Invitation to Peace

I was listening to the news this morning and the reporter was saying something about how the COVID-19 virus has forced us all to slow down.
 
Instantly, God brought to mind Psalm 46:10-11 – “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
 
When I read the chapter, the whole chapter spoke to me. It opens with “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
 
Isn’t that beautiful? The chapter opens by telling us about how great God is, calling Him our refuge, strength, and the reason we don’t have to be afraid, then ends with God reasserting His mighty power and inviting us to just be still.
 
Now we think of “still” as not moving, but the meaning of the word is so much deeper than that. Webster also defines it as being quiet, calm, and settled.
 
The reason we can be still? Because God is God. It sounds so simple, but it’s reason enough. No matter the troubles, no matter the outcome for any of us personally, we can believe that He has perfect and complete control.
 
Our lives tend to be so busy that we often push the things that really matter to the side – God, family, friends – but during this time where that busy-ness has been stripped away, God gives us this invitation to refocus.
 
Where’s your focus? How will you respond to God’s invitation?

Peace Amidst The Chaos

These are scary times we live in. Uncertain times. Times of great loss on all levels.

Most people are concerned at best. Many are terrified. We see the evidence in – as silly as it sounds – the shortage of toilet paper.

But, if you’re a child of God, do you realize what one of your great blessings is? You don’t have to be afraid!

This morning I was reading in 2 Kings 6, where the king of Aram comes after Elisha. The troops surround Elisha’s city at night and when Elisha’s servant wakes up the next morning, he sees that they are completely surrounded. He goes to Elisha in a panic and Elisha’s response is very interesting. After comforting his faithful servant, Elisha prays (vs. 17) “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!”

What happened? “The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”

The servant went from terrified to secure in the space of a moment, because he saw things from God’s perspective. Did his circumstances change? No. He was still surrounded by the enemy, horribly outnumbered by an army who had been sent after the prophet he served. Yet his eyes were opened to what God was doing in the unseen realm around him and he experienced the peace only God can give. Elisha’s next prayer was for God to act on His behalf against the enemy, but His first prayer was to see life from God’s perspective.

What if we did that? What if, instead of asking God to deliver us, we first asked Him to give us His perspective on our circumstances?

Don’t get me wrong, we’re to bring our requests to God. Praying for God to help us, to put an end to the Corona Virus, to save lives and restore stability – none of that is a bad thing! But maybe instead of making that our first request, we should first ask God to open our eyes to what He is doing. If we allow Him to show us His perspective on our circumstances, instead of just focusing on the situation around us, we just might find the peace that only He can give.

And the peace of the Lord is what we – and the rest of the world – really need.

A Calling, A Purpose

Purpose. We all look for it. A meaning for our existence.
 
Too often we look for purpose in the temporal. We look for our families, friends, career, education, or entertainment to fulfill us, but none of those things will ever give lasting purpose.
 
So where do we find it?
 
Ephesians 4:1b says “…Lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”
 
Ephesians also says in 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
 
Did you know God has placed a calling on your life and planned – in advance – good things for you to do? Now, He won’t force you to do those things, but He invites you in. When you step into His calling, you find meaning, joy, and fulfillment.
 
Now I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be trouble, because the enemy of our souls always launches an attack when you’re working for the Lord, but you can find joy in spite of opposition and hardship.
 
The best thing about God’s call is that it can’t be stopped.
 
Romans 11:29 “For God’s gifts and His call can never be withdrawn.”
 
So if you’re struggling to find purpose, turn to God. He’s placed a special calling on your life!

Advice Worth Following

Do you have that one person in your life who always seems to give the best advice? We all need that kind of person, don’t we?
 
I was reading about King David’s life recently and was really struck by the advice he gave Solomon around the time he was handing the kingdom over to his son.
 
1 Chronicles 28:8-10: “So now, with God as our witness, and in the sight of all Israel—the Lord’s assembly—I give you this charge. Be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, so that you may continue to possess this good land and leave it to your children as a permanent inheritance. And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.”
 
What great advice! He instructs Solomon to…
1. Be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord
2. Learn to know God intimately
3. Worship and serve God with his whole heart and a willing mind
4. Seek God
5. Do the work the Lord has given him to do
 
See, throughout his life, David had learned the value of all of these things. He knew Solomon’s success – or failure – would hinge on his relationship with the Lord.
 
Where are your priorities? If you find that you can’t say that you always follow all of David’s advice, don’t worry – you aren’t alone. I cringe just a little on the inside as I think how often I fail to do those things.
 
Yet the beauty of our Lord is that His mercies are new each day (Lamentations 3:23) and He loves us unconditionally. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The Coming King

Merry Christmas!
 
When you think of Jesus, what image comes to mind? Do you see the baby in the manger? The man on the cross? The healer and teacher?
 
I think so often, those are the images that come to mind. We see Jesus as a gentle and kind man who speaks of love and doesn’t stand up for His rights when falsely accused. We see Him as the friend of sinners, the man who stands up to the religious hypocrites.
 
While He is all of those things, I think we are prone to “keeping” Him there. We forget that He is coming again, not as a baby but as a warrior King!
 
In Revelation chapter 1, John – who was one of Jesus’ closest friends while He walked this earth – sees Jesus and is terrified!
 
Revelation 1:14-18 – “The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
 
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
 
So as you celebrate the baby in the manger, never forget that Jesus, like all of us, did not stay a baby. More than that, He is the King of kings and will one day rule in justice and peace.
 
Celebrate not only that He came once, but that He has promised He is coming again! Merry Christmas, my friends!

A Reason To Be Thankful

Thanksgiving. We are blessed to live in a country that sets a day apart to remember the goodness of the Lord!
 
We really should live with an attitude of thankfulness every day. Have you ever asked yourself why it’s sometimes so hard to be thankful?
 
There are lots of reasons, many of them legitimate. It can be hard to be thankful in the face of death, health problems, betrayal from a loved one, financial struggles, work stress, or loneliness. Yet thankfulness is so important! Thankfulness has the power to shift our focus from our circumstances to all God has given us.
 
Psalm 136 really highlights the essence of thankfulness.
 
It begins with “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”
 
The writer goes on to highlight many of the things for which we can praise and thank God: He alone does miracles, He made the heavens and earth, he created light and day and night, He rescues His people, He leads His people to safety, He overcomes our enemies, He remembers us in our weakness, He saves us, and He provides for us.
 
Maybe you don’t feel that some of that is true in your life right now. Maybe you feel overcome by opposition. Maybe you feel incredibly weak in some or many areas. Maybe you are in danger or hungry. Those situations are all real and are all tough, but there are still things for which you can thank God!
 
You can thank Him for the ability to read. You can thank Him for giving us His word. You can thank Him for the freedoms we have in this great land. You can thank Him for Jesus, and the salvation He so freely gives.
 
The key to thankfulness is repeated over and over in Psalm 136: “His faithful love endures forever.”
 
God’s love for us never wavers, it never changes, and it will never disappear. If that’s not something for which we can be thankful, I don’t know what is!

The Best Superhero

I love a good superhero movie! Not those dark ones that have lots of bad language, gore, and sensuality, but the good fun ones. Our culture has proven that I’m not alone in this.
 
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? Why do so many people flock to these movies about grown men and women who put on funny costumes and run around doing crazy things?
 
Maybe it’s because, on some level, we all recognize that we NEED saving.
 
Sure, we like to think we can handle whatever comes our way, but the reality is that we can’t. More often than not, we need someone bigger, someone stronger to swoop in and make things right.
 
When you think about it, these superhero movies mirror the gospel. Most of them come from humble beginnings. They have to persevere through trials and difficult circumstances. They rise to fame and are loved by the general population, but also face tremendous opposition from their enemies. They reach a point where it seems like they’ve been defeated and all hope is lost.
 
Sound familiar? Jesus came from the humblest of backgrounds. He faced temptation from Satan himself. He was constantly on the move, constantly threatened by those who feared or opposed Him. The crowds loved Him – for a while – but the religious leaders wanted nothing more than to kill Him. Then came the cross. It appeared that He’d lost.
 
Until the third day, when His ultimate victory became evident.
 
So the next time you’re discussing the latest superhero movie with someone, why not use that as a launching point to share Jesus? Who knows… maybe the person you’re speaking with will be in a place where they finally recognize that they need saving.
 
Acts 4:12 – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”