My backyard

I love being in my backyard, whether it is sitting on my deck sipping coffee in the morning, or smelling the grill or smoker going as dinner draws closer, or just goofing off with the girls. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I just like being in my backyard.

It’s a place where relationships grow, and fellowship takes place. Great conversations occur over coffee while outback. I read my Bible. I’ve watched the girls go out and do the same. Tents have been pitched outback for campouts. We’ve had family movie nights setting up a movie theater on the deck and overeating on movie junk food! We find peace, away from the busyness of life in our backyard.

But it’s pretty hard for all that to happen when the backyard is, well, a mess. That’s where what I’m now calling the Annual Diller Spring Cleaning — Outdoor Edition has become a reality for my family (including the kids!)

<Insert teenage sigh here>

Yep! I’m making them work outside. Free labor, right? No? Well, they’re labor nonetheless!

There’s just something to Spring cleaning that sets things right, you know?!?! Occasionally, it’s setting something that’s been broken, right, such as a repair I need to make to my fence. Other times it’s clearing out the junk that’s collected over the winter months — sticks, leaves, trash that’s blown in, the dog bombs. You get the idea. Junk has collected and needs to be removed.

And while the process isn’t the most enjoyable, it makes all of us feel full of accomplishment. It’s so worth it when the work is finished!

The Fullness of Jesus

Last week we began talking about fullness, not so much from our accomplishment, but what God accomplished through His Son, Jesus. To refresh, Paul wrote,

“…it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.” Colossians 1:19.

God desired all of His fullness to dwell in Jesus, and that fullness was pleased to do so. It wasn’t just some of God or certain parts. It was all of His fullness residing in Jesus. And as we discovered last week, Paul wasn’t the only one identifying the fullness of Christ.

John 1:16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

Bottom line? You and I have access to the fullness of God through Jesus. We are made full in that we have access to all we need to continue to be full and grow in grace as we allow the Holy Spirit to shape us into the image of Jesus. Just as important, it also means we have access to extending grace and mercy, creating space for grace — which makes space for peace. And as we’ll see today, it’s reconciliation through grace and mercy that spans the gap, like a bridge, making peace a reality — even in the most contentious of relationships.

Here’s the bottom line and where we’re going today. The fullness of Christ allows us to both experience and be a conduit of the peace of Christ.

At war with God

We need to go back to get a good perspective of peace. And when I mean back, we need to go way back, like to the beginning of Genesis.

God created this perfect “backyard” garden environment for Adam and Eve to live. It was so full of God and full of peace. I can imagine how it must have been to walk around naked and not think about clothes or weather. Food was all around. Indeed, there were many trees Adam and Eve could select from and a vegetable garden unlike any we’ve ever seen or eaten. I mean this was the perfect environment!

And as long as they remained thankful for what they had and didn’t desire what they couldn’t have, things would go well for them. It was when they looked longingly at what they couldn’t have that set their downfall (and ours) in motion.

You know the story. Eve is tempted to eat from the ONLY tree that God said not to eat. They probably had hundreds of different trees to eat from. But this one, being off-limits, made it all the more desirable. So, Eve and Adam succumbed, taking their eyes off all the other blessings in the garden to obtain what they thought would be a tremendous blessing . But as you and I know, it turned out to be something quite the opposite of a blessing. It was something much worse.

Peace was broken.

Peace between man and woman, as well as peace between God and humanity, was broken. Peace would no longer rule. The unbroken

communion Adam and Eve had experienced with each other was now broken. Theirs was the first relationship to suffer. The next? Their relationship to God. The unbroken communion they both shared with God was severed, leaving a gap between God and the people meant to be in a close, peaceful relationship with God.

They were at odds with each other and with God.

You can see the impact broken peace had on creation with a brief look through the history of humankind after the Garden Fall. Man started doing what was right in his or her sight. God would be honored temporarily, but His people would disobey, fight against God, against each other, leaving peace broken. The gap, ever-widening, between God and man. Man certainly experienced the effects of a broken world languishing from the lack of peace and fullness that God alone can only fill. And it’s no different today.

The birth of my daughters

I don’t know if you experienced this or not, but when my daughters were born, I remember thinking how perfect they were. I marveled at their tiny fingers as they gently wrapped around my seemingly colossal index finger. But there came a moment for each of them when I realized they were just as broken as Adam and Eve, just as broken as I was. And in desperate need of a Savior. Even as pure and as perfect as the birth of my daughters seemed, they are born enemies of God, in need of peace with God, a peace that only God could provide by bridging the gap.

Reconciliation is required.

Reconciliation Bridged by Blood

Last week we looked at the first of the two verses we set camp on. Today we’re looking at the second.

Colossians 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

We’re gonna start at the end of the verse and work towards reconciliation. Paul says God made peace a reality via the shed blood of Jesus on His cross. I suppose the first thing to note is that the cross belonged to Jesus. It’s called “His cross.” He took it. Owned it. Chose it. For you. For me. That’s just gigantic right there. Don’t rush past that!

Next is the word through. God made peace “through” the blood of Jesus. It’s like a bridge. A bridge allows movement from one side to another, spanning the gap between two bodies of land.

When I was a kid, Dad took me on a fishing trip. To get there, we had to cross “Big Mac.” No, not the McDonald’s’ sandwich. Big Mac is the nickname for the world’s fourth longest suspension bridge. Its actual name is the Mackinac Bridge and has a total span of approximately five miles, connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. That bridge freaked me out, feeling as if it went on forever. There wasn’t any getting used to it. I just kept thinking if this bridge gives out, I’m dead. Then who’s gonna get all my baseball cards? Especially my 2nd year 1970 Topps Tom Seaver or my Daryl Strawberry rookie card? I certainly didn’t want my mom just throwing them out! Good grief!!

Because of Christ’s obedience, choosing the cross, God spanned the gap, allowing movement from one side to another. God built His bridge to us on the bloody back of His Son. Grace created space for peace. After years of humanity being enemies with God, God, not because we deserved it, not because we were right, but because He is right and righteous, chose reconciliation.

In the fullness of Christ (v.19), God sought to reestablish a relationship with His creation. He wanted to reconcile. God desired to change a broken relationship, exchanging it for a much better one, one that’s friendly and peaceable when it had previously not been so. He sought to establish a peaceable relationship with you and me and the rest of humanity, setting what was broken right. Grace made space for peace.

The process of reconciliation, then, is setting right what is broken.

My backyard as a kid

I loved backyards as a kid! Maybe that’s why I love being in my backyard today. And that yard would change from one day to the next what it would be. Monday, it might be a baseball diamond. The bases? Two apple trees and a maple tree. Home plate was a bare spot near the house. By Sunday, though, the yard had morphed into a tag arena with water guns and balloons.

No matter what shape the yard took in my mind, it always witnessed me running. One memorable evening I took a pretty nasty dive into the ground. I’d been out back most of the day, only taking a break for the bathroom and food. It was getting late, and the sun had all but set on the horizon, offering its reddish-orange glow to the trees. I was running around, throttle fully open as usual, playing some game. I can’t say what I tripped on, but I remember putting both of my hands out in front of me to catch me before I face-planted into the ground.

There was instant pain in my hand, particularly around the base of my thumb. I leaped off that ground and ran around even harder, only not out of fun this time! I was screaming,

“My thumb! I jammed my thumb!”

For whatever reason, I thought it would make it feel better to continue running and shaking my hand as if I could shake the pain off. I ran around for a few moments before I realized the pain was probably the most I’d ever felt. That’s when I began to feel sick to my stomach, and tears started to flow.

Mom and Dad brought me inside to see if there was anything they could do.

It was an immediate, “Let’s get into the truck. We’re going to the emergency room.”

The pain was only getting worse, which made my stomach even more upset to the point that whatever food I had in me no longer wanted to stay in me. My poor Dad!

After X-rays at the hospital, the doctor confirmed what my parents had suspected. It was broken and would need to be set and cast. So the doctor put a splint on my hand and sent us home. It was all he was able to do.

After a rough night, the appointment was made, and I was to go in and have the thumb set right and cast. I figured, after the pain I had already felt, this would be a piece of cake! No problem, right?

I wish that were the case.

I knew it wasn’t good when we got to the room, and Mom called in reinforcements. My grandfather. After a shot into the broken thumb, the doctor said he’d begin to set the thumb right. My grandfather’s job? Distract me.

While the distraction worked for a little while, it wasn’t long before I realized my thumb was hurting worse than when I’d first broke it. Setting it right was worse! I wanted the doc to stop. But broken things have to be set right, don’t they? So, he continued till he had it set in the proper position. He then began the process of casting. Once finished, I had a broken thumb set right and ready for healing and a cast that ran from my hand to my elbow. In this position, healing could begin.

So also does the process of reconciliation, bringing peace and healing to a relationship.

Grace made space for peace

Grace made space for peace. God desired to heal the relationship between us. And it was painful. It wasn’t easy. Jesus chose the cross, and God had to turn His back on His only Son as He became sin.

He bridged the gap for you. For me. But not solely for our own lives. He bridged the gap so we could do the same. He bridged the gap so we could be peacemakers.

You and I have received the fullness of Christ if we’ve placed our trust in Him as our Savior. Recall, this doesn’t mean we have arrived with no more room for growth. On the contrary, we all have room to grow in Christ. What we have access to is the fullness of Christ that provides exactly what we need to be a peacemaker.

Often throughout our lives, we gather junk from other relationships. Hurts that we’ve hung on to. Things said that couldn’t be taken back. We may have forgiven them, but something lingers along with the other relational debris that’s collected over our lives.

Maybe it’s time for a spring cleaning.

It’s in the spring-cleaning that we fling open the doors of our hearts to experience the peace of Christ entirely. It’s freeing. There is nothing else like it. You can’t duplicate it with anything this world offers. It’s a peace that you and I will never understand. It passes all understanding and guards us like a sentry over our lives, preventing unauthorized access to our lives. (Philippians 4:7)

Maybe it’s time that we ask the Holy Spirit to examine what’s within, so we can be peacemakers with what’s out. Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers,” and we’ll talk more about this next week as we round off this month. But as a tie over to next week, consider how the Amplified Bible describes blessed.

enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous— with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation

I could use some of that. How about you?