The Gift of Shalom

Have you heard of “the trust molecule”? It’s a hormone scientists have identified that is associated with calmness, security, and bond-building with those we love. The hormone is called oxytocin, and it is released when we experience touch and bonding with family, friends, and even new acquaintances. In other words, our brains are wired for connection — and when it happens, our brain releases a hormone that helps solidify relationships.

But, as all great infomercials remind us: wait, there’s more. Not only does oxytocin encourage relationship-building and a sense of well-being, it also regulates your heart rate, improves social skills, and has even been shown to increase generosity and monogamy! Seriously. You can read more about it in the short article, “The Shalom of Neurochemistry,” by Krispin Mayfield.

I love that word, shalom. And the author of the article on oxytocin, a Christian, believes that this hormone is rooted in God’s gift to us of shalom.

What is shalom? It is peace, well-being, wholeness. Shalom is living with a sense of peace, real peace, with our God and with those in our lives.

Mayfield goes on to write that when we aren’t at peace — when there aren’t healthy relationships in our life — oxytocin isn’t released. And when it isn’t, other hormones rush in to fill the void. And so, we might be more tempted to argue, and thus feel the rush of adrenaline that comes with it. Or pick up the bottle, which fills the empty spaces with dopamine. Or push ahead at work, which brings the double-barrel hormone boost of dopamine and seratonin.

In other words, if there isn’t peace in our lives, we will find ourselves tempted to fill the emptiness with a hormone rush that comes from unhealthy, even sinful, activities. Or, in even other words, when we aren’t at peace with God, with ourselves, and with others, our nature looks for other ways to find peace. But so often, those ways don’t lead to peace, or wholeness, or well-being. Instead, they lead to patterns of brokenness, heartbreak, un-shalom.

You see, your brain’s chemistry confirms that God has made you for shalom. For peace. True peace; deep, abiding, inner peace. The kind that comes from knowing who you are, and Whose you are. But, like all that is lasting and good, it doesn’t come easily. Shalom must be received and pursued. Peace is both gift and goal. And so we strive to know the God of peace, and find Him in each day, and in each relationship.

This Sunday at Fern Creek, we will begin a series on Shalom. We will look at shalom in our work life, in our family life, and in the rhythm of life. Hope to see you there. And when I do, give me a hug or a warm greeting. It will be good for both of us.

Parenting, Kids, & Guarantees

Someone once said: It kills you to see your children grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.

It’s hard watching your kids grow up, especially as they work their way through the difficulty of the challenges they face. Sometimes, we who are parents & grandparents can step in; other times, we can’t (and shouldn’t) protect them from the realities of life. With three teenagers, I get to see this just about every day. But some weeks, there are just more challenges than normal. And there are no magic words to speak that will make everything better.

It reminds me of the joke about the young preacher, just married, who begins a new ministry, and one of his first sermon series is “The Ten Commandments of Parenting.” Then he and his wife have their first child, and when he comes around to another series on parenting, this time he calls it: “Five Suggestions for Parents.” He and his wife go on to have a couple more children, and the oldest reaches pre-teen status. This time, instead of a whole series, the minister does a one-week message on parenting: “One Suggestion You Might Try.” Then his kids become teenagers, and the minister can’t pull together a series, let alone one sermon. Instead, on the day he wants to talk about parenting, he stands up in church, and simply says: “Anybody got any ideas?”

Raising kids is one of the best jobs a person will ever do, and one of the hardest. And for Christians, it is a powerful opportunity to share our faith and shape the faith of our children. But beware of those who have simple answers, great theories, easy solutions. Parenting, like life, should not be tackled without faith. But parenting, like life, should also be approached humbly, constantly trusting, learning, and loving.

I have a friend who says that Proverbs 22.6 is not a promise, but a principle. Oftentimes, we like to quote that verse as an assurance — if we simply put our kids on the right path, they will stay on it (or eventually come back to it). But the Proverbs are not meant to be guarantees, but guidelines. This is the way life is meant to work; this is how we believe that a God-centered life will usually turn out. But kids are people, and people have the freedom to choose, to live, to go where and do what they want. Perhaps this is the hardest thing to learn to do as parents: to love, and let go. To rear, and release.

  • I’m still learning. But I can promise you this: I won’t ever do a “Ten Guarantees of Parenting” series. Instead of guarantees, there are guidelines — where we as parents, and grandparents, and aunts & uncles, love, pray, stay connected, and point our kids to Jesus. Where we don’t give up, but also don’t give in. Where we make hard choices, where we lose sleep, where we pour our heart and soul into our kids. Because parenting ultimately is about love, and who ever said that love would be easy? Come to think of it, isn’t that what we see in our Heavenly Father? A love that doesn’t come easy, but doesn’t give up. And continues to guide us, call us, and is there for us; no matter what.

That’s the kind of parenting I need. And the kind I want to give. Even in a house full of teenagers.

5 Things Loosely Connected

This week, let me share with you five different things, all connected by one thread: What It Means to Be the Church, and ways Fern Creek is trying to do that.

1. Let me update you on our search for a children’s minister: We are making progress, and hope to announce something soon. Very soon. Wish I could say more. But I will. Soon. Very soon.

2. Sunday I shared the story of Dr. Stephen Foster. An amazing story. And while not everyone can be Dr. Foster, we all have something to learn from him. About faith. And our world. And what faith looks like in our world. Let’s continue to be a church, and a people, who live out our faith wherever we are.

3. Which leads me to my next thing: in my blog last week, I addressed the same-sex marriage decision handed down by the Supreme Court. In that blog, I listed a number of other resources. Let me add one more that was passed on by a friend. You can find it here. And when you read it, you’ll hear what the author thinks is a bigger issue in the church than same-sex marriage. (Hint: it’s pretty destructive; and it is something way too many folks take part in.)

20150707_2022454. We had a great Vacation Bible School. Thanks to Denise Powell and our team of folks for all their hard work. Over to the side, I’ve included a picture from that week.

5. Finally, this Sunday is our Commitment Sunday. It’s a real opportunity for all of us to take a step of faith, as we ask God how he would use our giving to help our church step into our next season of ministry. I am praying for you, that God will use this week, leading up to Sunday, as a spiritual experience. If you missed this past Sunday — or if you want to hear it again — listen to what I shared about our “50 & Forward” giving challenge. It’s the message titled “Don’t Invite Your Mother-in-Law to Dinner.” My thoughts about the giving challenge are toward the end of the message. Or, listen to the first half of the message to see what my deal is with mothers-in-law.


Being the Church in a Changing World

Sunday, I addressed the recent Supreme Court ruling, and said just a few words about how that affects our church. As with any sensitive and serious subject, we can never say all we want to say about it in five minutes, or 35, or in one blog post. But for those who missed what I shared on Sunday, and for those who would like to hear me say more about it, let me share a few thoughts.
I have said many times, in many situations, that our church is one that seeks to hold firmly to both grace and truth. You might want to get used to hearing me say that, because I am convinced that our church (and The Church) needs both, in abundance. As we follow Jesus, who was the perfect expression of grace and truth, our calling is to strive to be people who live grace and share truth, in every situation and season of life.
Nine days ago, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that made samesex marriage legal in all 50 states, including, of course, Kentucky. Even though this means major changes for our country, I want you to know that this doesn’t change anything about our church and our calling.
Here’s what I mean by that: Fern Creek Christian Church will continue to be a place where ALL people can explore God, and what it means to follow him. Whether you are gay or straight; white, black, or brown; alcoholic or workaholic; blue-collar or white-collar; a housewife, a neophyte, pro-choice, or pro-life: we will continue to be a church family that welcomes everyone on their journey toward God. Because that’s what Grace does.
But Grace also loves people enough to point them to Truth. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not popular. For, as Jesus said, it’s the Truth that sets us free. And so, as a church, no matter who you are, or what you face, we will seek to consistently, faithfully, grace-fully point you to Jesus.
And one of the ways we do that is in the area of our sexuality. And so, let me say plainly what we believe as the leaders of this church; what we will continue to teach and practice when it comes to sexual expression and marriage: We believe that God has designed marriage and sexual intimacy to be expressed in a life-long covenant relationship between a man and a woman.
To say this is not to be exclusive, or judgmental, or hateful. But saying this also does not give us the right to look down on others who disagree with us; and it certainly doesn’t give us the authority to malign, or villify, or mistreat anyone. Any One. Because that’s not what grace does. Instead, grace recognizes that I am broken, and our hope — the only hope any of us have — is to find His love in the midst of our brokenness.
My friend Ben Cachiaras recently gave a message where he sought to answer this question: “Is the Church Anti-Gay?” It’s nearly an hour long, but it’s worth your time to listen to or watch.
In his message, Ben points us to three things all of us need to remember when addressing this difficult subject. First, he says we need Conviction — about our sin and our struggles. This is the place to start. Every time. For every one. I must first look in the mirror to see where I struggle, where I am broken.
And the place to do that is Scripture, which provides us Clarity regarding the truth about God. And about ourselves.
And finally, when we then turn to talk with and live with others, we need Compassion — for them, and for their struggles. Their life may be very different than ours, but just as Jesus showed compassion to those who came to him, so must we.
There is a lot more we could say about this. There always is. If you’re interested in reading more, you’ll find some good food for thought from Scott Sauls, Russell Moore, and these challenging thoughts, and a follow-up, from Frederica Mathewes-Green. Oh, and this helpful website.
But let me end where I began: The church must be a place of grace and truth. For all of us are broken. And all of us need Jesus. So let’s continue to welcome ALL people, and point ALL people, to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.