Where Is The Peace They Promised?

November 30, 2018

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:14         

Songs have been written about peace at Christmastime and greeting card companies have used the quote to promote wishes for peace to all who receive their card. It’s nice to wish someone we care about a peaceful life but is this what the angels meant when they made this announcement? If they had just declared ‘peace on earth’, it might have been easier to misconstrue. But the phrase ‘peace among men with whom He is pleased’ changes everything.

This phrase is connected to an event in Jesus’ life when God the Father made a pronouncement of His own.  When Jesus was being baptized, His Father’s voice was heard, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”  So to whom will peace come?  Those with whom the Father is pleased.  The conditions for pleasing the Father are to love His Son, to embrace Him as Savior, and to live a life of obedience, just as Jesus did.         For every person who does this, there is peace with God.  The birth of Jesus and the mission He came to fulfill made this peace possible because sin was dealt with on Calvary.  This sentiment from the angels can not be misconstrued to mean that, in 2019, the world will be a more peaceful place.  It won’t.  Times here will only prove more perilous until Jesus comes back and the prophecies from scripture continue to play out.  While that may sound grim, God’s plan moves along according to God’s timetable, leading us to the day when Jesus will reign on earth and we will enjoy peace – internally and externally – for the first time.        

For every one of us who are citizens of heaven today, who have made peace with God through Christ, peace starts now.  It reigns in the heart of all those who have asked Jesus to bear the Father’s wrath in our place.  That’s what He came to do.  A birth in a crude stable setting was to usher in a peace-making mission.  So to all of you who are in Christ today, I send a heartfelt greeting.  “Rest in the peace of forgiven sins.  Rest in the peace that exists between you and the Father.  Jesus came to win it for us – and hand it to us on the other side of the cross.

If you are well pleased with me, it is only because my righteousness was a gift from You, Jesus.  Thank you for peace the world does not understand.  Amen

What Will Come Out Of Your Mouth?

November 29, 2018

My soul magnifies the Lord.  Luke 1:46

Words of faith do not originate from a vacuum.  What spills out during the times when I am stretched to my limit reflects the kind of faith I have cultivated previously.  A well known bible teacher said, “Who I am when hard times hit is really who I am.”   True!  The words I speak during my most painful moments are mirrors that reflect the foundation of my life.

Hannah endured the scourge of barrenness.  When she was finally touched by the divine hand of God, she delivered a famous discourse that spanned a dozen verses.  It is one of the most prophetic passages in all of scripture. Elizabeth also suffered the heartache of being childless yet through it, she also cultivated her faith.  She learned the Word of God, built the precepts of it into the fabric of her life, and when God visited her with a child in her old age, she also rose to prophesy.

Eloquence is not just confined to adults either.  Mary was merely a teenager when she was visited by an angel. Given a task that would have crushed most grownups, she rose up to deliver the famous Magnificat.  The fact that such words could flow from a twelve year old is astounding.  She didn’t speak shallow words of praise.  She reviewed God’s history, the ‘ways of God’ that could only be known by one who immersed herself in the stories of her ancestors.

Human nature wants to coast during the good times, only drawing close to God when the fires of adversity get hot.  God is gracious and will certainly answer us whenever we cry out for help but there is a better way.  I can fortify my heart today.  If feeding my spirit is a priority, I create a storehouse of spiritual food that will serve me well when there’s a famine.  When everything appears to have fallen apart, I will not hear patterns of hopeless and fearful words come out of my mouth.  Ultimately, I’ll hear the language of faith.

Have I painted a picture that fails to embrace my own humanity?  No.  I’m not naive enough to believe that each of our spiritual heroes failed to have low moments.  Hannah wailed in the temple and was so distraught that the priest accused her of being drunk.  I’m also confident that Elizabeth wept her way through the scourge of barrenness.  A lifetime of longing unearths pretty strong emotions.  And Mary?  We’re not given a lot of details but I can’t believe that she didn’t worry about abandonment, and about being hauled before the elders to face harsh punishment.  I need to remember that there is no judgement against, what Job calls, ‘words for the wind.’  Each of us utter feeling statements when the fires are hot.  “This will never work out!”  “I’m headed for ruin.”  “I’m so angry, I could kill him.”  “I can never forgive this.”  What proves or disproves our faith is what happens after our knee-jerk reactions.  Will we embark on a lifestyle characterized by fear and unbelief or will we engage in some rugged introspection to place our feet, once again, on the Rock of Ages.

Lord, I walk in the shoes of Hannah, of Elizabeth, and of Mary.   I may have my low moments but You raise me up to do what I was created to do ~ love You, worship You, and praise You.  Bless every righteous seed planted in my spirit.  Amen

Can I Really Grasp It?

November 28, 2018

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1 

My sister related a quote to me the other day. Ideology is peaceful but history is violent. The darkness of this world, starting with the fall of man, has been overwhelming. No matter where we study history, there are stories of unspeakable cruelty, our lasting shred of innocence being shattered by what we see on the evening news.  Never did we think we would see such savagery come to pass in our lifetime.

The differences between the darkness of evil and the light of the glory of God are so stark that I simply can not comprehend them.  Within the limitations of my mortality,  I don’t understand the full extent of God’s holiness nor Satan’s villainous nature.  I also don’t grasp the evil of my own heart nor the power of what it means to be created in the image of God. If I knew what it really meant to have His Spirit inside, wouldn’t I live as a blazing fire?  Wouldn’t my passion drive out all vestiges of a numbed out existence?  As it is, there are still days I taste the latter. 

The Light of the world entered our violent world humbly and quietly. His light was only visible to some but for those who had spiritual eyesight, the darkness was eclipsed by the glory of the Son of Man.  Oh, what darkness was resident within the rule of the Roman Empire.  It was a corrupt and vicious dictatorship.  The nation of Israel had been suffering in the shadows of evil and were languishing for their Messiah to come and deliver them. His birth was preceded by 400 years of silence, a deafening and interminable silence. Never was the light more life saving than when Jesus came to show the world the Father’s face but most didn’t see Him as the answer to their prayers.  The miracle they had been crying out for had arrived but they couldn’t celebrate.

God’s brilliance is all around me because God loves to show off His glory. Am I receptive?  Can I see it?  And how much more so at Christmastime is the wonder of heaven revealed! How do the angelic hosts of heaven celebrate the birthday of Jesus? Someday I’ll know but I want to begin to take part in the celebration now. I’m asking God to open my spirit wide so that I can feel the impact of heaven and earth colliding.  The re-telling of His birth, captured by the musicians of heaven, has to be stunning. 

Let me hear the music. In Jesus name, Amen

Hovering Over Me

November 27, 2018

 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.”  Luke 1:35   
God’s Spirit hovered over Mary and she conceived.  Nine months later, she gave birth to the Son of God.  This intimate gesture of overshadowing ushered her into her most holy calling as the mother of Jesus.           

The Spirit of God must still overshadow the saints today if they are to give birth to their most holy callings.  There can be no conception of a call without communion.  For years, I thought I was in touch with God’s will for my life, and in fact, I prayed for it earnestly.  But what was missing was intimacy with God.           

Jesus said, “He who believes in me, from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”  The word for innermost being in the original language is ‘womb’.  Through every child, God wants to birth something for the kingdom.  Something holy is to proceed from their spiritual womb.  What is it?  The only way to know is to be intimate with Him.  There is something about the redemption of our story that is unique.  Out of our individual brokenness, and out of the way He speaks His healing Word to those desolate places, will emerge our calling.  When He reveals it to each of us, it fits like a glove.  Praise, worship, and unspeakable joy are the result; our versions of the Magnificat.           

To discover my purpose, I must be intimate.  To know how to walk in it, I must be intimate.  To transcend the challenges that come with a calling, I must be intimate.  Any kingdom work done without intimacy is powerless. 

             Be large over my life.  I am your handmaiden. Amen

The Unwrapping of a Love Letter

November 26, 2018

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  John 1:1 and 2  
Do you remember what it was like to wait for a specific Christmas present? The suspense only lasted for, at most, a couple of months.  But what about the gift you might have to wait several hundred years for?  And once you begin to unwrap it, you realize that you can only do so in increments? 

The Treasure that she, Israel, had been waiting for expectantly for over a millennia was born in the middle of the night.  He was unwrapped by His birth but then wrapped again, constricted straight as an arrow, in swaddling clothes.  Symbolically, this was an interesting picture because He would never turn to the right or to the left but would keep Himself from evil.  He was the Rock of Ages, the stone that the builders rejected; yet Satan tempted Him by telling Him to turn a stone into bread.  He was the Bread of Life, the giver of the blood that cleanses, but instead of being received, He was spat upon.  Coming with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, wise men would visit the Gift, yet when He was brutally killed, all that was left of value were His garments. 

This Gift took thirty-three years to unwrap, but with a single word, the Word made flesh can create, destroy, and will call up His people to His side.  He was born in the dark, helping us understand that not all secrets are to be shared in the light.  As the sun rises slowly in the sky, so it took thirty years for the Son of God to be recognized as the Lamb of God.  We have to be clothed in His righteousness, cleansed by His blood, in order to stand before His Father and not be instantly destroyed.  How ironic that He is the Light of the world but most of His creation will choose the dark.  

So, this Christmas, will we unwrap the perfect Gift that God the Father gave to us, or will we reject the One Who gave up everything to make us coheirs by His side? 

Heavenly Father, thank You for this gift.  I am overwhelmed by the fact that You would give me Your Son to die for me.  You let Him be slaughtered as a lamb so that His blood could cover me.  This is what Christmas is about.  Help me to never forget it.  In Jesus most precious name, Amen 

Journal:  What do you want for Christmas?  How does the anticipation feel?  Write a thank you note, a love letter, or even a Christmas carol, to describe how you feel about the Gift.

When God Doesn’t Answer

November 21, 2018

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Malachi 4:4

The nation of Israel is about to enter a period when God won’t speak for four centuries. Four hundred years from now, Zechariah will be serving in the temple when the angel Gabriel will appear to him to announce the birth of John the Baptist. In the meantime, they are told how to survive the coming absence of His voice. “Remember the law. Remember His words. Remember His promises.”

This is great advice for any of us today who feel that God is silent about a certain issue in our lives. There have been times when I wanted God to address that thing that was breaking my heart. I pleaded for understanding. I sought to be enlightened as to the purpose of my suffering but God didn’t answer. The truth is, He’s given me enough in His Word to sustain my heart for a lifetime. If I never come to understand the ‘why’ of a certain event in my life, I can rest in the love and wisdom of God, revealed in the Scriptures. Reviewing and remembering will sustain me. It will even give me joy in my sorrow.

God didn’t offer this advice glibly. Nor do I. I have lived long enough to encounter events that would seem to indicate that God is uncaring, even cruel. The evidence was certainly stacked against Him. Without clinging to the truth of Scripture, my trust in His heart would have fatally fractured. I used to think that God was still silent. I compared my wilderness to those in the Old Testament who failed to hear God’s voice for long periods of time.

That assumption was an error. They did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside. I do. He is a comforter and spiritual guide. Though God may not answer some of my specific questions, He will always speak to me. The Bible sits in my hands. The Spirit is poised, waiting for me to read it and ask for clarification. As soon as I do, He speaks.

Forgive me for the times I pronounced judgment on You. I thought the evidence damning and reached wrong conclusions. The truth about You is in my hands and I rest in it, no matter what. Amen

Glorious Morning

November 20, 2018

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Malachi 4:2

Throughout the Old Testament, Christ is referred to as the Sun of Righteousness. Jesus confirmed this by calling Himself “the Light of the world”. Those who have had near death experiences tell of a great light that bathed them in a healing love. Jesus is to men’s souls ~ as the sun is to the visible world. Without it, we live in a dungeon.

Right now, the world suffers from spiritual darkness. God’s light can be seen here and there as His children live in worship and service but the prince of this world, Satan, is advancing his agenda of death and destruction. We groan for justice. We strain to feel morsels of perfect love. We ache for compassion and mercy. Without turning to the Light, we rarely find perfect. We get to sniff the aroma of it every now and then.

Jesus will reign one day. He will emerge on the scene and will be as welcome to us as the Sun coming up in the East in the morning. His arrival will cause us to feel released from our cages. Today, the effects of sin confine us. I can get so used to its limitations that I fail to notice all the ramifications. However, if I decided to journal the events of today, I would have two distinct lists. I would be able to trace His fingerprints. However, I would also see evil at work. Before turning in my street earlier today, the driver in back of me cursed me out and made an obscene gesture. Though his window was only down a few inches, his words were plainly heard.

Oh, for the day when Jesus will heal this world. We will be freed from our long winter. We will leap for joy and experience pure righteousness. The possibilities for life will be limitless and I live in that hope.

I can taste of Your redemption today through prayer but this is still just a hint of how glorious things will be one day. Oh Jesus, I look for You on the horizon. Amen