Tag Archive | Trials

Peace with God & the Peace of God

During this second full week of our Perfect Peace Bible Reading Plan, two verses stood out to me (all verses from ESV).

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭

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

Jesus Christ is the one described by the prophet Isaiah as the Prince of Peace.

We live in a world filled with war and violence. Peace is sought but often fleeting in both world politics and human hearts. So how is Jesus the Prince of Peace?

The Hebrew word shalom, translated peace in this verse and many other verses in the Old Testament, goes beyond our normal understanding of peace. It speaks of a complete peace, a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony. The calm and tranquility that are characteristic of this kind of peace can be between individuals, groups, or nations.

As Jesus went around and ministered to the needy, He demonstrated He had the authority to bring peace. One vivid example comes to mind. As Jesus and His disciples were in a boat, a storm arose. The disciples became fearful, even awakening Jesus from sleep and accusing Him of not caring if they perished, but with His words Jesus stilled the storm. “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark‬ ‭4:39‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Yet Luke 12:51 tells us Jesus did not come to give peace on earth. The peace He primarily came to give was an inner peace in the lives of individuals like you and me. A peace that we can experience regardless of what is going on around us.

As He said in John 16:33, He came“… that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

This deeper, more foundational peace for those who believe in Jesus Christ is twofold:

  1. Jesus came to make a way for us to have peace with God, the spiritual harmony brought about in each individual’s life when they believe in Jesus as the substitutionary sacrifice for their sin.
  2. Jesus also came to give those who put their trust in Him access to the peace of God, His own peace, poured out on us when we ask.

We have peace with God if at some point in our life we accepted Christ’s sacrifice as our own. We received forgiveness for our sin and our relationship with God, once broken by sin, was restored. This is described in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God is a constant in the life of a believer in Christ Jesus. It is an eternal peace.

In contrast, the peace of God is something we must take hold of by faith on an ongoing basis. It can be disturbed any time we turn out focus on our circumstances and off of the God who is ultimately in control of our circumstances. This peace is one of the fruits of the spirit which God desires to manifest in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23) It is the inner sense of rest we experience when instead of giving place to fear and anxiety, we come to God and ask His help. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7)‬ ‭

 

img_6430So how do we take hold of and continue in this peace of God that allows us to walk undisturbed within regardless of the storms howling around us. There are four keys that come to mind.

  • Recognize the peace of God is one of the fruits of the Spirit, not something we can manufacture in our own strength,
  • Remember the way God has given us to take hold of His peace, by humbly bringing our requests to Him by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.
  • Remain in the place of perfect peace by steadfastly keeping our focus on the character and promises of our God.
  • Finally, if in our human weakness we allow our focus to shift back on our troubling circumstances, repent and once again turn our eyes on God, committing our circumstances afresh into His capable hands.

 

 

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Perfect Peace Is Found In Jesus

Last Friday I started this month’s topical Bible reading study by Rachel Wojo, entitled Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus. Today, I want to share a few insights I’ve gained from the Scriptures through this week’s study.

Life is full of of peace-stealers, of people and circumstances which in the natural definitely do not lead to peace. Today’s reading in Psalm 120 is an example.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” Psalm‬ ‭120:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

So what do we do when we find ourselves around people who by their lifestyle show a hatred for peace? Or when we face stressful circumstances that take away our peace? There’s only one answer, and it’s given in verse 1 of this Psalm: turn to the Lord in our distress, and cry out to Him. He cares about what we are going through, and He will answer us.

Walking in peace – especially in circumstances or relationships that do not promote peace – requires a purposeful decision. Much of the battle for peace is waged in our minds, so we need to learn to take our thoughts captive in obedience to the Word of God. Lies need to be replaced with truth.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:4-5‬ ‭

Next, walking in peace requires power beyond our own. God has not left us to our own resources in this decision to walk in peace. Jesus is our source of peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭

There is only one requirement to receive this peace Jesus offers us, and that is us being IN CHRIST. That simply means we have accepted His sacrifice on the cross as payment in full for our own sin. Because of faith in Jesus’ death on the cross, we are forgiven and brought into a right relationship with God. And the peace that comes from our standing in Christ can sustain us and give us hope and joy, even during times of turmoil or suffering.

I also learned this week, that MEEKNESS and PEACE go hand-in-hand. Psalm 37:11 says,

“But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”

The biblical concept of meekness is often misunderstood in our culture. Meekness is not weakness. It is not resignation to circumstances we are powerless to change. Biblical meekness is an active and deliberate acceptance of whatever circumstances God has permitted to touch our lives, whether they be desirable or undesirable, based on the understanding that God is in control and He will work everything in our lives for our good and His glory.

This doesn’t cover the verses I read this week, but these are the points that stood out to me during my daily study times. If you are doing this study with us, feel free to share what God most strongly impressed upon your heart in the comments. And choose during this weekend and upcoming week to stand against the peace-stealers you are currently facing, renew your mind daily in God’s Word which is truth, and walk in biblical meekness. As David said in Psalm 29:11, may the Lord give you strength and may He bless you with peace regardless of what you are currently walking through.

Peace in the Storm

Laurie Shoquist Miller, blogger at God-Living with Chronic Illness, founder and leader of the Facebook encouragement and support group God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness, and a dear friend, shared this post on our group’s Facebook page, where we are doing Rachel Wojo’s June study Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus. With her permission, I am blessed to share it with my readers.

A while back, on a particularly stormy day, I was supposed to take a plane ride for a destination which I can’t even remember today. I do, however, distinctly remember how black and thick with condensation the clouds were, and how scared I was to think of flying through a storm like this one.

I’m not really a fan of flying, but I can get the job done with a little dramamine. But when you add in thick, black clouds, lightning, and heavy turbulence, I need something far stronger than dramamine to get through it.

I’ll never forget this particular airplane ride because as we took off there was nothing we could do to avoid this storm. The plane just kept going up, up, up, right into the dark, thick clouds that soon surrounded us. The pilot continued to go up, up, up through the sporadic lightning and rain that came down in torrents upon us. I knew we were in for a bad time as the plane shifted in mid-air with the powerful turbulence.

To my amazement, within what seemed like only a few minutes, we were bursting right through those dark, heavy clouds into the airspace above them, and all I could see was sunshine floating on clouds which looked like a bed of cotton balls below us that seemed to continue on forever. The darkness, lightning, and torrential rain were gone, almost as if they had never existed.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Even though we might be in the thick of a storm where all seems lost and fear reigns in our hearts, God lives above those storms in our lives. God looks down upon the storms, and HE REIGNS over them. Even though they seem huge, and we’re not sure how or when they will end or what damage they will do, we must always remember that the God who loves us dearly also reigns supremely over the storms in our lives.

God will give us strength and peace to get through the darkest and most difficult of times as we REMEMBER that He still reigns over the storms. To access this strength and peace, we must FIX OUR EYES ON THE TRUTHS that He is Lord of the flood, and that it is actually His glory that thunders over the mighty waters. We must REMEMBER that God’s power and strength are bigger than the biggest storm we are experiencing and that He will carry us through.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;

the voice of the Lord is majestic….

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

the Lord is enthroned as King forever.

The Lord gives strength to his people;

the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

(Psalm 29:3-4, 10-11 NIV)

During the very next storm, when your child (or grandchild) is crying out in fear at the thick rain and powerful lightning, remind her that the booming sound which follows the lightning is actually the glory of God thundering majestically over the storm (see Psalm 29: 3-4). Read the above verses to her and reassure her that she does not need to be afraid because God is powerful over the storm. Have her draw a picture of the storm, and while she draws, help her memorize these verses so that these truths will help her next time, too. During future storms, make it a game to see who can be the first to correctly quote these verses.

Let this song remind you of these truths during the storms of life:

Learning to RALLY

Life with chronic illness – or any of a variety of the many trials we face as a part of life on this fallen earth – can be difficult. And poor choices that open a door to the enemy make it even harder.

I’m currently doing a study of Rally: A Personal Growth Bible Study, written by Barb Raveling, with a Facebook group I’m a part of. I highly recommend this book.

“Do you ever wish you could escape your problems? Just jump on a ship and sail across the ocean?” If your answer to this question is yes, this study may be just what you’re looking for.

From the back cover of the book:

“The Bible tells us to count it all joy when we encounter trials, but that’s hard to do. It’s easier when we remember that trials have the potential to help us grow. Unfortunately, we’re often so busy stressing and obsessing that we miss out on growing.”

The focus of this Scripture based study is on learning to “slow down, take a deep breath, and spend some time visiting with God about your current struggles.” Barb gives five steps God’s Word teaches us, which form the acronym RALLY.

R – Renew your mind.

A – Ask Him for help and accept what you need to accept.

L – Let go of your have-to-haves.

L – Let go of “if only” and make a plan.

Y – Yay God! Thank Him in all situations.

Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan, Week 4

Day 18: Psalm 96:1-6

Sing…bless…tell…declare…these verses are filled with action. The Christian life, lived the way God desires us to live it is not passive. Yes, Jesus has already made a way for us to be a part of the family of God. There is nothing we can do to earn His salvation. But once we have come to Him in faith and received salvation, He calls us to actively serve Him.

  • Sing to the Lord – repeated three times in these six verses. Even if you aren’t a skilled musician, God still delights in your songs of praise.
  • Bless His name. To bless the Lord is praise Him, to bend the knee in an act of adoration, to honor Him as holy, and to glorify Him through our words and actions.
  • Tell of His salvation. Remember the words of Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” You may not think of yourself as a preacher, but you can tell of His salvation by sharing what Jesus has done in your life.
  • Declare His glory. Declaring God’s glory is simply declaring His character, all He is, to others or even to yourself when circumstances cause doubt to creep in.
  • Declare His marvelous works. To declare is to proclaim and affirm something. Has the Lord done anything in your life? Tell others about it. Is there a promise of His Word that you’ve seen fulfilled? Share the promise and what God did to demonstrate His faithfulness to you.

Day 19: 1 Peter 2:1-9

What happens when you take a small taste of your favorite food? Do you simple say “that was good” and turn to something else? Or do you take another bite and slowly savor it’s flavor or smoothness or spiciness or whatever word best describes it’s appeal?

If you’ve had a taste of the Lord’s goodness, your response will be similar. You will want to know Him better. You will have a hunger that only the growing knowledge of God will satisfy.

I still recall the early days after I came to know Jesus Christ personally as my Lord and Savior. I was a kindergarten teacher at the time, needing to leave for school early in the morning, but it was no burden for me to wake up early to spend time with the Lord at the start of my day. I was hungry to know Him better.

I am no longer a spiritual babe, having walked with God for over forty-five years. But the desire to grow in my knowledge of Him is still a daily part of my life. I still set aside the first part of my day to spend time reading my Bible, praying, and often journaling. I crave this time in His presence more than I crave another bite of my favorite food, because the more I’ve come to know Him the more I’ve realized I’ve just cracked the surface into the fullness of all He desires to be in my life.

Day 20: isaiah 29:13-16

Father, help me to draw near to You with my heart, not just with my words. May my worship of You spring out of a heart fully committed to You. And above all, help me to remember You are the potter, I am the clay, not the other way around. I humble myself under Your mighty hand. To argue with what You are doing in my life is the height of foolishness.

Day 21: Isaiah 25:1-9

God is today and every day worthy of our praise. We sure to set aside some time today to praise Him for His faithfulness, His goodness, His steadfast love, His compassion, His righteousness, and whatever other characteristics come to mind. And give Him thanks for the wonderful things He has done and is still doing in your life.

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Day 22: Psalm 1:1-6

Being blessed sounds like something most of us would desire, and this passage gives clear instructions on how to be blessed, three negative “do not’s” and two positive commands:

  • Do not walk in step with the wicked.
  • Do not stand in the way that sinners take.
  • Do not sit in the company of mockers.
  • Delight in the law of the Lord.
  • Meditate on His law day and night.

Then it goes on to describe the one who follows these instructions, using the metaphor of a flourishing tree, planted by flowing streams of water.

Day 23: Ephesians 2:4-10

Our God is great in love, rich in mercy, and abundant in grace. This is seen clearly in the story of the Gospel. And those who belong to Him through faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece.

We live in a world that applauds self-made men and women. But as Christians, we understand that we are God-made men and women. We belong to Him. We live for Him. We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He planned in advance for us to do.

Day 24: Psalm 27:1-6

No beauty on this earth surpasses the beauty of the Lord. Seek Him with an undivided heart. Sing to Him. Bless His name. Declare His glory. Praise Him with your whole heart.

During this week leading up to Easter, as we focus on His sacrifice as the Lamb of God who took away our sin and on His victory as Risen Lord, take time daily to gaze on His beauty as you open His Word and get to know Him better.

St. Patrick’s Day: The True Story Behind the Annual Celebration

St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated each year on March 17th, is about more than shamrocks and leprechauns. St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the life of an early Christian missionary.

In the fifth century, Ireland was a beautiful island enshrouded in violence and spiritual darkness. Warlords and druids ruled the land. But one man would be used by God to break through the darkness and introduce the light of Christ to this heathen land.

The man we now know as St. Patrick was born in Roman ruled Britain to a middle-class Christian family around A.D. 390. The grandson of a priest and son of a deacon, Patrick was exposed early to the truth of the Gospel, yet by the time he was a teenager he had rebelled against his Christian upbringing to the point that he was pratically an atheist.

Then his life took a drastic change for the worse. Irish raiders attacked his home and he was abducted from his village and thrown onto a slave ship headed for Ireland. At 16 years of age he found himself a slave in a foreign land, separated from everything he’d ever known. He was sold to an Irish chieftain named Milchu, who put him to work as a shepherd.

Patrick saw this difficult situation in his life as God’s chastising him, believing he deserved what had happened because of his rejection of the faith of his fathers. And while a slave in Ireland, his life began to change. Instead of becoming bitter, he turned to the God he knew about but had previously refused to acknowledge as his God.

Rev. Brady, the Roman Catholic Archbiship of Armagh and Primate of All of Ireland, says of young Patrick,

“He says, ‘I prayed a hundred times in the day and almost as many at night,’ Through that experience of prayer and trial, he came to know another God — God the Father, who was his protector. He came to know Jesus Christ in those sufferings, and he came to be united with Christ and he came to identify with Christ, and then of course, also the Holy Spirit.”

Patrick’s hard years of slavery came to an end six years later, when during a time of prayer and fasting God spoke to him that he would soon return to his own country and gave him clear direction when it was time to leave. He escaped and traveled 200 miles to the west coast, where he found a ship – the ship God had shown him in prayer – ready to sail. Though at first refused passage, after desperate prayer Patrick was allowed aboard. He returned to his home and family, where he began to study for the ministry.

Patrick had no desire to return to Ireland, but that was exactly what God asked of him. Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland, says:

“One night, he had a dream. There was a man who came from Ireland with a whole bunch of letters. And he opened up one of the letters and it said ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ And then he heard a voice coming out of this letter that said, ‘Holy boy, please return to us. We need you.'”

Patrick struggled in his soul, not convinced this dream was from God and having no desire to return to Ireland and minister to the same people who had enslaved him. Once again, he turned to God in prayer. He received the answer in a dream. God truly was calling him to return to Ireland as a missionary, and he stepped out in obedience to God’s leading.

Patrick gave 29 years of his life to ministry and established the first Christian church in all of Ireland. During that time, he preached the Gospel, baptized over 120,000 Irishmen, and planted 300 churches. Freeman declares, “What Patrick did was really lay the groundwork for Christianity.” Because of Patrick’s willingness to die to his own will and return to Ireland, the land of his suffering, in obedience to the Lord’s call, that nation was forever changed. Reflect on this truth as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year.

Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan: Introduction & Week One

When I first saw the subject of Rachel Wojo’s March Bible Reading Plan, I almost decided to look for another topical study for the month. Why? Because honestly my life doesn’t appear to be filled with beauty. But then I prayed and read Rachel’s introduction to this month’s study. And I strongly sensed this was a study I needed.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see beauty in this fallen world in which we live. As Rachel says, the ugliness of life can steal our ability to see beauty from day to day. “The world is full of evil and having the wisdom to recognize it and yet embrace the beauty of life seems to be more difficult than ever. The only truth that will help is God’s Word.”

Day 1: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

This study begins with a familiar passage, Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, including the well known verses that teach us there is a time for everything: (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

God is not limited by time, but we are. Therefore, we need to use time wisely in order to accomplish the purposes God has for us. But today’s passage goes beyond the truth that there is a time for everything. Verses 9-11 continue:

“What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

When I read these verses, I am reminded that temporal life, life in this material world, is not all there is. Yes, time on this earth is filled with both good and bad, joy and sorrow, pleasure and toil, birth and death. But if we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, it is simply a prelude, a preparation time for eternity. Then we will understand why God allowed both times of planting and uprooting, of gathering and scattering, of tearing down and building up. Then it will all make more sense. Then everything will be made beautiful. In the meantime, look for the beauty God has already given, recognizing that this is just a foreshadowing of what awaits us for eternity.

Day 2: Psalm 16:1-11

One thing I do when I study Scripture is check the verses in different versions. I noticed this morning that the wording of verse 1 varies quite a bit according to the version, and this prompted me to do a Word study of the Hebrew word translated “take refuge” in some versions and “put trust” in others. I learned that the word in this verse refers specifically to taking refuge, not by changing my location, but by changing where I’m placing my trust and hope. When we face trouble or hardship, Scripture teaches us to flee to the Lord as our place of safety and protection, to put our trust and hope in Him. When we do that, the truths illustrated below are promises we can stand on.

Day 3: Isaiah 40:1-8

Are you walking through a wilderness season? These verses from Isaiah 40 refer to John the Baptist, who came to prepare the way for Jesus. But I believe they also indicate we can “prepare the way” for the Lord to come into our situation. That begins with repentance of any sin God reveals, and then it’s time to “build the highway” in our hearts that God can use.

In the natural, when a new highway is to be built, the first step is to assess the land and determine what needs to be done to provide a firm foundation for the road to be built upon. Long before concrete or asphalt can be laid, the surface needs to be leveled. God’s presence and His Word do this in our hearts, bringing comfort and direction in the midst of our wilderness. Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.” When we seek God with our whole heart instead of leaning on our own understanding, He promises to direct our path (Proverbs 3:5-6).

God has the power to raise up the valley so we don’t sink into despair and to lower the hills before us that look too high to climb. In His timing, He will make the rough ground level and the rugged places a plain. Our job is to trust Him and turn to His presence and His Word for comfort while we wait on Him to work on our behalf.

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And to close, a song to remind us of the Beautiful Things God is doing in our lives in the midst of the daily struggles we face.

 

 

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