 9th through the 15th, The Discovery will be on its "Blog Tour." Approximately 70 bloggers in the US and Canada are reading the book now, and during that week will each feature a review of the book on their blog. It's always a blast to visit these bloggers and see what they have to say (so far, most of them have been very kind).

Interviews about The Discovery with National Publications - Not sure of the exact dates yet, but RT Book Reviews magazine and USA Today plan to feature interviews with me about The Discovery in April. I'll post the details about these interviews when I have them on Facebook and Twitter. I'm also doing an interview for

Dutch Publisher Picks Up Right to the Book - We've been informed that Uitgeverij de Banier bv, a publisher in the Netherlands has signed a contract to publish a Dutch version of The Discovery. This version should be out in a year or so, after being translated from English.

Update on My New Series with Gary Smalley

Dr. Gary Smalley
At the end of this week, I will send in the manuscript for The Dance, the first novel in the 4-book series I'm co-authoring with Dr. Gary Smalley. We've been working on this since October. After my editor at Revell reviews it, we'll do the final rewrites. I'll also be turning into her this week the synopsis for Book Two (title not picked out yet). I've already begun the research, and plan to start writing this book by mid-April.

The Dance should be on the shelves about this time next year.We've also chosen a title and theme for the 4 books -- the Restoration Series. The first book opens as Jim and Marilyn Anderson's 27-year marriage appears on the verge of collapse. But we believe God is all about healing hearts and restoring broken lives. The series will follow the Anderson family, as they face a number of real-life obstacles and hurdles, the kind of challenges many of us deal with every day.

In mid-June, Gary and I will fly up to Grand Rapids, MI to meet with the sales and marketing staff at Revell to discuss strategies for promoting The Dance and the new Restoration series (as well as get some pictures of the two of us together!).

More updates to come, as details get firmed up!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Foundation of True Peace

This is the 3rd post to a new feature in my blog - "Perfect Peace - Hope for the Weary Soul." Planning to make this at least a weekly update. I've been quite busy this past week, finishing up the final edits on my first novel co-authored with Gary Smalley and developing the storyline for Book 2. I'll try to post a more fuller update sometime this week. If you're curious, feel free to "Like" my author page on Facebook (usually post to that once a day). You can get there by clicking here.

But enough on that, I thought before we look further into the specific, practical things God's Word says about experiencing His peace, we should lay a proper foundation. So let's talk about the foundation of True Peace, or...what is necessary to experience real peace in our souls at a foundational level. And also why the overwhelming majority of people never seem to experience it.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said many profound things to His disciples; some of them were troubling to hear. At one point to comfort their hearts, He told them this: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27, NKJV). Peace is a wonderful thing, especially in times of trouble.

Everyone wants peace in their personal life and the world to be at peace, right?

Well, not everybody. It can’t be everybody or we’d have it already, wouldn’t we? I grew up in the sixties, during the height of the Vietnam War. I vividly remember the “peace protests” on the news. Thousands of protestors fighting with hundreds of policemen in riot gear, holding up signs that cried out for peace. Think of the irony: thousands of people screaming, swearing, punching, throwing rocks, breaking windows, being injured and causing injuries to others in an effort to bring about world peace. Some “peace protestors” actually set off bombs and killed people.

True peace is an elusive thing.

I read an article by a military general who’d said in the seven-thousand years of recorded history, man has only known peace on earth 5% of the time. Isn’t that amazing…and sad? I think I believe that statistic. Just looking back at the last one hundred years, it certainly seems true. All the men who fought and survived World War I are dead now but, at the time, it was so horrible and so devastating and conducted on such a massive scale, when it was over it was dubbed “the war to end all wars.”

People at the time were certain man had finally learned his lesson, that whatever our differences may be, war was not the answer. And yet, just twenty-one years later World War II began, plunging the world into an even larger conflict on an even grander scale, killing over five times as many people.

Why? How could such a thing be possible?

Five years later, came the Korean War. Then in the sixties and early seventies, the Vietnam War. Besides these conflicts, there was the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Then, just as that threat seemed to dissipate when the Soviet Union fell apart, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the Gulf War began. Less than a decade later, 9-11 occurred and a new war on terror began; our soldiers were off fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These are just the conflicts that have involved the United States. Dozens of other wars between other nations occurred during this time.

I mean…can’t we all just…get along? Apparently not.

Like I said, true peace is an elusive thing. In the world, and in our hearts. If you ask me, only one thing is required for wars to keep happening and relational conflicts between people to keep occurring, from now until the end of the age. Do you know what that one thing is?

People being born.

That’s it. Here’s the equation: Keep having babies = No peace on earth.

Everyone knows those cuddly, cute, almost angelic little beings we take home from the hospital will turn on their parents and start demanding their own way, even before their first birthday. It happens without exception. Doesn’t matter if they’re a boy or girl, born here or in any other country or culture around the world. Children will rebel against anyone who tries to tell them what to do, even when those leading them have the best interest of the child at heart.

Why is this?

Have you ever wondered why we never have to teach or train children how to be bad or misbehave? Every single one of them knows how to do this instinctively. There are no exceptions to this rule. It’s as certain as any universal law of science. Children will be selfish and seek to do as they please. They will argue and fight with each other, and with those who try to guide them.

Again…why is this so? Especially if it’s true that man is born basically good. Where is the evidence for this…basic goodness? I see no trace of it. All we see, and all we’ve ever seen since mankind appeared on the earth, is conflict between people. In marriages and families, at school and work, in neighborhoods and cities, and between nations. Why?

The Bible tells us plainly. We are all born in a condition it refers to as “sin.” What is the essence of sin? It is man going his own way, doing his own thing (or at least seeking to), while living with other men and women seeking the very same thing. And all this without any interest or desire in seeking to please the will of Him who made us. In Isaiah 53:6, it says: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.”

This is why we have no peace, not in the world or within our hearts; nor can we ever have true peace on our own. Because the foundation of true peace is missing. True peace can only come to us, is only possible for us, when we enter into peace with God. The very next line in Isaiah 53 says: “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity (sin) of us all.”

The prophet is referring to Jesus Christ, what He did on the cross. Jesus came to earth, sent by His Father, free from the contamination of sin. He lived His entire life obeying all of God’s commands and resisting every temptation, so that He might become a perfect sacrifice for our sin. Having lived this way, He then offered Himself on the cross in our place, so that the wrath we deserve for all our sins―all of our selfishness and disobedience, all the times we did our own thing instead of obeying God―could be poured out on Jesus instead of us.

This, my friends, is true love. The love of God at work in the most profound way possible. Jesus died for our sins and obtained for us a full and complete pardon from God. That is, if we put our faith in Him and what He’s done for us on the cross.

Receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the foundation of true peace. We can never expect to have peace in our hearts, or with others, until we first experience peace with God.

We'll look at where True Peace is found next time.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Perfect Peace - Intro Thoughts

This is now the second post to this new feature on my blog, which I'm calling "Perfect Peace - Hope for the Weary Soul." If this were a book, what follows might be called the Introduction. As I mentioned last time, I'll give each of these posts the same label, so that it will be easy for someone who wants to read all of them and only them (and not all the other things I include in my blog from time to time).

I suppose it’s fair to say this blog is not for everyone (at least this section about God's Peace). The Scripture that inspired the title for this is found in Isaiah 23:6:

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you. Because he trusts you."

If I had come to a blog like this at certain points in my life―whole seasons of life, in fact―it wouldn’t have done me a bit of good.But at other times it would have been like a man stranded in the desert sun finding an oasis of palms and spring water. Like the time right after my best friend died suddenly, leaving behind a grieving widow and five children. Or the time when I lost my job unexpectedly and had no idea how we’d survive financially. Or like that difficult year when one of our children lost their way and was seriously thinking of jumping headlong into a destructive lifestyle.

This blog would have helped me then. Oh, it most certainly would have helped me then. For it was during these crucibles of life I learned its lessons. I suspect it might help you, because…well, you’re still reading it, even after I told you what it will be about and suggested it might not benefit you.

Perhaps you are aware of a lack of peace in your soul. In certain ways your mind is not at rest. There may be things that trouble you, unsettle you. Just thinking about them can rob you of joy. Unanswered questions. Unanswered prayers or prayers that were answered, but it seemed like the wrong answer. You don’t know why God did what He did or allowed it to happen.

You try not to think about these things, try all sorts of things to blot them out. But they keep popping back up. When you do something to alleviate the stress they cause, it doesn’t last very long. The fretting thoughts are right there to greet you when you’re done. Why is that? And why is what I just described the common experience for so many people?

I think it’s because, deep inside, we know these things that unsettle us are real. They aren’t figments of our imagination. Life really is hard and full of uncertainty. The longer we live, the more obvious this becomes. We don’t feel in control, because…we’re not.

Too many things have happened. Too many unwanted surprises. Things we worked hard for did not happen; other things we never wanted to happen happened instead. Not just once or on rare occasions. But a lot of times, more times than we can count. And each time life ambushes us this way, we become more aware of how little control we have.

And so we worry…and fret. Then worry and fret some more. About the things going on in our lives now. Or the things that may come after that. Even when things are going well, we worry about what might happen to bring these nice days to an end. I have been a Christian since my senior year in high school. I was a fulltime pastor for twenty-five years. I know―both from the Scriptures and from a thousand life experiences―that God is faithful. He doesn’t lie. His promises are true.

And yet, I am still prone to fret.

Catch me in an unguarded moment. Ask me what I’m thinking (like my wife does so often), there’s a 50/50 chance I am worrying―or at least on a path to worrying―about something. I don’t do it on purpose. And it’s not always about big, scary things like I mentioned at the beginning. I’m talking about a more subtle form of anxiety that runs beneath the surface, like a low-grade fever.

Robbing me of joy. And hope. And peace.

But through years of living with these trials and uncertainties, I’ve learned something; it’s almost like a secret. It’s been right there in the Bible all along, but for so long I missed it. I see so many other believers in this hectic, hurried age who seem to be missing it also. I’m talking about a way to experience Perfect Peace consistently and, in those times when our mind wanders, how to find our way back quickly. It’s a kind of peace the world cannot give and cannot take away. It costs nothing. It is always available to every Christian, at every moment of the day.

That’s what this section of my blog will be about. Learning this secret. Not just in our heads, but in our hearts.

I could simply tell you the secret I've learned to Perfect Peace and be done with it. Off you go. Perfect Peace is now yours. But it wouldn’t be yours. You would just know that it’s possible. That it’s something available to you, if you are in Christ. Having this information is not the same as living in the good of it, day after day, week after week.

So week after week, we’re going to look intently at this truth of God, this promise God holds out to us. A promise of Perfect Peace.The goal will be to apprehend it, to own it, to develop a new habit that helps us keep our minds “stayed on Him.”

Please understand, I’m no expert on this. As I’ve said, I’ve learned these things out of necessity. The Lord has brought me through a number of difficult and challenging experiences that forced me to depend on Him completely, often for months at a time, just to make it through each day with my sanity intact. In fact, I should prepare you…much of what you will read will not give you a fond impression of me. It will seem I am, for the most part, making frank admissions of serious weaknesses and failures.

That will be on purpose.

The apostle Paul learned about the value of knowing his limitations and wrote about it to the Corinthians. After going through a particularly difficult trial, one where he pleaded three times with God to deliver him, Paul wrote this:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Paul learned what it meant to be content with weakness. He learned how to keep his mind stayed on the Lord, no matter what the circumstances.

He learned the secret of Perfect Peace.

My hope is that, through our time together, you will learn it, too. Jesus died on the cross, not just so that you and I might have the peace with God that saves us from wrath and judgment, but that in this life we might enjoy―even in the midst of severe trials―a “peace that surpasses understanding” (Phil 4:6-7).

He promises us a Perfect Peace.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Perfect Peace - A New Blog Feature

I've decided to add something new to my blog posts, which have traditionally been more about updates and things going on in the book world or my writing life as an inspirational fiction author. From time to time (hopefully at least once a week), I'm going to start sharing another layer of who I am as a writer.

For years, I've been keeping a journal of things God has been speaking about in my quiet times. Some of you might be aware I was a fulltime pastor for 25 years before becoming a fiction author. I've shared some of these journal writings with people who've asked from time to time, and they said they've found them very helpful. I suppose that's because I'm just like everyone else, and my problems and challenges are the same faced by thousands of Christians every day.

I'll label these all the same in this blog, so they'll be easy to find as time goes by. Look for the label, "Perfect Peace - Hope for the Weary Soul." The title is a clue. There will be a theme, mainly because the things I'll write about are things God has used to help this Fretting Soul learn how to trust Him more and live free from the tendency to worry and fret about everything.

I don't think I'm a pessimist. That's not why I'm prone to worry. I worry because life is hard, and things I don't want to happen seem to happen a lot. Even when things are going my way, I'll worry they won't keep going my way. Why? Because that's what happens. They don't keep going my way. Something happens. Something always happens.

The Bible is full of promises. And this is one of them. This life will be filled with trouble (I'm paraphrasing here, but a dozen verses that say this just popped into my head). We can no more dodge problems and trials in this life than we can dodge raindrops running through a parking lot. Trouble-free living is not what the Christian life offers. As a matter of fact, at the Last Supper, one of the last things Jesus promised His disciples was, "In this world you will have tribulation." (John 16:23).

But that's not all He said. He followed that with, "But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." While the Bible promises a life filled with trouble, we're also promised a life filled with joy and peace. How is that possible?

It's not.

Not on our own, that is. By ourselves, we'll just drift into worrying and fretting about everything. That will lead us into even more trouble. We'll do things that make our situation worse, and make us feel worse about our situation. The secret to experiencing that promised joy and peace doesn't come because we prayed a prayer and became Christians.

Here's one of my favorite verses that reveals the narrow path to experiencing true peace in this life. A Perfect Peace.

"You will keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you. Because he trusts you." (Isa. 26:3)

That's what we'll be talking about. How to do that. How to keep our minds "stayed on Him." That's what I've been learning how to do, and it's made an amazing difference in my life. So come on back if you're like me (or know of friends who are), prone to worry and fret, but yearning to finally live free of it.

Jesus wants to give us a peace the world cannot give, and cannot take away.