Perfect peace

Some of the more interesting conversations I have with people here are about idols.  We live in a culture of idols and you can't go far without seeing them.  Some houses have mirrors outside so that when ghosts want to come in, they will see their reflection, scare themselves, and go away.  Candles stay lit on the alters outside our Buddhist neighbor's houses.  Ellis points out the elephant god Ganesh on top of the Hindu temple we drive by every day.   Malaysians make it very easy to tell what gods any given household worships: Buddhist homes have red alters outside, Hindu families choose a patron god to display above their front door; Muslims have something in Arabic script; Christians post a picture of Jesus outside.  We can see what they worship.

Gods in Western culture, aren't so easily recognized.  We worship power and money and independence.  Safety and happiness are our gods (neither of which God has promised us in the Bible, by the way).  An easy way to describe an idol is anything we love more than God.   You need only to go to a pro football game, go to the mall, or turn on the TV to see what we really love.  It only takes some clever marketing to capture our loyal and very allegiant American hearts.  These kinds of idols are the most deceitful and they hide themselves so well that I never even saw them until I moved to Asia.   I can see the better because I'm still a product of the culture, but not in it.  I'm still discovering idols in my heart.

I love talking with people here about this, because gods are something we can all connect with.  We all worship something; and I find that we generally love to talk about what we worship.  We may know little about what we're outwardly worshiping, but we know a lot, often shamefully so, about what we inwardly worship.

I found another very sneaky idol in my heart this week.  And this is what I learned: when things are deep down in my heart, having become part of my identity, the uprooting part hurts.  My heart by nature wants to have something of my own to cling to, anything but God.  Displacing it forms a hole that Satan is all to eager to fill with something else.  It's war for our hearts.

I had started a post last week about peace, and how hard it has been for me to find these days.  How I'm learning to let go of what I think peace should look like, and what I think I need to have it.  How much I want to find a monastery to check myself into for a week or two or three.  Certainly I could find peace there.

Then I see myself as an idolater and suddenly this peace that I was trying to hard to find in my outward circumstances became impossible to find.  I discovered that as a follower of Jesus, peace does not depend on anything external.  Nope, not at all.  God's peace is not the peace that the world gives.  It passes all understanding.  John Ortberg says that peace doesn't come from finding a lake with no storms.  It comes from having Jesus in the boat.    I watched a friend get baptised at the beach this morning, and she ended her testimony like this: "I'm not perfect, but I am found".  We can't find peace.  Peace already found us.  We can't control our circumstances and we can't seem to stop sinning or finding other things to worship.  Our hearts will always wander.  It's not about what happens in our out of our control, how we respond to it, our how hard we try to scrounge up peace in our lives.  It's about what God did for us: He loved us and rescued us and became our peace.

Those of us in America can look for comfort and assurance in this upcoming U.S. presidential election, but we'll never find it apart from Christ.  We can simplify our lives and learn to meditate, but only He brings us inner peace.  After all, Daniel found peace in a lion's den.  Jonah found it in the belly of a whale.  Certainly we can also find God's peace in our own fiery furnaces, no matter our circumstances.   Idols don't stand a chance to that.  The peace of the world doesn't stand a chance.  Nothing can change that, nothing else matters, and everything changes.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  -Isaiah 26:3

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