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I pray that the Lord, who gives peace, will always bless you with peace. May the Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

True Peace begins with me, is empowered by Christ and thinks eternally.

This is the phrase that came to me as I was pondering what it meant to be truly at peace. We live in a world where peace is merely spoken of as a wish, a dream, a hope we know deep inside of us will probably never come. We have just come out of the Christmas season in which we speak of “Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Men”. We look forward to a new year in which we always hope for life with a stronger economy, more solid relationships and better health.

True peace, the kind of peace God promises us isn’t dependent on circumstances, nor can it be taken from us by other people. True Peace begins with me, is empowered by Christ and thinks eternally. True peace, God’s peace is best exemplified with the Hebrew word SHALOM. SHALOM peace reaches to the very soul. SHALOM peace encompasses the seen and the unseen, the things I can control and the things I can’t.

True Peace begins with me, is empowered by Christ and thinks eternally. While True peace is initiated by God, I must make a decision to make that peace a part of my life. The great enemy of our souls wants us to believe two lies. One is that we can’t do anything to change ourselves. The other is that the only way we can get better is to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and try harder. Both lies have partial truths in them. We must make decisions in our lives that will lead to healthier living spiritually, emotionally and physically. One day Jesus met a young man who was unhappy with life. Jesus told him the best way to gain the fulfillment he sought was to give away all he had and follow Christ, Christ alone. The man had a decision to make. He chose to walk away.

True Peace begins with me, is empowered by Christ and thinks eternally. The false part of the enemies lies is that the outcome depends on us. The outcome never depends on us. If it does we are destined to failure. The power to change our attitudes, actions and reactions can’t come from us. It must come from the power of Christ in me. The Apostle Paul tells us “Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. (Philippians 4:7) Our minds are guarded from defeat not because of our own power but because of the power of Christ that protects, strengthens and guides us.

True Peace begins with me, is empowered by Christ and thinks eternally. The ‘eternal thinker’ realizes that the trouble of this world, no matter how devastating, is temporary. Everything we can see, touch, hold, hear and taste ends at death. But our heart, our soul lives on eternally. The ‘eternal thinker’ spends his/her energy on things that build for eternity. Jesus says, “I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.” (John 16:33)

PRAYER: Father God, as I move into a new year, let me live a life of true peace. True Peace that begins with me, is empowered by Christ and thinks eternally. Amen.

“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” (Ephesians 2:14)

This past Advent season we spent out time examining the names given to the baby in the manger by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6). Although I’ve heard this passage many times, and spoken on it several times as well, this year I was given insights never seen before. That’s one of the amazing things about the Bible, for those of us who study it. The most familiar passages can constantly bring new meaning to our lives as we open our minds to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.

The last Sunday in December we were reminded that Jesus is our Prince of Peace. Peace is something that eludes a vast majority of the world’s population. Some are entangled in conflicts that eventually take their lives either through violence, disease or natural disaster. Others are engaged in conflicts of the soul, struggling with emotional or mental illness, various kinds of addictions or the hidden bruises of abuse.

Jesus IS our Peace. The word peace in Isaiah 9:6, is the Hebrew word SHALOM. SHALOM goes far beyond what most of us think of as peace. SHALOM peace, goes far beyond the superficial peace of prosperity, lack of conflict and good health. SHALOM peace goes directly to the very depths of the soul.

The real beauty of SHALOM peace? It’s unaffected by our circumstances. The day before I wrote this article, a dear friend of mine lost his wife (temporarily) to cancer. One day they will be reunited with their savior. It was amazing to watch her over the years. The disease ravaged her body, but her spirit remained at peace in the arms of her Lord and Savior. Renee was an inspiration to us all.

That brings up another aspect of SHALOM peace. In its essence, SHALOM peace naturally overflows to those around us when practiced gracefully. SHALOM peace isn’t concerned about political correctness, homophobia, intolerance or racism. The goal of SHALOM peace is to bring unity.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians states, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” (Ephesians 2:14)

The disciple of Jesus Christ knows peace even during those times we are misunderstood, falsely accused, or ‘labeled’ because we know that our validity isn’t dependent on what others think, but on how God views us. ALL people are created in his image. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. That’s why he sent Jesus to be our reconciliation to him, and to have a ministry of reconciliation to others.

PRAYER: Father God, thank you for our precious Prince of Peace who stands by me in the most difficult of situations. Help me to live SHALOM peace in my own life so that it may spread to others. Amen.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

I have a list. Actually I have several lists. Some are written on scraps of paper. Others are stored digitally on my Smartphone or computer. They are work related, personal and, of course, my honey-do lists.

The frustrating thing about my lists is that many of the things on them are things that really wouldn’t take that much time. That’s the issue. Time. I’m lousy at time management. Before you give me a list books to read or ten easy steps to time management let me tell you I’ve read many books and articles about that and have a few more on my list. (Have I already mentioned I have plenty of lists?)

What’s true in my physical life is also true (unfortunately) in my spiritual life. I love Jesus Christ. He is my source of comfort, encouragement, forgiveness, acceptance… (There I go again making another list!)

I have to confess though, that there are many things in my ‘spiritual side’ that don’t get done, or don’t get done well. Like my physical side, most of the time it’s not an issue of difficulty or time consumption; it’s a matter of self-discipline.

Self-discipline. I hate that term. ‘Self’ gives me the picture of who it all relies on. It’s all about me. I need to try harder. I need to organize better. I need to prioritize. I need to delegate. ‘Discipline’ to disciple, to follow a standard. To accomplish what you have set out to do. To suffer consequences for failure.

The Apostle Paul writes to a young pastor named Timothy. It seems like Timothy was almost like a son to Paul. It also appears that this young pastor was ministering in a difficult place and time.

So ‘Father Paul’ writes (my paraphrase), “So remember Timothy. This God we serve has given us the ability to stand courageously, live powerfully, love passionately and accomplish the task set before us by the Lord Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

For someone like me who already feels overwhelmed at times this can be small comfort. I’ve been given the Holy Spirit to accomplish all that but reality screams at me that it’s not working!

Here’s one thing I’ve discovered. I need to continue reading on in Paul’s letter. Just a couple verses later, Paul explains more of life and ministry to his young protégé.

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:9)

Did you catch it? The solution to my (and perhaps your) dilemma? Go back and read it again. One tiny little phrase we often overlook, ‘not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.’ Once again, I’m reminded that this life isn’t about my power, my ability, my ‘self-discipline.’

From now on my endeavor is to shelve the old term ‘self-discipline’. From now on my goal will be to live in Christ-discipline. To let his power live in my, through me and in spite of me. I’m not relinquishing responsibility. I’m handing it off to the one who said to cast all my cares on him.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I’m tired of trying to do things on my own. I hereby give you back the reigns of my life as you’ve commanded me to do. Empower me with your Spirit to live a life of ‘Christ-discipline.’ Amen.

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. Isaiah 9:6

What does it mean to us that Jesus is our Mighty God?

First of all, as mighty God we know that he was in the beginning and created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1).

Secondly we know that all creation, everything seen and unseen was created by him for his own good pleasure.

A third reason the deity of Jesus is important is that it gives us a view of exactly what God is like (John 1:14).

It’s far too easy to think of God as being this elusive spirit-being who is far too big and powerful to be concerned about miniscule humans such as us. By becoming human, Jesus not only proves he completely understands us and what we go through, he shows us the personal relationship the creator-God longs to have with us.

Take, for example the story of Jesus’ visit with a Samaritan woman. One day he and his disciples were on their way to Galilee. They stopped along the way for something to eat at a small town in Samaria. Samaria was enemy territory for every self-respecting Jew. Jesus met a woman at the well he was resting at while the men went to get food.

Jesus’ conversation with the woman shows us a great picture of a mighty God. A God who seeks you out regardless of your situation, or the excuses you live by, or your efforts to make it your way so he can fill you to the fullest in His time.

Jesus sought the woman out. His meeting with her wasn’t one of chance. In the same way, he seeks you out. He wants to meet your needs. He wants to have a vibrant relationship with you.

Secondly, he is unconcerned about your situation. The woman was at the well at midday because she was a woman of ill repute. No doubt she was the talk of the town for her five failed marriages and living with her current partner outside the walls of wedlock.

Jesus isn’t concerned about your excuses either. When confronted with her emptiness, the woman tried to argue her way out of a sticky situation. Isn’t that the way we tend to be as well? When met with conflict we play the blame game, try to change the subject or take the focus off ourselves and put it on someone or something else? The woman chose religion as her escape route but Jesus turned everything back on her own emptiness.

Jesus isn’t impressed with your attempts to make it on your own either. In a sense Jesus played a trump card when he asked about the woman’s husband. She’d tried relationships five times! Five times she’d failed! Five times she’d told herself, “This is the one!” Now, she’d come to a point where the pain of divorce was too much. She elected to live without marriage to avoid more pain of failure.

Why did he overlook all those things? Because Jesus’ desire wasn’t to prove himself, it was to offer the woman fulfillment, a spring of living water flowing from her wounded heart.

The same is true today. Jesus isn’t concerned about your situation, your excuses or how you’ve succeeded or failed trying to make life on your own. As Mighty God his desire is to fill you to overflowing with forgiveness, grace and unconditional love.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you for such a great love that you sought me out when my life was at its lowest. Amen.

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. Isaiah 9:6

The Isaiah passage mentioned above is a common passage quoted during this Christmas Season. What a marvelous promise it brings to us that that little baby born in a manger would someday bring bright hope into a world of darkness. When Isaiah wrote these words the world was much like it is today, without hope, struggling with the empty darkness of the soul. Then, as now, the promised coming of the Christ-child would change all that. The Christ child brings us hope when hope seems absent

Hope often eludes us because we are, in essence, damaged goods. Our hearts are wounded from years of abuse from others and ourselves. Our minds are limited by the inability to see beyond today and that view is tainted by our past. The external pressures of worry, doubt and anger keep us from feeling the power we need to continue.

What gives us hope? When we are sick physically we go to a doctor who knows our physical condition based on tests, education and experience. When we struggle emotionally or relationally we may go to a counselor who tries to help us mend in much the same way. The problem is, our hearts don’t respond the way our bodies to because each of us is wired differently. That’s why we need a ‘WONDERFUL COUNSELOR’. Someone who sees into the deepest recesses of our souls.

Jesus Christ is our WONDERFUL COUNSELOR. As God, he created you in his image so he knows exactly how you are wired. As man, he understands our struggles because the Bible tells us he experienced the same temptations, the same struggles, the same rejections we have (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus Christ is our WONDERFUL COUNSELOR because he cares for you. He cares enough to listen to your pain so you can turn all your fears and frustrations over to him. He cares enough to tell you the truth in love. Truth without love is abuse; love without truth is neglect. Truth bathed in love and forgiveness is refreshing.

Jesus is our WONDERFUL COUNSELOR because he is committed to you. Each of us knows what it feels like to be betrayed. Each of us knows what it’s like to rely on people only to find they are unreliable. Jesus Christ promises to be with us through the struggles of life. Jesus Christ promises to be our refuge and strength. Jesus Christ promises that no matter how bad things get, he will be with us. Always. He shows that commitment through his Word, the Bible. He shows that commitment through his Holy Spirit that promises to guide you. He shows that commitment through the body of Christ, like minded believers who will love you regardless of your bruises.

This Christmas season, don’t forget the most important gift, a gift of allegiance to the one who understands you, cares for you and is committed to you. Visit a house of worship where you can feel his presence. He will give you everything you need to endure life. He will give  you hope.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. Thank you for loving us so much. During this season in which we remember your birth allow us the strength to remember that during those times of loneliness and frustration you are there to comfort and lead us. Amen.

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December 2013
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