Posted in Advent/Christmas, Personal Development

Finding Peace Anywhere and Everywhere

Peace(1)

What image come to mind when you hear the word “peace”? I used to think peace was the absence of all conflict or trouble. I pictured a sailboat in the middle of a placid lake with little or no breeze. Today I visualize a completely different scene.

The biblical definition of peace has an element of the absence of trouble. However, it embraces other aspects, as well. Peace can mean “being in right relationship with another.” It also includes “completeness and safety in the midst of chaos.” It’s comforting to know that when situations and relationships are far from peaceful, I can still be at peace.

The Advent season is the perfect time to remember God’s gift of peace. The Prince of Peace arrived during a time of Roman oppression. In Bethlehem, while the little town was overcrowded by the great influx of people coming to register for the census, God visited in the form of a newborn. Born to the Virgin Mary and Joseph, His cries pierced the darkness. His divine life brought supernatural peace to human kind.

As followers of Christ, we enjoy peace on many levels.

We enjoy peace with God. The angel chorus announced it to the shepherds.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14).

We do not struggle under the load of sin. We are no longer separated from God. We are brought near to Him and are in right relationship with the Lord.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

We enjoy peace with ourselves. Long after I knew I had peace with God, I continued to be in conflict with myself. I had a long list of “shoulds” and could never measure up. I extended kindness and grace to others, but was a brutal task master to myself. I constantly strove to excel in every area of my life. Thankfully the Lord, in His great love and patience, established His peace in my soul. Now I have serenity with my weaknesses and deficiencies. I know I am deeply loved by the Lord regardless of my performance. Perhaps you can relate with being hostile toward yourself. Rely on the Lord to help you be in right relationship with yourself.

We enjoy peace in our circumstances. We live in a fallen world with broken people. Life can be so hard some times. We experience disappointment, heartache, setback, and trauma. We encounter illness, injustice, violence, and death. Sometimes things don’t make sense. However, no matter what we may encounter in the moment, it does not have the power to shake the well being of our souls. The wonderful message of Christmas is that we are never alone. Emmanuel—God with us—has come. We have completeness and safety in the midst of chaos.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Today when I think of peace, it looks like the eye of a storm. The winds of destruction may rage, but there is a place of calm in the center. Christ is our Center. We can face anything and everything, because God’s peace is with us.

Jesus Christ came to this earth and provided peace. We have peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace in the midst of our circumstances.

You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for being the Prince of Peace. Teach me to trust You and to walk in Your perfect peace. This holiday season, may I reflect on Your great gift of peace and learn to always keep You at the center of my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock

 

Advertisements
Posted in Faith

Finding God in our Midst

finding God

Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Obviously these statements aren’t true. But do you ever wish life’s situations could be neatly and simply categorized? What if, God only brings blessings to the righteous? What if, the devil only brings curses to those far from God? It would settle, at least in part, the age-old philosophical quest for why there is evil in the world. And living right would guarantee that we experience only good things. Unfortunately there are no such guarantees.

Thankfully it is possible to experience peace that surpasses understanding while in the midst of struggles. Unlike Eastern religion that seeks to eliminate the illusion of suffering, Jesus Christ not only acknowledges suffering, He addresses it head on by giving Himself. He promises to be with us in the midst of suffering, and He is faithful.

These days when friends ask me how I am doing, I no longer answer, “Fine.” My reply is generally, “Up and down with Jesus in the midst of it all.” It’s honest, and it expresses the truth. I don’t have to hide behind a smile. Whether the circumstances of my life are good, bad, or ugly, the presence of Jesus is with me.

The 23rd Psalm paints a beautiful picture of the Lord’s presence. He is with me when things are running smoothly and I enjoy great blessings.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

My Shepherd is just as near when things take a turn for the worse.

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

He is with me when facing the darkest valley of death or the hateful threats of enemies. His presence dispels all fear and surrounds me with comfort. He takes care of me, providing the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

No matter what I encounter, God’s goodness and love are present. He is always with me. Lest I forget, there is more than just this life. I look forward to being with Him forever in His house.

There is absolutely nothing that can thwart the love of Christ. His loving presence continually flows toward us. We forget. We erect barriers. But He is constant. He is with us.

Friend, no matter what difficulties you may encounter, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and His precious love for you. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Right here. Right now. And always.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness. Thank You for being near and walking with me every moment of every day. Strengthen me when I’m weak and can’t see You at work in my life. Help me to trust You and to sense Your presence even in the darkness, knowing that You have defeated the enemy of my soul. Let Your hope and peace arise in my heart, as I acknowledge Your faithfulness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

God With Us

King Asa of Judah was between a rock and a hard place. The Ethiopians had attacked with an army of 1,000,000 men. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin had 580,000 warriors equipped to fight. By appearance, Judah was greatly outnumbered. The Ethiopians’ strategy was to overwhelm their opponents by fear of their great numbers. Against another king their strategy could have worked.

2 Chronicles 14 records King Asa’s prayer. “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against their vast horde. O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!” (vs. 11)

I love what the next verse says about the outcome. “So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah, and the enemy fled.”

Yes, King Asa and his army were there, but the Lord defeated the enemy. Against all odds, they won the battle, because God was with them and fought on their behalf.

What challenge are you currently facing? Are there difficulties where you lead? Is there fierce competition in the market place? Is your family struggling with relationships? Are there more expenses than income? Are you weak or sick in body?

Take courage, my friend. You are not alone. Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. He is with you.

Our Christmas celebrations highlight the miracle that Emmanuel came in the form of a Baby and dwelt among the people. He was touched by the brokenness and frailty of humanity, delivering hope and healing to the needy.

This is the same God who loves us today. He is touched by our brokenness and frailty. He freely delivers His hope and healing. He is not caught off guard when we are. He is fully in control and has the answers we need. He is God with us.

There is a bonus to living in this age. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised His Holy Spirit. Today the Holy Spirit lives in all who trust in Christ. Marvel at this miracle!

Is anything too hard for God? No! We can thrive no matter what the circumstances.

We walk each day, come what may, with the God who is with us and in us.

Posted in Faith

Two Words to Unpack this Christmas

It’s the Christmas season once again. Most of us are schedule-deep in celebrations, focused on the birth of Jesus Christ, the arrival of the Savior of the world. Carols remind us of the real reason for our festivities. Although wonderful, it’s not the long-awaited get togethers with loved ones or the chance to receive (and give, of course) the best presents ever or to prepare special recipes that only come out once a year. At the center of our well-loved traditions is the arrival Jesus. He is truly the greatest gift to mankind.

This Advent season I have been deliberate about slowing down to marvel at this miracle. God has displayed his glorious unchangeable nature, packaged in the fragile features of the newborn Babe.

At the risk of losing you with theological terms, allow me to unpack two words that at first glance seem paradoxical, and yet beautifully capture the essence of the Christmas message.

Transcendent. God is transcendent. He exists above and independent from anyone or anything else, outside of space and time. The Lord God Almighty created all things in heaven and on earth, yet He exists above and independent from them. Hebrews 1:3 says that He “sustains all things by His powerful word.” The entire universe exists in Him and for Him that He may receive glory, honor, and praise. This self-sustaining, independent God, however, is not like the ancient gods of mythology or the deities of other belief systems. These gods are self-absorbed and subject their subordinates to cruel, capricious circumstances. They are stark, uninvolved observers of their creation. No, our God is Love and desires relationship with his people. He does not need us, but He wants us.

This brings me to the next word.

Immanent. God is immanent. He exists and operates within the universe he created. He is at hand and actively involved in the minute details of our lives. He walked with the original man and woman in the Garden in the cool of the day. When sweet fellowship was broken by their disobedience, God revealed that He had a plan to restore what was lost. The Savior would come. He would be called “Emmanuel–God with us.” The transcendent God would marvelously dwell among us and be with us. And not just for a short time. All those who believe in Him and confess His name are His dearly loved children, and will be with Him forever!

This Emmanuel arrived Christmas Day with the purpose of redeeming us back to Himself. This All-Powerful, independent God revealed himself as the intensely personal God of Love. The great “I AM” came to be with you.

Transcendent. Immanent. Take time to unpack these word for yourself this Christmas. What does it mean to you that the Creator of the universe came to this earth to make a way for you to be in relationship with him? How would comprehending this truth make a difference in your life? Merry Christmas!