Peace


But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2: 13 (ESV)

Blood is messy. Having blood drawn can be a bit painful, and it is almost always emotionally uncomfortable. People are designed so that we don’t readily surrender our blood, for it is utterly essential for our bodies to survive. Blood is also one of the greatest gifts that any of us can give to others; so, donating blood is something to seriously consider doing. For us, this sort of thing is a choice to be made, and the ramifications of doing it last for only a very short time. This was not how it was for Jesus. The blood that He gave was eternally precious, and giving it had an effect upon Him that was momentarily devastating. Jesus shed that blood a very long time ago; yet, the impact of its being spilled is very much with us today, and the stain from its taking is apparent in our world still. People have tried to remove it or to cover it over with any number of weak endeavors and beliefs, but Jesus remains present and relevant despite all that we might do.

The amount of blood that Jesus shed, the drops and rivulets of it as it might have pooled near the foot of His cross, is of little consequence. What truly matters is the sacrifice that He made out of obedience to the Father and also of His own free will, for that sacrifice changed forever the way that people can gain access to our Creator and God. The life that Jesus surrendered and the blood that flowed from His wounds was the sufficient sacrifice that paid for all of the sinful disobedience that has separated every person on this earth form God. That painfully extracted blood brought about peace between the Divine Creator and His Creation. This is a peace that infuses our souls with new life, and this peaceful status provides each of us, in Christ, with a purpose for living in the fullest expression of that life.

This world is still filled with agony and strife. The peace that Jesus purchased with the shedding of His blood and sealed with His resurrection from earthly death is suffering through its birth pains. Evil with the brokenness of its chaotic rampage through the world is very real and is present in almost all places and in many forms. Yet, it will not prevail, and its death-giving promises of human power and prosperity are nothing more than a bait and switch artist’s feeble attempts to close a fast sale. Christ’s blood seals His people for a higher purpose. We are here to work diligently for the redemption of our world, and we are to do this by living out our new identity as people who have been set free to love others without reservation and to care for the needs of the people that we encounter with sacrificial generosity. Even in these days of new found fears and trials, Christ’s blood is more than powerful against it all, and He calls to us to draw near to Him and to reach out as He does with love, grace, and mercy to all in our world who are hungry, weary, and fearful. 

Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.

Jeremiah 33: 6

The Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, is making a promise to the nations of Judah and Israel and to their people. Their long and harsh days of living in exile will end, and the devastation that has fallen upon their homelands and their cities will be undone. In this case, these promises were brought to literal fruition. The people did return, and Jerusalem, as the main city and the capitol of the combined nations, was rebuilt to an even greater scale and grander splendor than before. From God’s point of view the real intent in all of this and His heart’s desire was for repentance and for restoration of relationship. The Lord’s heart yearns for His people to draw near to Him. He wanted the Israelites to love and to follow Him and to live within the guidance of His will during all of their days and in every aspect of their lives. Things are not different today, for this is what God desires of us as well.

We are living through the days of a form of exile. The normal patterns of life have been interrupted, and we have been forced to set aside the usual rhythm of living in order to deal with this season of coronavirus. We are all growing weary of the separation from others, the sense of isolation that it brings, and of the concerns over health and safety that are a part of these new daily routines. All of us have been forced to suffer through significant changes in our lives, and many of us are undergoing real and profound stresses and struggles as a result of those changes. In these days, I find encouragement in the knowledge that the Lord has always been faithful to bring about restoration and to seek after His people in order to bring to them healing, security, and peace. God consistently works to accomplish His purposes; however, I find that it is not always so easy to trust in them and to rest easily in the Lord’s promises.

Yet, these days when many of the things that would normally occupy our time and fill our days are on hold may provide some rich opportunities for contemplation and for consideration of what restoration might truly mean for each of us. A question to consider could be, “How does God want me to live when all of this is behind us?” There are aspects of most of our daily routines that are less than productive for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Most of us possess thought patterns and ways that we use our time and our resources that might be best left behind in the rubble heap as we engage in rebuilding life during the days of restoration that are to come soon. These are the sorts of things that can be taken to the Lord in prayer today. They are the sorts of things that scripture reading will shed light upon, and they are worthy of reflection during times of contemplation. I believe that the Lord will bring about healing and restoration out of these hard days, but I also think that He desires for me to participate with Him in seeking His healing and renewed focus and direction for my own heart and for our land.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 1-5

As we have just entered into the season of Advent, this time of waiting and of anticipation, I want to look at its inception. I admit that when I have considered this idea in the past that I have usually started the thread of this part of the story with the coming of the angel to Mary. This is then traced backward in time to Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah which are founded in God’s words about the crushing of the serpent’s head in Genesis 3. All of this would seem to ground the narrative of God’s plan and design for our salvation and restoration into the earliest days of humanity’s earthly existence. Yet, it occurs to me that there is a quality to this that is somewhat like crisis management. By the third chapter of Genesis our ancestors have already defied God and are being set out on their long and wandering journey through life.

Although God is the ever-present and only true answer to all of the crisis that come in life, the God that I know is not surprised or caught short by anything that we do or by what happens in the world. He knows and sees and is prepared to respond to all of it. Even in His power, knowledge, and absolute capacity and capability the Lord God is always the Father. Everything in His dealings with people is framed and motivated by His unending desire for us to have a deeply intimate relationship with Him. God yearns for the time when each of us will surrender our stubborn, isolationist ways and turn to Christ in humility and submission to His righteousness. God knew from a time when the concept that we consider as time had not been created that there would be a fatal break in our relationship with Him. Yet, He proceeded with the creation of humanity, but God did so with our restoration to a relationship with Him in full view.

This point in absolute pre-history would seem to be the true inception of Advent. God always knew that He would come to dwell among humanity. He was actively preparing for that time from before the moment that he first touched the soil of the new born earth in order to form the man whose descendant we all are. God imparted the life that came from His breath, that is His Spirit, into us, and He determined that we would be brought back to life from the self-imposed grave that we entered through disobedience. In our time, God has already come. Christ entered into our world, and the way to salvation and the means to transformation is present with us. Now we wait in anticipation of even more. The advent to come is the one in which all that is broken and diseased in all of Creation will be destroyed and heaven and the new earth will become one. Today we can live in the hope of the light that is Christ in us and the promise of His glory which truly overcomes all that is darkness in our world. 

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5: 5 

There are forces all around us in this life that not only can harm us but that are actively seeking to overcome us. I am not thinking about situations and circumstances that are overwhelmingly difficult; although, they are quite real, I mean that there are spirits and powers that have evil as their core intent. They are set on a coarse of assault, entrapment, and disablement that is placed into every one’s daily path of travel. 

However, everything that is in opposition to God has already been defeated by Jesus; so, every human failing, each flawed thought, and all of our unloved and unloving images have become traps with their springs removed by the power of Christ’s love for each of us. We need to accept this reality and believe from the center of our hearts that it is true and that it is my own, personal and absolute truth. 

Jesus is the victor in my life and over all that seeks to harm me and to lessen my ability to demonstrate the life changing and transformational love of God in a lost world. Belief leads to faith, which takes us to a place of trust; then, trust allows us to walk with bold confidence through the mine field that is this world while knowing that we are safe in every way that matters. Since I believe in Christ, who has given me the promise of His victory, I can face all of the situations, people, and decisions that will come to me today with the strength and the boldness of the knowledge that the Lord will use it all for His glory.   

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him; bless His name;

For the Lord is good

Psalm 100: 4, 5a

Thanks to God for:

Love and compassion

Peace and consideration

Joy set deeply;

Hands that help

A hand to hold

Christ holding me up;

Grace and restoration

Salvation and eternity

The Lord forever;

An unfailing Father

Infinite family

Belonging;

Lifelong purpose

Clarity of vision

Mission;

His view of me

My worthiness

For He made me;

My comprehension of you

For He made you

The greatest love

poured over me

So that I

Can love all in

Purity and truth;

A world to love for Christ

So they can know Him

and join

This chorus of thanksgiving and praise.

Originally published 11/24/2010

Jesus said, “The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22: 34 

What does Jesus really mean when He quotes this Old Testament passage? He had just responded to a question that was intended to trick Him, and the first half of the answer, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” makes sense. It may be a very challenging thing to do, for it is an impossibility without Christ. Without His ongoing presence in my life, I don’t even come close to living out this command. Still, this second command that Jesus gives to us is in some ways even more challenging. 

If love my neighbor is expressed in kind acts such as clearing snow from their walks or picking up trash from their front yards, that is no real problem. If it looks like greeting them when I see them, this is fairly easy, too. If my neighbor is defined as the people who live close to me, this is also relatively easy. They are mostly just like me; therefore, they are rather safe people to engage with, at least at this outward level. I am absolutely certain that this was not Jesus’ definition of neighbor, for none of this applied to Him. He had no permanent house, He didn’t stay on the same well known street of the same town, and He interacted with a wide range of people, none of them exactly like Him. 

What Jesus is commanding us to do is a lot bigger and contains a lot more risk than any of this casual neighborhood interaction. He is telling us to redefine our concept of neighborhood to include the entire world around us. Christ came to love all of the people of this world in a manner that would bring them back to an intimate and a personal relationship with God. Jesus loved people by engaging with them in their lives, by hearing their sorrows, and by healing their wounds and soothing their greatest fears. He met the soul-deep needs of dying people. That is what He commands us to do. So, as Christ is in us, we are called upon to give away His love to the people that live in our neighborhood. This is not an optional part of our lives as Christians, and it is not something that others who are called to be evangelists or missionaries are to do for us. This is the second great commandment from God to each of us. Loving others is the actual expression of the first commandment. This is how the Lord wants us to demonstrate our love for Him. Today is the day to ask someone about their life, to be interested in the pain in their heart. This is the perfect time to join a new friend in the journey of life, and today is the day to tell that person about the real, the tangible answer to your own needs that you have received through Jesus.  

 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1: 20, 21

If you or I think that God is caught off-guard or unawares by the struggles that we have in life, then we have missed comprehending the heart of the Father. Should we ever face the issues that lie before us and see no opportunity for redemption in them, we lack a fuller appreciation of God’s commitment to His people. When we feel as if the challenges that those we care about most deeply are insurmountable, whether they are caused by willful disobedience or by situations and actions outside of their control, we need to open our eyes and truly see Christ’s love, grace, and power in their fullness. This world is a harsh and a difficult place to live. There are many traps and pitfalls that we can stumble into, and the landscape is littered with the debris that is the product of broken lives and failed dreams. Yet, God knew all of this before He did anything.

The Father sent His Son as our redeemer. Christ came into the world as a baby, and He left it as a fully formed man, whose life portrayed the intent, will, and power that God continues to pour out into the lives of people that accept His gifts. Christ now leads us into seeking after what has been promised to us from those times before the creation of the world. That is, we are to recognize that all goodness and mercy in our world come from God, and these unworldly qualities are granted to us in full measure through our faith in Christ and by the working of His Spirit in us and in our world. When we face trials, we are to call upon Christ in that faith and expectantly wait upon His understanding and wisdom to provide clarity and direction for any actions that we are to take. These times of prayer and contemplation can seem long when all that we desire is resolution or relief; yet, they serve the purpose of focusing our hearts and minds upon the Lord and taking them out of the naturally self-oriented place where people tend to go in challenging times.

Turning our deepest fears, concerns, and apprehensions over to God can be hard to do. People are generally formed up and function in a manner that is self-reliant and that utilizes our own resources to provide answers to all of the challenges that we face. There is nothing wrong with any of this; however, if we enter into the storms of life with our own skill and capacity as the complete and full set of resources that we have at our disposal, we are missing out on the greatest of all sources for gaining wisdom that overcomes all adversity and for the endurance that we will need to continue a hard journey to its conclusion. Christ can grant us the vision to see beyond the moment and into the glory of God’s redemption and restoration of all that is holy, good, and just in this world. As we place out faith and trust in Christ, He grants us a form of hope that is greater than all adversity, and He fills our weary hearts with a form of peace that id based upon His unfailing and eternal love. 

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Acts 18: 9, 10

There are many factors that cause us to get soft in our zeal for being openly and overtly Christian. These can hit us at almost any time during our journey through life. They take the form of concerns about the feelings of others, fear for our own acceptance, and struggles with how others will treat us. In some situations and in some places in the world the concerns and fears also focus on personal safety. All of these were on the table for Paul as he traveled about his world teaching about Jesus, and this is why Jesus came to him in a dream and shared this thought with him. You see, even the great teacher and writer of the truth of God’s word, himself, was fully human and shared the same sorts of doubts and fears that we all do.

Christ wants us all to grab hold of the fact that He is actively involved in protecting us from all of the real harm that concerns us. The Lord owns this world, and He is the One who is sending us into it to serve Him. Instead of fearing what is in the shadows, we are to be the ones who bring the light of God’s truth there. Rather than back away from hostility, we are to share the love of Christ with people whose spirits are troubled. When there are voices telling us to be silent and to hold our tongues regarding our faith and trust in Christ, the Lord, Himself, says to check on the real source of those words and to continue to speak boldly and clearly for His name’s sake.

There will be attacks, for there is an enemy, and evil does not like to lose its grip on the people that it uses for its purposes. There is also a God who is infinitely greater than all of the forces that Satan can bring to bear in his cause. Remember that Satan is the creature while God is the Creator. Also, this fight is already won, for Christ has claimed the total victory. It is the calling, the mission, and the purpose of everyone who has joined Jesus in that victory to live as if we understand and fully accept it so that we are not silenced by any personal concerns or doubts. Be brave, be bold, and be fearless in speaking the love and the truth of Jesus as you walk through your day, for nothing can truly harm you.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,

and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54: 10

Mountains tend to dominate the landscape when they are present; if in the distance, they frame the skyline and create the backdrop for everything else; and if you are in them, the mountains surround and loom over your entire immediate world. My sense of mountains is that of permanence, of a form of long-term existence; the expression “older than the hills” comes to mind. Yet they have changed. They can be diminished by forces of nature and by the efforts of people, and the hand of God has absolute control over them.

Perhaps Isaiah used mountains as a symbol here because love among humans can be such a troubled, fragile, and perishable thing, and we tend to impose the realities of our experience, especially the painful realities, onto everything. We are hurt in a love relationship; then, another one proves to be painful, and we start to anticipate and to expect the pain thereafter. When love fails, it truly feels as if a mountain has fallen on us. The peace is crushed out of our hearts by the force and the weight of the collapse of the relationship.

God’s love has been a constant for me; no matter what others may have done and regardless of how badly I have behaved, God has continued to love me, and He has constantly reminded me of that fact. He stays with me through it all. When my eyes can see nothing except for the rocks and the boulders that are covering me, God’s hands are already working to clear a passage for me to breath; then, He lifts the weight off of my head and my shoulders, and finally, He clears all of the debris from around me and lifts me back onto my feet. The Lord restores my life.

This is also what He desires for us to do with each other; God wants each of us to be committed lovers of people. He wants us to trust Him and to believe in His love for us and for everyone else, too. Then, Christ wants us to carry the peace that He has planted in our hearts into our relational lives. In this way we will demonstrate Christ’s sacrificial love to all. When we come upon a scene where someone is trapped beneath a mountain slide of guilt, pain, and loss, Christ wants to help us lift the boulders off of that person’s heart. Christ is asking, “Do you know someone who needs you to bring to him or her the peace and reassurance of the imperishable nature of the love of Christ today?”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1: 3-5

Jesus has come into the world in order to redeem people from our natural state of spiritual death. He will come again in order to do that same work of redemption for a final time, and at that time He will complete the redemption from the corruption of sin for all of creation as well. Yet, until that final work is done, we can live as new beings in Christ, for God desires for us to exist in a close, an intimate, relationship with Him. So, He sent Christ into this world to provide each person upon it with the way and the means of departure from that certain death that was ours from birth. Thus, it is as if we were literally born anew into this world, for we are granted a new beginning and a restart for our journey through life. Although the past is not erased, we are born into a form of grace and forgiveness that provides us with a new perspective on how we are to live and what we need to do in order to repair the damage that we may have done to our relationships during the conduct of our former lives.

In this rebirth comes a great hope for the future. This is certainly an eternal future that, in Christ, we are promised by God to spend in Heaven. It is also a hope that spreads across the remaining days of our lives here on earth. We will live out our days here in the presence of the Spirit, and we are granted God’s grace, love, and mercy as underpinning for the way that we think, speak, and act during those remaining days. This is a journey of faith, for it is not something that is fully fleshed out and completed in that instance of acceptance of Christ. Rather, it is a work that is carried out within each of us by the Spirit, and it grows and develops as we yield up our lives to Christ and surrender our wills to His far greater purposes for us. In a real sense, we are called upon by God to seek after Heaven during our lives on earth, but that seeking is not oriented toward an escape from this world so much as it is intended to have us work toward bringing the righteousness and the justice of Heaven into the place where we dwell.

This does not mean that life here will be easy or that all of our days of troubles, trials, and pain will be behind us after we turn to Christ. What it does mean is that we will go through these times with Christ in us and with the companionship of His Spirit to provide us with the wisdom and strength that we require to stay true to our faith regardless of what we encounter. Thus, God’s mercy is granted to us. It comes in a form that does not remove us from the reality of life, but, instead, it grants to us a perspective on living that comes from beyond this world and that demonstrates to us the great hope that is ours in Jesus Christ, for in Christ we can see and understand the value of pain in this world as a common reality that is endured through Christ’s strength and that directs us into the presence of God as our source of comfort and of peace in the midst of the trial. So, God the Father sent Jesus Christ to redeem us from the certainty of death, and Christ now takes us out of our former lives, and through a new birth into a life that extends beyond the grave into eternity, He works through us to redeem the balance of creation.  

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