What Do We Need Most In 2015?

Philippians 1:2 – “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

As I sit in my favorite coffeeshop near the beach on December 31, 2014, planning and thinking ahead for the new year, I am consciously aware of how much is at stake in 2015. In my personal life, our family will soon go through a transition as our oldest child (no longer a child) moves away to finish up college. We haven’t been through this type of change before and it is harder than I envisioned. On top of that, there are ministry, financial and career decisions that will be made – not necessarily in that order. Although I cannot predict the future, change is in the wind. Does this sound familiar? I bet most of you have changes looming this coming year as well. I also sense, as many of you, that we are in a time of profound change in our culture and society. It’s hard to know where all the chips will land. So as the java flows and I finish my caramel vanilla latte, the question in my mind is “What do we need in 2015?” Specifically, what do I need as a parent, spouse, minister, provider? What do you need? To expand, what do we need as a Church, country and society? One word comes to mind: Peace.

I/we need peace. Real peace. Peace in knowing that our loved ones are going to be okay. Peace in the pew and the pulpit. Peace in the streets. Since I cannot control life, I have to either admit that I will live in perpetual chaos and resign myself to constant internal turmoil. Or I have to trust there is Someone who is in control, regardless of the outcomes. This is the only way I can keep it together. How about you?

The Bible promises we have peace with God if Christ is in us and we in Him. This is always the place we must come back to when the whirlwind starts to blow. I always have to go back to the cross, empty tomb and salvation. This is my starting point in trusting that God is handling the details regardless of how grim it looks. Even in loss He is handling the details. We can then experience the peace of God because our peace with God works itself out through us. Does this mean I’m not going to have a meltdown? Nope – not a chance – I’m a Type A. But it does mean I have the capacity for real peace and can recover when all the pieces are scattered.

I’m not trying to prescribe anything. There are no magic cures. I guess I’m just reminding myself (and hopefully you) that in 2015, as long as we are in Christ and He indwells us, we have the capacity to live a life with more hope than religion, politics and philosophy can ever offer.

Grace and Peace to you in this New Year!

Don’t Bottle Up Grace, Peace and Love!

bottle photo  (Ephesians 6:23)  “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

At the beginning of this letter to the Ephesians, God’s provides us with His official proclamation in this Dispensation of Grace: “grace and peace.” (Eph 1:2)  We see this throughout Paul’s epistles. Here we arrive at the end of this epistle full of advanced information for our edification and encouragement. We see God has even more than “grace and peace” for us. He also gives us “love with faith.”  Grace, peace, faith and love are the key provisions we have from God at so many different levels it would take libraries of books to describe it all.

Ephesians provides the Church with the ideals in doctrine and application. Every local church is supposed to be a mini-picture of what is designed for the entire Body. We are supposed to be the visible demonstration in our communities that there can be true peace and true love. We are supposed to live at a higher level than the economic, political, entertainment and media driven society in which we are immersed. It’s important we recognize what God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ directs towards us today. But if we look around at all the problems and hypocrisy in Christianity, it’s hard not to wonder how God could possibly expect this out of human beings. On one hand God tells us he directs peace and love towards us but on the other hand we see just the opposite. Is God wasting His time or expecting something that isn’t possible?

In Christ, we are free from judgment and condemnation (Rom 8:1). We are free from the bondage of our old identity. Therefore, we are free to exhibit the attributes of God Himself because He is our identity and gave us every provision we need for Him to personally live through us. We are designed to live on a higher level than our flesh and the old sin nature. He is the One who makes us qualified and capable to live in a mature faith. The Lord doesn’t direct grace, peace and love towards us for it to be bottled up within the boundaries of our own soul and spirit. He provides us with His identity and indwelling, and thus a capacity, so we can reflect these attributes towards each other. This is the real key to overcoming every problem in a local church – living out who we were made to be in Christ. We can live better, higher and more powerfully than what most believe is “normal” in our local churches.

Renewed Thought – What kind of impact could we have for the gospel if our local churches were made up of believers reflecting the attributes of God towards each other and those without? 

Supernatural Peace To Overcome Fear

(John 14:1)  “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” 

I heard a missionary to a country in the Middle East speak this past Sunday. The level of stress his family endures on a daily basis is beyond what most of us could imagine. They struggle for survival in the midst of extreme spiritual darkness. In a country that has deep Biblical roots and all the conveniences of modern society, virtually no one has ever read or seen a Bible. Eight other families left the country after only two years on the field. His family has been there for four years. Peace in the midst of extreme adversity isn’t normal for most people. In Christ we can find supernatural peace.

On the eve of His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words in John to the disciples. He knew what was about to come the following day. In fact, two times in the preceding two chapters, the Bible tells us the Lord Himself was “troubled” as He contemplated the betrayal and death that were about to unfold:

(John 12:27)  Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

(John 13:21)  When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

The word troubled in this verse comes from the Greek word tarasso which means “to agitate, to take away calmness of mind, to cause inward commotion.” In His humanity, Jesus was disturbed and clearly stressed to think about the disloyalty of a friend (Judas) and the resulting physical and spiritual pain He was to endure. This was the hour of His ultimate earthly purpose.

But even as His thoughts were bothered about these things, His concern and focus were turned away from Himself and towards the disciples. Jesus was concerned about the effect of these things on them! At the end of the preceding chapter the Lord had just predicted the betrayal of Peter. In fact, He knew all of them (except John) would abandon Him within the next 24 hours. Even in the foreknowledge of this, He was still concerned about the trouble in their hearts. This last discourse before the cross was setting the stage for their faithfulness in light of what was to come. Jesus had a supernatural focus and a supernatural peace in the face of adversity and He knew they would need it as well in the coming days.

(John 14:27)  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Paul wrote to the Galatians who were under pressure from those teaching a false gospel. They were bearing the stress of darkness surrounding them even in the church. In the book of Philippians Paul encourages them to bury themselves in prayer as they deal with the anxiety of life. After encouraging them to pray, he tells them

(Philippians 4:7)  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

You may be going through extreme pressure today just as the missionary family. You may be in a dark corner of this world where very little light is shining. It could be in the deepest jungle or in the middle of a modern city. God knows what you are going through. He felt what you are feeling. His thoughts are turned to you. His peace is there for you. I know it is easier to say this than to actually live it. Renewing your mind is the key. As His thoughts become our thoughts, His focus becomes our focus. As His love becomes our love we begin to turn our attention to the needs of others. We can see beyond our own circumstances and present peril. Then we are able to live with the supernatural peace He had in His darkest hour.

Renewed Thought –Real and lasting peace doesn’t mean we are separated from our circumstances. Real and lasting peace comes as we have the grace to think beyond ourselves and our circumstances.