Thursday, December 31, 2015

Persecution: Being seen as The Problem

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”  (1 Kings 18:17)
Whenever Ahab saw Elijah, he said "Here comes trouble..."  When we are serious about standing for God, speaking and living the Truth, and unafraid to take God's side, we will be seen as the problem, and will be mistreated in varieties of ways.  We can expect that.  But we also must beware crying "victim", which Elijah went on to do.  God's response to that is "What are you doing here?" We are not alone; He is still our Sovereign Lord; He will see us through our struggles and suffering and loneliness.  In a pagan culture such as ours, we will be seen as "the problem", but if we respond with faith and trust and continue to act in a Christlike manner, no one will be able to point their fingers at us and honestly say we are the problem.  And our conscience will not convict us; we will remain confident despite any suffering we may face.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Evil, Envious Eye

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.
The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.
Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand. And he went out and came in before the people. And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him.
(1 Samuel 18:6-15 ESV)
Persecution of God's people is a thread throughout history since the Fall.  Here, David is blessed by God for his willingness to freely and courageously serve God and His people.  When others saw that God was blessing him, they took notice.  For most there was no competition; they were just glad to have David on their team.  But for Saul it was a cause for envy, fear, and hatred.  He wanted David out of his sight and out of his life - permanently.  That attitude leads to persecution - mistreatment for doing good and seeking to be right before God.  Sometimes it comes from those who are part of the same team, who at least proclaim to belong to God's people.  Then it is a double blow: it hurts sincere followers and it destroys the testimony of God's people.  Persecution: don't be surprised when it comes, and don't allow yourself to become its tool.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Making life Bitter for the Blessed

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
(Exodus 1:8-14 ESV)
God had promised to make Abraham a great nation.  He kept His promise, and his people were persecuted.  Fear and envy moved in Pharaoh's heart to be a ruthless taskmaster to break the backs and spirits of God's people.  It's what we would expect in a fallen world.  The good news is that it backfired.  The more he persecuted them, the stronger they became.  That is a history lesson for us all.  We should never feel abandoned by God if we suffer for proclaiming or living out our faith. In our weakness, He will make us strong and do more that survive.  We will thrive.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Where did this come from?

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
(Genesis 4:3-8 ESV)
In a real sense, this is the first act of persecution recorded.  Abel did it right; God approved; can was jealous; he tried to get rid of the envy by getting rid of his brother.  To be sure, there is some learned behavior here.  The structure in phrase :Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it..." is the same as the one in chapter 3 - describing Eve's desire to take over headship from her husband.  Envy. That idea that someone else has something you deserve, and if you cannot have it, they will not either.  It's a thread in the Bible.  Where does it come from?  Within.  And that's where it needs to be resolved.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Living in the Light Here and Now...

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
(Ephesians 5:3-16 ESV)
Not only is the The Light to be seen as we look back to Eternity Past and forward to our Eternal Hope and home, it is something we should live in here and now.  Central to this passage is that imperative: "Walk as children of light!"  The light is not just before and at creation, at the incarnation and at the end of the Revelation.  The Light is a present reality in the lives of those who follow Christ.  It is seen when we allow Him to reveal and remove the darkness from our lives - our speech, our attitudes,our actions.  May we let His Light shine today!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Looking Ahead to the Light...

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
(Revelation 22:1-5 ESV)
As we look for Light in a dark world, we can look back to the coming of Christ as the light of the world, back to God's words at Creation: "Let there be light." and even further back to eternity past, as He has always been the Light.  We can also look ahead and see Light in the future.  Our eternity in heaven with God will be one of consistent, glorious light.  There will be nothing that hides from the light; we won't have to pretend our holiness anymore; everything and everyone will be healthy and whole; we will be with Him.  All will be well.  Let us look forward to that Light in hope with full assurance and joyful anticipation, much more than a child who has waited and watched for Christmas.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Glorious Light!

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:9-14 ESV)
The light of the star.The brilliance of the angelic host.  Both lit up the sky that night.  But the brightest Light lay in the manger.  HE is true light, pure light, the source of all light. When one comes into contact with Him, the impact is overwhelming - we must choose Light or flight.  We can come and see and bow down and go ahead changed, or we can glimpse and go away cold, hard, foolish.  May the Light shine bright in our hearts and homes today.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Right Light and the Right Angle...

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
(John 1:1-5 ESV)
In many homes over the next day or two a lot of pictures will be taken.  Everyone will be looking for the perfect Christmas picture for the family scrapbook or social media post.  In our celebrations we also try to picture perfectly that first Christmas and what the Nativity was like, and the picture perfect Christmases of days gone by.  These require lighting, focus, and angle.  John, after many years of contemplation gives us a different angle and different Light.  For him the vantage point is eternity, and all the light he needs is found in the Word.  His very presence in the picture makes it just right. His being the focal point as the Creator and Savior of the World makes this picture a 360 degree masterpiece. There is no more perfect Christmas picture possible. Come, look at The Light.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Being able to see the light...

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (Psalm 36:7-9 ESV)
God's love and light go hand in hand. When we receive His love for us in Christ, we are finally able to see clearly. His light becomes our light, where everything makes sense, where we can see Him, ourselves and the world around us as things really are. The darkness of this world hides so much from us. It cannot see Him or understand Him. Though we cannot fully do so until we are in his presence, it's a whole new world here and now when we see His light and are drawn to it. How will we respond to His love, His light today?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

God's Brilliant Plan...

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
(Isaiah 42:5-7 ESV)
Isaiah lived in dark days.  All around he saw his people drifting away from God, their leaders turning the wrong way for hope and security.  It was like being in a dark tunnel.  But then He began to reveal through Isaiah a message of hope - His Servant, A light to the nations.  Isaiah's message of gloom then began to intermingle with this: "Look for the Light." He is coming. Our hope is not in ourselves; it is in Him.

Monday, December 21, 2015

We need someLlight over here!!!

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
(Isaiah 9:2 ESV)So there I was... looking for something I needed, and needed soon.  It is an unlit room, so I looked for a flashlight... with working batteries!  None was found.  I needed light...  Isaiah saw how much we need light.  In this highly Messianic passage, he goes on to give a message of hope that the Light, the Baby, the Prince of Peace is coming.  We just need to be willing to recognize that we are walking in darkness.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Here is what love looks like...

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:7-19 ESV)
We often refer to I Corinthians 13 as the Love Chapter.  I would contend that this chapter is every bit as much so.  John says: "Here is love - Look at what Christ did, when He did it, why He did it. We see here the love of the Father and the Son.  We also see the love of the Spirit, as He is willing to come into the loves of yet imperfect believers.  The real question is: what kind of love do we see in us? All of the above demonstrations of the love of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - they would imply that we would demonstrate similar love toward the rest of the Family. As we celebrate the first coming of Christ, let us celebrate it as Love come down, Sent, and Staying around, in us.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Love between the lines...

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
(Luke 2:14 ESV)
Love... overused and abused in our culture.  Yet it does keep the fruit of the Spirit bundled together; it does express God's motivation to act upon our behalf and send His Son.  So why is it not mentioned right here at the Incarnation? Why does God not say: "Here is my love demonstrated for you!"? It does.  For those of us around longer than the laptop, we always memorized this account in old King James Version: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."  Goodwill. It's not just a secondhand shop.  The term the New Testament gave a new twist for love - that we use for the unconditional, abundant love of God - agape' - carried with it this sense of "goodwill." To love is to desire what is best for the other, and to speak and act in such a way to bring that about, no matter how much it costs me.  When God sent His Son it was not so much because he was pleased with how wonderful and holy we are, but because of His goodwill, His love, toward us.  So there is love here in a very real way.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mature but healthy joints...

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)
It's that time of year when anything can ache... especially the joints.  But God's people have different kinds of joints - ones that are strong and healthy, yet mature.  Those joints are words and actions of love toward one another.  Those things bind us together, not bind us up.  Such words and actions are deliberate, yet sincere; focused, yet spontaneous; humble, yet confident.  Let's do this!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Love Helper

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:15-21 ESV)
God Loves us!  He has demonstrated that. Our proper is response is to love and obey Him.  We need help with that - a lot of help.  Jesus' statements here are not stand-alone proverbs or random. The very next statement after his connection of love and obedience is the promise of the Holy Spirit to help us love and obey. He loves us enough to give us what we need to do what He wants us to do.  Do we trust Him? Do we love Him? Will we obey Him?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

God's Love... Steady as she goes...

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
(Psalm 33:1-5 ESV)
The one word Old Testaments writers used to describe God's love more than any other is Steadfast.  When in poetry, like here, the accompanying term used is God's faithfulness.  We can count on it. Often times we get stuck in the mud of our existence and do not see what is all around us. We miss God's love around us.  We miss out on the joy of His presence.  We feel as if we are in a boat lost at sea, when in fact He is right here, watching, waiting, overseeing the course of our lives.  May we not ignore Him today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Being loved...

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ESV) 
Moses goes to great pains to emphasize this true about love: It is a choice. God chose His people Israel not because they were perfect or powerful, but because He chose to pour out His love upon them. Paul makes a similar statement when he talks about New Testament believers being "chosen before the foundation of the world." God does so for two reasons: 1) to emphasize our value, our worth, found in relationship with Him, and 2), to illicit a proper response from us, the loved: to trust and obey. Being loved is a wonderful place to be. But it is not to be taken for granted or a license for evil; it is a privilege that draws us to live lives worthy of such love.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Love Story begins...

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:1-3 ESV)
This is the very first mention of love in scripture.  It was an accurate statement: Abraham loved Isaac immensely.  He was the hope of his life.  God asked: "Who do you love the most?"  That is the question that runs through scripture: "Who do I love most? Who does God love most? What does love look like?"  This picture lays the foundation for all else: love sacrifices; love trusts; love acts.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Deep Joy

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 ESV)
When a child of God has joy, he or she often responds with singing and shouting, and when you are really joyful like David was - leaping!  But what is this? Leaping with joy over being persecuted??? When we understand the greatest joy possible, yes.  Joy is finding our fulfillment in God and His plan, and being willing to share that with others.  If we receive backlash, that is merely reinforcement that our joy is properly placed.  So today, may we rejoice in a Savior sent, His salvation accomplished, and the privilege of being a part of His plan.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Being told we should be joyful...

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:9-11 ESV)
The first reaction of the shepherds, understandably, was fear.  Bright lights before the light bulb, an alien from somewhere else - that's enough to shake anyone up.  The reason to not fear? Replacing that fear with joy.  The reason to rejoice?  The Savior has arrived.  The fact has not changed - rather, it has only intensified through the course of events of His life, death and resurrection.  The question is: how are we responding to it? Joy or fear?  Listen to Linus.  "That's is what it's all about." Come out of the fear and into the light, the joy of Christ.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What joy does...

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)
We have already seen that joy can be demonstrated outwardly with singing, shouting, leaping and dancing.  But there are other things we do that demonstrate our deepest joy - what it really is that gives us most satisfaction and fulfillment.  We pour our all into it.  Christ calls us to pour that into our relationship with Him.  Nothing else compares in value, and where our treasure is, and our heart is, we will invest ourselves most deeply.  Have you found The Joy? Does it show?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Come and Clap!

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:1-12 ESV)
How many classic, well-known verses can you fit in one chapter?  Here we have a whole chain of them leading up to this one great promise: "You shall go out in joy!"  That's what we're all looking for: true joy!  The path to joy features coming to Christ for His free gift, listening to Him, crying out to Him, taking His way instead of ours, seeing Him keep the promised of His word.  When we do, we will find ourselves in a culture of joy, where it is (super)natural for us to rejoice, as if everything and everyone else is doing it too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

If we don't rejoice... The wilderness will

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
(Isaiah 35:1-4 ESV)
We have great reason to rejoice: In God's character and His great acts of creation and salvation.
The rest of creation even sees that, and will rejoice as it watches.  Will we?  As Jesus said: "If you don't there will be a rock concert!"  Let us rejoice with singing, shouting, leaping and dancing!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Glimpse of what Joy looks like...

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
For the LORD has ransomed Jacob
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
and they shall languish no more.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 31:10-14 ESV)
Joy.  It is often expressed with singing, shouting, even dancing.  In its truest form it is a response to Who God Is and what He has done; it is taking pleasure in Him.  In this prophetic picture of the restoration of Israel, we have a picture of abundance, with all sorts of outward expressions of joy.  But the most telling comment is the one at the end - when God's people are satisfied with God's goodness, when He is enough, all we need - when He is our pleasure.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A song of Joy for the whole day...

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
(Psalm 65:5-8 ESV)
In this song, the psalmist views the created world as capable of having joy.  In this last verse he says that the whole day, morning until evening, is made to shout for joy. God wants joy for our day, all day. If the inanimate mountains and seas can look out and see joy, how much more should we, as we consider the greatness of God, our salvation and our hope.  If we will stand in awe of Him, joy will fill our hearts.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Peace on Earth

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:10-14 ESV)
A quiet home.  The hum of the refrigerator. The tick of the clock.  Sometimes peace seems obvious.  Sometimes it does not.  These shepherds were afraid - for their safety, their jobs, their future, and at this point, their lives.  Peace is not the absence of noise or concern or uncertainty, but the conquering of fear when Someone enters the scene.  He is here; he is in control; all will be well with my soul.  Peace to you.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Pathway to Peace...

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 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.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)
Paul tells us here at least two things contribute to peace in our lives: Prayer and Practicing the positive promises of God.  When we pray with thankful hearts, God works peace in our hearts.  And when we practice what God has revealed as good and right, peace also prevails.  Can I hear  a little "Trust and Obey" in the background???

Friday, December 4, 2015

Figuring this Peace thing out...

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:44-50 ESV)
Jesus' words troubled many people; especially those who trusted in their own righteousness. His response to Jesus was the exact opposite of this woman, who recognized her own sinfulness and Jesus' holiness. She welcomed Him as Savior. When He tells her to "go in peace", she is receiving what we all need and long for: forgiveness, knowing we are safe(saved), assured that all will be well. Simon, the host, was left with no such peace, because He refused the righteousness God has provided in Christ. Christ came to give peace. May we recognize and receive it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Righteousness and Peace...

For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
(Isaiah 32:14-18 ESV)
Isaiah watched his world crumble around him.  The government was corrupt; the people were immoral; wars and violence increased.  Yet he also was given words of hope and comfort that some day there would be peace.  What God makes increasingly clear to him and to us is the relationship of peace to righteousness.  This right-relatedness to God and others is the only thing that brings true peace into our lives and our world.  Nothing else "works". Everyone wants peace; we want this wholeness, completeness, this security of knowing all is and will be well.  First must come righteousness through faith in Christ.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Help Lord! I need Peace...

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4 ESV)
David was up against a wall, with many out to get him.  How did he live all those years on the run, How did he sleep at night. Even though his mighty men of valor protected him, he knew how vulnerable he was (he himself had more than one opportunity to take out King Saul unprotected.) Where did David find peace?  "You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety."  Peace. Deep down within we want it more than any exciting thing in our lives.  To be able to sit quietly, knowing all is well and will be well when we get up tomorrow.  Thou we all seek it (and are often told in Scripture to do!), it is something we cannot make, earn, buy or steal; it must be received.  Call out to Him. Know Who He is and you are.  Peace.