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Posts Tagged ‘God’s peace’

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Sometime on Christmas Eve, after the kids have finally fallen asleep and the last gift is wrapped and all do-ahead preparation is completed for Christmas dinner, peace on earth will at last settle in many homes.  Such peace is characterized by contentedness that everything is ready for tomorrow.  There’s also a sense of good will toward mankind–even toward the eccentric relatives who’ve come for the weekend.

But of course such peace doesn’t last long. The children awake and the noisy celebration begins—way too early in the morning.

Truth is, throughout recorded history, peace on earth has always occurred in small, intermittent fits. Since 36 B.C., the world has seen 15,000 wars.*

So it seems incongruous that the angels told the shepherds, “On earth peace to men” (Luke 2:14)–until we read the rest of their proclamation: “On earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

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We have to understand: the heavenly choir was not proclaiming universal, political peace but individual, internal peace to those who enjoy God’s favor (same verse, ISV).

So how do we access this favor and receive God’s peace? It occurs as we:

  1. Accept Jesus’ invitation to be in relationship with him.

He is the way God has chosen for man to be reconciled to himself (John 14:6).

Some people want to believe all religions should lead to God. It doesn’t seem fair to them that one is deemed better than another. But if we look at the situation from God’s point of view we realize: It’s not necessary there be dozens of ways to him. He chose one way, through his Son, Jesus.

And those who accept him into their lives do indeed receive great favor. They become the children of the King of the universe (John 1:12)–forever.

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  1. Learn more about God and his attributes. “May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord (1 Peter 1:2, NLT). For example: 
  • He knows all (Romans 11:32-36)—every worrisome situation and how he will resolve it.
  • He is all-powerful, able to do anything (Job 42:2). If, in his wisdom, he chooses not to rescue us from our circumstances, then he’ll see us through.
  • Everything is under his control (Psalm 103:19)–even those inexplicable, puzzling events that throw us into a momentary tailspin.
  • Everything he does is good and right (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • He makes perfect decisions, including how and when all events will unfold (Psalm 147:5).

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The more we know, the more confidently we can rest in our powerful, all-wise God.

  1. Review his promises.

 At the first sign of worry or fear, we can replenish our peace with a scripture promise. A few of my favorites include:

  • “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).
  • “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

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  1. Pray.

 Our prayers about the situations that troubles us can include praise that God’s glorious attributes are already at work, his promises never fail, and his blessings continue to flow. Worship is the way to peace (Philippians 4:6-8).

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  1. Practice God’s presence.

 Strive to live aware of God’s presence at all times, in every place—even at the kitchen sink, in the car, at the mall, in the office.

And during those rather mindless moments while washing dishes, sitting at a stoplight, or walking from one store to another, we can enjoy his company and affirm our trust. Strong trust results in peace (Isaiah 26:3).

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To enjoy God’s favor and peace does not mean we are devoid of emotion or concern. It’s when concern is accompanied by unbelief in God’s attributes or promises that worry and fear result. But if concern is combined with prayerful faith, then perfect peace is the outcome—peace that will not only pervade the mayhem of Christmas morning, but also the maelstroms of life.

What helps you  open your heart to God’s peace?  Tell us about it in the comment section below. 

*John MacArthur, www.gty.org , “The Gift of Peace.”

(Art & photo credits:  www.imgur.com; http://www.indulgy.com; http://www.pinterest.com (4); http://www.flickr.com.)

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With quick, deft movements our daughter, Heather, enveloped her baby girl in a swaddling wrap.   It was bedtime, their first night of a week-long visit from Washington State to our home in Florida. Our younger son watched the swaddling process, fascinated by the flannel and Velcro contraption.

“Now what do you do?” he asked his sister. “Hang her upside down?”

Sophie did resemble a bat, all folded up into a neat little package. You would have thought she’d be squirming in discomfort, but her sleepy, contented expression said otherwise. Infants love the cozy, confined sensation that simulates the womb.

 

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But within months even the openness of a childproof play space isn’t liberating enough for many toddlers. Given their way, the little tykes would wobble off down the street—make that the middle of the street–confident in their abilities to handle life. Efforts to hem them in are met with raucous dissent.

Even as adults, when circumstances hem us in, we balk at the confinement, which negatively impacts our time, energy, and choices.

So when we read, “You [God] hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5 NIV), a person’s reaction might easily be: “I’ve got enough stuff in my life hemming me in—family responsibilities, long hours at work, financial obligations—you name it. I need God to free me up, not hem me in any further!”

 

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But hemmed in by God IS freed up. According to Bible scholar, Warren Wiersbe, those italicized words in the ancient Hebrew of Old Testament times included the meaning, “to guard a valuable object.” ‘Brings to mind God’s protection, doesn’t it—being held in his strong, reliable hands. *

And don’t miss that adjective, valuable. God sees each one of us as precious. Otherwise, he would not have sent his Son to die in our place.

“Hemmed in” also provides imagery of loving affection. When Sophie was tucked snugly into her swaddling wrap, Heather or Tim would encircle her in their arms and hold her close until she fell asleep. Surely those moments of cozy contentedness were among the first when she realized Mommy and Daddy loved her very much.

Similarly, “The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him” (Psalm 32:10b).

 

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“Hemmed in” brings to mind peace as well, because the all-powerful God of the universe is active in our lives. Psalm writer, King David, says we’re enclosed “behind” (in the past) and “before” (in the future). As for the present, God has laid his hand upon us (139:5).

 

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That means, behind us there is God, redeeming the hurts, mistakes, and sins of the past. Before us there is God, preparing the way for the future chapters of our lives, chapters he has already written (v. 16). In the present, there is God—attentive to our needs, guiding us through each day, and enabling us to thrive.

We are not hemmed in because God desires to control us in some self-interested power-grab. He is motivated by his gracious, loving kindness to keep us safe and content.

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Thank you, Father, for hemming me in. What a relief to know that Someone much wiser than I am is in control. How comforting to contemplate your continual, unfailing love. Your hand upon me is not oppressive; it is restorative, as I learn to rest in your peace. You have freed me up to live in the joy of your presence, and I am humbly, overwhelmingly grateful.

(Psalm 73:23-24; 36:5-7; 63:7-8; 16:11)

 

* (See Isaiah 41:10.) Not that God surrounds us with virtual bubble wrap so problems and pain can’t impact our lives. Rather than insulate us from challenges and hurt, he most often brings us through them—with his strength, wisdom, and peace. He’s saving perfect bliss for heaven.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.justprems.com.au; http://www.centerforparentingeducation.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.biblia.com.

 

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“Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

–Romans 1:7b

 

With those words the Apostle Paul greeted the Christians of Rome in a letter.

Turn a few pages in your Bible to Paul’s next epistle, 1 Corinthians, and you’ll read:

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

–1 Corinthians 1:3

 

Notice any similarities?! In fact, all thirteen letters written by Paul and included in our New Testament begin with the same or similar greeting. Sometimes the wording changes a bit, but he always expresses the desire for God’s grace and peace to be upon his friends.

Was there purpose behind his choice, or was he simply following polite protocol for the day, much as we might say, “Hello, how are you?”

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GOD’S GRACE

Perhaps Paul’s intent was to highlight for his readers, first and foremost, the foundation-truth of God’s grace. It is only because of his loving kindness toward us that he:

 

“Grace is the overflow of God’s total self-sufficiency.”

–John Piper

 

And I would add, toward those with no sufficiency in themselves.

We deserve none of his benevolence.

“We’ve compiled a long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us” (Romans 3:23, The Message).

 And yet, his goodness to us, his grace, is mentioned 104 times in the NIV translation of the New Testament—that’s how overarching it is–woven throughout scripture; woven into every day of our lives.

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GOD’S PEACE

In addition to grace, Paul includes peace in his greetingspeace that indicates a state of untroubled tranquility, harmony, and well-being.

Peace is surely an aspect of God’s grace, one of the blessings he bestows upon us out of his loving kindness. So why did Paul choose to mention it separately?

Perhaps because we fail to appropriate it.  Paul wanted to remind his readers that God’s precious gift of peace is always available:

  • Peace with ourselves as we place our wills, our hopes, and our futures in his capable hands (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • Peace with circumstances, as we affirm that his perfect peace is available to those who think on God and trust in him (Isaiah 26:3).
  • Peace in our relationships, as he provides the grace to love as he loves (Romans 14:19).

GOD’S GRACE WITH YOU

As already mentioned, Paul began his letters with “grace and peace to you.” Turn to the end of each letter and you’ll read his signature closing: “Grace be with you.” For example:

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“The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” 

–1 Corinthians 16:23

Now why would Paul make that slight change? Is it important?

Perhaps he wanted his readers (including us!) to be mindful that God’s grace is always with us—day and night, in trouble or triumph, through the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Maybe Paul chose the phrase as a worthy send-off.  After his listeners and readers had paid careful attention to the instructional content of his letters, came the time to apply it…

…by God’s grace, which was always with them.  And just as surely, God’s grace is always with us.

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Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the unmerited favor of your grace that has brought us salvation, strength, kindness, and incredible riches in the spiritual realm. All of your grace is always with us—no matter who we are, no matter where we find ourselves. In fact, you long to be gracious to us, to rise and show us compassion. You astonish us!

(Titus 2:11; 2 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 2:7; Isaiah 30:18)

Art & photo credits:  www.suggestkeyword.com; http://www.knoxchristian.com; http://www.www1.usw.salvationarmy.org; http://www.inbetweenthepinesamightyoakgrows.files.wordpress.com.) 

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