NOTE: We are still vacationing, so I am posting while I have Internet access!
~excerpted from The Pattern of Peace by Charles Stanley
“[I]t can sometimes seem as if we are victims of our highly stressful world, but in reality, every Christian can choose to live in peace rather than under a burden of anxiety. If we let apprehension rule our hearts, it will interfere with sleep, disrupt concentration, hinder productivity, steal joy, and even cause health problems. However, when Christ, the Prince of Peace, has full authority over our lives, He guards our hearts and minds by building a wall of protection against worry.
Stress may pull us apart mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, but God’s peace will always bind us back together so we can be whole again. And while we cannot control many of the stressful situations in our lives, we can decide which master we will serve.”
If you do not know the inner peace that only God can bring, you can! This is the ideal season for you to meet His Son, Jesus, who came into the world to make peace between you and God. He died on the cross, was buried and rose again to bring you into a right relationship with God, the Father. (Romans 5:1) If you will accept Jesus as your personal Savior, all your sins will be forgiven, and He will give you His peace (John 14:27). Please visit the SALVATION tab above to learn more and to take the first step toward a relationship with Christ and His peace.
If you already have a relationship with Christ, this is a great season to rededicate your life to Him. You might start by reading these Scriptures: 2 Kings 20:3; Psalm 119:44. Read, too, Jacob’s story in Genesis 28:16-18, and begin the habit of rededicating yourself daily. Consider what that might look and sound like.
NOTE: We’re vacationing, so Monday’s post is early!
There’s a saying that’s been going around, “Every family has that one crazy relative. If you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you.”
Here’s another saying, “Everywhere you go, there you are.”
What do these two sayings have to do with peace on earth? Well, in our last post we discussed that before there can be peace on earth we must individually have peace within, so without a lot of extra words, let me just jump to the point. Might you be the one robbing yourself of peace? “No way!” you think. Well, let me just offer you three more quotes.
“Nobody screws me up better than me.”
“Who needs enemies when you’ve got yourself.”
“Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your two ears.”
Again, are you robbing yourself of peace?
There are events and seasons that seem to thrust us into deep self-evaluation and self-reflection, and Christmas is one of them. This can be a good thing – pausing to consider the love of family and friends, the blessing of health, the satisfaction of a prosperous and fun career, the joy of children… It can also be not so good – dwelling on the loss of loved ones, failing health, the stress of unemployment or job disappointment, the fear of miscarriage…
The latter (and similar) thoughts can quickly launch one into a depression that robs one of personal peace.
What are you telling yourself? What script do you keep running through your head? “I’m no good.” “I’m all alone.” “I can’t make it.” “Nobody loves me.” “I’ll never – have children, get that job, leave this town, be able to afford a house, get married, be in love, go to college, be healthy again…”
It’s time to replace those thoughts. It does no good to simply try to just stop them; you have to replace them. Craft some new thinking based on Philippians 4:8 (NKJV): “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
What does this mean? What does it look like? Sound like? The Message translates the same text: “…filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from Me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Do that, and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7b NKJV)
THIS WEEK: Make note of the thoughts that rob you of peace. Write substitute thoughts then practice using them. (e.g. THOUGHT: I’m just no good – always have been, always will be! SUBSTITUTE THOUGHT: In Christ I am a new creature – old things, thoughts, ways and deeds are passed away! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Before we can have peace on earth, we must have peace within our communities. Before we can have peace within our communities, we must have peace within our families. Before we can have peace within our families, we must have peace within.
Unfortunately, instead of Christmas being a time of peace, it is a time of great stress for many. Overfilled calendars and planners, strapped budgets and strained family relationships often come along with the holidays. How, then, do we overcome the accompanying anxiety and dwell in peace? Let’s look to Paul.
While confined in a Roman prison he penned the text of Philippians proclaiming his contentment in whatever situations (including prison) he found himself (4:11). How? How could he be content, at peace in prison? His “secret” comes in the preceding text, verses 4-8.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NKJV)
There are three key words in this text, and they provide us somewhat of a formula for peace. Prayer. Supplication. Thanksgiving.
In this stressful season and throughout life, pray. About what? Everything! Don’t get caught up in the theology of prayer – what it is, what it isn’t, how to, how not to… Prayer is talking to God. Whatever is robbing you of your peace, talk to Him about it.
Supplication is the fifty cent word for asking earnestly and humbly. Praying is not about laying out a list of requests before God. (Do not confuse God with Santa Claus.) In prayer we come humbly before our Father, and in that relationship of child and Father, we share with Him all that is on our hearts – our frustrations, our confusion, our fears, our angst, our sorrows our disappointments… Whatever you are feeling, tell Him.
Thanksgiving is synonymous with gratitude. “But God hasn’t answered my prayer yet,” you might say. Thank Him for loving you, for hearing you and for accepting the burden that is troubling you. Psalm 55:22 tells us to cast our burden on the Lord and, in the words of Charles Tindley’s 1916 hymn, leave them there! That alone is enough to be thankful for – not only can we give our troubles to the Lord, we are commanded to do so, and He will take care of each one. What else can you be thankful for? Past faithfulness. God’s love. God’s grace. Salvation! Thank Him when you pray expecting that He will answer!
In 1955 Jill Jackson Miller and her husband, Sy Miller, penned another familiar song that shares a powerful lesson for us. The opening line is “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Pray in earnest humility thanking God for what He can do, has done and will do – then let peace begin with you!
THIS WEEK: What action can you take each day this week to bring peace to someone or to some situation?
It really is a special time of year. Already I have watched several of my favorite childhood movies – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn. I’ve also joined a few celebrations and parades. As for shopping, I finished that in September. I’ve put the wreathes on the doors –front and back. That’s pretty much all the decorating we do because we always travel, but I’ve perused my cookbooks and planned to bake some goodies while at our host’s home. And I am looking forward to our church’s annual Christmas drama. This year’s performance is entitled When Hope Comes Down and is announced with a subtitle – Come Experience the Hope of the Season! Our church also offers a Carols and Communion by Candlelight service on Christmas Eve. Since we will be traveling, I’ve searched the website and consulted friends to find a similar worship opportunity for us in our destination city. Now, if only we had a little snow, but that is doubtful since we are traveling to a MUCH warmer climate.
The movies, decorations, treats and presents are all wonderful, and snow would be awesome. But none of those things are what Christmas is about!
Christmas is a time of God showing His great love for us and His call for us to love others. Just look at the Christmas Story! No, not Ralphie shooting his eye out with his BB gun, but the second chapters of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew
Luke 2:4-16 (NIV)
“4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”
Matthew 2:11 (NIV)
“11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born of a virgin in lowly Bethlehem. His birth brought great joy and great hope. His birth was much anticipated – not just by His parents. Angels, shepherds and wise men all knew this was no ordinary birth and no ordinary baby. Hundreds of years before prophets had told of this birth and this baby.
Jesus was born so that one day He could die on the cross paying the price for our sin. It is His birth and death that brought the gift of salvation to us. The Bible tells us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Without Jesus, we would die in our sins, but loving us, God sent the great gift of love – Baby Jesus.
But Christmas is not just about God showing His love for us by sending Jesus; it is also about His call for us to love others. God’s love is a gift to us, but we must release it to others. How? Through words and actions.
Understand that this season of joy is not a happy time for some – those stressed by not having money for bills much less presents or turkey dinners, those who grieve their loved ones who are not present to share the season with them, those who feel alone and lonely. Tis the season for us to release the love that God has given us.
This week, read the Christmas stories in Luke and Matthew. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you during this season to real and practical acts of love for someone who really needs a gesture of God’s love. Thank Him for how He blesses you and positions you to bless others!
“And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
And Jesus said, “Who touched me?” When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, “Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, ‘Who touched me?’”
And Jesus said, “Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.”
And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
And he said unto her, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48 (KJV)
I think no woman can even begin to imagine having “an issue of blood” for twelve years! Twelve months would be unbearable; twelve days alone is debilitating, but twelve years?! Try to imagine this woman’s life. The Law made it clear that unless her bleeding ceased for at least seven days, everyone and everything she touched would be deemed unclean and cursed, just as she was.
I imagine her as the subject of idle gossip and ill-intended chitchat because everyone knew about her issue. I suspect some didn’t even know her name; she was defined by her issue. And I picture her isolated, outcast, alone and lonely yearning not just for healing but for companionship and friendship.
What “issue” is defining you?
Be honest with yourself.
Do people know you as an adulterer? Do co-workers raise their eyebrows when you speak because you are a liar? Has the PTA and playground crowd tagged you as a bad mother? Is the Bridge Club whispering in the corner because you’ve been an unfaithful wife? Have your friends labeled you as wishy-washy? Or narcissistic? Maybe unreliable? Possibly bossy? Does your employer consider you incompetent? Lazy? Unproductive? Are you a troublemaker? A quitter?
Has your “issue” isolated you?
Do people avoid you, make excuses to shorten their conversations with you and always seem to have somewhere to go when you appear on the scene? Or does shame make you keep to yourself? Might you be afraid to show your real self because of your “issue?”
That’s how it was for Luke’s woman. For twelve years the woman in Luke’s story was identified and isolated by her issue.
Mark shares this same story in his Gospel with a few more details. A key one is found in Mark5:27-28 (KJV) which says, “When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.’”
Therein lies the secret to our “issues.” Jesus.
The context of this story conveys another important point for us. Jesus was not alone. He was in a crowd. The woman touched Jesus, and He asked, “Who touched me?” Peter and the other disciples don’t believe their ears. “Who touched You? You have to be kidding? Who, in this crowd, didn’t touch You? People are everywhere.”
But Jesus knew there had been a special touch, a seeking touch, a believing touch, a power-filled touch. Jesus knew the woman needed a touch, and He knew the exact moment when she had touched His garment.
And He knows that you need His touch as well!
Make note of three quick points. Jesus asks, “Who touched me” then, according to Mark, “looked round about to see her that had done this thing.” This woman had broken the Law, and here is Jesus putting her on blast. If anyone hadn’t seen her, they saw her then. Mark and Luke tell us that the woman fell at Jesus’ feet. Luke says the woman “declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.” Mark concludes this story with Jesus telling the woman to “go in peace and be healed.”
In calling attention to the woman, Jesus brought glory to God identifying Him as the Healer. Point One – Your “issue” is not just about you. Lay it at Jesus’ feet and permit Him to heal you and to bring glory to God. Point Two – Healing requires boldness to overcome the fear of what others may say about you and your “issue.”
Jesus told the woman to go and be healed. Wasn’t she healed when she touched His garment? The bleeding stopped, but the healing was incomplete. Sheila Walsh suggests the woman needed healing from shame, disappointment, self-hatred and the burden that the “issue” had been. Jesus knew that the woman needed to be made whole; she needed salvation. Point Three – Christ works in our lives well beyond the point at which we first come to faith. He desires that we become whole in Him.
“Issues” of blood are draining. After extensive bleeding, anemia is likely. The Mayo Clinic tells us that as the body becomes increasingly deficient in iron, anemia worsens and signs and symptoms intensify. Symptoms vary but may include extreme fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, dizziness or lightheadedness and, eventually, death.
“Issues” of the heart are no different. Isn’t it time for you to lay yours at Jesus’ feet?
Read Mark 5:27-34 this week and ponder the daily questions for reflection.
And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said unto him, “Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
And he said unto her, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”
Monday Questions for Reflection: What is your “issue?” How has it caused you to suffer? How is it defining you?
Tuesday Questions for Reflection: The Law prohibited the woman from touching others no doubt leaving her feeling isolated, abandoned and lonely. How does your “issue” isolate you from others? Are you choosing to isolate yourself – your REAL self?
Wednesday Questions for Reflection: The woman risked breaking the Purity Law and pressed through a crowd to touch Jesus’ garment. What risks must you take to be free of your “issue?” What or whom is keeping you from Jesus?
Thursday Questions for Reflection: Jesus told the woman her faith had made her whole. Do you have the faith necessary to experience God’s miracle in your own life? Are there areas in your life that you do not yet trust to God? What are they? What keeps you from trusting?
Friday Questions for Reflection: The woman, fearing and trembling, fell at Jesus’ feet and, before the crowd, told Jesus everything. Testimony of healing is powerful. Will you lay your “issue” at Jesus’ feet, be healed and share your testimony with others? Who needs to hear your testimony?