Lately living in peace has been an elusive pursuit for me. I seem to constantly find myself worrying about everything. Current world affairs, situations at work, relationships in my family, you name it and I will worry about it. But I have been walking with the Lord for a long time. I should know better. What’s wrong with me? Where is my faith?
The answer is actually pretty simple. The prophet Isaiah makes it clear, “You will keep in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3.
Every time I get my eyes off the Lord and onto my circumstances I sacrifice that peace that God promises to those who trust Him. The peace of God is quietness in our spirit that transcends our circumstances and allows us to trust Him no matter what might happen. When we come to embrace the love of God and realize that we are His and that He loves us, we can come to a place of rest and peace.
In the New Testament, Paul opens every one of his letters with some variant of the phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul knew that the members of the early church were living in very difficult times, and that their circumstances were less than ideal. He knew he had to keep their minds stayed on the Lord or they would grow fainthearted. He was reminding those early followers of Christ, and each of us today, that we need to develop a lifestyle of making the Lord our refuge and source of strength. He knew that by keeping our eyes on God we would rise above our circumstances. He understood what the prophet Isaiah was teaching and he wanted it to apply in each of our lives. In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul provides the prescription for living a life of peace, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard you hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I am praying that in this busy and often stressful time of year, you will keep your mind stayed on the Lord and that you will walk in the peace of God.
“Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway.” Psalm 85:13
In our search to find God’s will for our lives, we need to look no further than the footsteps of our Savior. They will lead us to an abundant life in this world and eternal life afterwards. We are also blessed with this promise:
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23
We walk in His footsteps and He delights as we follow them. Sounds so simple and easy, doesn’t it? That is, until we take all our good intentions to the pathway. Then we find that we often stumble and fall, or stray off the path the Lord has shown us.
But Jesus knows us well. He knows we aren’t perfect. Praise the Lord for including verse 24 in Psalm 37... “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.”
Our forgiving, patient, longsuffering Savior doesn’t walk away in disappointment when we fall or stray – He lifts us back up with his loving hand… all we have to do is reach for it. He also expects us to do the same for others who stumble and fall and disappoint us. Lord, help us not only to receive Your amazing grace, but also give us the strength to extend it to others.
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.”
2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT
I’m not sure why the Lord keeps bringing out these verses to me. Maybe because someone reading this needs to hear it, I need to hear it or both. Well, knowing the way the Lord works, it’s both. I know I need to be reminded of this. The KJV says; “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,...”
So, let’s keep this in mind as we live our daily lives.
Now, I returned back to work after 6 months of surgeries and rehabilitation. It was surprising (at work) how much people care. I felt like I was at church, people were saying they were glad to have me back and giving me hugs. Thirty years of working, and they never gave hugs to anyone. I feel blessed. Makes me think of the Lord's unfailing love for us. Last Wednesday night at church, we sang a song by Third Day “Your Love Oh Lord, reaches to the heavens your faithfulness stretches to the sky." As I read the scripture below I hear the song, and as I sing the song I hear the scripture.
“For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”
Psalms 108:4 NLT
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” ~ John 6:68-69
In this passage, Jesus had just finished addressing the religious leaders and those who did not believe in His deity nor that He is the “living bread of life which came down from heaven” who freely gives eternal life. Jesus had given the spiritual invitation to partake and commune with Him and have eternal life. However, the people either could not understand what He was saying or were unwilling to try. They were all thinking in terms of the physical realm but Jesus, in verse 63, said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” And because the people, including some of His disciples, could not understand or it seemed too hard to accept…they “walked with Him no more”. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
We all agree that we are all living in a volatile time right now. Whether it be earthquakes, hurricanes, rumors of wars, shootings, disease, politics or personal issues…these are volatile times. These events are moving all of us in some way. For some of us, we are moved to tears, some moved to pray, for some moved to action and help, others moved to posting online in expression, and some are choosing to retreat in confusion. These are hard things and we cannot fully understand why they are taking place and all in such a short amount of time. So the question for us is during these hard times of uncertainty is…“Do we also want to go away?”…
“Lord, to whom shall we go?” Not to what, but to WHOM. Our Lord is personal, not inanimate. And He alone has the words of eternal life, which is our hope. I understand that it’s totally human for us to question what is happening in this world, but our hope is not in this world. Whether global or personal, He is mindful, attentive, and responsive. God’s grace and faithfulness is not unseen, just often not recognized. Let us, as believers, to not only believe that God is good, but know that He is sovereign and His will is perfect. Let us be like Peter who believed and whose eyes were so affixed on Jesus amidst the tempestuous waters around him, that he knew it was Jesus who was keeping him afloat.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:13-14
I have been thinking about these verses quite a bit lately. The children of Israel were facing disaster. They were chased by the Egyptians all the way to the Red Sea, and they thought it was all over. But God told them to be still and see the power and salvation of the Lord. I think that is where we all are right now. It seems there is no way out and we are up against a formidable enemy, but God is saying to you and I, "Be still and see the salvation of the Lord."
The “Egyptians” can be cancer, finances, relationships, jobs, prodigals or anything else. We have to trust and be still and wait on the Lord. I am praying that today the Lord will reveal Himself to you in a very personal way and that He will comfort you in your affliction. Be still and feel His presence.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. - Proverbs 27:17
When Saul was on the Road to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, the church in Damascus knew he was on the way and what he wanted to do. In this context, with no knowledge of any conversion experience, God speaks to Ananias and tells him to go find Saul. Basically saying, “Hey Ananias, you know that dude who oversaw Stephen’s execution and is on his way to your town to do the same to you? I want you to find him and minister to him, because I’ve chosen him, and he’s going to suffer a lot.”
Ananias goes and ministers to Saul, effectively welcoming him into the church. I see three things in his response that consistently reappear throughout the book of Acts:
Two-thousand years after this occurred, it’s easy for me to dismiss the faith, courage, and love of Ananias and Barnabas, yet they were risking their lives and their place in their local communities in pursuing Saul for the Gospel’s sake. The initial response of the disciples in Jerusalem was completely natural, but God does not call us to react to things naturally. Our call is to react in the power of the Holy Spirit through the resurrection life we have in Christ! Ananias and Barnabas recognize this cannot happen alone, and if God really has called Saul, then he will need people to come alongside him.
Obeying God is worth whatever costs might come along with it. Not only is this seen here, but countless times throughout the books of Acts in the lives of Dorcas, Priscilla and Aquila, and many others. God has not called us to safety, he’s called us to love him and to love others often at great risk to ourselves, and to live in the “fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”
1 John 2:15-16 NLT
April 13, 2017 was a life-changing experience for me. After a recent trip, I was filling my RV with extra gas I had in a 5 gallon can. About halfway through emptying, I had a ruptured aneurysm, set the can down and laid down in my driveway. A passing neighbor saw me and called 911. Nothing of this world mattered at that point. Families and friends gathered to pray. I had no idea what was happening, or how serious my condition was. To be honest, it's a miracle I’m here.
My wife and daughter took turns staying with me at the hospital and arranged for family to stay when they weren't there. They put everything aside during that time and took notes during the many doctor visits. There were more than a dozen doctors and specialists that would check on me regularly.
Now I have rehab specialists that are guiding me through the process of getting me back to where I was. It’s not easy, especially with the double vision I am experiencing. Things that I used to take for granted like walking, driving, riding a bike, throwing a ball, etc. have become much more of a task. Even playing the drums, which came natural to me, is difficult now and I have to work and concentrate a lot harder.
You have to get things right with the Lord before something like this happens because life is short and we live in a world of uncertainty. I don't have a memory of the week before or of the three weeks after my aneurysm. You don't get a warning when your life in this world will end. Get things right with God, then with your family and your friends. I'm blessed to have a church family to provide meals and pray for me. I’d like to thank all my family and friends who stopped by to visit and pray with me, and this includes the pastors and elders.
The Lord has a plan and purpose for what happened and I trust He's working it all together for good (Romans 8:28).
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” -2Corinthians 4:7
We’ve heard it said that we are His vessel to be used by Him. But have we ever considered what kind of vessel we are? Webster’s Dictionary defines a vessel as a “container; a person into whom some quality is infused; or a watercraft bigger than a rowboat”. A container sounds like something that is useful to carry or transport but can be closed or covered. A watercraft has great potential, can carry quite a bit, and is easily accessible. However, a watercraft is only practical on water and limited to that purpose. I like the second definition… “a person into whom some quality is infused”. I believe that Paul in 2Corinthians 4:7 is referring to this “treasure in jars of clay” as accessible, serviceable people who are infused by the quality of His power, His love, and the light of His glorious gospel.
It’s important to understand that though we are vulnerable vessels, we carry with us such a precious gift of hope and Christ’s love. Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, oh Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” Yes, we are simple vessels, fashioned by the hands of our Father and infused with a treasured truth. And when life gets hard we need to remind ourselves of Paul’s exhortation in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 that “we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” In short, we are not easily broken and though the clay may crack, our Father, the Potter, will keep us whole by His power and grace.
My son was oiling the leather laces of his baseball glove the other night. He then went on to tighten each lace as well. He said it was time to oil and tighten which is needed every so often. Why oil and tighten you might ask? There are two reasons to oil and tighten. One reason is because if you leave your glove unconditioned long enough, the leather and laces will dry, stretch, thin and eventually break. The second reason is to be prepared to withstand the constant wear and occasional hard throws that can really pop your glove. Oil and tighten so that we can be conditioned to withstand the wear of life and occasional hard times that can really “pop” us sometimes.
Be encouraged and conditioned in this reliable truth in 2 Corinthians 12:9, when Christ says “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness”.
I shared a couple of weeks ago that I felt the Lord speaking to me about being a minister of grace. Too often, I think we can become ministers of judgment instead. Now, I am not suggesting that we compromise our beliefs or tolerate the sin around us or turn a blind eye. As Paul says in Romans 6:15, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Certainly not!” But what I am saying is that it is time for us to stop judging others and extend grace as it has been extended to us. We can all look around and see plenty to criticize, but our job is to shine the light of Jesus into those places.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you: but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 5:8.
If we can practice this in our daily lives, I know we will have an impact for the Kingdom.
It’s not an easy thing to do. Our flesh fights against this approach. The world around us laughs when we try to walk in humility, and mercy is certainly not on the menu for today’s society. But that is what God is calling us to do.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer each other.” Colossians 4:6
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all of these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:12-17
“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36
The recurrent theme in these scriptures is to remember that we are forgiven people and that the Lord has extended significant grace toward us even while we were far from Him. Strive to be more like Jesus and extend grace to those you come in contact with everyday. Let’s be ministers of love and light in a very dark world.
The one thing that will cripple our nation & our church is NOT:
The one thing that will cripple our nation & the church beyond the hope of recovery is the failure of Christians to stand up for their Savior.
How many times have I asked God to put a Christian in the path of someone I was praying for… and how often have I been that Christian that God put in someone’s path & I didn’t stand up for Him.
The devil’s biggest victory today is that Christians do not stand out from this godless world. We try to fit in… afraid of losing prestige, popularity or promotions.
Jesus Christ didn’t suffer the cross so we could fill our churches with half-hearted, lukewarm Christians. Can we let another year pass with the Lord patiently waiting for our full surrender?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Rom 1:16
“Satan never bothers about half-hearted Christians, but once you are desperate for God and become burdened for the salvation of men, then all hell will oppose you.”
Alan Redpath, “Victorious Christian Service”
My prayer for our church and for myself this year is that we won’t be ashamed of our Savior & that we will be willing to stand up for Jesus… even if we are the only ones standing. If we do, there is no limit to what God can do through the family of CCLW!
The pastors and elders of CCLW