June 30 - 1 Peter 3:11

Sunday, June 30, 2013

They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.

Peter’s words are nearly an exact duplicate of Paul’s to young Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Let’s put Peter’s words in full context, though.  He has just told husbands and wives how to treat each other and then says,

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:8-12, NIV).

In the last few days I have been on the outside of a couple of different conversations where those in the world attempt to denigrate faith and scripture.  In one, a person calling themselves a Christian (a bit of a surprise here), challenged a woman of faith regarding her belief that God was the Creator and that the Bible was the word of God.  My friend responded with a great deal of grace and wisdom, but the questions posed were simply to trip her up, not to engage in any real conversation.  There was a belief system already in place and no amount of Godly wisdom spoken in love and truth was going to make a difference.

In the second experience, a well-known scientist suggested that you might read the Bible “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself” (Neil deGrasse Tyson).  Comments defending the Bible soon degenerated into an ‘us against them’ battle, with no one winning in the end. There were more than a few commenters who thought the Bible was a ridiculous book to put on a list of eight important books to read and some rather negative commentary, implied and stated outright, about those who might read it as part of their lives.

What are we to do in these situations? What would Jesus have done?

Well, Jesus spent a lot of time avoiding the actual questions posed to him by Pharisees, whose only purpose was to trip him up.  He had nothing to do with them.  He didn't find it necessary to defend God, knowing that God had plenty of power by which to defend Himself.  What Jesus did was to teach love … and peace.

There will always be those who want to bring rancor and disquiet to the conversation, but Peter reminds us to rise above.  God doesn't need us to defend His word. It has been here longer than any philosophical paradigm; it has been here longer than most civilizations. We can’t kill God and we can’t destroy His word.

What we can do is seek peace and pursue it. We are told to not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing … because it is the blessing of eternal life that we will inherit.

Live in harmony, be sympathetic.  Love, be compassionate and humble. Seek peace and pursue it.

June 29 - James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Not only did Jesus and Paul have something to say about peace, but James spoke about it as well.

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure … then peace-loving.  That speaks worlds to me.  The wisdom that comes from heaven loves peace.

My father was a peacemaker.  There was a man who came in to see Dad every month or so when we first moved into town.  All he wanted to do was spew hatred and venom.  Dad told us that he had never heard such cursing as this man would do.  He was filled with anger and hurt and desperately needed to share it with someone who would listen.

Now, in most cases, this man’s vitriol spurred his listener to action. They would react and respond to him in a manner which encouraged his rage, but not Dad. He knew that no matter what this man said, it wasn't about him … it was about the pain that was ravaging this guy from the inside out, so Dad didn't react; he simply let the man go.  At the end of the monologue, Dad would always ask if there was anything he could do and then asked if they could pray together. The first few times the man showed up in Dad’s office, he stalked out. He had definitely not gotten the response he was used to and became frustrated.

Soon, though, Dad’s response allowed this man to open up. His life wasn't changed overnight. He didn't all of a sudden release the anger and become a staunch member of the church, but he trusted Dad.  He still came in and spewed venom and vitriol all over Dad, but each time it didn't last quite so long and during each visit, they were able to spend more time actually talking about things that were hurting the poor man.

Our natural inclination is to react with a fight or flight mechanism.

Wisdom tells us to respond in peace.

Be a peacemaker.

June 28 - 2 Timothy 2:22

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

I don’t necessarily remember my youth as being filled with evil desires.  I might have been a bit more adventurous in the things I did way back when, but I tried my best to not be evil.  These words of Paul’s to Timothy make me wonder what in the world kind of life Timothy had been leading up to this point.

But it wasn’t enough to ask Timothy to leave those evil desires behind. Paul then asked him to pursue things such as righteousness, faith, love and peace.

Righteousness is the pursuit of holiness … striving for perfection. That doesn't mean that we are perfect in everything we do, but that we love the way that God loves and obey God’s call on our lives and His will for us.  Faith simply means acknowledging that God is Lord of our lives. We don’t really have to work at this … He gives us faith. All we have to do is learn how to live in a relationship with Him.

Love is so simple, yet we make it so difficult. It is so hard to say the words to someone. We think it is enough to show them we love them, but even then we fail miserably. Our idea of what love looks like and their idea might be two separate things and sometimes we don’t know that until it’s too late.  Say the words to your family, to your friends … express your love; don’t hold back.

Peace.  All month long I have been writing about peace.  It’s not just an absence of chaos or stress; it is much more active than that. Look for ways to bring peace into the lives of others and you will find that it comes quite naturally to you as well.

June 27 - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Paul just doesn't let up, does he!  In this passage, he is dealing with those in the congregation who seem to believe that they don’t need to respect those in the workplace. This is one of the big struggles we have in today’s culture – a complete lack of respect for those in authority and even our peers.

It is easy to believe that we would do their job better than they do and to top it off, we find it necessary to make that belief very public.

I've heard the question posed over and over – would you rather be right than in a relationship?  Most of the times, the answer is – we would rather be right. I had many employees who believed that they knew the right way to do things without taking into consideration that Carol and I had been doing the job for many years.  It was important to listen to them and take their idea into consideration, but if they continued to insist on doing things they way they believed to be right, rather than what we had asked them to do, even after learning that their way  really wasn't very smart; it was time to sit down and have a chat about authority.  I hated those conversations, knowing that when it got to that point, it wouldn't be much longer before they needed to find another place to work.

Authority and respect had been tossed out the window and they soon became sullen and difficult to manage because their insistence on right over relationship pulled them away from any hope for peaceful resolution.

Paul encourages us to make the relationship more important than our need to be right.  It is in doing so that we will not only create peace, but it is there where we will find peace.

How far does this go?  If you choose to belittle, denigrate or slander anyone who is in authority over you, no matter who they are … you are the one who creates discord. It isn't easy to choose the other path. It’s not a path I choose easily.  But, rather than create chaos, I’m slowly learning to walk away.

Choose peace.

June 26 - Colossians 3:15

Thursday, June 27, 2013

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

I find it easy to take peace for granted.  Sometimes it is just a cessation of chaos and noise in my life and rather than feel eternally grateful that it is occurring, I move throughout my life as if it is the natural way for me to live.  Then, when it is gone, I look back and realize that most of my life is filled with a bit of chaos and peace is something to be treasured and cherished.

It is easy to forget to be thankful for those moments when peace floods through me, erasing worries and stress.

After love, I believe that gratitude is one of the biggest things we've lost in our culture.  We are trained to say the words, “Thank you,” but so often they are mere platitudes and our hearts are somewhere else, when our mouths are moving.

Say the words. Let the gratitude fill you until you have no empty spaces left.  Share it.  Live it.

June 25 - Colossians 1:15-20

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 

Who is Jesus Christ?

He is God. All things were created not only through him, but for him. He is the head of all things, including the church. By his death and resurrection, we have been given an opportunity to choose eternal life.

These words assert Paul’s understanding of who Jesus is in the scheme of eternity.

When the angels proclaimed “Peace on Earth” at his birth, they foretold the moment in time when through Jesus’ death on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, we would no longer be separated from God.  The curtain in the temple which was the symbol of that separation was ripped into two pieces allowing full and complete access by all of humanity to the throne room in heaven.

We are reconciled to God because Jesus Christ came to earth as an infant, lived among us and then died on the cross as the final sacrifice.

We take this for granted, we live as if it makes no difference.

But it changed everything.

His life and death made peace possible between us and our Creator.

June 24 - Philippians 4:7-9

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Is it any surprise that Paul returns over and over again to the relationship between peace and basic good behavior?

But, the best part of this is not the words which are so familiar to us: whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. No, the best part is what Paul says next.  “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or SEEN in me – put it into practice.”

You see, Paul had enough confidence in his own actions that he was willing to tell others to model their own behavior after his.

I would be fine with that, but other days … those days when I woke up with a headache or was annoyed the world or when I think there’s no one within my immediate vicinity who would know or care about me?  Those days I don’t want anyone to follow my actions.

My mother was absolutely certain that God had a good laugh at her expense and she was even more certain that he did whatever necessary to keep her in line.  Just like everyone else, she could easily be caught in the gossip of the day.  Once she was out with a friend for lunch and they got exceptionally pious about someone else from our community.  Now, they were in a much larger city far enough from home that she should have been safe, but all of a sudden her friend’s mouth dropped open and she quit speaking.  Mom asked what the problem was and all the friend could do was point.

In the booth right behind mom was the sister of the woman they’d been gossiping about.

That continued to happen to mom over and over.  We were at a concert in Des Moines and she got nasty about someone, who was standing not more than five feet from her. Over and over, Mom was reminded that her actions were seen by so many people and she needed to ensure that she was acting as a Christian should – rather than as the person she really didn't want to be.

People watch us.  The world watches to see whether or not we will acts as Christians.  You and I both know the disgust of seeing a driver cutting through traffic, ignoring the laws and infuriating other drives, then seeing the sign of the Fish on the back bumper or stickers proclaiming their relationship with Jesus.  Or Christian businesses who are so slimy in their business dealings that not only do they have a bad reputation, but they paint others with the same black mark.

Paul had confidence that he lived out his life in a manner which would point others to Jesus.  We should all live that way.

June 23 - Ephesians 4:1-3

Monday, June 24, 2013

“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

I get a little weary of people complaining about our digital world and the ways it hurts relationships … especially when they are using Facebook or Twitter to voice their opinion. It isn’t necessarily the tool we use, but our own attitudes and the way we use these tools.  It also exposes, in many ways, a person’s behavior that sometimes should be left under a rock.

This morning I was contemplating the old adage, “If you have nothing good to say; say nothing at all.” One thing the internet has done is allow us to maintain a façade of anonymity while voicing opinions that for some reason we believe everyone needs to hear.  Without permission, we spew vile words into the world and feel justification when some single person responds to those words.

We haven’t given any consideration to the actual individuals whom we are speaking about or the thought that they might look at the situation differently than we do … we just say what’s on our mind.  This is not about digital behavior, it’s about our own behavior.  Things we have said for years to our own family, teaching them to criticize and divide, we now say in a relatively public forum.  Things we believe are funny, but are actually hurtful and hateful when said out loud.

Paul encouraged the Ephesians to be worthy of their calling.  Honestly, I think it’s more than just attempting to be worthy of the calling … we should walk in a manner worthy of the gift of life we have been given.

If we look at our lives as a gift and attempt to live out each day in humility and gentleness … with patience and lifting others up in love … we end up recognizing that each person’s life is a gift.

Those who say snarky, mean, nasty, judgmental, critical things online are called trolls.

Rather than being a troll, I desire to be someone who walks in a manner worthy of the gift of life I have been given.

June 23 - Ephesians 4:3

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Paul just keeps hammering home the same message.  Divisiveness is never useful among a community of people and yet, as humans, it seems as if we prefer it more than we should.

Who among us doesn't like a good sports rivalry. Before you try to tell me that it is all in good fun; it might be that for you, but that’s not what it is created to do.

We believe in the greatness of our country, while separating ourselves from any other which might be different.

We compete in every part of our lives, creating division … because that is how we find ourselves in a better situation than we are now.  It is no surprise that as we climb over others on our way to success, we find ourselves at the top with few true relationships, only fawning acolytes.

United we stand, divided we fall?  Not so much in today’s society. As long as we can keep the competition divided among itself, we can succeed by preying on their weaknesses.

We are a culture where unity is frowned upon, unless we join up with the few like-minded folks in order to crush those who believe differently … or look differently … or attend a different university … or live in a different culture … on and on.

Do we really want peace?  Only if someone else brings and then gives us credit for it.

This isn't the American way, it isn't the best way to move ahead in our jobs or succeed in our hobbies.  But, it is the way to peace.

June 22 - Ephesians 2:14

Saturday, June 22, 2013

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

In this passage, Paul is talking about Jews and Gentiles, stating that in Jesus there is no longer any difference between Jew and Gentile.

In Galatians 3:28, Paul writes: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

What do you find to separate you as a Christian from others?  Do you separate along denominational lines?  How about political leaning? What about specific doctrines that have come down throughout history … do you think that God believes you have greater faith than someone else so you are a better Christian?

What about some of the hot-button political issues of our day? Do you think that THEY are supposed to be the ones who bring unity, so THEY should believe the way you do in order to make that happen?

In Paul’s time, there was a lot of persecution by the Jews because new Christians weren't circumcised and many of them didn't eat the proper foods in order to line up with the traditions that had been handed down through the Law.  Unless new Christians made choices to follow along with things the way they’d always been done – AND the way that the Jews believed God had set their faith walk into place – they weren't allowed to worship.  In fact, in some cases, these people were no longer allowed to trade or barter with Jewish Christians in the marketplace.  They couldn't earn a living to support their families.

Paul reminds us that in God’s eyes, everyone is loved.  I’ll say that again.  God loves everyone. It is NOT up to us to decide who will be accepted into His kingdom.  Paul pleads for unity which brings peace.

What do you think of that?

June 21 - Galatians 5:22-23

Friday, June 21, 2013

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

One thing many of us do when reading this passage is read it as nine separate fruits of the Spirit, thinking we can get away with only showing a few of them to the world and calling it good.

However, Paul writes that these nine attributes are a singular fruit of the Spirit. That changes how we look at our behavior.

If we love passionately, but have no gentleness about us, are we living as Christ would have us live?  If we are very self-controlled about all we do, but are not kind to others, do we really show that God is present in our lives?

Yes … and no.

When we live in obedience to God, these are the things which will flow from us without any effort.  We should not have to work to be kind and gentle, loving, faithful, self-controlled, patient (forbearing), good or filled with peace and joy.  If we are working and striving to become these things, we’re doing it wrong.

With the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, these are the attributes which will fill our lives. We won’t be able to control them, they will emanate from us without us even thinking about it. All we have to do is listen and obey as He guides us.

These are a measure of our obedience, not a goal for our lives.

All we have to do is listen and obey.  Now … there’s the rub.

June 20 - 1 Corinthians 14:33

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

This is one of those verses that gets thrown out a lot when people are trying to organize something … especially in the church.  Because one or two members of a team are highly structured or a little obsessive about their organizational skills, it seems obvious that God must be as well, and look! There’s even a Bible verse to back them up.

The thing is – that’s really not what it is about.

This verse reminds us that God wants peace, not organization. Admittedly, there are people who find peace in extremely structured situations, but more than anything, God wants peace among his people.

When I think of the number of church meetings I've attended that have disintegrated into chaos because there were those who needed to complain or whine about the fact that things weren't going their way, or who came to the meeting intending to make their voices heard about a situation that had gone far beyond their control, I recognize what Paul is saying to the church in Corinth.

This church had chaos happening in their worship services.  People were speaking in tongues. For that matter, they were talking over each other in order to make their voices heard. Paul was tired of hearing that there was this much disrespect happening in their church and felt it was necessary to bring them some correction.

God brings peace … not disorder.  It’s not necessarily easy, but it is important.

June 26 - 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.”

I find it easy to take peace for granted.  Sometimes it is just a cessation of chaos and noise in my life and rather than feel eternally grateful that it is occurring, I move throughout my life as if it is the natural way for me to live.  Then, when it is gone, I look back and realize that most of my life is filled with a bit of chaos and peace is something to be treasured and cherished.

It is easy to forget to be thankful for those moments when peace floods through me, erasing worries and stress.

After love, I believe that gratitude is one of the biggest things we've lost in our culture.  We are trained to say the words, “Thank you,” but so often they are mere platitudes and our hearts are somewhere else, when our mouths are moving.

Say the words. Let the gratitude fill you until you have no empty spaces left.  Share it.  Live it.

June 19 - Romans 15:33

May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

It is early morning and I am sitting on my front porch, watching the skies as they turn grey before a storm.  The wind is blowing through the trees and there is something incredibly alive in the movement of the branches as they dance. The leaves flutter and glitter in the morning light and the birds chitter and chirp while flying from tree to tree.

There is a doe and her young fawn who make their home in my lower meadow. Some mornings they travel into my view, but not today. They are at rest.

Through the trees, I see movement on the river as a group begins an early morning canoe trip down its winding path.

For years, when I thought of the one place in my life that I knew enough peace and quiet to slow down and really hear God speak, this was that place. If I shut my eyes in order to imagine a place where I might sit down and actually speak with Jesus, it was here.  The fullness of God’s creation is found right here in a lush meadow brimming with green grass, a river bubbling with life, skies filled with birds and forested hillsides teeming with life.

We all have places like this which at the very least exist in our memories. Where is your place? When you are stuck in an office, surrounded by chaos, can you quiet your mind by shutting your eyes and remembering that place?

A friend of mine once told me that hers was a closet in her bedroom. She had moved her shoes and everything else out of the way so she could curl up in there with nothing more than her prayers. For those few moments, the rest of the world fell away and all she focused on was her relationship with God.

Another friend’s favorite place is her front porch.  It is there that, even in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the city around her, she finds peace.

Where can you go to find a moment of peace; where is your haven from the storm, the place where you meet God with no interruptions?

May the God of peace find you there today.

June 18 - Romans 14:17

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

This verse follows Paul’s admonition that instead of passing judgment on each other, we should work to not become a stumbling block or obstacle to anyone else along the way.  Now, while he is discussing what foods a Jew might see as clean or unclean and whether or not it is appropriate for the Gentile believers to eat those foods; the rule still applies.

I remember my parents talking about drinking alcohol.  Now, my father was a teetotaler and my mother … well, let’s just say she wasn't.  However, it was important for both of them to be not just good examples of living a Christian life, but they recognized that people watched their behavior.  So … they didn't drink. They didn't swear (in public). They were kind to each other and taught us children to be well-behaved.

It wasn't a façade, it was their reality because they knew they could never be a stumbling block to others.

Do you know the story of Welch’s grape juice?  Well, long ago, even Methodist churches served wine at communion on Sunday morning.  One Sunday, as Mr. Welch (who owned a vineyard) was in worship, he watched a well-known recovering alcoholic go forward for communion and that week, because of communion, he began drinking again.  Mr. Welch knew that he could never watch that happen again and set out to create a grape juice with no fermentation.

He didn't want Sunday morning worship to be a stumbling block to anyone and set about to create something so that would never occur again.

When you make choices, do you realize that you are making them as a Christian, not just as an individual?  We are part of a larger community and the world watches us as we interact with them.

Remember these words of Paul’s – the kingdom of God isn't about drinking or eating, but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

June 17 - Romans 8:6

Monday, June 17, 2013

“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

One of the things the Bible assures us is part of a relationship with God is eternal life.  The other thing we discover as we read the New Testament is that Jesus Christ conquered death by rising to new life.  He offers us the hope of resurrection into the kingdom of God as well.  We no longer have to fear death, it is nothing more than a moment of transition from one thing to the next.

But, that’s the crux of it, isn't it!

We don’t like those transition moments.  No matter how bad things are at our old job, we hang in there until the pain level has reached far past what we should have tolerated, just because we don’t want to have to trust that a new job will be much better for us.  We learn to live with a certain level of emotional pain rather than make a change because we are so fearful of change.

What if it is worse than what we are living with right now?  What if it is just more of the same?

I’ve asked the question over and over again of people – how comfortable are you with change? Some people embrace it, knowing that new experiences whether good or bad will always bring about a benefit; if nothing other than learning more about yourself. But, for the most part, people dread change and avoid it at all costs. Only when it is thrust on them will they force themselves through and even then, they complain and whimper all along the path they walk.

There is nothing more difficult than dragging (encouraging … whatever) a group of people through change. As a conglomerate, the process is even more difficult because they vocalize their fears to each other and things become real in their minds.

But Jesus calls us to accept that death no longer has any hold on us, that a life of peace can be ours today and a life of eternal peace can be ours tomorrow.

I can accept that change in my life.

June 16 - Romans 5:1

Sunday, June 16, 2013

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Justification is a term Paul uses to describe “being made righteous.”  Notice that he emphasizes here that is something done by faith. In other words, the work has been done by God … all we have to do is believe.

This is one of those things that Christians insist on making much too difficult. In order to be saved, make it to heaven, be born again, walk among the saints … whatever you want to call it … all you have to do is believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross to save you from your sins.  It’s really nothing more than saying “yes” to God.

Sin is the thing that separates us from God, so … the letters of Paul and others in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ are guidelines by which we can remain in relationship with God. However, if we do all of those things but never say yes to the gift of salvation God offered to us, that doesn't make us anything more than a good person.  We've worked way too hard for … nothing in the overall scheme of things.

Paul tells us over and over that because we have said “yes,” and have faith that Jesus Christ is our Savior, we end up doing the things that continue to keep us in a relationship with God because we love Him.

Once we make that decision to say yes to God and he forgives us all of the sin that we have committed in our lives, Paul tells us that we have peace with God.

It’s as easy as that.  Jesus Christ didn't come to earth in order to make it more difficult to find our way to God; he came to make it as easy as possible. He wants us to find peace. He wants there to be peace on earth.

Say yes.

June 15 - Acts 10:34-38

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Peter said, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”  

In Isaiah, we read, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Jesus’ arrival meant peace!

Isn't it fun to read Peter’s words and realize that he is helping his listeners remember the experiences they witnessed when Jesus was alive? These people walked beside him as he performed miracles. They listened as he spoke with the Pharisees.  They were there when he was crucified and they heard the good news that he lived again, never to face death and that this resurrection was available to everyone.  Salvation had come to the earth through one man. No one need fear death or be bound by sin again.  Freedom was theirs. Freedom is ours.

Jesus came to proclaim peace to Israel, to a nation besieged with war and persecution.  He came to bring salvation to those who would listen and follow him.  He came to bring good news that it is God who is sovereign and it is God who will sit upon the throne.

God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and from then on, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection transformed the world.

Jesus’ arrival on earth meant peace!

Jesus’ arrival in our hearts means peace for us as well.  He brings good tiding and salvation to each of us as we acknowledge that our God reigns!    

June 14 - John 16:33

Friday, June 14, 2013

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This is one of those truths I believe most Christians I know hold on to throughout everything they face … Jesus has overcome the world.

It is the hope that surpasses our stress and our fear.  The hope that there is something beyond the world in which we live … something so much more than we know in the reality of today.

When we talk about sin … Jesus has overcome sin.

When we talk about death … Jesus has conquered death.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4, New International Version).

Isaiah says, “he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).

This is the hope we hold onto and this is what brings us peace.

We don’t find this kind of peace within ourselves, we only find it in Jesus Christ.

June 13 - John 14:27

Thursday, June 13, 2013

“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.”

Jesus promised the peace that the host of angels proclaimed at his birth – the salvation of the world.

Presidents and world leaders declare peace when a war comes to a close; but it doesn’t last long.  Before too long, a man of peace is replaced by another and another who have no memory of times when wars disturbed their country and soon, greed and corruption leads to unrest.

In Isaiah 11, we read:

“The wolf will live with lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goad, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-19, New International Version).

That is what peace looks like. While Creation existed in paradise, that is what peace looked like. When God restores creation, peace will look like that once more.

June 12 - Luke 2:13-14

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”

Do those words conjure up images of children dressed in white robes with tinsel wrapped wings attached to their backs and tinsel halos surrounding their heads?

Since Dad was a pastor, I grew up in the midst of Christmas program chaos throughout my childhood – and even into adulthood.  Mom began writing Christmas programs and directing them long before I did much more than stand with my little Sunday school class and look cute while singing “Away in A Manger.”

No matter how many times I heard those words, though, my heart leapt at the arrival of a heavenly host, even if they were junior high girls who were more interested in looking pretty for their parents and grandparents.

Because with this arrival, the news of Jesus’ birth had just been brought to humanity. Every single time we approach Christmas and the reality of His birth sets in once again, I feel the same hope and expectation in my heart – that we have another opportunity to tell the world about His love.

Take the opportunity today to share the love that you know because of your relationship with Jesus.  Choose to be less judgmental and more loving; smile at a child, reach out and touch someone who seems to be untouchable, send a quick note to someone who might be feeling lonely, call an old friend, buy donuts for your fellow employees.  Show love, remember the excitement that surrounds you with the anticipation of remembering Christ’s birth.

Peace … on earth.  Bring it!

June 11 - Luke 1:78-79

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Zechariah – prophesying over his baby son, John:

“You will become a prophet of the most high … because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

John wasn't called to be the Messiah, but he had some big prophetic shoes to fill.  Can you imagine growing up under the mantle of these words?  But, God knows whom he calls and he prepares us long before we have to face whatever it is that is in front of us.

The great news of Jesus Christ’s arrival was that he would not only conquer sin and set aside our bondage to it, but that he would conquer death as well.

In ancient Israel, the only knowledge they had of eternity was to be remembered by your descendants.  Notice the oral tradition that recited long lists of ancestors.  They didn't know how to hope for life after death.

But that no longer applies.  We have been given the good news of Jesus Christ!  We know what that peace can look like and what that hope will bring us.

So … if you know and live in that peace and hope … tell someone.

June 9 - Isaiah 48:18

Monday, June 10, 2013

“If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

My first thought at reading this is that it sounds like my mom.  I got a lot of “If only” statements from her.  But, the second thought I had was at the beauty of the metaphors.  

There is nothing like the sound and movement of a running river.  Even though I’m only several hundred yards from the river at the cabin, I don’t hear it unless it is nearly at flood stage and rises up to the top of the bank.  But, when that happens and I hear the movement of the water, it is a wonderful sound.  When I was younger and used to walk the river with Dad while fishing, sometimes I would stop and just listen to the water move around me, flowing past me, heading to its next destination. It would make ripples around my legs and the sound would change when it encountered rocks and trees in the water, but that moving water was something quite peaceful.

I love spending time fishing with Dad, whether it was walking the river or sitting in a boat at 4:30 in the morning on a lake in Canada traveling to the place he knew would surrender walleye to us.  Water has that effect … peace like a river.  Yes, I know that sensation.

Righteousness like the waves of the sea.

I was in San Francisco one summer and managed to talk the person I was with into taking a few moments to enjoy the waves crashing against rocks rather than rush to the next place we were going to tour.  I’ve seen the ocean on the east coast and I’ve seen the gulf in Florida, but the Pacific Ocean is wild in its activity.  Those swells crash with great power against the rocks of the coastline.  Over time they change the shape of those rocks as they beat against them in their power.

Righteousness flows like waves of the sea, changing everything with which it comes into contact, never ceasing, never relenting … always transforming.

Our peace can be like a river; our righteousness like the waves of the sea.

June 10 - Isaiah 53:5

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

…the punishment that brought us peace.

When Isaiah prophesied about the suffering servant – the Messiah – he saw the great amount of sin and corruption that existed in the world.  That was thousands of years ago!  They didn't have peace and hope in their hearts from the sacrifice of God’s son.  All they could do was hope for something in the far future, long after they were no longer living on earth.  Maybe it would be better for their children or their grandchildren or maybe there would be hope for their grandchildren’s grandchildren.  They saw life in the long-term – generations – because they recounted their history in generations and there was very little hope for peace in their own lives.

On the other hand, we have hope that is based on the work of the Messiah. We no longer wait for his arrival. It has happened and we can know salvation because of the work Jesus did on the cross.

We have the opportunity to know true peace; to experience a different type of hope – one that offers new hope each morning and peace when we put our heads on our pillows at night.

These words are no longer about a possible future event which might unfold in untold generations, they are our history, they are truth – they are reality.

We no longer need to be in bondage to the sin we commit; we have freedom, we have peace and the one who was punished for our transgressions; pierced for our iniquities wants nothing more than for us to find peace in Him.

June 8 - Isaiah 27:5

Sunday, June 9, 2013

“Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.”

The Lord was speaking through his prophet Isaiah regarding the Israelites. In essence, because of their rebellion, they were at war with him (the Lord, not Isaiah).  Nebuchadnezzar was coming to destroy them and the Lord wanted them to know that within His protection, they would find peace.

We know the middle of that story.  It was too late. They didn't understand what they were giving up and though the prophets cried out for them to listen, they blithely continued to live as if they had nothing to worry about.

Our rebellions look much the same, don’t they! We blithely continue to live as if there is nothing to worry about and expect that everything will be the same; not knowing the many battles we will face until we are in the middle of them and have built up no hedge of protection against those battles.

When we are in the midst of them, we wonder where God has gone and why he isn’t taking better care of us; when in reality, we have run so far from him and ignored him for so long, the truth of the matter is, we don’t know what that relationship should even feel like.

Have you ever watched people who are struggling with something awful in their life, yet seem to be at peace?  The confidence in their relationship with God permeates all of their being and though the fact that the battle has arrived may have shook them, once they got into it, they settled in and met every onslaught with strength.

Lay hold of his protection.

June 7 - Isaiah 26:3

Saturday, June 8, 2013

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

My heart is so willing to stay focused on Jesus, but the rest of me tends to get in the way.  Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18b-19, New International Version).

This is me and I can guarantee that it is most of us … most of the time.  Oh, we try. We really try and there are times in our lives when we see great success in our spiritual lives. We are working so diligently to eliminate sin and exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us … and then we realize that we’re doing all the work and pride sets in and before we know it we come to understand just what sin looks like in our lives.

Then, there are those times when we simply relax and recognize that God’s power in our lives doesn’t need us to do a thing except be open to him.  That relationship is more important than working to live a spiritual life.  It is in those moments that we truly find peace; because it is in those moments when we are obedient to the one message Jesus kept delivering – Love God, Love others.

If you think about a physical location where you find peace, you might imagine a beach or a mountaintop, a lake, a campsite, or even the privacy of your bedroom when everyone else has left the house.  In those moments you relax and there is nothing to intrude on you that raises your blood pressure.

When we find ourselves focusing on the relationship with God rather than on our religious or spiritual behavior, we can allow ourselves to relax.

God has done all the work. He has sent His Son so that we can be forgiven; he shows great mercy and love for us. We don’t have to work at being spiritual or sinless; we simply have to relax into the relationship and recognize that He continues to be at work in our lives.

Focus on God; allow him to be God in your life. Relax and find peace in him.

June 6 - Proverbs 3:17

Thursday, June 6, 2013

“Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.”

The ‘her’ in that sentence is wisdom, not a female.  In this passage, the author is looking for wisdom and when it is found, the finder is happy.

Job asks where wisdom can be found (Job 28:12, 20). It can’t be found anywhere on earth, it can only be found with God.

Why look for wisdom? Let’s look at the entire passage:

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, 
   for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. 
She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. 
  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. 
  She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; 
    those who hold her fast will be blessed. 
By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, 
  by understanding he set the heavens in place; 
by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, 
  and the clouds let drop the dew. (Proverbs 3:13-20)

Wisdom is worth far more than any material wealth
Wisdom lasts long after our lives are over
Wisdom makes sense of that which is disrupted
Wisdom brings peace
Wisdom offers life to those who will listen
Wisdom brings blessings to those who stay near

Creation was wrought by the wisdom of God.

Wisdom is one of those things we all desire, but few understand the requirements to gain.

Lemuel K. Washburn said, “If wisdom and diamonds grew on the same tree we could soon tell how much men loved wisdom.”

June 5 - Psalm 119:165

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

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

I have had some serious dry spells over the years where I simply didn't take the time to read anything in Scripture. My journals have different notations about the great joy I found when I returned to the Bible. I would write that I had rediscovered a long, lost friend or that within the pages of my Bible I found peace again.

It was true each time I opened my Bible and began to dig through its pages again.

When I was in junior high, I received a treasure from my parents. In fact, if memory serves me, Mom made sure that each of us in her Sunday School class got a Living Bible. It was a paraphrase, but at that age, getting us to read anything like that was a success.  My Bible was my constant companion in those years. The pages are tattered and the colored highlights on the pages show the progression of my learning.  I collected favorite sayings and inscribed them on the flyleaf and on the blank pages at the back of the Bible, I wrote out passages from Scripture that meant something to me.

When I went to college, I knew it was time to grow up and move past the paraphrase. Mom and I went to Iowa City to a favorite bookstore and there was a brand new version of Scripture. It seemed perfect for me. The New International Version might be old hat to most of you, but that year, it was brand new. Night after night, I would lay on my bed with both of my Bibles side by side, making sure that I could find the passages that were important; highlighting those that needed to be remembered and making notes so that I could continue with my study.

A couple of years before Mom died, in my mid-twenties; I began looking for something that would help me learn. We landed on the Thompson Chain Reference Bible; we each purchased one and my lifelong friend was in my hands. I've attempted to move to other Bibles, but in the end, I return to this book. It’s been re-bound and there is a lot of tape on the pages.  Some of them are so fragile, I know they’ll require even more tape before long, but I can turn to a page, knowing exactly where the scripture verse lies on that page. I have enough triggers that have been placed on the pages throughout this Bible to help me find nearly anything.  There are notes from speakers I've heard and passages are highlighted and underlined to remind me of their importance for a lifetime and sometimes just for a portion of that lifetime.

There is great peace that I find within the pages of Scripture. It holds the history of humanity, the history of faith and it holds my history as well as my eternity.  

June 4 - Psalm 34:14

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”

That sounds like it should be easy, but it’s not, is it!

I moved to a new community in the summer between my sixth grade year and junior high.  While I had a wonderful childhood, being accepted by the girls in my class wasn't part of that wonder.  My class had 23 students in it and even though I arrived there prior to my second grade year, the cliques had been established and as the new girl, a bright child and the minister’s daughter in that small town, I wasn't about to be part of the popular group.

For some reason, my little mind identified cursing and swearing as something that the popular kids chose to do and that summer I learned how to use every single one of those words so that I would be prepared to be as crass and vulgar as any boy, thus ensuring my popularity.

Looking back on that choice, it has been one of the most difficult things I've ever attempted to overcome in my life. During those next two years in junior high, I became quite adept at using foul language with my peers and avoiding it when I was at home or around teachers.

Except one time in high school, when I stumbled off the stage after playing in pep band and cursed as I tried to catch myself.  The one man in that high school who scared me to death and whom I did my best to avoid, our wrestling coach and a really good man, heard me, turned on me and corrected me.  You would have thought that as mortified as I was by that correction, I would finally have been able to stop using that language, but I couldn't. It was too deeply ingrained in me.

The other most awful and embarrassing moment was many years later in a parking lot in Omaha. Again, I stumbled out of my car, dropping everything out of my purse onto the ground. I let loose with a foul word and when I stood up and saw two parents walking past me with their young children, I felt horrible.

It has taken a lot of years for me to have any control over what comes out of my mouth. Those words don’t encourage peace. They may not be considered evil by all, but they have done me no good. I do not profess, by any means to have rid myself completely of that language. Sometimes it simply fits the situation, but I don’t want it to ever control me.

What is the evil in your life that you have to turn away from?

June 3 - Psalm 29:11

Monday, June 3, 2013

“May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

This Psalm was written in response to the Canaanite people’s worship of the god Baal, whose voice controlled the storms.  Seven times throughout these verses, the Psalmist reminds us that it is the Lord’s voice which is in control. It is powerful and full of majesty, it is over the waters and breaks the cedars of Lebanon, it flashes forth flames of fire and shakes the wilderness, it makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare.  The voice of the Lord rules creation and the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

With these words, the Psalmist sings out, “May the Lord give strength to his people, may the Lord bless his people with peace.”

It isn't difficult to make parallels with Baal, the god of storms and the things which disrupt our lives every day.  Most of the time those storms are of our own making, but things get so far out of control that we can no longer see past them to the peace which lies on the other side.

Those are the time when I find that prayers such as this resonate within me. As I pray for strength to simply crawl to the other side, I also pray for peace within me while I do so.

When you read the Psalms, the first thing you will see is that these Psalms are not afraid to cry out in pain and struggle; but the next thing you will discover is that throughout the pain, the Psalmist is always aware of how close God is and how much he is loved by the Lord.

The Lord will bring strength and peace.

June 2 - Psalm 4:8

Sunday, June 2, 2013

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

There were years that this verse was the only thing that allowed me to sleep at night.  The stress that I allowed to wash over me was amazing. There were nights I fell asleep at midnight, wake up at three and never fall back to sleep before I had to get up and start the next day.  When Saturdays arrived and I knew there was nothing that could attack me, I would spend the day resting and by Sunday night, I was back at it again.

Those were the most difficult days; when I wasn't sure where it was God wanted me to be and to be honest, there were days I wasn't even sure whether or not he knew who or where I was.

I suspect this is reality for many of us at some point in our lives and as I read this Psalm, I realized that more than four thousand years ago, King David faced the same reality.  He opens this Psalm by pleading with God to hear his prayer.

His reputation is on the line. Important people are lying about him and slandering his name; insinuating that he is worth nothing. They have accused him of something and will not listen when he protests, asserting his innocence.  The world has converged in on David and the only source of peace he can find is God.

He finds his joy in God and because he has learned to trust God rather than the world, David once again is able to find peace.

It is not a lesson easily learned no matter how necessary to our health and peace of mind.

June 1 - Job 22:21

Saturday, June 1, 2013

“Agree with God and be at peace; thereby good will come to you.”

This reads a little differently in the New Testament.  Jesus has plenty to say about obedience to God.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).  Rather than on shifting sand, the rock is a perfect foundation for a good life.

If we are obedient, Jesus promises that we are part of his family.  He says this several times in the Gospels: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

In John 14 and 15, he calls those who are obedient his friend: “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14-15).

But from John’s first letter, we discover the end result of our obedience, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

Everything else will pass away.  Nothing will remain.  We are given a choice.  We can be part of everything that passes away or we can choose life … full life, from now until eternity.  This is life that never ends; this is life lived out in love.  Obedience isn't difficult unless we make it so.  It is a choice.

In Deuteronomy we read, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

Choose Life.