Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
 I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
(John 14:27)

Reflection:
Our world is characterised by a lack of peace. Where there is no active warfare between nations there is a general distrust, if not an active opposition. Within nations there is turmoil of one sort or another, be it political, economic, social, moral, gender or age related. Within many people there is fear, anxiety, stress, unhappiness, self-rejection and emotional turmoil.

In some ways the world in which Jesus moved was not that dissimilar. However, into the current situation that they faced, and into the situations He knew would arise in the future, He said purposefully,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

‘In this world you will have trouble.’ ‘In Me you may have peace.’ Note the two small words – ‘will’ and ‘may.’ The former is a reality about which they, and we, could do little or nothing. The latter is the reality of a gift that He offers to us. The former was external and of man, the latter internal and of the Spirit. Some people will be in turmoil even where there is a human peace all around them. Others will know God’s peace both in calm times and in times of trouble. The difference is simple. God is not of the world – but He is in those who believe and trust in Him. And, as with any gift, this one needs to be acknowledged, accepted and practised.

No matter who you are or where you are – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, financially or relationally – no matter how you feel about yourself, what’s happened to you in the past or what will happen to you in the future, no matter what you may have done or not done, Jesus Christ offers you this peace. It is the peace of God Almighty, a Father of true and wonderful love, the peace of a Saviour who died and rose for you to deal with your sin, and the peace of the Holy Spirit forever within the people of God. It is an inner peace, independent of circumstances, that comes from our union with God. It is to be acknowledged as we refuse to let inner turmoil and fear control us and pray for God’s strength and peace instead. He effectively says to us,

My child, you are wonderfully special to Me, I love you, I know you, I understand you, I forgive you, I accept you – as you are and where you are – I am with you, I will never leave you, I will bless you, and I will see you through all the troubles, loneliness and pain of this life. Trust Me, and let My love, presence and promise be your peace. Hold on to Me; I will hold on to you.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me”
(John 14:1)

Response:
Practice holding on to the presence of God – in thought and prayer – all the time, especially when ‘wobbles’ threaten. Talk to Him through the day. Practice believing Him. Trust His word.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus it’s so very hard sometimes – when everything within me screams, ‘what about me!?” Please help me to accept your word and promise, and to trust You and Your love for the journey ahead. Amen.

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Don’t Fret

“Do not fret–it leads only to evil”
(Psalm 37:8)

 

Reflection:
Fretwork is wood cut with a fretsaw into ornamental designs. Essentially it is cutting holes in a piece of wood. This is what fretting does to our faith – it cuts holes in it by wearing away and eroding it.

Three times in the first eight verses of the Psalm we are counselled not to fret. One of the reasons given is that ‘it leads only to evil.’  Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount also challenged us ‘Not to worry.’

Now to decide not to do something may be good, but not always helpful. It is rather like focussing on not thinking of the word hippopotamus for five minutes. Generally it cannot be done. A better way is to decide against something unhelpful in favour of something helpful. In other words, replace the bad with the good.

Jesus taught us to both learn of God from nature and to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness. The Psalmist has done much the same thing in these eight verses by teaching us rather to,

  • Trust in the Lord and do good
  • Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart
  • Commit your way to the Lord
  • Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him

 Paul also encourages us to,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:4-8)

When God tell us to avoid certain actions it is because they are unhelpful, unhealthy and often harmful to us or to others. They also take away our focus on, or involvement in, something better. Changing our actions and reactions takes intention, prayer and practice – helped enormously by the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is working within us to help us grow and develop. The initiative will have come from Him.

If we are to grow in our relationship and life with God then we need to develop the habit of believing in His love and trusting Him. It is a part of the journey towards wholeness. That does not mean that He will always do everything the way that we would like Him to – but it does mean that He will never abandon or forget us.

The opposite of fretting is a quiet trust in God – that whatever happens He will always be in control and will love us and carry us through to our eternal home with Him.

Response:
Turn your fretting into meditation! Take a positive scripture and ‘worry’ it to get more and more from it.

Prayer:

Father God, please forgive me when my feelings and expressions are negative. Help me to walk in the knowledge of Your presence and love for me. May that heal and influence my actions and feelings. Amen.

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Be Still

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
(Psalm 37:7)

 

Reflection:
The way things are today is not the way that they will be forever. There will be change. The closer that people are to God the better it will be. The further they move away from God the tougher it will be for everyone.

There may be times when evil seems to have a field day. However one thing is certain – God is active. His kingdom will come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ His rule will be established. There will come a time when

“at the name of Jesus every knee (will) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11)

God is not suggesting that we be passive and inactive. Through the Psalmist He has been leading up to this fourth activity. He has said to us in this Psalm:

  • Trust in the Lord and do good (v3)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord (v4)
  • Commit your way to the Lord (v5)

All of these are positive and active steps that we are called to take in any situation. The final one, ‘Be Still ….do not fret’, is the stillness that comes from choosing to believe that God is in control, He will have His way and He will “work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

There is a shaking going on in the world today. Within the churches, and in the world at large, things are happening. All of these seem designed to make people pause, realise their vulnerability and take stock of where they are and what they are about. Many things are beyond our control – but not beyond God. It is important that we keep our trust in Him.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

Response:
In all things recognise God – ask for His help – do what He calls you to – and trust Him for the outcomes

Prayer:

Lord help me to walk through every day trusting in Your presence and love – knowing that You will always be in control. Amen.

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Peace

“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”
(John 20:19)

 

Reflection:
This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. And although it was a common greeting of the time no words of Jesus are without meaning and significance. So it has three important elements included in it as He speaks this peace into their lives.

There is Peace between Himself and them. These were the ones who had boasted of being willing to die for Him – but who had fled before the armed guards and the crowd who had arrested Him. Jesus was clearing away the desertion and guilt that would have lain heavily on and between them –and reinstating them into relationship with Him, this time in a deeper, stronger and humbler way.

There is Peace between God and them. Jesus represented the Father and said specifically that those who had seen Him had seen the Father also. Now He makes it quite clear that their relationship with the Father had been restored as well. The sin and guilt of separation that had come about through Adam and been perpetuated by fallen humankind had been dealt with on the Cross. New life was established in the Resurrection.  The way to God was open once more and they were included.

They could now be at peace with themselves. As the daughters and sons of God their individual and corporate identities were established and secured. No matter what the future might hold nothing could separate them from God’s love and presence. The Holy Spirit would affirm them in their identity and develop them in their uniqueness.

They had done nothing to deserve this peace from the Lord, except to love and trust Him. As God blessed Jesus with acknowledgement and affirmation at His Baptism – that is before His ministry commenced – so He now blessed His disciples. He blesses us in the same way too. It is the undeserved, unconditional and unending love and grace of God.

Response:
Believe it and receive it

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I do not deserve such love and blessing, but I cannot deny Your great love and provision for me. Please help me to believe, receive and live in the Peace that You offer to even me right now. Amen.

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I am with you

“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you”
(Isaiah 26:3)

Reflection:
In the state of the world in which we live peace is not a natural or normal condition. There is far too much on the personal, national and international stages clamouring for our attention and demanding to be addressed or worried about.

God does not guarantee that there will be peace around us – in fact the Lord tells us that the opposite will often be the case. However God does offer us peace within us – as a gift from Him.

  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The account of Peter walking on the water and then sinking illustrates the point beautifully. As long as his focus and attention was on the Lord he walked over the sea. It was when he took his eyes off Jesus and focussed on the threat of the wind-whipped waves that he began to sink. Jesus did not calm the storm before calling Peter to walk to Him – He came and called Him in the storm, and only calmed everything once they were back in the boat.

So it is with the storms in our own lives. The Lord comes to us and calls to us from within the storm. As we come to Him by focussing our attention on Him (steadfast minds) He walks with us through the storm to wherever He chooses to take us. The peace that He gives us is of His presence and control. As with Peter He will not walk away from us and, even when we think we are sinking, will be there to reach out and support us.

There will be storms – but there will always be the Lord with us in the midst of them.

Response:
If you have a storm in your life ask the Lord to help you to focus on Him and trust Him

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You will never desert me. Please help me to look to You and to trust You at all times – no matter what might be raging around me and even within me at the time. Amen.

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God of Love 5

 

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever”
(1 Chronicles 16:34)

Reflection:
God is a God of Love – and a blessing in our lives at all times not only when are feeling good about life and about ourselves.

When we have sinned we can turn to Him for forgiveness. When we have failed we can turn to Him for encouragement. When we have been rejected we can turn to Him for love. When we are sick we can turn to Him for strength and healing. When we are bereaved we can turn to Him for consolation. When we are afraid we can turn to Him for peace. When we are lonely we can turn to Him for companionship. When we are confused we can turn to Him for clarity. When we are puzzled we can turn to Him for direction.  In all our situations He is with us and is the answer that we need.

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6)

God does not only love us when we do not sin. On the contrary,

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”
(Romans 5:8)

God’s love for us – for you and for me – endures forever.
And if you look up ‘forever’ in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary it means forever.

Response:
Right now as I read this God is with me and His love reaches out to enfold me.

Prayer:

Father God, please help me to believe in Your goodness and love at all times – and especially when I am feeling down about myself. Amen.

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All I Desire

“My soul finds rest in God alone”
(Psalm 62:1)

 

Reflection:
There are a great many things that attract us in this life. Some of them change as we grow whilst others remain the same. Some are more attractive in the desiring than in the possessing, others turn out to be quite harmful to us and to others, and a few give us continual pleasure and encouragement. There is only one, however, that has the capacity to give us peace, joy and beauty at all times. That one is God.

We were made for God, made with a desire within us that only He can fully meet, made to crave a beauty that only He can reveal,  made with a longing to love and be loved that only He can satisfy. The Great Commandments, and the ones that Jesus gave, should reveal this to us. We are called to love God with every fibre of our being because only that will release and fulfil us, and bring us peace. We are called to love our neighbours because only that will bring satisfaction. We are called to love one another as Christians because through that we will affirm each other in our identities as the children of God. We are called to love our enemies because in this we become like God, and reveal Him.

The beauty of God is the beauty of love, the beauty of His love. It is a love revealed in the magnificence of creation, in the awe of salvation, in the presence of everyday and the promise of eternity. It is the glory of majesty, the laughter of intimacy, the splendour of holiness and the peace of loveliness. In Him we are completed and complete. He is our life from yesterday into tomorrow and forever. In His love we rest and are at peace.

Response:
Do not settle for the artificial decorations – seek and find the One true Gift.

Prayer:

Father, please draw me to You and into the wonder of Your great love. Open the eyes of my heart and my spirit and fill them with love. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Spirit of Unity

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace”
(Ephesians 4:3)

Reflection:
Our relationship with God was fractured at the fall – and so were our relationships with creation and with one another. Jesus Christ came to make it possible for these relationships to be restored through His death and resurrection. And what He made possible is given effect by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within us and to minister to us at that level.

He draws us into the ‘body of Christ’ where the Lord Himself is the Head and we are the members. These members are then in a close and living relationship with both the Lord as Head and with each other. Any disunity amongst the members would grieve the Head and would be disastrous to the proper functioning of the body itself.

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

As Christians we have one Lord, Jesus Christ, one Spirit of God who lives and ministers within us, and one God and Father of us all. Jesus prayed that we should be brought into the unity that exists between He and His Father and it is the Spirit who works to give effect to that prayer.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23)

It is this unity, which could only be brought about by God, which is supposed to be a witness to the world of God’s love and redemption in Jesus Christ.

As we recognise these truths we begin to see that the problems in the world may not only be because of those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord. It is also clear that the Body is not functioning as it should  – and it is certainly not presenting a unified face of love and of truth to the world. Until the world begins to see God in us it may not bother to look for Him anywhere else.

Response:
Where am I in disunity with other Christians and within myself?

Prayer:

Father God, please forgive me for the things within me that destroy my peace and cause me to withdraw from others. Please heal me and draw me closer to You so that I may be more of a point of love and healing in my context. Amen.

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Not Alone

“The one who is in you is greater
than the one who is in the world.”
(1 John 4:4)

Reflection:
Jesus Christ has not left us alone. He has sent to us the Holy Spirit Himself.

This is the same Holy Spirit Who was involved in creation, Who brought about the baby Son of God within Mary, Who came upon and into Jesus at His Baptism, Who formed the Christian Church and transformed the lives of the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. He is the same Holy Spirit promised to all believers (note the word all). In fact you cannot be a child of God without the Holy Spirit.

We face many challenges in our lives, every day. Generally, the world in which we live is tense and stress-filled. Not only marriages but all relationships are under pressure, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to either maintain a standard of living, or to just survive. Numbers are not sure how they will be able to cope. Every day seems to bring news of fresh tragedies, disasters, corruption, violence and pain. In our own strength it is possible to despair, and to join the millions who seek relief in escapist activities and fantasies.

But God! God is alive and active. And the same God who did the amazing things recorded in Scripture– the God of ‘the mighty hand and the outstretched arm’ – is the God who is with His sons and daughters right now; invisible but real. In these times, more than ever, He is not only who and what we need, He is the One for whom our spirits long and without whom they will not be comforted or satisfied. Whether or not He changes our situations He will reach out to change us within our situations.

Jesus invitation should to ring in our ears as a clarion call. Are you battling in some way? Then,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

In fact, this is more than an invitation, it is a firm directive! And the promise is definite, “I will give you rest!” The Shepherd wishes to be involved in the challenges facing His sheep. The Saviour and Lord wishes to be involved in the pain and suffering of His people. If He does not take it away He will take us through, and enable us to find relief and blessing on the way. Remember – the way that things are today is not the way they will be forever.

Jesus is the Way – that means that He is going somewhere and taking us with Him – and nothing can stop Him!

Response:

Take action:

  1. Remind yourself that God is with you – breathe Him in.
  2. Ask Him to calm and help you.
  3. Read or say Psalm 23 slowly.
  4. Pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly.
  5. Take another step forward.
  6. Talk to Him all the time

Prayer:

Father I need help. Please help me. Please comfort me, encourage me, strengthen me and increase my faith in You. Amen.

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(Picture © Catherine Bondonno)

Peace

“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”

(John 20:19)

Reflection:
The disciples were afraid and behind locked doors. Having seen Jesus arrested, tortured and crucified, having themselves fled, they had been living with fear and huge uncertainty for days. Now they had heard that Jesus had risen. This might well have added to their torment.  Where was He, and what would His attitude be towards them – especially in view of their actions?

There are few mental torments greater than those that concern our having failed someone important in our lives, and in a major way. The agony of waiting for the impending confrontation, heightened by our racing imaginations, can tear us apart. We cannot bear the thought of being sent away in despair and humiliation – of being not good enough, having failed to live up to expectations, especially when the person concerned is the Messiah! They would have heard the terrifying teaching that one day the Messiah might well say to certain people,

“I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

Suddenly Jesus was there standing amongst them – notwithstanding the locked doors. We do not know all that He said to them, or what they said to Him. But the words that are recorded tell us all that we need to know both for that meeting and for our own lives.

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:21)

This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is a peace that has absolutely nothing to do with our deserving or earning it, or of the situation in which we find ourselves – but everything to do with the love, grace and power of our great Father and most wonderful Saviour. The text records that they ‘were overjoyed’ to see Him. It shows us that his love for them and acceptance of them was complete.

We all face fears that we have let Jesus down, that we do not live up to the standards that we believe He requires of us, and that we are like timid mice in the face of the increasing darkness of the world. All of that may be true. However, the most important truth for us to grasp and absorb is this – Jesus love for us is total and unconditional. He is completely committed to us and the work to which He has called us. When we fall or fail, or even think that we have, He is there with us to forgive, heal, empower and raise us up so that we can step out again with Him on the The Road of Love – the Way of Christ. He will work in all things for good and will never leave us or let us be taken from Him. Once we are His we are His forever. We do need to believe it.

Response:
Pray for a deeper belief and trust in the love of God for you.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please continue to pour the love of God into my heart –and help me to know it and trust it above everything else in the world. Amen.

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