Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

The Gift of True Peace

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“Peace on earth!” The angels sang it on that first Christmas day, and today it still rings out especially at Christmas time. “Prince of Peace” is one of Jesus’ titles (Isaiah 9:6).

But what kind of peace is meant, and how can it be accomplished?

The Free Dictionary gives five senses of “peace”:

1. The absence of war or other hostilities.
2. An agreement or a treaty to end hostilities: negotiated the peace.
3. Freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations:       roommates living in peace with each other.
4. Public security and order: was arrested for disturbing the peace.
5. Inner contentment; serenity: peace of mind.

The cheap imitation—what the world offers:

· The Roman empire accomplished their “Pax Romana” through brute force.

· In the 1960’s, the hippie movement arose, touting “peace” with their famous “peace sign” as a demonstration against the violence of war. But has this brought peace on earth?

· Since 1981, an annual “International Peace Day” is observed each September 21 with the goal of stopping war and violence through solidarity and joint action. Obviously it hasn’t come anywhere near to reaching that goal.

Peace treaties are made and then break down because of human nature. The same is true of reconciliation between races and family members. We need outside help!

Genuine peace—what God offers:

clip_image002Concerning harmonious relations (sense 3 above) Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” His coming and the truth He brings have sparked opposition from those who do not believe in him, beginning with Herod right to the present time.

clip_image003The peace Jesus brings is first reconciliation between God and man. As the carol says, “God and sinners reconciled.” He has also reconciled warring groups of humanity to each other as they submit to God (Ephesians 2:14-18). The other senses of peace follow as a result.

clip_image003[1]Those who are reconciled with God have peace of heart which calms worry and fear (John 14:27), and they work for peace with other people (Matthew. 5:9).

clip_image003[2]Jesus’ peaceful reign over the world –with the end of all violence and war–will begin when he has defeated all his enemies at a future time. Then he will truly reign justly as the Prince of Peace in every sense, and “Peace on Earth” will finally come to full fruition! (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Have you received God’s gift of forgiveness and reconciliation though Jesus, the Prince of Peace?

Real or Fake Gifts?

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Did you ever receive an expensive-looking gift and then find out after the initial excitement that it was an imitation, a fake?

LOVE! PEACE! HOPE! JOY! Everyone wants these wonderful gifts we hear about at Christmas time, but too many settle for the world’s cheap imitation. The genuine article comes only from God, the giver of all good gifts!

Let’s start with LOVE.

The cheap imitation—what the world says:

· Love yourself first
· Love = sex
· Love = approving whatever anyone else says or does

Genuine love—what God says:

True love comes from God, who loved us first. (1 John 4:19)
True love puts others first, seeks what is best for the one we love.
      (1 Corinthians 13)
God’s love is unconditional, forgiving, forever! (Exodus 34:6-7)
Love is why Jesus left his heavenly throne
      to take on a lowly human body,
      to endure poverty and rejection,
      to become the sacrifice for our sin
      and to blaze the path to a wonderful relationship with God
           and life with him forever.

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. (NCV)

This is God’s Christmas gift to you and me! Have you received it?

There are strange goings-on at Ephesus:

1. Genuine miracles performed by Paul—God’s power (carried even by Paul’s sweat bands and hand rags in this unusual case!) to defeat disease and demons and free their victims (Acts 19:11-12).

2. Exorcisms by people claiming to have power, unauthorizedly using the name of Jesus as a tool in their bag of tricks—only to have it “explode in their hands” (as some commentators have expressed it). Instead, they became victims of the demons’ fury (verses 13-16).

3. Occult practices rampant in the city, for which expensive books of magic were used. But when Jesus’ followers saw the genuine and pure power of Jesus on the one hand, and the genuine danger of toying with Satan’s power, they cut all ties with the latter. At great cost (almost $7 million in today’s earning power), they burned all their books of magic in a bonfire. No compromise!!! (verses 18-19)

As a result, the Good News of salvation went viral and many turned to follow Jesus!

What about you? Are you toying around with power that’s not from God? Books, games, movies that explore the world of dark powers that would prey on your soul? That’s dangerous! I beg you—burn those bridges behind you!
Come out into the light of God’s pure and true power where you are loved, valued, and set free to be all that you were made to be.

At the end of his first book, Luke (24:5-6) tells of women who went to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty. What they did find there were two angels who asked them, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is alive!!!”

In the next chapter Luke wrote (Acts 1:10-11), two angels appear again, this time to the gathered apostles on a hilltop after Jesus had disappeared from their sight. Again they asked, “Why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return!!!” 

When Jesus isn’t where people expect or want Him to be, it’s because He has a much better plan.  For us who are His, He has not failed us or forgotten us. In place of death, there is life! Instead of loneliness, there is hope for a glorious future when Jesus returns in power to gather His people to Himself and reign forever!  And meanwhile, He has sent the Holy Spirit  to be with and in us to comfort, teach, guide, empower and be our Best Friend. (See John 16:6-15; Romans 8).

So let’s encourage ourselves today with these two announcements:
Smile  Jesus is alive!
Smile  Jesus will return!

A Sigh and a Promise

autumn, leaves, colored, dry, fall, tree, branches, twigs, sky, landscape |  Pxfuel

I look out the window
The year is aging
Green leaves brighten to red, orange, and gold—and then fall
Leaving black skeletons reaching toward the sky
Waiting for new life and beauty once again.

I look in the mirror
I am aging
Skin sags, hair falls, body parts don’t work like they used to
But my spirit reaches upward and soars
Waiting for my new body when all is restored
And ruled by my loving, wise and powerful King!

All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.

We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.       Romans 8:19-23

Sensing God

O God,
You are silent to our ears,
but I “hear” your praise in the birds’ songs
in the song of praise of your people
in the voice of a friend.

You are invisible to my eyes,
but I “see’ you in the beauty of a flower, the sky.

Your touch cannot be felt
but in the hug of a friend,
in your healing of my pains.

I can’t smell your fragrance,
but get whiffs of the perfume of a gardenia
and I long to be a conduit of Christ’s fragrance
as I see Your love spread through Your honorable servants.

Your goodness is not perceived by my taste buds,
but I “taste and see” that You are good!
I get a foretaste of glory now and then—
in all the things listed above,
in a divine stirring of my heart
in the daily gifts from Your hand.

Daily Frustration or Feast?

Is my life with God an experience of…

Discipline or Devotion?
     I am His!

Duty or Delight?
     Enjoy Him!

Drudgery or Contentment?
     He’s all I need!

Dread or Thanksgiving?
     He meets all my needs!

Distrust or Trust?
     He’s in control & loves me; all will be well!

True Perspective

I really identify with Asaph.  He’s the guy who was fuming over the teflon-coated “fat cats” who never seemed to get what they deserved for all their pride, cruelty, wickedness, and total disregard for God. He even got to wondering if his own pure life was all in vain—UNTIL he came face to face with God and got it all in proper perspective. 

So what about me?  Like Asaph…

…I look around me.  Life seems so unfair!  I become cynical.
…I look within me.  I am bitter, foolish, ignorant.
…I look up—at God. 
            He holds me, guides me, leads me to a glorious destiny.              
            He is all I want, all I need. 
            He is the strength of my heart no matter what happens. 
            He is mine forever. 

And I am secure!

(Taken from Psalm 73.)

Two Beloved Children

A movie called “Someone Else’s Child” jumped out at me one evening when I needed some mindless relaxation.  Inspired by actual events, it turned out to be the gripping story of Corey, who gave birth and then realized eight years later that Christopher, whom she had raised and loved very much, was not her son!  Eventually she finds her own son, named Nelson by a couple who adopted him but turned out to be abusive.

Corey ends up formally adopting Christopher to ensure that he stays with her.  But she also refuses to give up her rights to her natural son.  The two boys are told the truth about the situation and have a chance to get acquainted; they get along famously.  Amazingly, Christopher is not jealous of his mother’s love for Nelson.  He is totally secure in the love of his mother and grandparents, and a close tie develops between the two “brothers.”  The movie ends on an optimistic note and one hopes that eventually both boys will be securely united with Corey, living as one happy family. 

Well, I love analogies, and it dawned on me that this is a beautiful picture of God and His two children.  The Jews are His children by birthright but have been separated from Him for a very long time.  He longs for them, but meanwhile we Gentile believers in Christ have been adopted into His family, living in his home, enjoying His love and blessings.  But God is still seeking to regain His other child, the Jews, and eventually He will.  Should we Gentiles be jealous?  Should we deny their right to the Father’s love, their place in the family, and their share of the inheritance?  No!  Rather, we are enriched when they come to find their true home, their true family in their Father’s house.  God’s love for us Gentiles is not in the least diminished because of his love for his “birth children,” the Jews.  His loving heart expands to receive all who come to Him.

One day we will live all together as God’s happy family.  And oh, what a great reunion that will be! 

Making Himself at Home

If we tell our guests to make themselves at home, what does that mean?  Does it mean we expect them to raid the fridge?  To rearrange the furniture as it suits them?  To invite their own friends in? 

Well, maybe not.  But then what does it mean for Christ to make himself at home in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17)?  If we truly turn over the keys to him, here are some things that might happen:

–If something needs fixing, he’ll do it.
–He can help himself to whatever I have.
–He sets his own schedule of when he wants to do what.
–He can bring his friends in to visit anytime.
–He can play my piano/music—His new tunes and beautiful lyrics.
–He can get rid of the mess & clutter.
–He will do some much-needed rearranging (priorities)
–He will redecorate, changing out some of the pictures on the wall, etc.
–He will discourage unsavory visitors / intruders (e.g. bad attitudes)
–He will delight me with his presence, his love, his wisdom, his stories.
–He will invite me to join in his activities.

Am I ready for this?  Are you?  What’s the alternative?

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