Twelve Days of Christmas Day 6: Peace


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 hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Colossians 3:15

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

Isaiah 26:3

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Psalm 119:165

“Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.”

“Peace, man” is a common phrase spoken and heard today, yet rarely felt. Echoing a sentiment spoken many years ago by the Messiah Who was the only One Who could really speak and give genuine peace, people still try to give this illusive sentiment, even if only in a trite phrase.

What does it mean that Christ gives us peace?  How can we have peace when to sky is falling?  Because we know the One who made the sky.  How can we know peace when people shun us?  Because we are accepted unconditionally by the One who made them.

How can we have peace when financial hard times press in and we never feel we can get ahead?  Because our Provider owns the cattle on a thousand hills – and everything in between.  He gives us what we need – we just need to ask Him and believe Him.

How can we have peace when loved ones betray us and are unfaithful? Because the One Who chose us was betrayed, too, and chose to love enemies enough to die for them.

This precious babe brought real peace – not a peace that depends on everything going well, but a peace that depends on the Creator to be all Who He says He is.  That is a lasting peace – a hope in the only One Who is peace incarnate.

Lord, thank You for giving us peace with You, the Holy, perfect, blameless One.  Help us to walk in that peace and to give the peace You offer to others.

Worshipful Wednesday: The Source of Lasting Happiness

Psalm 34:5

“Those who look to Him for help are happy; their faces are not ashamed.” 

Proverbs 16:20

“He that handles a matter wisely shall find good: and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.” 

Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”

Happiness.  An emotion many spend a majority of their lives trying to gain, but do not realize they already obtain it.  Artificial happiness is often temporary, when the focus of that joy is on something that was never meant to provide lasting joy.  Even when someone has all of the trappings of our society, which are supposed to supply happiness, there can remain an emptiness that no earthly joy was ever meant to fill.  Ironically, children in dire poverty can have a far greater joy than children who have every luxury.

Acquiring this genuine happiness is then not found in anything on this earth, because it all fades away anyway.  God does provide happiness to us through blessings in this life, but these blessings were never meant to be our complete joy. Blessings of this life were meant to foster a love and thankfulness to our God who provides them, and ultimately to be used to glorify the Giver of our lives and all the blessings that He gives us.

Few find the true joy that a relationship with God brings.  We are easily distracted and focused on things that appeal to the flesh that we can forget the happiness that comes from a simple life hidden in Christ.  Rising up in the morning to our routine, we can rush past moments with God if we do not choose to abide in Him and let Him fill our hearts to overflowing with Himself.

If we really believed and knew the kind of joy God could give us, we would run to Him.  He longs to have us fulfilled in Him. This does not mean we will not have to endure sad moments, but it does mean we can have a joy in the midst of those times.  He is our source of joy and delighting in Him is our strength for all of life’s ups and downs.

Lord, what a good God You are, who wants to fill us with joy.  Be our joy and help us to recognize how blessed we are in You.

If this blog has blessed you, perhaps the songs from this ministry will, too.

Thoughtful Thursday: Popularity’s Demise

Job 19:17-19; 25-27

17 My breath is repulsive to my wifeI am loathsome to my brothers. 18 Even youngsters have scorned me; when I get up, they scoff at me. 19 All my closest friends detest me; and those whom I love have turned against me. 25 As for me, I know that my Redeemer livesand that as the last he will stand upon the earth26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God27 whom I will see for myself, and whom my own eyes will beholdand not another.  My heart grows faint within me.

Job 20:5-11, 15, 26-29

20:5 “The elation of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. 6 Even though his stature reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds7 he will perish forever, like his own excrement; those who used to see him will say, ‘Where is he?’ 8 Like a dream he flies away, never again to be found, and like a vision of the night he is put to flight9 People who had seen him will not see him againand the place where he was will recognize him no longer10 His sons must recompense the poorhis own hands must return his wealth11 His bones were full of his youthful vigor, but that vigor will lie down with him in the dust. 15 The wealth that he consumed he vomits up, God will make him throw it out of his stomach. 26 Total darkness waits to receive his treasures; a fire which has not been kindled will consume him and devour what is left in his tent27 The heavens reveal his iniquitythe earth rises up against him28 A flood will carry off his houserushing waters on the day of God’s wrath29 Such is the lot God allots the wicked,and the heritage of his appointment from God.”

The here and now is powerful.  Our senses are keenly aware of our current joys and sufferings.  The status we hold before men contributes to our condition, unless we catch a glimpse of God.

I suppose many folks like to avoid the book of Job.  While it is painful to read of his suffering and God’s hand in it, the book of Job has become an incredible comfort to me.  Here we see the comparison of a righteous man, suffering greatly and quite unpopular, to a wicked person who is popular and prospering.  Talk about afflicted.  Job is covered head to toe with sores, his children are no more, his wife suggests he curse God and die – and gee whiz, even Job’s breath stinks.  If we were to be honest, we probably would not want to hang out with him, either, and toast marshmallows.

Job is honest about his condition.  He does not sugar coat it and say shallow religious statements.  He is transparent and genuine – sometimes folks do not like that.  It is far easier to condemn someone who is stricken – they must have some blame for their punishment, right?

But in the midst of that very dark place, Job rises from the ashes and proclaims that his greatest joy is his hope in God.  He will see him.  He is confident of this.  He might not understand why God allowed all this turmoil, but he recognizes that this temporary suffering will one day end.  The lack of discomfort is not his joy – sure, he will not mind being restored, but it is finally seeing His God in his flesh, that gives him the strength to walk through the dark valleys.

Who is this God that Job looks to?  His Redeemer.  The One who takes terrible situations and redeems them.  Job knew this suffering was not all for naught – it would be redeemed.  The temporary pleasure of being popular could never compare to an eternity of reward in His majestic presence.

Contrast this picture with the wicked one who is popular, wealthy and seemingly does not know suffering in this world. What will this temporary popularity give him?  Eternal suffering.  It seems popularity is not all it is cracked up to be.  It does not hold, however, that all righteous people will be unpopular and poor.  If God wants to grant favor or increase our position for His glory, ultimately any fame we would have on this earth is His alone.

We all will have troubles in this world – Jesus promised that.  Times of enjoying popularity and of scorn.  He chose unpopularity to save our souls.  Wow, what a reward.  For today’s generation, popularity is held by the number of likes they get when they post a picture or a statement.  Scores of people are just trying to get more people to follow them – for what?Does more numbers truly equal popularity?  But if we do have people engaged in our lives, listening to our message, may we not shrink back from proclaiming Christ even when it might not be well liked on our social media.  It might not be popular to take a righteous stand, but we will be in good company with those servants of God who were faithful to dispense God’s truth despite being unpopular – Noah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Moses, Jesus.

Success in the world’s eyes is not the same in God’s.  As we pursue to be faithful to God, we may not be liked by man.  Job did ultimately see God’s favor again and the fiery trials ended.  But, his greatest joy was not the end of pain, but the hope of one day casting his crowns at the feet of Jesus, overcome with joy in His presence when His Redeemer removed all of the sorrows that plagued him and turned them into gold.

Lord, help us to trust you when we feel unloved or stricken.  Help us to focus on the gift we have in You rather than the sorrows or joys in the present.  May we trust you when life hurts and choose to delight in You, not the gifts this world may offer.

Unequal “Yokedom” and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts

Photo Credits: My son Sam

Photo Credits:
My son Sam

Genesis 28:1-7

28:1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman2 Leave immediately for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants!  Then you will become a large nation4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.” 5 So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.  6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there. As he blessed him, Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” 7Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

“Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Thereforecome out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.”

Ok, so we are not cattle and it might seem a bit archaic to still use the terminology “yoked”.  Perhaps another analogy would serve today’s generation better, nonetheless our souls confirm this truth.  It was not a racial slur when Jacob’s parents were opposed to Jacob marrying a Caananite woman.  They knew that Jacob’s heart could be turned away from following the living God by marrying an unbelieving spouse.  This is not just a principle for the Old Testament.  I fear in our day of tolerance and relevance that we have lost touch with the truth that God’s word never changes and His principles still stand, no matter how sophisticated or independent we think we’ve become.

I have three daughters and two sons that God has blessed me with.  Later in life, He also brought a step-daughter into my life.  When God enabled me to be a parent, my greatest heart’s desire was that I would be faithful to raise them in the LORD.  God was seeking godly offspring when He chose Abraham and when He chose us.  These children He has given are truly His.  Being charged with guarding their hearts and guiding them in Christ has been a challenging task, indeed, but it is worth it.

Suitors are now coming to call and the foundation that was laid all of these years is holding, by the grace of God.  It is not easy, and I, too, can easily falter if it were not for the compass I hold in my hand each day – the Bible.  You see, the philosophy of this day and age is to minimize the authority that parents have in their children’s lives.  It is viewed as old-fashioned.  So be it.  The role God gave parents is one He holds them accountable for, and that truth, coupled with the fear of the LORD, keeps me seeking God for His choice, not mine, in my children’s lives.

Worldliness is easy.  It is so woven into all of society, even in Christian places, that we can become dumbed down and not detect it anymore.  It is so hard to keep our hearts, let alone our children’s.  If I put my oxygen mask (the Bible) on each day, I am able to see clearly enough to place it on my children, but this also requires discipline and consistency in my life.

It starts when they are young.  Even when my children were first able to understand, I shared with them God’s word and how it differed from the world around us.  At that time I told them we were not going to follow the customs of the culture around us, including dating at a young age.  The follow up to that standard never relents and must not just be a legalistic mantra.  Godly standards flowing from genuine conviction breathe life, not rebellion.

This morning, my 10-year-old son knew I was not to be interrupted during my devotion time.  It is still so hard for him to not do so. Instead, he got his Bible out and read beside me and drew a picture from his devotion time, which I used for today’s blog. These moments are precious, but we cannot rest in them.  We have to keep building on this foundation and remind our kids that the faith they were taught has to become their own.

Back to my daughters.  Young men are now coming, asking to date or court my two oldest – pesky thing it is, them growing up.  Trying to walk the line of counseling my daughters and letting them make decisions is difficult, to say the least.  True character is shown soon enough, though, whether a young man will respect the parent’s place in the young woman’s life whom he admires, or whether he will secretly attempt to subvert the authority God has placed in my daughter’s lives.

We did not permit dating or courtship until they were 18 and have certainly been judged for doing so.  No regrets here. This past week I had the joy of having a godly young man inquire after one of my daughters.  They have been friends for a year and a half and walked through this process beautifully.  Moments like this make it all worth it.  Suitors can lie, manipulate and couch their professions of love in “Christianese”, but the Holy Spirit is able to guide important life decisions.  We just have to be seeking and listening.  True character is shown in time – we just must be vigilant!

My older son is a couple of years away from adulthood now.  Completely different and also much the same.  The principles of purity and guarding our hearts have been laid as groundwork since before he could first understand those words.  May he and his younger brother continue to walk in God’s ways and seek a righteous wife someday, for even the wisest man, Solomon, had wives turn his heart away from God toward worthless things.

Although Jacob might have easily disregarded his parent’s counsel, he did not.  He chose to obey and was rewarded for it. He had his own past of deceit and maybe learned from it.  My prayer is that my children will continue to choose the path of following God, but that will be their decision.  I am blessed to say that they are walking with God, but the spiritual battle for all of our children’s hearts is waged daily.  We have experienced firsthand how the disobedience of one person caused incredible pain and horrific consequences in our lives.  We do not want to walk that path again.

We never arrive as parents and never are done inspiring our children to love God.  The costs are just too high, and future generations are counting on the faithfulness of us right now.  We cannot become trapped in cultural pressure or fads.  Even terminology can become an idol – dating or courtship.  Choices lie before us all each day.  What we choose impacts those who follow behind us.  I choose by the grace of God blessing and not a curse – walking in obedience over rebellion, life over death.  What say you?

Lord, thank you for saving me and showing me the need for discipleship of the children You have given.  When I fall short, LORD, protect their hearts and enable us to follow hard after You, for You are our life!