The Peace That Surpasses Understanding

As I sat before the Lord this morning doing my devotions and quiet time, I had a lot of trouble trying to focus. I wanted to hear from the Lord, but a family situation was crowding my mind. I knew that this was the enemy trying to keep me from hearing what God wanted to say to me, so I prayed for His help in focusing. As I prayed, I felt the Lord directing me to three particular verses–Psalm 46:10, Proverbs 3:5-6, and Philippians 4:6-7. I wrote these verses in my journal and then listened to hear what He was saying to me through them.

What I heard from the Lord is that, first and foremost, I needed to be still. He is God and He is in control. He is omniscient, He knows the beginning from the end. He knows all that is going on and I just needed to quiet my heart, soul, and mind and let Him handle it. There is nothing that I can do to make everything work out. It is beyond my human power to change what has happened or to fix it. But He is omnipotent. He has the power to heal, to set captives free, to calm the storm. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Secondly, I needed to put my trust in Him with all of my heart. My human understanding is not capable of seeing what is needed in this situation, but He knows. I need to hop in the back seat and let Him take the wheel. I can do the only thing that is within my power–I can quiet my anxiety and calm my fears by lifting the situation up to Him in prayer. I know that, when I do this, I will receive the peace that comes only from Him, the peace that surpasses understanding. The peace that I cannot fully understand but that will guard my heart and my soul.

Dealing with Trials and Disappointment

How do you deal with trials and disappointments?

In God’s Word, we have a great example of how to deal with loss, trials, and disappointments in Job. Job, who was a righteous man, had everything taken away from him. He lost his children, his servants, his livestock, even his health (Job 1:1-19). Yet, despite all of that, Job continued to worship God. He did not blame God for what happened to him. He did not get angry with God or curse God as Satan was hoping he would. When Job learned of his losses, he fell to the ground and worshiped God. Job knew that everything he had came from God and, although it was all taken away, Job still believed that God’s name should be praised (Job 1:20-22).

Now, let’s compare Job’s reaction with that of Cain when God did not accept his offering. When God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s, Cain became angry and despondent. His disappointment caused him to lash out by killing his brother, Abel. Then, when God disciplined him for that by casting him out of the land, he complained that his punishment was too harsh (Genesis 4:3-14).

When we are faced with disappointment, when we experience trials and loss, we should think about Job and emulate his faith and his trust in God. We should worship the Lord and bless His name, for He is truly worthy.

Believing That God Will Do a New Thing in 2017

A new year has begun and I am believing that this year will be a great one. God is doing a new thing in my life and, I believe, the the lives of many others, in the church, and in our country. As we begin to step into 2017, I am standing on God’s promise in Isaiah 43:19, where He tells us He is about to do something new and has, in fact, already begun. I am standing on that promise for myself and my family, but I believe that it holds true for the church and our country.

For this promise to be fulfilled, though, something is required of me and of all who wish to see God do a new thing. What I believe is required is change on our part. The definition of insanity is to do things the same way and expect different results. If we want something new poured into our lives, we can’t continue to do things in the same way or live in exactly the same way. We need to change.

Jesus likens this to someone putting new wine into an old wineskin. The wine would cause the wineskin to break and the wine and the wineskin would be ruined. New wine requires a new wineskin (Matthew 9:16-18). For something new to be done in our lives, we have to become like a new wineskin and to do that, we must abide in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that, if we are in Christ, we are a new creation. But how do we know that we are truly in Christ–that we abide in Him? Part of the answer to that question comes in Jesus’ own words. In John 13:35, He says that if we are His disciples, people will see it in the love we have for one another. So, if we are His disciples, if we truly abide in Him, we must have love for each other.

I believe that another part of the answer to the question is found in Romans 8:1. Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ. He then describes how those who are in Christ would live–they walk in the Spirit and not by the flesh. If we are truly in Christ, if we abide in Him, we will turn from the things of the flesh and live in the Spirit, following His Word.

When we abide in Christ, He can and will do a new thing in us. The result is that we will bear fruit, giving glory to God and growing His kingdom in the world around us.  

The Light of the World

Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and that we are to let our light shine to those around us so that they will be directed to God (Matthew 5:14-16). But where does this light of ours come from? And from where does it get its power to shine?

The light, of course, comes from Jesus. He is the light of the world (John 8:12) and has overcome the darkness (John 1:5). He is the source of our light, just as the sun is the source of the moon’s light. When the moon faces the sun, the light of the sun is reflected off the surface of the moon, bringing light to the dark sky at night. When the moon is full, the light it gives can be quite bright. The same holds true for us. When we follow Jesus, when we look fully on the face of the Son, the light that is reflected by our hearts can light up the darkness around us (John 8:12).

The power source for the light that shines from us is not from within ourselves. Jesus is the source of our light, and the power needed for our light to shine comes only from Him. As I reflected on this, the Holy Spirit put a picture in my mind of a flashlight. The light that comes from a bulb in a flashlight needs a power source–batteries. Without batteries, the bulb in a flashlight gives off no light. But when those batteries, the flashlight’s power source, are placed inside the flashlight, the bulb can shine brightly, bringing light to the darkness. When we are not connected to Jesus, our power source, we are not able to give off any light. But when we have Jesus in our lives and in our hearts, the light that shines from us is brilliant and can’t be overcome by darkness.

Stay connected to Jesus and let His light shine through you!

The Power of the Word of God

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1-3) and in His Word there is power. The entire universe, the earth that we live on, and all things on earth were created by and through the Word (“Then God said…”). Our entire world was spoken into existence by the Word of God (Genesis 1). The power of the Word of God is evident in His creation. It is also evident throughout the ministry of Jesus while He was here on earth.

The centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 knew that His Word was powerful. One of this centurion’s servants was very ill. Knowing that Jesus could heal the servant, the centurion sought Him out. When he found Jesus, the centurion, who believed that he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his home, asked Jesus just to speak healing into the servant. He knew that the Word had the power to heal. Jesus spoke, the centurion returned home, and the servant was healed. There is power in the Word!

There are many other instances in Scripture where the power of the Word is shown. Among them are the paralytic whom Jesus both forgave and healed just by speaking (Matthew 9:2-8). Then there was the leper whose leprosy left him as soon as Jesus said it was healed (Mark 1:40-42). Jesus spoke and cast a legion of demons out of a man in the country of the Gadarenes (Mark 5:1-13) and cast out a deaf and dumb spirit that had been living in a young man since childhood. With words alone, He restored a man’s sight (Luke 18:35-43) and raised His friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44). There is power in the Word!

There is also great power in the words of Jesus’ teachings, such as those found in chapters 5 through 7 of the Gospel of Matthew. Those words are a guide for life. But, some of the most powerful words spoken by Jesus, the Word of God, are the three simple words that he uttered just before giving up His last breath on the cross of Calvary: “It is finished.” With those three words, Jesus accomplished what no man possibly could. He took upon Himself the punishment for all of our sins and restored our relationship with God. There is power in the Word!

The Good Shepherd

The Lord is speaking to me today about the comfort and peace that come from Jesus, the Good Shepherd. When we enter into a relationship with Him and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we become part of His flock. The Good Shepherd knows His flock and His flock knows Him. Not only was He willing to give His life for His sheep, but He also actually did so (John 10:11-15).

In Isaiah 40:11, we read how much the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. He gathers them in His arms and then holds them closely to His heart. How comforting it is to be held closely by Him, so close that you can hear His heartbeat.

Psalm 23:1-4 tells us that the Good Shepherd provides for us. He makes us lie down in green pastures where we can receive rest and comfort. He leads us beside still water where our souls can be refreshed. Then, just as a shepherd guides his flock, Jesus guides us, making sure that we stay on the right path. Because we are with Him and guided by Him, we have no need to fear evil. As long as we follow Him, we receive His comfort.

Lord, thank You for the comfort and peace that comes from walking with and being guided by You. Thank You for guiding us on the right path. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

There Is Strength in His Presence

There is no better place to be than in the presence of the Lord. In Psalm 16:8-9, David talks about the strength that comes from being in His presence. When we keep our eyes focused on the Lord, when we spend time in His presence, we can find strength. When He is by our side, there is nothing that can shake us. He is our rock and our salvation. He is our defense and because of that, there is nothing that can move us (Psalm 62:2).

When we take the time to be in His presence, we feel a sense of gladness in our hearts. The result is that we desire to speak His praise and rejoice in His greatness. We feel the security that comes from knowing that in Him there is refuge, in Him there is strength. And that security is something we feel in our hearts, our minds, and our souls.

A Divine Appointment

Have you ever had a divine appointment, a chance meeting with someone that you knew had been orchestrated by God? Luke 2:22-35 tells the story of just such an appointment.

Simeon, who the Word says was righteous and devout, had been waiting for many years to see the promised Messiah. Because Simeon was filled with the Holy Spirit, it had been revealed to him that, before he died, he would in fact see the Messiah. He wasn’t told exactly when, but he had been promised that it would happen. So Simeon waited.

How difficult that must have been at times. I’m sure it would have been easy for him to wonder if God was truly going to keep that promise. But Simeon continued to live righteously and to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. Then, one day, the Spirit prompted him to go to the temple courts.

Scripture doesn’t tell us if the Spirit told him why he was to go to the courts that day, but Simeon listened to the Spirit’s prompting and was standing in the courts when a young couple named Joseph and Mary walked in with their baby to have him dedicated. Seeing this little baby, whose name was Jesus, Simeon’s heart leaped for joy. Although he was not told who or what to look for in the temple courts, he knew that this little baby was the Messiah. Through this divine appointment, God’s promise to Simeon was fulfilled.

My prayer today is that I will always allow the Spirit to fill me in the same way that Simeon did, so that I will know when I have a divine appointment.

Joy to the World!

Christmas is a time of great joy. All this weekend, our church choir sang of the joy that has come to the world because the Lord has come. Joy is evident in so many of the songs we sing at Christmas. It’s also evident in the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Before Jesus was even born, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with her own son. When Mary arrived at the home of her cousin and called out her greeting, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, who of course was John the Baptist, leaped for joy. He knew that the Lord was there in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:44). He had come!

After Jesus was born, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds tending their flocks. He was there to deliver to them good news that would bring great joy–the Savior, Christ the Lord, had been born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:10-11). He had come!

Some time after that, wise men from the East came to Judea in search of the King whose coming had been foretold. They had followed a star which had led them to this land so far from their own. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they inquired about this newborn King. They were sent to Bethlehem to find Him. When they started on their way, the star appeared once again and they were filled with great joy (Matthew 2:10). He had come!

As we remember the birth of our Lord and Savior on this day (and every day!), may we be filled with great joy. He has come!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Merry Christmas!

The First Evangelists

Who were the first evangelists, the first people to tell others about Jesus? You might say Peter, James, John, and the other disciples. You might even say John the Baptist, whose mission was to pave the way for the coming of the Messiah. I believe that the first evangelists that we read about in the New Testament appear in Luke 2.

In Luke’s Gospel account, after the angel appears to the shepherds and tells them about the birth of the Savior, a baby born in Bethlehem, the shepherds hurry off to Bethlehem to see the Child for themselves. Then, after they have seen Him, what do they do next? They tell everybody they know about the Child they have seen and the things that the angel told them about Him (Luke 2:16-18). Sounds like evangelism to me!

This is something that we all should do. When we have seen Jesus, when we know who He is and what He has done for us, we should be just like those shepherds. We should tell everyone we know about Him. I believe that the story of the shepherds was written in the Gospels to illustrate that. These shepherds were so excited about what they heard and saw that they couldn’t keep it to themselves.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus tonight and tomorrow, I pray that all of us (that includes me!) will be given the boldness and the wisdom needed to tell people about Him.

Wrapped in Swaddling Cloths

The accounts of the birth of Jesus are filled with beauty and wonder. The shepherds, the heavenly choir, the angel messenger announcing to the shepherds the birth of the Savior. I love that part of the story. After scaring the living daylights out of the shepherds, the angel tells them not to be afraid, he has news of great joy–a child has been born in Bethlehem and not just any child, but the long-awaited Messiah. Knowing that the shepherds will want to go and see the child, the angel then tells them what to look for, a baby lying in a manger, who was wrapped in swaddling cloths (Luke 2:11-12).

Wait! Swaddling cloths? Let’s stop there for a minute. What exactly are swaddling cloths? I’ve read and heard this story so many times and never thought about that. So, I grabbed my dictionary and looked it up. Sure enough, it was right there, a listing for swaddling clothes. The definition is narrow strips of cloth wrapped around an infant to restrict movement.

So, Mary wrapped Jesus in these cloths to restrict movement, just the way nurses in a hospital wrap newborns tightly in a blanket. But it isn’t just to restrict movement, it’s to make the baby feel secure. After spending nine months wrapped in the warmth of a mother’s womb, the world a baby has been delivered into can be kind of scary and cold, and that’s why we wrap the baby up in that way.

When you think about it, isn’t that something we never outgrow? We all need to feel that kind of security, don’t we? But we won’t get it from being wrapped in swaddling cloths, but from being wrapped in God’s love. The world around us can be a scary place sometimes. But, we can take comfort in knowing that we have a heavenly Father who loves us so much and is always there to wrap that love around us and make us feel secure.

Thank You, heavenly Father for wrapping us in the swaddling cloths of Your great love.

O Come Let Us Adore Him

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Those words have been running through my head today, perhaps because our church choir is singing the Christmas worship song, Adore, at our Christmas services this year.

These words make up the refrain of the beautiful carol, O Come All Ye Faithful, which we hear and sing at this time of year. Many of us even sing the refrain by itself, and not just during the Christmas season. As both of these songs played in my head, I thought about that word–“adore.”

We adore our spouses (at least, we should!). We adore our children and our grandchildren. And, we even find our pets “adorable.” So what does the word “adore” mean?

In the dictionary, there are three definitions for the word “adore.” It can mean to be very fond of. It can mean to regard with loving admiration and devotion. That is what it means when I say that I adore my wife or my children and grandchildren. But the very first definition given for the word “adore” is to worship or honor as a deity or as divine. That’s what it means when we sing, “O come, let us adore Him.” We are worshiping and honoring Jesus Christ and acknowledging Him as God.

One thing that really caught my attention in the dictionary entry for “adore” was the etymology of the word. The word “adore” comes from the Latin word “adorare.” That word breaks down like this–ad meaning “to” or “toward” and orare meaning “to speak, pray.” Interesting!

So, when you think about the origin of the word, if we adore Him, we should do so with our mouths. It is a verbal act. It is not just looking at Him lovingly and admiring Him from afar. It means we should open our mouths and speak of our love and worship and the joy that He brings using words and song, just as the Word tells us in Psalm 100:2.

Seek the Lord, and when you find Him, open your mouth in praise and adoration for the King of kings and Lord of lords–the one true God.

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