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PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN

December 24th, 2008

 

This time of year we often hear the phrase, ‘Peace on earth, good will toward men,’ the declaration the angels made when they proclaimed the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.  What a wonderful greeting it still is, and hearing those words makes us smile.  However, I have noticed that we often seem to focus on the lack of ‘peace on earth’ more than we notice the lack of ‘good will toward men.’  Isn’t it so like us to concentrate on the part over which we have so little control, rather than the part in which we can actually participate in a meaningful way?

 

Although we will not enjoy true peace on earth until after Jesus returns and sets up His earthly reign, we are instructed to pray for peace.  I strongly encourage you to pray for peace:  for Jerusalem, for the world, for our nation, for your community, and for your home and family.  After you have prayed, let your heart remain at peace in the middle of wars and rumors of wars, when everything around you is far from peaceful. 

 

As to the ‘good will toward men’ part, every day we are offered countless opportunities to further the cause of good will.  We can spread good will through our words and our actions, with our giving, by serving, and in loving one another as ourselves. God is love, and He invites us to receive that love and pass it around as acts of good will.  And there is no better time of year than when giving and receiving are on the minds of many.

 

Regardless of how, or whether, you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, I invite you to offer love, forgiveness, and good will toward men.  Jesus said that when we bring our sacrifice to the altar, if we have an offense against our brother, we should set down our sacrifice, go and make peace with our brother, and then bring forth our offering.  If you have a gift list, then I challenge you to take another look at it.  First, circle the names of the people on your list with whom you enjoy sweet fellowship.   Next, pray over each name you did not circle, and ask the Lord how to offer loving fellowship and good will to that person.  Then, with a pure heart and a free spirit, extend peace to your brother.  Once you have done this, present your gifts (sacrifices), in celebration of the season of ‘Peace on earth, good will toward men.’  Imagine the sweet reward you will reap when all of the names have been circled.

 

As we pursue good will toward men, we look more and more like Jesus, the One we honor at Christmastime.  In this way, we the Church distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world.  Who knows, perhaps the more we reveal Christ in our everyday lives, the more saints who do not know Jesus will desire to know Him.  God invites us to join in the harvest, no matter the season. 

 

Especially during this time of year, I pray that the Lord would bless you and keep you, that He would make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, that He would lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace on earth, good will toward men.

 

 

Psalm 122:6

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  May they prosper who love you.

 

Isaiah 9:5-6

For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us, and the dominion will rest on his shoulder; the Wondrous Adviser, Mighty God, Eternal Father, called his name Sar-shalom [Prince of Peace]; upon the one with the greatness in dominion and the boundless peace that will prevail on the throne of David and on his kingdom, to establish it and sustain it through justice and righteousness, from now to eternity.  The zealousness of Hashem (“The Name”, YHWH), Master of Legions, will accomplish this!

(taken from The Stone Edition Tanach, Mesorah Publications, ltd)

 

Luke 2:13-14

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”

 

Matthew 5:23-24

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

 

Numbers 6:24-26

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

THE OCEANS OF LIFE

December 18th, 2008

 

Recently another one of those pesky things we sometimes call ‘challenges’ came knocking at my door.  Challenges seem to have a way of sneaking into my life, tempting me to become troubled and let go of my faith.  Even more compelling is the temptation to take matters into my own hands, relying on my own feeble human efforts to save myself.  After having been tripped up way too many times, I have settled it in my heart that in the midst of trials, I will continue to press in and hold on.  I am determined that I will not fall into the sin of fear or the foolishness of implementing worldly schemes.  My heart’s desire is to stand squarely on the foundational Rock of my faith. 

 

Lying awake later that night, I envisioned myself in the middle of an ocean, and I penned the following parable:

 

Drifting along in the ocean waves, wrapped up in my protective wetsuit, I enjoy the peace of a mostly calm sea – I just love basking in the warm sun, my body buoyant in the salt water.  I watch in wonder as the ocean waves swell and recede all around me, while beautiful sea creatures swim by.   I bob along, thinking that this moment in time is so representative of the daily routine of life itself.   The ever-moving waves are like life’s little ups and downs, carrying me along as I go about my day.  Life is good indeed!  (However, you know how life will change in the blink of an eye, often just about the time you lean back and relax.)

 

Suddenly the soft ocean breezes become stiff winds.  The waves grow stronger, tossing me around a little more than I would prefer.  My peace gives way to uncertainty.  In fact, I am becoming quite unsettled with the rising and swirling of the water.  I am having some trouble keeping my nose high enough to avoid the swells, and I can feel a slight bit of panic creeping into my soul.  Instinctively, I reach out and grab a nose plug and a life jacket, which immediately make me feel more secure.  Ah, now I am mostly comfortable in my situation, even though my surroundings are for the most part uncontrollable.  I smugly declare that once again, life is good indeed!   (However, you know that temporary band-aids are short lived.)

 

All too soon white caps begin forming, waves are crashing all around me, and I am once again frightened in my surroundings.  Although the nose plug and life preserver are greatly appreciated, they simply are not going to provide adequate protection for the situation in which I find myself.  Still desiring to control my own course, I reach out for a small life raft and climb in.  My rowing and navigation skills will allow me to guide the raft through the waves, still holding onto the illusion that I am setting my own course.  I take a deep breath and proclaim that life continues to be good indeed!  (However, you know that a bigger band-aid will still fail under increasing pressure.)

 

As I lean back in my raft, and I roll with the bouncing and swirling of the waves, I begin to feel a chill in the air as the gathering clouds darken.  All too quickly the clouds empty themselves of their payload.  I am drenched and shivering, my muscles and bones ache from the rowing, and water rapidly invades my life raft.  Peace gives way to fear and pain.  Terror threatens to well up in me, and I must admit that I need a much larger boat in order to stay on course.  Survival suddenly becomes an issue as I acknowledge my need for greater security.  In desperation, I row to a larger vessel that can carry me safely through the raging storm and the treacherous waters.  Safely aboard a large and luxurious yacht, I am now truly able to chart my own course, navigating the waters with ease.  Storm clouds gather, but I have invested well and I am the master of my own destiny.  I stretch my arms out in celebration because life is good indeed!  (How often do I buy in to the illusion that I am self-sufficient, simply because my most recent idea appears to be working?)

 

I settle into a cushioned deck chair, more than ready to enjoy the rest, a good book, and a bubbly refreshment.  Moments later, I find myself once again in danger. Who could have anticipated that this storm would develop into a hurricane?  Scanning the horizon, the illusion of safety gives way to the reality of the situation in which I find myself.  Could I really be in danger, even in this ocean-ready vessel?  My answer comes quickly as a huge wave laps over the railing of the deck, claiming everything in its path.  Hopelessness engulfs me as I scurry to a place of safety, no longer interested in holding onto any confidence in my own strength.  Sliding across the deck, I surrender and begin to pray, grabbing hold of the Rock that cannot be shaken.  The moment I cry out for mercy and protection, I find myself immersed in the peace of God that passes all human understanding.  I rest in His arms, and thank Him for His remarkable method of teaching me life-saving lessons.  The roaring of the ocean will forever remind me that God is my refuge in the storm.  Once again, life is good indeed!

 

Later, as I studied the lessons of the parable, the Lord showed me that the wetsuit represented how I came into the world, protected but devoid of props.  So long as the oceans of life were calm, I had the luxury of bobbing in the water without a care in the world, in need of nothing.  But as the waves became stronger, I suddenly needed protection from harm.  The nose plug and life preserver represented self-help aids we often seek for answers to life’s little problems.  The life raft represented the gaining of knowledge and education to plan and set my own course in life.  The yacht represented the search for power and wealth to insulate myself from the larger storms of life.  All of these things temporarily gave me a false sense of safety and security in my own strength.   I was in danger of becoming my own god. 

 

Until I am completely humbled, with all props removed from my grasp, I have no need for a savior.  So long as I can make it on my own, living out my self-made and self-centered plans, I will do just that.  However, it was never God’s plan for me to live my life outside of His care and protection.  The challenges and storms in my life remind me of my desperate need for a Savior.  Over and over, the Lord reminds me that He is my Rock, and my strength is found only in Him.  So, when I learn that valuable lesson, and when I run to Him every time challenges come knocking at my door, life is truly good indeed!

 

 

Proverbs 3:5-7a

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes;

 

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.

 

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

 

II Corinthians 4:7-8

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.

 

Psalm 89:9

You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them.

 

Psalm 107:29

He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

OH, THAT YOU WOULD FIND ME WORSHIPPING YOU!

December 11th, 2008

 

 

Lord, let this be my humble prayer:  “Oh, that You would find me worshipping You! – in hard times and good times, in dark days and in sunshine, in famine and in plenty.  Every time You cast Your eyes upon me – Oh, that You would find me worshipping You!”  My heart’s desire is: to demonstrate those things my mouth declares that I believe; to affirm Your goodness at all times; to ensure that my spiritual foundation remains unshaken, no matter the circumstances.

 

When I walk in the door after work, and the evening news is reporting another loss in the stock market, and Congress is asking for another bailout package – Oh, that You would find me worshipping You!  First, I will thank You because I still have a job, and my company cancelled bonuses and holiday parties instead of eliminating employees.   Then I will worship You, the Provider of all my needs.  Lord, Your economy does not work like that of the world.  You made everything.  Your word says You own the cattle on a thousand hills.  When You provide more, the increase does not weaken what already exists (like when government prints more dollars without adding more gold to the Treasury).  I desire to live in Your promise that You will provide all my needs according to Your riches in glory.  And as You lovingly watch to see how I will react to the news – Oh, that You would find me worshipping You!

 

When sickness attacks my body and the doctor gives me a bad report; when my soul is tempted to come into agreement with that word – Oh, that You would find me worshipping You!  First, I will thank You for science and medicine and health care, even though the cost increases and the coverage decreases every year.  Then I will worship You, the Healer of my body.  Your Word says that the stripes laid on Jesus’ back paid for my sickness and disease.  You have taught me that I can reject the spirit of infirmity, and I can claim Your healing power.  When You remove sickness from my body, I can declare total freedom, rather than settle for a diagnosis of remission.  Plus, when You heal me, You do not allow scar tissue to remain.  I desire to seek You first for my healing, rather than apply Your promise as my last resort.  And even before You respond to my cries with Your healing touch –  Oh, that You would find me worshipping You!

 

When a terrorist plot is executed abroad, and simultaneously another one is uncovered very close to home – Oh, that You would find me worshipping You!  First, I will thank You for national security, for our incredible armed forces, and for continual watchfulness by dedicated servants.  Then I will worship You, my Protector.  You have promised that if we remain under Your covering, we will be protected, and we will not need to be afraid of the terror by night or the arrow that flies by day.  You have taught me to reject fear and to trust that You have everything well in hand.  No matter the circumstances, I can rest on Your promise that all things work together for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purposes.  I desire to stand on that promise whenever fear threatens to overtake me.  And as You hedge me in and hide me in Your stronghold – Oh, that You would find me worshipping You! 

 

As we draw closer and closer to the end of this age, the Church must stand on the promise that our God knows the end from the beginning, that He has given us a roadmap in Scripture to be able to discern the times and the events, and that He has a plan to protect His own from the perils we see on the horizon.  Mike Bickle (Kansas City International House of Prayer) reminds us that God’s burning love for us causes Him to use the least amount of pressure, for the shortest amount of time, to bring in the greatest harvest of souls without ever violating anyone’s free will.  I like that!  I pray that as I watch the signs in the heavens and on the earth, when I hear of death and destruction, when my soul is troubled by the increase of evil all around me, and when it appears that many in the church have compromised their values, I will not lose heart.  And at the end of the day, Lord, as You lovingly cast Your eyes upon me – Oh, that You would find me worshipping You!  Amen.

 

 

John 4:23

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”

 

Genesis 22:14

And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

 

Psalm 27:5

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.

 

I Peter 2:24

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.

 

Psalm 103:2-3

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.

 

Psalm 18:2

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

 

Isaiah 46:10

Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’