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“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 NIV).
I’ve been thinking about this verse a lot lately in what seems like a daily increase of turmoil and divide in the world. Jesus very intentionally clarified that His peace was not the same as the world’s peace. The peace the world is currently striving for is empty. It’s a surface level peace. It’s probably better defined as tolerance or an absence of conflict. There is no true peace or resolution for the cause of the conflict or the sin at the heart of matters. The peace the Lord gives is life-saving and life-giving.
The word Jesus would have used in the original language here would have been Shalom. Shalom is a very universal word in the Hebrew language. It’s taken from the root word “shalam”, which means “to be safe in body, mind or estate”. It can be used as a greeting or farewell. In a more biblical sense it refers to a sense of inward wholeness or completeness, and we can only have that through reconciliation with God through Christ Jesus.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9). In the Jameson-Fausset-Brown Bible commentary it states, “But it was not till Christ "made peace by the blood of the cross" that God could manifest Himself as "the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant" (Heb 13:20)—could reveal Himself as "in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," and hold Himself forth in the astonishing attitude of beseeching men to be "reconciled to Himself" (2Co 5:19, 20). When this reconciliation actually takes place, and one has "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"—even "the peace of God which passeth all understanding"—the peace-receivers become transformed into peace-diffusers. God is thus seen reflected in them; and by the family likeness these peacemakers are recognized as the children of God.”
Dear friends, don’t settle for peace as the world gives it. Take heart in the perfect peace that transcends all understanding that can only come from the Lord. Spend time in His presence. Spiritual synchronicity with the heart of God is only achieved by learning His heart well. To have peace, we must know Him, be reconciled to Him. To be a peacemaker, to bring the peace the Lord gives on earth as it is in Heaven, we must reflect Him, and we must have that inner Shalom ourselves.
AW Tozer said, “Where there is no peace in the heart, there will be no peace on earth.”
Psalm 59:16-17 says, “But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.” (ESV).
This Psalm was written by David when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him. Previous verses in this Psalm are David’s heart crying out to the Lord for protection from his enemies and for the Lord to see him through the night. Then, in such a bold show of faith, he describes praising the Lord in the morning. His heart is assured that the Lord will carry him through this trial because he always has before. His past faithfulness demands our present trust.
What if we made singing praises to the Lord our first and foremost activity in the morning? The life-changing hope it would bring to our spirits would be immeasurable and the joy our worship brings to the heart of the Father is unfashionable. To remind ourselves of the Lord’s faithfulness and love in the morning before we began our day would set the tone for our entire day. To spend time in the presence of the Lord before we spent time in the presence of anyone or anything else would give us a kingdom mindset. And at night, especially those nights that we desperately cry out to the Lord to see us through them, with all the shaky yet bold faith we can muster, we can say confidently, “Tomorrow morning I will sing your praises and thank you for your protection, thank you for seeing me through this.”
I challenge you to make morning worship a daily priority in your life, even just this weekend, and see how just prioritizing His presence, prioritizing giving thanks and praise before your day even begins, sets your mind on things above and illuminates even further the glorious hope and victory we have in Christ during the darkest nights.
Billy Graham once said, “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion - it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”
Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Daily we need to take up our cross. Daily we need to die to self (1 Corinthians 15:31). Being a Christian is not a one-time sinner’s prayer. It’s not even simply going to church. A great tragedy in the church are the sleepers. The people who claim to be Christians, who claim to know the Lord and aren’t transformed by Him. They aren’t living for Him and aren’t surrendered to Him. I have gone through a period of time like this and I remember feeling so lost and unfulfilled. If that is you today, if you’ve fallen into a complacent space spiritually, let me offer you the hope that it is never too late. In the same vein, taking up your cross today isn’t a decision reliant on how you spent yesterday. Salvation is worked out daily and God’s grace and mercies are new every morning. It’s a daily decision to take up the cross. What does that mean? That means laying down our selfish desires, our lives, to follow Him. It’s a total surrender of our lives and our hearts to Him.
I would challenge you this week to pray each morning when you wake up and offer your day to the Lord and take up the cross in full surrender.
“Lord, I give you my day today. I place my plans in your hands. Guide all my steps. Help me to be Your hands and feet today. Break my heart for what breaks yours, and give me eyes to see what needs to be done in and for Your Kingdom today. Your will be done in each second of this day you have created and given me. Amen.”
If I had to select two words to describe this present age, it would be “information overload”. There is so much going on in the world that is heavy, heartbreaking, and horrendous. On top of that, our personal lives have not gotten easier to accommodate the current events. We are still struggling with financial worries, mental and physical health issues, family problems, etc. It’s a year we’ve been kicked while we are down. Paul knew what that felt like. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV).
He wouldn’t have given this advice to the church in Philippi and subsequently the world, without practicing it himself. He sang praises from jail cells after having been beaten and tortured. The secret to finding the capacity to dwell on the good things in the midst of the bad, the secret to praising in the storm, is simply knowing that your God has already overcome it. You already have victory over it. Whether it be in this life or the next, no chains on this earth can hold you forever.
Your mind is trainable and teachable. The brain is yet another beautiful and amazing creation. Neural pathways are created by repetitive thoughts you think. When we meditate on the things of the Lord consistently, it creates pathways in our minds and our subconscious thought process will always return to that place. Likewise, when we consistently dwell on the things of the Lord, old pathways that used to be our main thought processes, negative pathways, lies from the enemy that we believed, they become less and less used until they are no longer a used neural pathway! Simply following the advice of Paul in Philippians 4:8 can bring about peace to our turmoil, and bring about restoration in our mind. Hallelujah!
I challenge you this week to create those new pathways. Meditate on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, and lovely. Study God’s word every day. Remind yourself in the midst of all of your storms that God is still in control, and He still has the victory! I am not saying we should ignore our problems or current events. We need to pray for all of these things and be informed, but we don’t have to allow anything to influence our hearts and minds, we don’t have to allow anything to steal the joy and hope and peace we have in Christ Jesus. While we don’t always get instantaneous miracles or healing, we do always get a portion of the victory immediately by maintaining our hope and peace in the midst of every storm because He has already overcome and He will get us through.
Does anyone ever have a week that kicks you while you’re down? Does anyone ever have days that seem absolutely insurmountable? I have had a lot of that this week. Oh, how quickly my soul forgets God’s love, power and faithfulness.
““I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
(Psalm 121:1-2 ESV). I love this verse. Have you ever walked through a valley so low and so dark and asked yourself, “Where does my help come from?” “What could possibly help me out of this?” The valleys have a funny way of making us forget the peaks. The darkness has a funny way of making us forget the light.
When I was a child, my parents took me to Hannibal, Missouri to the Mark Twain caves. During the tour, the guide had us stop and said, “Throughout this tour, we have had modern lighting so you could see, but this is what the caves looked like naturally, during Mark Twain’s time when the Tom Sawyer books were written.” And the lights went down. The darkness was unlike any darkness I have ever been in. It felt tangible. It felt empty. There was nothing. It was hollow and grave and unsettling. When they turned the lights back on, it was as if I was seeing for the first time. It took a while for my eyes to adjust. I remember thinking how this must have been the type of darkness Genesis 1 describes, so empty, the nothingness that we cannot begin to fathom.
Psalm 121:1-2 goes on to say, as we often have to do, “My help comes from the Lord.” The reminder our soul needs. Then, it goes on to describe the Lord as “the Maker of heaven and earth.” A reminder in those dark valleys that God is all-powerful and MORE-powerful than anything we could ever face. I love this description of Him here not only because it reminds us that he is powerful and able to deliver us in His own perfect timing and ways, but the reference to creation written in the darkest of valleys, how beautiful! God spoke light into the darkness at the beginning of time and He can speak light into the darkness of your valley - that overwhelming, tangible darkness - and fill it with His glorious light.
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” -Matthew 26:41
I’ve been pondering a lot lately about how so many living in sin today are considered the most loving and accepting groups in our society. I think one of the great deceptions so many are falling victim to is the world’s definition of love. When the world loves, it takes a person and tells them to love themselves exactly as they are. It tells them they don’t need to change a thing. It seems so good on the outside. It seems accepting, welcoming, warm and unconditional. Sin will hardly ever feel bad. It will hardly ever look as ugly and broken and dark as it is. The thing about lies is that they look like the truth. The enemy is so good at making sin look good, both morally and pleasurably. Don’t buy into it. In this day and age we must be discerning. We must consult our Bible for the truth, and we must not twist it to fit the sin. We must not make excuses. We must live holy lives.
Jesus loves us better than the world, dear friends. Do not be deceived. Jesus tells us to come as we are and He loves us unconditionally and He makes us whole. He makes us better. He makes us how He created us to be. He raises us up.
If we only knew the dream the Father had for the world. How it must break His heart to hear us as Christians say, “Living in the world” as a negative connotation when He meant for Eden to be eternal.
Pray for a discerning heart and don’t be deceived. God’s love is the only true love. His word is the only true word. And by those standards we measure everything else.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
My three year old daughter Lucy has been transfixed on this verse lately. She’s always reminding us that Jesus loves the WHOLE world, making certain to place an emphasis on *whole*. She’s beginning to understand that God is real and He LOVES us, and her childlike excitement around the Gospel is akin to what she feels when she looks at presents on her birthday and it’s been both renewing my spirit and convicting me.
John 3:16 is such a special passage. It’s the Gospel message in a single verse. It’s everywhere, on T-shirts, bumper stickers, billboards, you name it. Sometimes I think that the more we read that verse, the less it hits us. The less we react to that Good News. Lucy reminded me this week that that verse should never be something I’m “used to”. The gift of God’s Grace, the freedom from sin, the victory over death is something we receive with God’s mercies - every morning. We don’t deserve it. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and John 3:16 tells us that while we were still sinners, God SO loved us, all of us - the whole world. What an amazing gift. It’s something we should be so astounded by, so amazed by, and so humbled by every day of our lives.
This week, I pray you have a childlike excitement over the Gospel. Read John 3:16 like it’s the first time you’re reading it. Lucy has been telling us the Good News daily because she’s so excited about it. When your excitement and passion for the Gospel is renewed, you can’t help but evangelize. You can’t help but spend time with the Lord, to whom we are so grateful.
For many years, I’ve been believing the lie that I was invaluable. What a commonly used theme in the lies the enemy tells us. The enemy doesn’t mind if you know your calling, he just cares about keeping you from it. He tries to keep chains on you long after Jesus breaks them. He tries to keep you in a place of fear, a place of thinking you aren’t ready, you aren’t enough, and you aren’t valuable.
I still struggle with believing these lies. I have to remind myself constantly that The Bible tells a different story. The same Hands that shaped the planets formed you, dear reader. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
Jesus placed an immeasurable value on our lives by dying in our place. And He explained our value so many times: “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7). In Matthew 6:26 He says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (ESV).
Jesus frequently compared our value to sparrows. In doing some research, I found that in the first century, during Jesus’ time, sparrows were used for food and they were the cheapest bird money could buy, costing just a farthing for two. The Bible tells us they were cheaper to buy in bulk, costing just two farthings for five sparrows (Luke 12:6). The farthing was probably the most comparable to a penny in today’s terms. It was a small copper coin that was basically worthless. And Jesus tells us in Matthew how our Father feeds the birds and knows what they need. He cares for them - those “worthless” sparrows. And dear reader, we are worth so much more than that. God counts the hairs on our heads. He is always near. He is always providing, listening, interceding on our behalf, and taking care of us. The world does not decide your value. The enemy does not decide your value. You do not decide your value. God Almighty decides your value, and you are worth so much more. His eye is on the sparrow, so we know He watches us.
It’s a world of oversharing. Sometimes I think we aim to please or impress our brothers and sisters in Christ subconsciously because that’s the culture we are immersed in. We share EVERYTHING on social media. I have heard people use terms like “Facebook official” or “Did it happen if you didn’t post about it?” I’m not sure a generation has craved as much attention as we do now. Jesus encouraged the opposite - He encouraged us to go to a secret place.
Matthew 6:6 says, ““But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (ESV). Not only did Jesus want to discourage us for doing things for the sake of being seen and applauded by our fellow man, but there are a multitude of benefits for having a secret place.
I encourage you to find your secret place! If you don’t already have this, I encourage you to find time to spend alone with the Lord. I know it’s hard. When I worked a 50+ hour a week job and took care of my daughter when I got off, I would go to a park on my lunch break and use that for my secret place. I’d spread out a blanket under a tree and read or write and pray, sometimes in my car if it rained. Whenever I didn’t make the time for this, my spirit began to feel run down, tired, and malnourished and I always would think of that phrase, “You cannot pour from an empty cup” and I always felt the Lord’s immediate response in my heart, “Katie, spend time with me. Just spend time with me.” And I would immediately think of that old hymn, “Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up Lord”. So dear friends, find your secret place. Ask the Lord to fill your cup. Be genuine before Him. Block out the distractions. Don’t worry about the elaborate prayers and words and pray from your heart. The Lord wants you - genuinely and authentically you, to come before His throne boldly, to spend time with Him.
God is meant to be experienced. God is on the move. He is an active part of our lives. Sometimes though, we stop experiencing Him. We quit carving out time to spend in His presence. We quit carving out time to read our Bibles. We disconnect from the source. We check out. I think that is where the disconnect happens in spiritually sleeping, dry and hungry people, of which I have been the worst. I think that’s when doubt creeps in like weeds, choking our vines and keeping us from the Living Water we so desperately need to survive.
It’s been a very burdensome year for all of us, and I believe in those times it’s the easiest for the doubt to creep in. It’s the easiest for us to disconnect. Dear brothers and sisters, many of our deepest, life-changing experiences with the Lord have happened in the darkest valleys. May I also remind you that God does reward great faith, but He doesn’t punish the doubter. Many times in my life I’ve found myself in the position of the Apostle Thomas. It’s so easy in the flesh to take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on the world, where cynicism and despair can fill our hearts. Jesus was gentle with Thomas. He allowed him to experience Him deeper to dispel his doubt. “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29 NIV).
Psalm 34:8, my favorite verse in the book of Psalms, says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (NIV). Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says on this passage, “34:1-10 If we hope to spend eternity in praising God, it is fit that we should spend much of our time here in this work. He never said to any one, Seek ye me in vain. David's prayers helped to silence his fears; many besides him have looked unto the Lord by faith and prayer, and it has wonderfully revived and comforted them. When we look to the world, we are perplexed, and at a loss. But on looking to Christ depends our whole salvation, and all things needful thereunto do so also. This poor man, whom no man looked upon with any respect, or looked after with any concern, was yet welcome to the throne of grace; the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The holy angels minister to the saints, and stand for them against the powers of darkness. All the glory be to the Lord of the angels. By taste and sight we both make discoveries, and have enjoyment; Taste and see God's goodness; take notice of it, and take the comfort of it. He makes all truly blessed that trust in Him.”
God’s goodness is not only something we experience in the peak moments of our lives. It’s something that God allows us to taste and see in the valleys. It’s something we can take comfort in. It’s something we can count on. It’s something we never have to doubt.