Barney the Beefeater, our "ambassador" at the Tower of London, London, England

A different perspective on being an ambassador

Ambassadors are everywhere. We just don’t think about them. I mean, when I think of ambassadors in general, I think of government officials who travel to other countries to represent their home country. I think of politics in general. The term ambassador conjures up all sorts of political symbols and hierarchies that I learned about in high school. But if you think about it, an ambassador can be anyone who represents someone else.

Anyone into Mary Kay cosmetics? I know people who are. Your Mary Kay consultant is an ambassador. And how about the Boy Scouts? Going door to door selling popcorn? They’re ambassadors too. Car salesmen. Customer service representatives. Anyone with a face to a potential customer is an ambassador.

It’s kind of overwhelming if you think about it, especially when you let yourself realize that as a follower of Christ, we are Christ’s ambassadors. We are here to represent Him to the world.

Barney the Beefeater, our "ambassador" at the Tower of London, London, England

Barney the Beefeater, our “ambassador” at the Tower of London, London, England

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 5:20-21.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

The first thing I think about when I read these verses is what a stunning responsibility this is. To be Christ’s ambassador? To be Christ’s voice to a world that doesn’t know Him? That’s huge. That’s intimidating on a level beyond terror. If you have chosen to trust Jesus for your salvation, that means you are His voice. You are His representative to the people in your life.

Scared yet?

It terrifies me. That’s a lot of responsibility. That’s a lot to live up to. Because when people see me, they’re supposed to see Christ. When people hear me speak, they’re supposed to hear Christ. When I interact with people, they’re supposed to know that Jesus loves them and that He died for them and that He wants to have a relationship with them. And that’s a tall order from a girl who prefers to hide in the corner at social events.

And that’s where my brain goes automatically. How on earth can I meet those expectations? Well, no, let’s be honest here. My brain goes instantly to wondering how I can exceed those expectations. Merely meeting expectations has never been good enough for me; I have to blast the roof off people’s expectations or I feel ashamed of myself. So because my focus is exceeding the expectations (the rules, the regulations, etc.), I start plotting and planning how I can manipulate a circumstance or a situation so that I can control the outcome.

I’m focusing on my performance. I’m focusing on my actions. I’m focusing on what I need to do to make God happy with me. Anyone see my performance-driven perfectionist self rearing its ugly head anywhere in this?

Well, here’s something I realized today. Granted, it’s something I’ve always known, but it hit home with me today on a level that I hadn’t understood before. I am God’s ambassador.

Yes, news flash, I just said that above. But in my mind there are two perspectives to being an ambassador. One, you have to be careful and watch what you say and how you act because you represent an authority in your life. That’s true. That’s 100% true. But that’s not all there is to it. If you are an ambassador, you were chosen for the job.

Now, before you religious scholars get up in arms, I’m not going to get all theological about this. I could. But the purpose of this blog is to provide a place of encouragement, not only for me but for anyone who is searching. And I don’t intend to start a theological discussion about Calvinism vs. Armenianism vs. any-other-isms that are floating around in the world.

What I’m trying to communicate here is that Christ-followers have been chosen to represent Jesus in the world, just like ambassadors. You don’t get to be an ambassador just because you put on a fancy suit and can give pretty speeches or you have a good handshake. No. You apply for the job, and you’re selected for the position. Why? Because your authority, your boss, has seen the potential that you have and wants you to be his representative.

If you have accepted Christ, God calls you one of Christ’s ambassadors. You have something that you can use to reach out to the world and tell them about Jesus, and it’s not something that anyone else can do. So to all you performance-driven perfectionists out there who are running yourselves into the ground trying to make God happy with your list of accomplishments, this is the heart of what I learned today: Stop. God has already given you the job as His ambassador, so stop treating Him like you’re applying for the position. Stop stressing yourself out over whether or not you’re good enough. Stop worrying yourself bald over what you’re going to say or how you’re going to say it or what other people are going to think about you.

Just do the job. Just live for Him. Love for Him. Help others for Him. And stop worrying about whether you’re going to do a good enough job or not. Because it’s not about you. It’s about Him.

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Peace like a security system

Real peace is elusive in our world, whether you’re talking about the peace between nations or people or peace of mind. People pay extravagant sums of money for peace of mind, so they don’t have to worry. But is real peace something you can buy? Or is it something you’re given?

My brain is in overdrive this morning. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but it’s jumping from topic to topic to topic in rapid sequence, which makes it really difficult to concentrate on anything. It may be because of all the exciting things I learned at the writing workshop this week. It may be because I’m leaving for England next Thursday to see the other side of my brain for the first time since January. But either way, I’m having trouble focusing this morning, so I thought I’d better stick to something simple.

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Philippians 4:6-7.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever experienced peace that functions as a guard? The Amplified Bible uses the term garrison. Peace that guards your heart and mind. To a natural worrier like me, that sounds awfully nice. I have a vivid imagination, and I can just see worries creeping up my heart and mind like thieves or robbers. And peace, like a guard or a soldier, beats them back and tells them to hit the road.

How do you get that kind of peace? You pray about what’s bothering you. You tell God what you need and thank Him what He’s already done. That’s what it says above. But does that really work?

Well, you do have to believe. And you do have to choose to give your worries to God and choose to not take them back once you’ve let them go.

Worry is like having a guard available and choosing to guard the door yourself anyway. It’s like having a security system installed and sitting up all night in spite of it because you’re sure it’s not going to work.

Worry is a waste of time and energy and focus, and it’s something I fall prey to frequently. I try not to. I know better. But I have this propensity to take things back that I’ve already given over to God. Does that make any difference? Does that help my request get answered sooner? Absolutely not. It doesn’t change God’s opinion or His methods or His plan. It just changes the color of my hair and upsets my stomach.

So how do you choose not to worry? How do you let peace be the guard of your mind and heart? Well, to be very honest, I don’t know. I’m still working on that one, but since the Bible says this is how it works, I believe it. So it all comes down to trust.

I trust that God is going to answer my requests in the way that will bring Him glory, whatever that looks like, and I’m up for whatever He has in mind. I trust that God knows what He’s doing. The only thing I can figure out about myself is that I just need to be vigilant when it comes to my control freak tendencies. I need to pay attention when I try to take back the concerns I’ve given to Him, and I need to stop myself.

So what are you worrying about today? Everyone worries. But we don’t have to. If you’re a follower of Christ, you can pray about it instead of worrying, and God has promised to send His peace–peace so awesome we don’t understand it, peace strong enough to protect our heart and our mind from worry. But that protection won’t do us any good if we refuse to be protected.

Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

You can’t always trust how you feel

What does peace feel like to you? To me, it’s sitting on my back porch step with a cup of coffee listening to the wind in the leaves, smelling cut alfalfa or newly blossoming lilacs (and sneezing a lot). Peace looks different to different people. Some find the country too harsh or too boring and experience peace in a more urban landscape, but everyone would probably agree that peace is rightness. Just general rightness in life, where you’re happy and content and not afraid.

That kind of rightness is possible even if your life has been turned on its head, but only through Christ. Peace is truly only possible through the Holy Spirit’s power, but if you’re a follower of Christ, you have access to that power. According to Galatians 5:22-23, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and to get it, all we have to do is choose to use it.

Yesterday I blogged about intellectual peace–having peace of mind, choosing not to worry about life. But what about the other kind of peace? What about emotional peace? Peace of heart. That one’s a little trickier because emotions are always tricky. God created us to be emotional being. Our emotions are part of who we are.

Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 5:1-2.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

Feeling at peace runs deeper than our circumstances or our physical location on Earth. It’s deeper than our relationships with each other. Emotional peace stems from being right with God. That’s the basis of everything because if you’re right with God, everything else will fall into place.

If you have chosen to believe that Jesus died to pay for the things you’ve done wrong, you are made right with God. Jesus’ sacrifice is what justifies us. Not our works. Not our lives. Not our church attendance. Not our parents’ lives. Only believing in Jesus’ sacrifice for yourself will allow you to have a relationship with God. What’s more, if you believe this, nothing you can ever do will take it away from you because you didn’t do anything to earn it in the first place. It’s a gift from God, and God doesn’t take gifts back.

So, that being said, why do I worry about my future? Why do I fret about things I can’t control? Why do I feel so wretched?

This may be getting a little deeper theologically than I normally do, but human  beings were made with three parts–a body, a soul, and a spirit. But our soul is divided into another three parts, intellect, emotion and will. And it’s our intellect, emotion and will that makes us who we are. It’s also how we were made in God’s image because God also has intellect, emotion and will.

But like the rest of our world, those three facets of who we are broke when Adam sinned. So our emotions are important to our lives, but we can’t always trust them. There are some days when you just won’t feel like a follower of Christ. You just won’t feel like God is close. You just won’t feel like doing the right thing. But on those days, you have to discount what you feel and do what you know.

Feelings are difficult. They’re treacherous. They can lead you down a path, whispering that peace is just around the bend, and when you get there, you find out that they were lying and it’s just deeper trouble waiting for you.

I’m not an expert on this, but I have struggled with my emotions because I’m human and female. I can only share what has helped me. And that is knowing who God is.

I love my emotions. I wouldn’t want to go through life without them, and they help me connect to God on many levels where just plain knowledge falls short. God created us with emotions for a reason, and our emotions can be used to bring Him glory. But my emotions don’t always work the way they’re supposed to, kind of like the rest of me. So I can’t always trust them, kind of like the rest of me. (Are you catching the theme here?) And I have to compare what I’m feeling at the moment to what I know is true in the Bible, and if what I’m feeling is true then I shouldn’t stop myself from feeling it. But if what I’m feeling is a lie, I shouldn’t waste time on it.

Emotions are just like every other part of life. If they don’t match up with what is in the Bible, they’re going to make trouble for you.

The first step to peace of heart is to know who God is, through prayer and Bible study and daily worship. The next step is to trust Him. And that’s not something anyone else can do for you. That’s between you and God. But the longer you know Him, the easier it is to trust Him; and the more you trust Him, the more peace you’ll have.

So if you don’t feel at peace today? First, check your heart. Make sure you’re where you need to be. Make sure you’re listening. Make sure you’re obeying. Because sometimes a lack of peace is an indication that something is going on in your life that shouldn’t be going on. But if you’re in the right place and you’ve cleared the air with God and you still feel conflicted, talk to Him about it. Tell Him. Yes, He already knows, but He wants to hear from you anyway.

Then, maybe this sounds clichéd, but read some Scripture. Read a Psalm. Read the Book of Philippians. Read Romans. Just read something in the Bible. And don’t just read it; let it sink in, understanding that the words in the Bible were written for you. From God to you. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

And if that still doesn’t work and you still don’t feel at peace, find a mature Christ-follower and talk to them. Pray with them. And be patient and wait and keep watching for God to do something. But above all else, remember that you can’t always trust what you feel. First, trust what you know.

The old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Fix your thoughts

My brain never stops running. It’s always going, like the Energizer Bunny, a constant blur of thought jumping from one subject to the next without slowing down. And most of the time that’s the way I like it. I can be extremely productive when my brain is in high gear but only when I’m focused on something productive. If I get hung up on something non-productive, I can’t accomplish anything. So much of our lives revolves around our focus. We do what we focus on. We are what we think. That’s why it’s so important to have a healthy thought life because what you think is eventually what you will do.

This month I’m studying the Fruit of the Spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” And in yesterday’s post about peace, I realized that there are two kinds of peace. Well–there may be more than two kinds, but two kinds stood out to me. Emotional peace and intellectual peace. Peace of heart and peace of mind. Both are gifts that God gives us when we accept Christ, but both are qualities that are easy to ignore, especially if you’re a control freak like me.

The old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 26:3.

You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in you,
    all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

First thing this morning, I set out to discover if the same word for peace in Isaiah was used in Galatians, and after I spent a few minutes on that, I remembered that Isaiah is an Old Testament book that was written in Hebrew. Galatians was written in Greek. And since I know neither Hebrew nor Greek trying to figure out whether or not the word is the same is probably a bad idea (instead, I just got another cup of coffee). So I may be totally off with this, but I don’t think so.

Peace of mind, peace in our thoughts, is something that everyone has always searched for, even in the Old Testament. No, the Holy Spirit didn’t come to live inside us until the New Testament, after Jesus died for our sins, but intellectual peace was something that God gave to His followers from the very beginning. At least, it was an option they could choose. They could choose to take Him at His word and live the way He instructed.

It’s the same today. For grins, I looked up this verse in the Amplified Version just to get the particulars of the word meaning:

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

Check that out. The inclination and character of your mind matter. What is the inclination of your mind? What is the character of your mind? Those are tough questions that make me cringe because the inclination of my mind is to think about myself. The character of my mind is to think about myself. But my mind won’t be in “perfect and constant peace” until both the inclination and character of my mind is focused on God.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but I never thought of it that way.

Peace of mind eludes us so many times because our thoughts are fixed on things they shouldn’t be. We worry because we think about things that don’t matter. We’re upset or frightened or disturbed because we’re focusing on ourselves or on our circumstances, and we’re not supposed to focus on those things. We’re supposed to focus on God and commit ourselves to Him and lean on him and hope confidently in Him.

Peace is a gift. God has given peace to every one of His followers, and it’s our choice to use it. Part of that peace is peace of mind, tranquility of our thoughts. God has given us the power to choose what we think about, and if we fix our thoughts on Him and what He’s doing and who He is, peace will follow. Why? Because God is awesome. God made the universe. God made the atom. God invented time. God created the concept of spring, summer, autumn, winter. God made everything we see. He’s all-powerful. He’s all-knowing. He’s everywhere. And He’s available to us to help us. He not only cares about what goes on in our everyday lives, but He wants to help us get through it and reach out to others who don’t know Him yet. And if you think about it that way, what on earth in our lives is so big that we have to worry about it?

God has given us peace. We just have to use it. And the first step to using it is thinking about it. So fix your thoughts on who God is today. Remind yourself exactly who your heavenly Father is, and then look at your circumstances. And I bet your perspective might change a little.

Lake view from a Guatemalan restaurant, Peten, Guatemala

Peace always costs something

How much would you pay for peace of mind? If you didn’t have to spend your day worrying about what might happen or what has happened, what would that be worth to you? Worry is one of those issues that everyone struggles with in some form or another, and marketing professionals make lots of money using that particular emotion to sell products.

Worry is an effective tool to use, and convincing people that purchasing a particular tool or service will alleviate their anxieties. But purchasing a product rarely takes worries away. At least, that’s what I’ve discovered. The only way to deal with anxiety is to live by the Holy Spirit, because one of the fruit or the results of living by the Holy Spirit is peace.

You can’t buy this kind of peace. You can’t earn it either. This kind of peace is something God produces in our lives when we live by the Holy Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

Lake view from a Guatemalan restaurant, Peten, Guatemala

Lake view from a Guatemalan restaurant, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is John 14:27.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

This is something Jesus told His disciples shortly before He was arrested and crucified, and it’s always been one of my favorite verses when it comes to thinking about the kind of peace that God gives us.

According to what Jesus says here, the world does offer a kind of peace. But the peace the world offers is temporary and often causes more trouble than it solves. The world’s peace is something you buy, something you haggle over the price of, something you control, something you turn on and off. It’s not based in anything but emotion, and it’s not strong enough to stand up under real pressure.

Whenever I think about the concept of failed peace, I think about the Treaty of Versailles. For those of you who aren’t history buffs, the Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties signed at the end of World War I that ended the state of war between the Allied Powers (including the US) and Germany. On the surface, the Treaty of Versailles was a wonderful document. Hey, any document that brings an end to war is great, right?

But here’s the problem: The Treaty of Versailles included some controversial parts, including the fact that Germany had to accept the blame for starting World War I, had to make territorial concessions and pay large sums of money. Maybe some people thought it was fair, but the result of such a heavy punishment on an already-struggling country was that more and more people grew more and more desperate. And the more desperate people became, the more angry they grew. And people who probably wouldn’t have gone to war before started gearing up for round two.

Was it right? No, but desperate people do desperate things. One of the reasons World War II came so soon after World War I was the unfair treatment of Germany in the peace negotiations. Again, that doesn’t excuse it, but in my mind, I understand it to a certain extent. Because if peace isn’t fair, it won’t work.

But that’s like the world’s peace. The peace the world gives us may stick around for a little while, but it costs somebody something they aren’t willing to keep giving.

Peace always costs something.

So how is God’s peace different? Well, like the other fruit of the spirit, God’s peace depends on God. God’s peace is a gift. It cost Him the life of His Son, but He gives it to us free of charge. It’s not something that can be taken away (although we ignore it frequently), and it never runs out no matter how many times you draw on it.

And the beautiful thing about God’s peace? If you have the Holy Spirit, you already have it. God’s peace is in you.

God’s peace is always fair because God is fair. Granted, sometimes it doesn’t feel like He is, but we’re the ones with a limited view of justice. He invented justice. And He will never tire of giving us peace.

So whatever situation you’re facing today, physical, emotional, spiritual, remember that if you have God’s Spirit, you have God’s peace. If you know Christ, you can draw from an inexhaustible supply of peace. You don’t have to worry. Worry is a choice. Like joy, it’s a response to circumstances, and you can choose.

So choose peace. God already paid for it. Everyone who follows Him has access to it. And it’ll do wonders for your attitude, for your perspective, and your hair color.