The Serenity Prayer—All of it

Millions of people pray the Serenity Prayer every day.  You’re familiar with this part:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  That is a very famous prayer by a man named Reihold Neibor.  But it is edited.  There are eight more lines to the Serenity Prayer that you may never have heard.  That’s where all the power is.  The power of peace is not in the first part of the prayer.  It’s in the part that has been cut out. Here’s the whole prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time

Enjoying one moment at a time

Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is not as I would have it

Trusting that You, God, will make all things right if I surrender to Your will

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.  Amen.

It makes a little bit of difference, doesn’t it?  All of the power is in the second part of the prayer.  It’s through the acceptance, the trust, the surrender that you find the path to peace. 

 

Demanding an explanation from God

 We all want peace. We all want more and more peace. It is a basic need of life that God promises. But so few really experience it on a day to day basis.

Here is the one thing that keeps you from peaceful circumstances, what keeps you tense and nervous and stressed out about the things in your life.  It’s your demand for an explanation.  When something goes wrong in your life, when something doesn’t happen the way you think it ought to happen, you go, “Why?? Why, God? Why is this happening?  Why did You allow this?  Why is this happening to me?” and by going over and over it in your mind trying to figure out why something happened, you are kept in turmoil.

Here’s what you need to understand about demanding an explanation of the things that happen in your life.

One, God doesn’t owe you an explanation for anything.  He’s not obligated to explain everything that He does to you.  You are the creation, He is the creator.  God is a good God, He’s a just God, He’s a fair God, He’s a loving God, and He understands things that you don’t.  You need to just say ok.  The fact is, God doesn’t owe you an explanation for anything in your life. 

Two, even if He did explain why things happen the way they do, you probably wouldn’t understand it.  God’s mind is so much greater than your mind, you can’t comprehend all the ways of God.  There are forces at work in your life, in your family, in our world and throughout history that, if God sat down and took the time to explain to you how generations affect generations and on and on, you probably wouldn’t understand it anyway. 

Third, explanations never bring peace anyway.  You think, “If I just knew why this happened, then it would make sense” No, it won’t.  Some of you have figured out why certain things happened in your life but it didn’t bring peace.  You still felt resentful or bitter or angry or upset or whatever.  Explanations never satisfy.  What comforts us is the presence of God in our life.  Not God’s explanations, God’s care and concern and comfort.  Stop looking for something that you really don’t need. 

The classic example of accepting things that cannot be changed is the story of Job.  In the Old Testament, Job played in the superbowl of suffering.  This guy was the wealthiest man who had ever lived.  He was a very godly man, very dedicated, very devout to God.  One day, actually a 48-hour period, he lost everything.  First, all ten of his kids were murdered.  Then he lost all his wealth, his crops were destroyed.  His flocks and herds were destroyed.  He went bankrupt instantly.  He lost everything he had overnight.  Then, as if that weren’t enough, he got a terrible, painful disease that left open soars on his body oozing and left him in pain 24-hours a day.  You think you had a rough day!  That’s pretty tough.  The only thing that he was left with was a nagging wife!  And she comes to Job and says, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” That’s what I call emotional support!!! 

But the most difficult thing about Job’s circumstance is this: there was no apparent explanation given.  He had no reason why all these things had befallen him.  There was no understanding, no hint, no God saying, “This is why I’m doing this, allowing this in your life.”  Looking back, we can see what was going on because, as we read the book of Job, we find out that there were forces at work, that God was allowing a test, that Satan was involved – there were all kinds of things that were going on that Job didn’t understand.  We can see that looking back, but he had no idea in the moment.  It didn’t make sense and the most difficult part of it was this: Job says, “Why is this happening, God?  I’m a good guy!”  And for 37 chapters God says nothing!  Zip! 

Have you ever been in a crisis when God was silent?  That is one of the most difficult things to handle in life.  When you’re going, “Why?  Why is this happening?”  And your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and nothing is coming through.  Job was going through the greatest test of his life.  It was a test of his peace of mind but it was also a test of his character.  This is the guy who said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  And it was a major test.

Here’s the point of the story and life: When God is silent you need ACCEPTANCE.

 

The most beautiful building in the world

King David requested permission from the Lord to build the first permanent place of worship for the Lord’s people. But because of David’s heavy involvement in war, and to keep from God’s House being thought of in the same context as bloodshed, he was refused permission. Instead the privilege went to his son, Solomon.

The temple Solomon built has been called “the most beautiful building ever constructed.”  It would very possibly hold such a distinction even in today’s age of modern technology and architecture.

It was constructed of three primary materials—stone, cedar and gold. The stone was hewn in the quarry by 80,000craftsmen.  The cedars were transported by sea from Lebanon.  30,000 men were sent from Israel to help in this operation in addition to 70,000 common laborers and 3,300 supervisors.

The main structure of the temple was stone, overlaid with cedar, overlaid with gold. Everything was covered with gold, floors, walls, ceilings, etc.  It took more than 183,000 men seven years to construct. There hasn’t been a building built that could match its excellence, beauty and splendor.

But most interesting to note is that during its construction not a hammers sound or ax chop or clanging of any tool was heard on the building site itself. (1 Kings 6:7) The cedars were cut and the stone was hewn to precision before ever reaching the construction site.  And then merely assembled upon arrival. It was a temple that silently took its shape piece by piece.

There is one building that exceeds the beauty of Solomon’s temple though. It is the temple in which God dwells today. Acts 17:24 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  

Then where does He dwell? “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16

And just as the perfectly hewn stone, cedar and gold made the first temple so beautiful, it is the Holy Spirit and the fruit that God’s spirit grows in us that makes our life so beautiful, because this fruit is Jesus. And when they grow in us we reflect His likeness.

And these fruit are developed silently from the inside out.  They are seen visibly in our life but they grow silently. The fruit of which I speak are identified in Gal 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

 

These are personality traits. Yes, your personality can be changed. Yes, these characteristics can be developed in your life if they don’t currently reside there or they can be improved upon if they are weak.  Yes, no matter how challenging you see it to be, these keys to healthy relationships can be grown in the soil of your life. You can reflect the life of Jesus in your life.

Get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit produce His fruit.  

30,000 Visits and Counting

Thanks readers!

Thanks for taking the time to frequent this blog site. I’m sure you have lots of other things you could be doing, so I really appreciate your patronage.

Because of your visits I have just passed the 30,000 mark on visits to this site.

If you have suggestions about “God issues from a fresh perspective” that you would like for me to address I would love to hear from you.

Feed the Kids

This flyer includes the details of our current ministry outreach at New Venture Christian Church. We would love for you to partner with us in collecting food for families with kids in our south side Richmond community. Just this morning we were connected with three new families with seventeen children we will be supplying food for on the weekends. They are elated about the assistance.

We are asking people to consider three different options.

1. In your neighborhood, distribute 50 paper sacks with flyers attached and then pick them back up the following Saturday. We will supply the sacks with flyers. We just need the volunteers to pass them out and pick them up

2. Set up a collection point at your place of work and invite those in that setting to participate with “Feed the Kids.”  Posters are available.

3. Man (woman) a table for a couple hours on a Saturday in March outside a local grocery store. We will give patrons a list of items we are collecting as they enter and invite them to drop the items by as they leave. We will make all the arrangements with the stores.

We are here to provide an ongoing ministry that meets the nutritional needs of kids in our community. Please get in touch with me at 874-3269 if you would like to participate or if you have any questions.

When does a person receive the Holy Spirit?

There is perhaps no more discussed and debated subject among Christians today than exactly when does the Holy Spirit actually come to dwell in the life and person of a Christ Follower. Brilliant scholars have addressed the issue exhaustively. But does it take brilliance to find the answer?

The first two verses in the second chapter of Acts say, “they” (the disciples) “were all together in one place,” and that all of a sudden, a sound came from heaven that was like a mighty rushing wind.” The text says it: “filled the entire house where they were sitting.”

Imagine this scene with me. Jesus Christ, the one you have spent the last three years following, the one you have dedicated your life to, just ascended to heaven. You saw it with your own eyes. You and the people who have become as close as your own family are all gathered in Jerusalem in someone’s house waiting. You know that something is coming because Jesus told you about it. He said wait, but you don’t know exactly what (or in this case who) you are waiting for. Maybe you are getting tired of wondering how many more days before something (what, you have no idea) happens.

Suddenly, a sound fills the entire house. And then tongues of fire appear and come to rest on each person present. And then it happens. Verse four reads, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Now, these are the same disciples who were dedicated to following Jesus, no matter what, but scattered as soon as Jesus was arrested. And they were gathered together, no doubt confused about how they should proceed now that Jesus has ascended. Yet when the HS descended and indwelt them, a radical change occurred. From that point on, none of these disciples were ever the same. The book of Acts is a testament to that fact. We read of Stephen, the first martyr. We see Peter, a changed, courageous man. We see Paul, formerly Saul; go from killing Christ followers to becoming one and showing many others how to do so too. They were not longer timid or confused; they were bold and inspired and began to declare and live the gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the HS. Think about what a huge moment this had to have been in the lives of these disciples.

A huge crowd of people had gathered, some estimates of over a million. Peter preached a powerful sermon, and as they heard his words, they were “cut to the heart “and asked how they should respond. Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the HS. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord your God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39) The text says that on that day around 3000 people were baptized into God’s kingdom and received the gift of the HS.

I think it is needless for us to debate about when the Holy Spirit becomes a part of someone’s life. Some think it is when a person raises their hand at the end of a service when the preacher says raise your hand if you would like to receive Christ and repeat after me this prayer? Or is it when someone gets baptized? Or when someone chooses to surrender their life fully to Jesus and actually develops a personal relationship with Him? Or could it be at a charismatic church service when they are instructed to come forward to “receive the Spirit?”

We can easily spend all our time fixating on the many answers offered and miss the simplicity of Peter’s message. Just listen to what the Bible says, if not you will allow all the opinions and voices to lead you to a great deal of confusion. The people were cut to their hearts and asked, what do we need to do? Peter said; don’t miss this, one more time. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter then adds, in case you don’t get who I am speaking to let me make it clear, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord your God calls to himself.”

 Question? Is this your response to the Word? Is it clear to you that you’re supposed to repent, be baptized and receive the HS? If so, have you done it? If not, what’s keeping you from doing it today?

Why do we sometimes feel that we need to debate this endlessly, running through every possible hypothetical situation and answering every theological question first? Why not simply respond to the truth we have heard and then work through our questions from there?

(For more in-depth discussion on the work of the Holy Spirit I recommend Francis Chan’s book, “Forgotten God.”)

Just in time for Valentine’s Day and the rest of your life

“IT’S TRUE: it is more blessed to give. Men and women who scored high on a so-called generosity scale are far more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages, especially among couples with children.

Researchers from (our own) University of Virginia National Marriage Project recently studied the role of generosity in the marriages of 2870 men and women. Defining generosity as, “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” (such as simply making them coffee in the morning), researchers asked men and women how often they behaved generously toward their partners, how often they expressed affection, and how willing they were to forgive.

Among the parents who posted above average scores for marital generosity, about 50% reported being “very happy” together. Among those with lower generosity scores, only about 14% claimed to be “very happy.”

“In marriage we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, childcare and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate,” explains University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox, who led the research. “Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”’

The New York Times magazine, December 11, 2011