Steadfast Peace

sleep

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3)

I blew it last night.  I lost my debit card at a gas station last night and I didn’t even realize it until I got a Facebook private message asking me, “Did you lose your debit card at such-and-such gas station?”  I dug into my purse and, sure enough, no debit card.  I quickly messaged the person back: “Yes, I did!  Is it still there?”  The answer: “No, I have it, I didn’t want to leave it at the gas station.  We are eating supper now after church.”  I messaged back: “Thank you! Tell me where and I’ll come to you to get it” And I waited, keys in hand, for the response.  Nothing.  More waiting.  No response.  Thirty minutes went by and nothing.  I tried to call.  No answer.  I messaged again.  No response.  I checked my messenger every 3 minutes, no response. No response. No response. An hour later and I sent another message: “Please let me know how I can connect with you and get my debit card back.”  Crickets chirping. By this point my anxiety level was through the roof.  I checked my account on-line to see if the card was being used.  Thankfully not.  I agonized over whether to have the card cancelled.  But she said they had been at church, so there was a little hope.  We went to bed and my mind was a whirlwind of anxiety.  I lay down, eyes squeezed shut and tried to sleep.  I sensed a brief flash of light from the bedside table.  She messaged me back: “Sorry, my phone went dead.”  Relief flooded my mind and heart as I messaged her back and arranged to pick it up. I finally drifted off to sleep.

This morning Isaiah 26:3 floated through my mind.  I realized I had blown it.  I lost my peace.  I worried and fretted, imagining all sorts of scenarios of my card being used and my account being drained.  I was the antithesis of the person in this verse.  My mind was everywhere but on the Lord.  Surely the same God who had just taken us from the pit of joblessness, homelessness and despair and blessed us so richly, could be trusted to safeguard my debit card.  The truth is, I had not even thought to ask Him to.  My mind was nowhere near Him.  I had no peace in the situation.  And to make matters worse, I had just come from a Bible study where the lesson was on peace!

Our lives are constantly in flux – ups and downs with sudden curves and more than a few potholes.  But our hearts don’t have to be.  If we keep God as the center of our thoughts we can peacefully endure all the uncertainties and sudden changes that come at us.  What if I had immediately prayed, “Thank you for securing my lost debit card.  I know it is safe in Your hands, no matter whose human hands are holding it.  Help me to trust You to get it back to me.”  If only I had remembered that God is trustworthy in all things that surround me, that He cares about my life and the things that concern me, I would have saved myself so much anxiety and sleep.

Maybe your concern is something bigger than a lost debit card.  Maybe it is a lost relationship, or a hard diagnosis, or a financial pothole that keeps you up at night.  I’ve been in those too.  And God has been faithful. You and I are not people in despair with no hope.  We are the people of God and He cares about everything that touches our lives.  Everything.  And with that assurance we can – we must – take hold of our thoughts and redirect them to Him.  Only then can we weather these hard things with peace.  Beloved, has He ever let you down?  I didn’t think so – and He won’t now.  Peace is a byproduct of trust and trust comes when we consider the faithful record of God and His righteous, loving character.  The saying goes: “No God, no peace.  Know God, know peace.”  We need to know Him, trust Him, and stand steadfast in faith.  Beloved, you and I can have a perfect peace because we have a perfect God who cares for us perfectly.  Steadfast peace is a soft pillow on which to lay your head; trust God – and get some sleep tonight.

Advertisements

When All Is Lost

Hagar and Ishmael had been banished to the desert with just a skin of water and no direction. When the water ran out so did Hagar’s hope. She couldn’t bear to watch her son die, so she set him under a bush and walked away. As her tears fell, God sent an angel to comfort her and give her hope. And water. The Scripture says “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water” (Genesis 21:19). A well. In a desert. Just at the moment she needed it. Right where she stopped in her hopelessness.

There are volumes here we can learn from this account, and a good preacher could get a month’s worth of 3-point sermons out of this story. But here is my take-away: God brings hope into hopeless situations. He gives water in the desert, peace in the storm, direction in the wilderness, and light in the darkness. He is watching with tender care to meet you wherever your struggles take you. Whether you are in the desert or on a stormy sea – if your life is a train wreck or you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, God knows right where you are Beloved. He knows exactly what you need. He will meet you in the middle of your hopeless situation. Just when you think all is lost, God says you are found.

Advent Day 21 – What’s on Your Christmas List?

 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

What Do You Want for Christmas? Jewelry? Clothes? Something for your house? (Maybe a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle?J) Or you just might prefer the one-size-fits-all cash gift.  Sometimes our wishes are pretty big – my son wanted a LEGO® Star Wars Death Star (retail 499.99) – needless to say, he did not get it.  Some of us are satisfied with a bit less.  When I was a little girl, I just wanted paper and pencils – guess I’ve always been a writer at heart.

Or maybe your Christmas list is less tangible – something that can’t be wrapped up and put under the tree.  If you wrote it out it might say “peace” or “joy” or “hope” or “love.” Maybe your list includes “acceptance” or “freedom” or “rest.”  You and I know that we can’t buy those at the mall or order them online.  There’s only one place for these Christmas wishes.

To the one who asks for peace, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).  Peace in our hearts only comes through Jesus Christ.  For the one who has lost their joy David wrote, “You will fill me with joy in Your presence” (Psalm 16:11).  Joy is found in Immanuel – the God who is with us.  If you need hope this Christmas, hear God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  In the Lord’s hands we have hope – for this life and for all eternity.  Do you wish for love? “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).  Not just a little, not even a “bushel and a peck,’” but poured out on you lavishly, without measure and overflowing.  In fact, this same verse fills your desire for acceptance – God calls Himself your Father and He accepts you as His child.  If freedom tops your list you can find release – the Psalmist says “O Lord, truly I am your servant . . . You have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:16).  The blood of Jesus breaks the chains of this world.  Maybe you just want a little rest this Christmas.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Just sink back into His arms and let Him carry your burdens and you.

Whatever you long for this Christmas, you can find it in Jesus.  There is nothing on your list that He cannot provide. He is the greatest Gift of all and your heart’s deepest longing.  No, this gift isn’t jewelry, toys, or clothes wrapped in paper and ribbons sitting under your tree.  It is the peace, joy, hope, and love of God wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Advent Day 20 – The Gift of Peace

Note: I am pulling this devotional from the 2013  Advent series because I need this reminder in this season of my life.  I hope it blesses you too!

“Peace! Do not be afraid.”  Judges 6:23

At Christmas we celebrate our loved ones with gifts.  We consider the recipient and choose carefully something that will have special meaning or significance to them.  I enjoy giving gifts that I know someone would love, but that they wouldn’t get for themselves.  When God considered us, He chose to send us a gift that we couldn’t give ourselves – the gift of peace.

One of the biggest barriers to peace is fear.  We have all experienced fear of some kind.  I have a fear of heights. One of my friends has a fear of crowds, another a fear of tight spaces.  Some fears are good for us, like the fear of snakes.  Some are common to most of us as in the fear of the dark.  For some people fear takes on irrational proportions and becomes an unhealthy psychological problem.  We live in a world that breeds fear and causes us to look at others with a question, “Should I be afraid of you?”

There is also fear that invades our minds and hearts – fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death.  With so much to be afraid of, is there any way to be at peace?  Yes, because we have a Prince of Peace and His word to us is “Do not be afraid.”

In fact a quick and non-exhaustive search of those words shows at least 76 times in Scripture that we are told “do not be afraid.”  God knows us so well.  He knows that we will become fearful at times, and He knows we need His peace.

How can we have peace when we are afraid?  Psalm 56:3 is the perfect answer: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust, I will not be afraid.”   The answer to fear is trust.  We can trust God and rest our fears because He is faithful.  His Word is filled with His promises – promises that will bring us peace if we will trust in the Promise-maker.  We have His promises that He will always be with us – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9); “the LORD your God . . . will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  We have the promise of His strength – “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  We have the promise of His deliverance – “Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose” (Jeremiah 15:13). We have the promise if His blessing:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

And if all that were not enough, we have this promise from Jesus Himself: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

This Advent season hear the angels proclaiming the greatest news man can ever know:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14 (KJV)

Read Psalm 29

Advent Day 11 – The Heart of Peace

Photo from fanpop.com

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Peace is a very popular topic today.  Politicians and world leaders meet in an attempt to bring peace to conflicting nations.  The radio plays songs about peace, and great orators give inspiring messages calling for peace.  Yet there is so little peace.  The world is full of war, pitting nation against nation.  Neighbors battle one another, and even brothers and sisters, parents and children are at odds.

Can there really be true peace in this world? There can, and the One who can bring peace is the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ.  He came to bring true peace; not the man-made peace the world seeks, but the peace we desperately need, peace with God.

While the world points to men and nations as the cause of strife in the world, the true peace-breaker is our sin.  Sin brings hostility within our family, our church, our community, and the world.  That is because at its truest essence sin causes us to be God’s enemy.  That is a harsh thought, but according to the Bible, it is the reality we inherited from Adam and Eve.  Sin in the hearts of human beings creates enmity between man and his Creator.  But Jesus Christ came to bring peace between God and man.  Listen to Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God’s love for us is so great that He paved the path to peace with the life of His Son, Jesus. Only when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, will we know true peace.  “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

This peace starts in one man’s heart, and as it multiplies in other hearts, true peace begins to take hold.  This world is looking for peace, longing for peace, even – strangely – fighting for peace, but we will not find peace at a conference or in songs or speeches. And we surely won’t find it on the battlefield.  Peace can only be found in a manger, wrapped in rough cloths and adored by ragged shepherds and all the angels of heaven.

Read Romans 5:6-11

What Do You Want for Christmas?

165043-849x565-christmas-giftsWhat Do You Want for Christmas? Jewelry? Clothes? A good book? Something for your house?  Or you just might prefer the one-size-fits-all cash gift.  Sometimes our wishes are pretty big – my son wanted a LEGO® Star Wars Death Star (retail 499.99) – needless to say, he did not get it.  Some of us are satisfied with a bit less.  When I was a little girl, I just wanted paper and pencils – guess I’ve always been a writer at heart.

Or maybe your Christmas list is less tangible – something that can’t be wrapped up and put under the tree.  If you wrote it out it might say “peace” or “joy” or “hope” or “love.” Maybe your list includes “acceptance” or “freedom” or “rest.”  You and I know that we can’t buy those at the mall or order them online.  There’s only one place for these Christmas wishes.

To the one who asks for peace, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).  Peace in our hearts only comes through Jesus Christ.  For the joyless David wrote, “You will fill me with joy in Your presence” (Psalm 16:11).  Joy is found in the presence of God.  If you long for hope hear God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  In the Lord’s hands we have hope – for this life and for all eternity.  Do you wish for love? “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).  Not just a little, not even a “bushel and a peck” (anybody remember that?), but poured out on you lavishly, without measure and overflowing.  In fact this same verse fills your request for acceptance – God calls Himself your Father and He accepts you as His child.  If freedom tops your list you can find release – the Psalmist says “O Lord, truly I am your servant . . . You have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:16).  The blood of Jesus breaks the chains of this world.  Maybe you, like me just want a little rest this Christmas.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Just sink back into His arms and let Him carry your burdens and you.

Whatever you long for this Christmas, you can find it in Jesus.  There is nothing on your list that He cannot provide. He who is the greatest Gift of all is ready to give you the gift you most desire.

Advent 2015 – Day 19 – My Testimony – From Darkness to Joy

adventcandlesweek3“You turned my wailing to dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent” Psalm 30:11-12

Painters often use dark colors to emphasis lighter tones in a scene, allowing the contrast to draw our eye to the most important part of the painting.  A writer uses crisis and conflict to build tension in a story; when the resolution comes the reader experiences joy and relief.  At times our heavenly Father uses dark tones as He paints the portrait of our lives.  This is my story.  This is how God took me from wailing to dancing and from sackcloth to joy.

Like most of us, I’ve had “blue days” when my heart and mind were in a low place, but they usually came and went and I rode them out like waves at the beach.  But when a tsunami of anxiety and depression hit me and knocked me off my feet, there was no riding it out; this was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  The constant bombardment of hopelessness, anxiety, and despair never left me.  Almost daily, I battled thoughts of ending my life to stop the mental torment.  There was nothing I could do to help myself. There was no shaking it off and no bootstraps to pull myself up by—and even if there were, I didn’t have the strength to grab hold of them.

So how did I go from hopelessness to standing here with the sun shining on my face; to once again pursue my dreams and find joy in my life?  Only God.  “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2).  I was indeed in a deep and horrible pit, but the Lord rescued me.  He spoke tenderly to my heart from His Word. He listened as I poured out all my emotions to Him. Often I simply sat quietly in His presence, His love and compassion enveloping me.  Slowly but surely, light began to dawn in the darkness and joy took root in my heart like a tiny seed stretching itself toward the sun.

Why am I letting you see this side of my life?  Because someone is struggling today just as I struggled then.  Someone is in a deep, dark pit of despair, on the verge of giving up.  I want you to know beloved, there is hope and joy for you—because God is for you.  He rescued me and He is able and willing to rescue you, because He loves you.    My prayer today is that you will receive God’s healing love and experience His joy this Christmas.  Please cry out to God – right now – and receive His love.  I am living proof that God can turn your darkness in to joy.

Advent 2015 – Day 14 – Perfect Peace

advent2a“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

Perfect peace.  Take a deep breath and let your mind settle on those two words.

What would perfect peace mean in the world today?  No more terror, no more hate, no more war.  No child living in fear, crying herself to sleep at night.  No more families torn apart.  Think of it “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

What would perfect peace mean in your life?  Would you sleep better at night?  Would you worry less and enjoy the little things each day?  Could you use some perfect peace where you work?  How would perfect peace affect your home and family?  Imagine perfect peace between you and your spouse—between you and your parents and siblings.  Even perfect peace between you and your teenager.

Is perfect peace even possible?  I believe it is, because God has shown us the way.  Job 22:21 tells us to “Submit to God and be at peace with Him.”  That is the first step we must take to know perfect peace.  There will be no peace in your home, your work, your family or your life until there is peace in your heart with God.  But how do we find such peace?

We go to Jesus.  He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).  Jesus paid the ultimate price—His own life—that you and I can have peace with God.  By accepting His sacrifice on the cross, you can know real, unshakable, eternal peace.  The peace He offers is the perfect peace that Isaiah prescribed.

As we walk this path of peace with God, we can have the peace of God.  Philippians 4:7 brings us right back to the heart of our key verse, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Perfect peace—the peace of God—is possible only through the peace we find in Jesus.

As we close this Advent week, I invite you to know this peace.  Come to the cross of Jesus and receive Him as your Savior.  This simple prayer, prayed from a sincere heart can bring you into God’s peace.

Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, in need of salvation.  By faith I receive the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for me and I claim Him as my Savior.  God, flood my heart with Your perfect peace as I walk with you now and forever.  Amen.

No God, no peace.  Know God, know peace.

Advent 2015 – Day 13 – Peace in the Storm

advent2a“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Peace!  Be still!’  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”  Mark 4:39

My pastor says that you are either going into a storm, in the midst of a storm or just coming out of a storm.  It is one of the constants of living in this fallen world.  Difficult times will come.  Sometimes the best we can hope for is to go through them with someone who cares and can help.

The disciples faced “a furious squall” as they fought through that long stormy night on the Sea of Galilee.  They worked to keep the boat upright and frantically bailed the overflowing water.  While they struggled, they no doubt cast furtive glances at the end of the boat where Jesus slept.  “Is he going to sleep through this whole thing?”  “Why is he leaving us to fight the storm by ourselves?”  Finally, when they had no strength left to battle the wind and the waves, they woke Jesus up and cried, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown” (v. 38)?

You’ve asked those same questions, haven’t you?  “God, are you going to sleep through this storm?”  “Are you even paying attention?” “Don’t you care if I drown?”  Jesus knew the situation on the lake that night.  He knows your situation too.  Though He may seem uninterested, He has his eye fixed on you.  He will not let the wind and the waves drown you.  He knows the exact moment to speak peace into your storm.

We are wise to remember that sometimes the Lord speaks peace to the storm, and sometimes, though the storm rages on, He speaks peace to His child.

Jesus’ command was only three little words: “Peace!  Be still!”  His words are almost identical to the words of Psalm 46:10.  Jesus spoke them to the wind and waves.  God is speaking them to your heart today.  “Peace.  Be still . . . and know that I am God.”

Advent 2015 – Day 12 – The Favor of His Peace

advent2a“The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”  Numbers 6:26

In the terminology of the Old Testament, to “turn one’s face toward” someone was to signify favor and blessing from the greater to the lesser.  A king might show favor to a trusted soldier or advisor and shower him with gifts and position—he had turned his face toward him.  It was a mutual benefit, for the king gained greater loyalty from the one he favored.  For the nation of Israel, the God of heaven and earth turned His face toward them and promised His blessing, His grace, and His peace (see vs. 24-26).  This weary group had just escaped from Egypt after four hundred years of slavery.  They had nothing to offer that would garner His favor, they had no country of their own, no wealth or treasure, and no political or military power.  When God turned His face toward them, it was purely an act of unmerited favor on the part of the Lord.

As we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the favor of the Creator poured out on us, His creation.  We celebrate the gift of His mercy and His grace.  We celebrate the coming of the Child of Peace.  We hang lights in our homes to honor the Light of the World.  We give gifts just as the Magi gave gifts to the Christ Child.  We sing songs, remembering the song of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14).  We rejoice at the joy of the shepherds who first saw this wondrous gift from heaven.

But let us not forget that God showed His highest favor toward us at Calvary.  The gift given at Jesus’ birth was made complete in His sacrifice.  At the cross the Holy Father turned His face away from His one and only Son, so that He might turn His face toward sinful humanity and give us peace.  It is purely an act of unmerited favor.