Worshipful Wednesday: Our Prince of Peace

search-for-peace-and-you-will-not-find-it-but-search-for-god-and-you-will-find-peace

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Search for peace, and you will not find it, but search for God and you will find peace.

Scripture of the Day:

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 among those with whom he is pleased!” “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Peace. Just the word itself calms my soul. Tumult, troubles and protests are breaking out in multiple cities across our country and zealots threaten to wipe Jewish and Christian folk alike off the face of the earth.  How can we say peace?  Because He said it. In the verse above He gives it to those who are pleasing to God.

A serene scene by a still lake; a porch swing overlooking a sunny day; children laughing and playing, snow quietly falling on tree limbs.  An elderly couple walking hand in hand. All of these images evoke the idea of peace to me.  But stones create ripples in the water, sunny days give way to wilder weather, snow melts and we all eventually fade away.  Peace is not lasting as prescribed by the world, anyway.

No, Christ alone is our peace – our Prince of peace. We who have accepted the free gift of Jesus can have peace – not as the world gives, but as God can give.  A peace that brings security and hope, which are not dependent upon circumstances or emotions. Busy times, hard times, Christmas preparations, hardship, persecution – none of these things can rob us of peace unless we let them.  Right now, where you are at, quiet your mind and heart and focus on what Christ came to bring – peace to our souls. Reading His love letter to us brings a peace that no counsel on this earth ever could.

From the time he came as a baby, peacefully in the midst of chaos, to His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, Christ accomplished peace with God for us who were far away from Him.  Not perfect comfort on this earth, but complete peace.  Many will cry out for peace in this world, thinking that a leader or a country could bring lasting peace, but they will never achieve it.  True peace is only found in a relationship with God.  Search for peace, and you will not find it, but search for God and you will find peace.

Peace to you all this Christmas season.

Lord, quiet our souls and help us to rest in You at all times.  

Day 30: Hope Reinvented

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God wants to take us to a higher place that far surpasses simply hoping for status quo.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 13:13

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Romans 8:24-25

“But For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Well here we are. We’ve arrived. Well, not really. Reinvented Hope requires maintenance, but “hope”fully as we’ve examined the hope we have, we’ve exposed areas in our lives where our hope was in the wrong place and refocused our hope in the right place – Jesus alone.

We began this quest for Hope Reinvented with the understanding that to be human is to hope – to hope and believe in an ultimate good end. God uniquely made us with a craving for hope and something more than we see around us. This is not ingratitude, but a longing placed there by a sovereign God, who knew we needed to be people of Hope to live worthy lives.

God wants to take us to a higher place that far surpasses simply hoping for status quo, the avoidance of pain or even temporary success in this world. As we have walked through the maze of this life we have learned to navigate disillusionment and suffering by looking up over the walls of doubt that threaten to block our view of God’s hope.

Sometimes our troubles actually give birth to hope and help us to understand our hope was very different from what we thought we needed in the first place. As we walk through many troubled times that we never thought would be a part of our testimony, we learn to trust in our God and see that the sweetness of surrendering to His sovereignty is unparalleled with any other solution this world has to offer. Our solace in suffering is that our Savior willingly chose the road of suffering that we wanted to deny and is able to guide us on that path and give us victory in surrendering to His hope.

Hope Reinvented is not dependent on anything this world offers. The quest for this eternal hope causes us to lift our eyes to the hills and see where our hope comes from – God and His word.

Lord, thank You for being our hope. Help us to never forget the hope we have learned and to share this living hope with others, too.

 

Day 1: Salvation is Here

salvation

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Hope would be meaningless if we did not have a living God Who makes and fulfills His promises.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Peter 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Ever feel like salvation looks a little different than what you had hoped for? I mean, if we are on the Jesus team now, life should be unicorns and roses without the thorns, right? Or maybe you haven’t accepted the free gift of salvation yet because you are not sure you can hope in one more thing that will possibly let you down.

Seriously, life can send us some hard times and it is not enough to quote some nice sounding sayings to get us through it all. Our hope in God can begin to falter when we pray and we pray and circumstances don’t change. Where is God when life hurts? Why doesn’t He choose to end our pain sometimes?

It seems wrong to question, but in all honesty, the only path to healing and finding genuine hope is to walk through the door of pain and seek to understand the heart of God in it all.

It is in the moment of our angst and grief that we find more than comfort in God’s Word and His presence. We discover a purpose and a hope far less superficial than the quest for a perfectly pain-free life, and God surprises us with a living hope in Him.

If you have ever wondered where God was when you discovered the most horrific, painful truth that shattered your life and family, or your home was foreclosed, or when you suffer with multiple illnesses, or your marriage ends in divorce or your pregnancy ends in miscarriage . . . the list goes on and on with the disappointments life can bring . . . you are not alone. I’ve wondered, too, when I walked through all of the things I just mentioned. But that wondering has been transformed into a wonder at how awesome God is – even when life hurts.

Religiously saying He is there or won’t give us more than we can handle doesn’t cut it when the sky is falling. He is not just there when we suffer – He chose the suffering we seek to avoid – because He loves us so much. When He chose to be rejected by men, spat upon and to bear our punishment, the Bible says He had joy. He endured His suffering knowing firmly the hope He had. In His immense suffering, He knew what He was accomplishing in that suffering – the salvation of many.

So it is with us. When we suffer and long for our deliverance, long for just a glimmer of hope again, God is accomplishing something far greater than relief from our temporary pain. He is changing our hope and making us into His image, but He also gives grace in our time of need.

To be human is to hope – to hope and believe in an ultimate good end. God uniquely made us with a craving for hope and something more than we see around us. This is not ingratitude, but a longing placed there by a sovereign God, who knew we needed to be people of Hope to live worthy lives.

He does not tell us to hope and then crush our dreams. Hope would be meaningless if we did not have a living God Who makes and fulfills His promises. Hope is an overused word that can lose its meaning, unless we begin to look deeper into what this hope is really like that God has for us.

The Scripture above says that when we are saved we are saved into a living hope. Not just a concept, nor a thing to strive for – this hope is alive and given to us. Our hope is alive because our Savior is alive. This does not mean the removal of pain or sorrow, but it does mean He will rescue us. It might be a mighty deliverance that brings Him glory or it might mean an awesome testimony of His enablement throughout. The irony of God’s salvation is that God does not always save us from our troubles, but He often saves us through our troubles.

Some of the most amazing men of God in the Bible died, never having seen their hope fulfilled, yet their hope was certain. Their hope was beyond the grave and eternal.

When we feel without hope, it is in that moment that our hope is in the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong – it is not wrong to hope to see the goodness of God in the land of the living – the Psalmist echoed the same heart cry – but when our hope is in Him alone, we are no longer disappointed.

There is an awe that God will somehow use the mess to bless and also glorify Himself. He promises to. Instead of hoping I will no longer have to suffer, I now hope that I can honor God in every situation that arises.

During one of the greatest sorrows of my life, I was crying out to God and asking Him why He let someone else’s sins destroy my life and why I was suffering consequences for their sins. “I wasn’t angry when I bore your sins” was the answer. God forgive me. I had forgotten about His glory and felt forgotten by my loving Father, when He was inviting me to get hope and strength from Him in the midst of the fire.

On the day God drew me to Himself, I was saved from eternal suffering, but my circumstances did not change. I was submerged into a litany of newfound persecution, but my heart was full of hope. This is the mystery of a supernatural hope – it does not depend on anything this world has, but is firmly anchored in God alone.

This hope is anchored in a future salvation that is yet to be fully revealed. It is not anchored in a problem-free, perfect life on earth.

As we explore this hope together, the verse above reminds us that this salvation is a living hope. Our salvation is a constant hope that we look to and can depend on. It never fades, it is certain. It is a relationship with the God Who made us.

One last promise to keep us going – Jesus is interceding for us. He knows we get discouraged. He will not fail us and will restore our hope if we will just hang on to His word and promises.

Hebrews 7:25: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

Mundane Monday: A Higher Purpose

Perspective - Seeing Christ in Our World by Alex Wong - smaller size

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our blessings and trials are not about us, but about those around us seeing God’s activity in our lives. #SeeingDeep #DenisePass

Scripture:

Exodus 18:9

“Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 He said, “Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.”

The car breaks down, home is foreclosed upon, miscarriage, diagnosed with multiple diseases, falsely arrested, hospitalization for pneumonia, a spouse betrays us. Poor us, right? Life’s ups and downs can leave any of us disillusioned, heart broken, in a foul mood or a bona fide well-deserved pity party. Or maybe not. For those who grab a hold of the grace of God are overcomers and are changed forever along with those around them.

What if our perspective on troubles was flipped “right side up” to recognize the hand of God at all times? Assuredly hardships are not something to be delighted in, but they teach us much about contentment and relying on our God, more than good times ever could. But more than that, the people around us get a front row seat and the opportunity to see God sustain us, encourage us and rescue us in evil times.

Jethro saw God’s hand in the life of his son-in-law, Moses. He was overjoyed, and this joy resulted in him worshiping God. Wow. To think that our response and God’s movement in our lives could serve as a catalyst for someone’s salvation and worship of God is humbling.

If we complain and blame, we lose our reward and perhaps the people watching us do, too. If we surrender, God is glorified, His fame spreads and victory is ours. Those troubles at the beginning of this blog? They were all just a few of what I have personally faced. They caused me to cry out to God, despite my need to confront my own lack of trust in Him for the suffering I faced.

Like Jacob, when we wrestle with God and try to understand, we end up transformed. Whether or not we ever fully comprehend, we inherently know our God is good and will use it all for good.

Lord, thank You for Your grace and for showing us the deeper purpose in all of life. Help us to glorify You in everything, for You are worthy!

Worshipful Wednesday: The Living Spring

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practicalpages.wordpress

Psalm 84:1-2, 4-7, 10-12

1 How lovely is the place where you live, O Lord who rules over all!  2 I desperately want to be in the courts of the Lord’s temple.  My heart and my entire being shout for joy to the living God. 4  How blessed are those who live in your temple and praise you continually! (Selah)  5 How blessed are those who find their strength in you, and long to travel the roads that lead to your temple!  6 As they pass through the Baca Valley, he provides a spring for them.  The rain even covers it with pools of water.  7 They are sustained as they travel along; each one appears before God in Zion.  10 Certainly spending just one day in your temple courts is better than spending a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather stand at the entrance to the temple of my God than live in the tents of the wicked.  11 For the Lord God is our sovereign protector.  The Lord bestows favor and honorhe withholds no good thing from those who have integrity.  12 O Lord who rules over all, how blessed are those who trust in you!

What a beautiful picture of devotion to God.  The Psalmist’s entire being is caught up with the thought of just being in God’s presence.  It is enough for him to just stand at the door, rather than to live with the wicked.  He is fully aware of the price to get to God’s temple (Heaven) but fully trusting in God to provide during the bitter moments of life in this journey with God. He is willing to pay the price and recognizes that many are not.

Reminiscent of Paul Bunyan’s novel, “Pilgrim’s Progress”, this Psalm shows the blessings of walking with God.  He is faithful.  We all will have different troubles to bear in this life, but God makes a spring in the midst of them all.  Do we perceive it?  Or are we focused on the difficulties instead?

It is easy to focus on the uncomfortable thorns which pierce our flesh and dissipate temporal happiness.  Our attention is upon that thing which distracts us from joy, but looking toward the reward of the temple of God is the most beautiful spring in the middle of every valley.  He is our living joy and those who long for Him are satisfied in His presence.

Lord, I worship You for providing nourishment and refreshment along every path in our walk with You.  Help us to recognize your springs in the midst of the desert and on the mountain tops.  You are enough.

Christmas Countdown day 5: Peace

Photo Credits quotes.lol-rofl.com

Photo Credits
quotes.lol-rofl.com

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 among those with whom he is pleased!” “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Fridays are my busiest days of the week, so finding time to blog is very difficult, but I hate to break the Christmas countdown! So here it is, 10 minutes before midnight and I have had this thought on my head all day: peace.  Tumult, troubles and protests are breaking out in multiple cities across our country and zealots threaten to wipe Jewish and Christian folk alike off the face of the earth.  How can I say peace?  Because He said it.

A serene scene by a still lake; a porch swing overlooking a sunny day; children laughing and playing, snow quietly falling on tree limbs.  An elderly couple walking hand in hand.  All of these images evoke the idea of peace to me.  But stones create ripples in the water, sunny days give way to wilder weather, snow melts and we all eventually fade away.  Peace is not lasting as prescribed by the world, anyway.

But we who have accepted the free gift of Jesus can have peace – not as the world gives, but as God can give.  A peace that brings a security and a hope, which are not dependent upon circumstances or emotions. Busy times, hard times, Christmas preparations, hardship, persecution – none of these things can rob us of peace unless we let them.  Right now, where you are at, quiet your mind and heart and focus on what Christ came to bring – peace to our souls.

From the time he came as a baby, peacefully in the midst of chaos, to His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, Christ accomplished peace with God.  Not perfect comfort on this earth, but complete peace.  Many will cry out for peace in this world, thinking that a leader or a country could bring lasting peace, but they will never achieve it.  True peace is only found in a relationship with God.  Search for peace, and you will not find it, but search for God and you will find peace.

Peace to you all this Christmas season.

Lord, quiet our souls and help us to rest in You at all times.  

I Must Be Dreaming

I Must Be Dreaming
By: Denise Pass © 7/9/14

reflecting on a pond - possible seeing deep

Psalm 71:20-24
:20 Though You have allowed me to experience much trouble and distress, revive me once again! Bring me up once again from the depths of the earth! 21 Raise me to a position of great honor! Turn and comfort me! 22 I will express my thanks to you with a stringed instrument, praising your faithfulness, O my God! I will sing praises to you accompanied by a harp, O Holy One of Israel! 23 My lips will shout for joy! Yes, I will sing your praises! I will praise you when You rescue me! 24 All day long my tongue will also tell about your justice, for those who want to harm me will be embarrassed and ashamed.”

Dreaming. Something I seldom do anymore – or at least I am unaware of it if I do. But that is to speak of the dreaming that occurs when one is sleeping – not the dreaming that occurs on purpose in real life. I have always admired the planners in this life – you know, the people who declared their major before they went to school – the ones who seem to have their whole lives planned out for them, without a hitch. The ones with a bucket list a mile long and half accomplished by age twenty-something.

I have tried to refrain from admitting it, but I am the artsy type – many think I am actually quite organized (chuckle), but truly I hang on the edge of every day, wondering what surprises it will bring. Sure, there are great attempts at using my ©Franklin planner and really trying to stick to it, but alas, consistency is hard to adhere to when one is just trying to accomplish the basics of their day, much less find their planner. There, I did it – the secret is now out – all those people who envied me for being organized, I have confessed it! Envy me no more!

Back in the days when I used to dream, in the year my world was rocked, the Lord was doing amazing things in the music He had inspired. Radio play in eleven states, first place in a Christian Contemporary category on an internationally televised show, an offer to be on a national compilation CD … things were coming together. Then disaster struck and none of that mattered anymore. I just wanted to hold my children in my arms and make all the pain go away.

Prolonging out the pain and process, my relentless enemy who used to be my friend dragged me incessantly to court claiming rights through the damage he had done. How would God use such a tragedy? Did He care that I was way off the goals I had formerly been pursuing? Was the original prophecy that had been spoken concerning the gifts He had placed in me no longer of any effect? It was the death of a dream, actually the death of many dreams and plans. The perfect marriage, the perfect family, a vibrant ministry. Dead.

But what was the original dream? Set ablaze with a passion for God in 1988, I wanted to be used by God for His glory, to share His love with anyone who God allowed to cross my path. I dreamed of doing mission work, of singing for His glory, to be more like Christ, to be faithful. When hands were laid on me professing that I would be singing and playing keyboard on stage and I was a Euphonium player at the time, I laughed. But has that dream been accomplished? Yes. The scope of that dream belongs to God – I just need to be open to how small or vast His purposes are in that gift, because it is, after all, all about Him and His dream.

Music has been the healing balm of my life, and yet it became difficult to write songs in the wake of tragedy. I continued to serve on worship teams, worshipping God through the pain and waiting. Functioning on a somewhat normal level seemed insurmountable. One foot in front of the other, one breath at a time, scrambling to put the pieces back together. But maybe God was going to create something completely different with the pieces this time.

One day a year or so after the abuse was discovered, I remember teaching my children and one of my daughters said to me, “you are Ai Wei Dei”. Puzzled, she reminded me of the story of Gladys Aylward that we had read together. She was saying I was a virtuous woman. Overcome by such praise, I realized in that moment that I had been doing exactly what God had me to do. Gladys Aylward rescued innocent children in China. I did not do anything as amazing as that, but I lived in a town called Bumpass (yep, true!) where God was using me to rescue my own children, and that was of far greater worth than what my former dream could have ever been.

Life will never be normal again (whatever that is?) and I am still the artsy one trying to figure out God’s calling on my life. I have heard that God is in the ordinary things of life – that is our Holy calling. So for now, I am laying it all down before the Creator Who gave it all to begin with and asking afresh for Him to do as He pleases. A scary thing when some things that have transpired seemed to be off course and not what He would will, but actually the safest place to be.

So here is to dreaming again – though this time it might look quite different. Whether my dreams are being an amazing wife to my fantastic husband of almost four years, being a faithful mom who never tires of discipling and loving her children, writing songs for God, writing this blog, stepping out and ministering through Word and song again, or some perceived mundane thing, or wherever His path leads, it is all about Him and His glory. Creating space to dream again – are you?

Prayer:
Lord, thank you that an end is not the end. You are never surprised by the sudden changes wrought by sin or consequences of living in a fallen world. You use that hideous thing for good and to somehow bring You glory – the original purpose anyway. Help us to dream again – to believe You can do the impossible and be willing to walk faithfully with you even when it seems our dreams are not coming true. They are Your dreams, after all. Praise Your Name!

What Troubles Breed

What Troubles Breed
By: Denise Pass © 7/2/14

Psalm 66:10-14, 16-20
:10 “For You, O God, tested us; you purified us like silver. 11 You led us into a trap; you caused us to suffer. 12 You allowed men to ride over our heads; we passed through fire and water, but you brought us out into a wide open space. 13 I will enter your temple with burnt sacrifices; I will fulfill the vows I made to you, 14 which my lips uttered and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. 16 Come! Listen, all you who are loyal to God! I will declare what he has done for me. 17 I cried out to him for help and praised him with my tongue. 18 If I had harbored sin in my heart, the LORD would not have listened. However, God heard, he listened to my prayer. God deserves praise, for He did not reject my prayer or abandon his love for me!”

I love the Psalms and love the fact that the Psalmists often wrote songs about their trials and relationship with God. I wrote a song based on this verse back in 1990 – just a worship song between the Lord and me. At the time I thought I knew what hard times were. That is not to say that I had not suffered through various difficulties, but compared to another significant trial that would come, let’s just say that I now understand testing and refining in a whole new way. Nonetheless, God used the song in my life then and it is precious to me now when I reflect on what God has done through hardship in my life and the lives of countless others.

Troubles have the potential to precipitate accusations against God and to initiate questioning of His character. Notice I say potential. Why would He allow evil into our lives? This verse is pretty blunt about God allowing it in. But later we see God heard and answered the prayer of the afflicted one. I chuckle when I see in verse 13 the Psalmist referring to a vow that he made when he was pressed hard. Ever made a promise to God? Best fulfill it. The Psalmist turned the occasion for complaining into an occasion of praise and crying out to His God. Struggles turned to praise.

Our flesh can be quick to get angry with God when hardships are let in. Such a response can come from a prideful stance in which we do not think we deserve hardship. What do we think we deserve? Certainly not the grace and forgiveness God has so freely given. Adversity can stir up ire without understanding, but thankfulness can quell that fire.

Our viewpoint of hardship could also possibly be in error. We consider discomfort and pain as evil, and assuredly they are not fun, but the fruit that can be produced from them is a beautiful sight to behold. Seeing calamity as having a greater purpose than the temporal suffering ignites hope in the future good that our Sovereign God is going to produce from something insidious.

The harvest of what God can breed from troubles can be bountiful, multiple and varied. Looking past the momentary pain and gazing into His Word and promises brings relief. Hang on, dear friend, God has plans for you and hears your cry.

Lord, help us to not allow disillusionment, bitterness or hopelessness to creep in when things are less than ideal. Produce a life of righteousness in us as we yield to Your will and plan in all aspects of life, good and bad.