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Archive for December, 2015

We have been looking at Mary and Elizabeth and their journeys to find the peace that enabled them to say as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever He wants. May everything you have said come true.” (Luke 1:38) Mary was a teenager who had just learned she was pregnant. She was not married. She was a virgin. She knew Jewish law and tradition—she could be stoned for being pregnant and unmarried. She certainly faced criticism and shame in that culture.

While for Elizabeth it wasn’t much better. She had faced years of shame for being barren in a culture that believed having a child was a woman’s duty and responsibility. She was “very old” (Luke 1:9) and suddenly going to have a child to raise. Yes, she was glad but certainly, as any older woman knows, the thought of raising a child at that point in life would have also brought concerns and challenges. Yet, both women appear to us in God’s word as exemplifying peace. Even when we believe someone or something is a blessing, there are complications. Blessings bring positive complications, but none the less they are complications. For example, my spouse or my child or my grandchildren may very definitely be blessings but they are also complications.

We can look at the birth of Jesus Christ from the perspective of 2000 years hindsight, but Mary would have been looking at it with less than 20 years of life experience. Based on a history that believed a Messiah was coming to save the world perhaps she believed like the Pharisees who looked at the coming of the Messiah with the perspective of their understanding, which is why they didn’t expect the Savior, the Messiah to come in a lowly manger, to be raised by a carpenter, to come out of Nazareth or to enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. They were looking for a political solution, not a spiritual solution.

Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that God will give us blessings beyond all we can ask or imagine, but God often blesses us in ways that don’t seem like blessings. That may include how joy, peace, and other intangible blessings come packaged—perhaps inside turmoil, death, loss of a job, or illness. When you look at your Christmas gifts, or reflect on the chaos of the past few weeks of preparation and now clean up, take time to reflect, think and ponder as Mary did (Luke 2:19). She too must have felt the chaos—after all shepherds, wise men, animals in the manger! But, out of that chaos came a blessing that was the redemption of mankind. Your chaos may not look like it holds much peace, joy or blessings, but remember God works all things for good of those who love Him and for His glory (Romans 8:28). Wait, ponder, ask God to reveal to you His blessing so you don’t miss the miracle of this season or the gift of the Messiah.

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The Christmas season is full of great expectations.  Among the many things we dream we will experience during the holidays, one of the greatest is peace.  We want peace on earth and we envision peace in our household and we hope for peace in our personal relationships and we wish for peace in our workplace.

How many of us, though, are seriously seeking peace in our relationship with God?  Perhaps we have never felt peace with God. Or maybe we did have feelings of peace at one point or another, and those feelings have faded.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith,

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Romans 5:1

Regardless of what we have done or haven’t done, we all have access to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  And not just the ability to observe God from a distant corner in the big room of life, but we get to hang out with Him, right by His side.  He comes close to us through Jesus Christ.

“But now in Christ Jesus

you who once were far away have been brought near

by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13

When we step closer to God, claiming the right to do so because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we are able to more fully experience the peace we have with God.  We realize that it doesn’t matter as much what we are “feeling” because we have something firm to stand on in the promises of Scripture.  We can have peace in our lives even if nothing else around us is peaceful.  In the coming days, regardless of what is happening on the evening news or in our dining room with the family dinner, or at the office party…we have access to peace because we have access to God through Jesus Christ our Savior!

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This month we are allowing Mary and Elizabeth’s stories to inspire us to choose Peace over Panic and we have started the process of adjusting our priorities to encourage the presence of Peace in our lives. It feels good and right and worthwhile to chase this quality in the midst of our holiday season!  After all, Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and He came to this earth so that we can have His kind of peace.

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.

Is. 9:6

In reading through the long list of Scripture verses that mention peace, it is exciting to see a wealth of spiritual blessings from God that go hand in hand with the quality of peace.  Below are a few examples:

Unfailing Love:  “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Is. 54:10

Spiritual Healing, Salvation:  “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Is. 53:5

Relationship with God: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:1 and 8

Comfort:  “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

Overflowing Hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Dear God, we want Your peace to play a prominent role in our lives today and beyond. This is not something we can do on our own…we have many distractions and stresses and challenges…we need Your help and so we entrust ourselves to You.  Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace!  Your peace, Your unfailing love, Your salvation, Your comfort, and Your hope are such precious gifts to us and we are so very grateful!  May we experience Your perfect peace and in so doing, pass that gift along to those around us, pointing them to You in our words and in our actions.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Last week we allowed the stories of Elizabeth and Mary to walk us through a couple of attitude options for our own Christmas season:  Peace or Panic.  I am assuming that, like me, you chose the Peace option and that, like me, this decision is already being challenged.  There are any number of times this past week in which I have thought, perhaps with a mental stamp of my foot, “But wait, I chose Peace!”  As if somehow the circumstances and the Panic will subside as I try and put out a wild fire of some sort.

What is my problem?  Why can’t I make my choice for Peace a reality?  It is because of another “P” word:  my Priorities are out of wack!  My decision for Peace (and rejection of Panic) is super important, but without a realistic and personal plan to get my priorities (and schedule) into a place that actually encourages and promotes Peace, I am not setting myself up for any kind of success.

Step One:  Focused time in the Word of God, and a cute journal with a good smooth pen to write my prayers to my Lord!

I am currently enjoying focusing on a single book in the Bible.  Sometimes it is a whole chapter and other times just a couple verses, but I am starting every day with Him.  Every! Day!  Mary and Elizabeth knew God’s Word.  Thus, they were not strangers to the Lord when things started getting really “interesting” in their lives.  Peace is found when we are in an active and consistent relationship with God! (Luke 1:41-55)

“Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165

My Personal Step Two:  A strict calendar overhaul, creating some space that will promote fun yet low maintenance friendships.

Fun parties and swanky desserts and elaborate holiday brunches are all good and well, but simple friendship over a cup of coffee is truly something special.  Yesterday morning I met up with a new friend.  I have other things I could have been doing, but the truth is that this was a great choice for yesterday.  The more I get to know this lady and her story, the more I find her to be refreshingly positive and real.  She is a true believer in Jesus Christ and her trust in Him is laced throughout her conversation and her actions.  This is what Elizabeth and Mary did…they wisely spent time together and encouraged each other! (Luke 1:39-56)

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 11:24-25

My Personal Step Three:  My holiday calendar needs to have some empty and unscheduled spaces.

Not only will this allow me margin to insert some spontaneity into my holidays, this will also allow me margin for reflection, not necessarily devotional, but simply  times of quiet.   It is so important to make time to treasure the meaning of this season (Peace on earth, good will towards men, etc.) and what the Lord would like to say to me as an individual, as His adopted daughter.  From the time Mary conceived baby Jesus and as he grew up in childhood, Mary had a series of incredible moments jam packed with angels, with travel, with a prophet and a prophetess, and with spiritual leaders in the temple… and she also “treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2)

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

 

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