ReLENTless Pursuit of Peace

February 10, 2016

We at The Ruth Experience have been observing Lent for the past few years. We’ve done this not because we feel beholden to tradition, as Kristin and I did not grow up observing Lent, but because we have found this tradition to be a beautiful way to prepare our hearts each year leading up to Easter.

In the past we have focused on specific countries and causes, world issues and needs—and this time we plan to do something a little different. This year we want to be much more reflective and prayerful in the weeks leading up to Easter. This year we plan to pick one topic each week that we will reflect upon. We’ll also provide three days of Scripture reading and reflection that you can spend a few moments in study each week as we observe Lent together. Rather than “giving up something,” it’s making time to spend with God -- practicing the discipline of prayer and reading Bible.

We pray that you will join us as we all seek to deepen our connection to God during this time of introspection, scripture reading, and prayer.

This first week we will focus on the word: peace.

I looked up what the word peace means in the dictionary. Of course we can think of general ways to describe peace such as accord, love, and truce. But did you also know that peace means calm, order and conciliation. I don’t know about you but I could use a lot more of these things in my life.

Just today I received a text from a friend who had lain awake all night over the injustice a mutual friend of ours suffered at the hands of people she is in community with. My friend said she laid awake thinking about all the ways she’d like to take revenge on behalf of her hurt friend. I messaged her back that I understood her feelings. Haven’t we all at one time or another been hurt by the words or deeds of others? It’s normal, almost instinctual, to want to retaliate.

We can often struggle to find peace in our personal lives and in relationships with those around us. It’s an ongoing battle and one we need God’s wisdom to navigate. Luckily, the Bible is filled with instruction on finding peace, being peacemakers ourselves, and living peaceably with others.

What better way to start our observance of Lent than by finding, and hanging onto, a little bit of peace in our lives.

Reflections for this week:

Day 1: 

What would our world be like if everyone was peaceable? If countries weren’t at war? If everyone’s common goal was to live peaceably with one another?

Psalm 37:37 says: "Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace."

I love this idea that those who are peacemakers have a future ahead of them, that they are striving for something more than just what is in the present. The verse also doesn’t say that they achieve it perfectly, but simply that they are seeking peace. When you think about all that is happening around the world, what country or cause can you pray peace for today?

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."

Although we may never see peace play out perfectly in our world, we also do not have to be afraid of the things we see happening. Why? Because God has said he will never leave us and that he is our peace, even in the midst of chaos. What areas of of your life are you seeking peace for right now? Tell God where you are needing him to give you his peace. 

Jesus, we know that there are a lot of things that are happening in our world that are horrible and it can overwhelm us. We pray that as people groups and issues and countries come to our minds, you would insert your peace into all the situations that are far beyond our control. And then Lord, would you give us peace too? We know that you are greater than any problem or evil we may see or hear of. Finally, would you give us one action step, however small it may be, to bring peace to the world? We thank you that you will one day make right all that is wrong. In Jesus name, Amen. 

Day 2:

We had a hard conversation at dinner with our kids the other night. Some not-very-nice things were being said about people in our community and we wanted to address those feelings with our kids. We asked them if there were kids who were ever mean to others at their schools? Of course they answered Yes, there were. We then asked our kids what our response, as Christians, should be. Do we lump whole people groups together? Or do we base our opinions on the actions of individuals? Of course they agreed everyone should be responsible for themselves. Finally, we spoke with them about how we are to respond to others who are not kind. And here’s where things got challenging. Because being nice to others, especially when they are not nice to us, is hard. Now of course, we talked about healthy boundaries with others, talking to adults about things like bullying, how we do not need to be a doormat for other people’s abuse because that is just healthy, but there is a greater lesson to be learned about how we treat people we simply do not like or who don’t like us.

Romans 12:14-21 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The Bible is very clear that we are to live peaceably, as much as it depends on us. I love this clause. Because the truth is, we can’t control others' actions or words, we can only control our own responses.

How much do you need peace with others today, friends? Ask God to give you wisdom in dealing with those around you and I believe that he will. Is it easy? Not always. Will God help us? Absolutely. What relationship is God showing you to be a person of peace in? Take time to pray and take a small step towards peace this week.

Lord, today, we ask that you would give us wisdom to navigate the relationships in our lives. Help us set healthy boundaries when we need to, and to live at peace, as much as it is in our power to do so. May we leave whatever heartache we’ve had in your hands, may we remember that you are the ultimate judge, not us. May we sense your love and feel your peace and may we be able to extend it out towards others this week. Amen.

Day 3:

There are many things in our lives that I would call peace-stealers. We’ve already talked about a couple—world circumstances and relationships with others—but there are other things that steal our peace of heart and mind. Things like finances, mental or physical health, loss, grief, past mistakes, worries about the future—all are things that can steal our peace. So how do we find it again? Where can we go to bring our hearts back to a place of peace? We can start by looking to the word of God.

Isaiah 54:10 says: "'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you."

And Isaiah 26:3 states: "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."

If we keep our minds on Christ and seek him first, he will give us peace, continual peace, that will see us through anything that we face. Sometimes it's not always easy to keep a hold of, but anytime we begin to feel our peace slipping away, we only need to ask again and claim what we know to be true from the scriptures we've just read and God will keep his promise of peace to us. 

In what areas of your life are you needing peace? What repetitive thoughts or concerns are stealing your peace of mind? Bring your concerns before God this week and ask him for his peace over those hard areas in your life.

Heavenly Father, today we claim your promises of peace, even when we don't feel it. Even when we have to ask a hundred times a day for continual peace. We stand on your promises and we believe by faith that you are working out the areas in our lives where we most need peace. We love you. We follow you. We remember all that you have done for us. Give us your peace again today. Amen.

What has God spoken to you this week about peace? We'd love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

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