Saturday, April 29, 2017

Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:33-34).

We all face a certain amount of stress in life.  Sources of stress can range from going through difficult experiences to the rather normal day-to-day pressures that we all face.  Stress can come from work, relationships, children, marriage, health, school, deadlines, and even traffic.  Opportunities to be stressed-out abound.  But God has provided for us a gift of His peace.  To rise above the stress and experience His peace, we need to pray.

It seems that we may tend to ignore prayer when we feel stressed, especially when the to-do list is a mile long.  But that is precisely when we need to draw near to God.  In fact, if you will take the time to regularly soak in prayer, I think you will find that your life will be permeated with an atmosphere of peace that is not dependent on your circumstances.

Change can often be a source of stress.  Recently, Leslie and I have been in a place where we’re feeling pressure to make some decisions regarding our future.  I’m about to graduate from law school.  I have to decide the state where I will take the bar exam and where I want to practice law.  We need to decide where we will live.  I don’t have a job lined up, so I’ve been looking for job opportunities.  And I’ve had the normal day-to-day stress of law school and finishing up my final semester.  Certainly graduating is an exciting time, but also a time of transition and change.  It’s an opportunity to feel stressed.

Success can also be a source of stress.  Jesus experienced success in his ministry, such that “the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities” (Luke 5:15).  The following Scripture says, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).  Rather than being stressed by the multitudes pressing against Him, Jesus prayed.  His identity was not in the multitudes.  His identity was in His relationship with the Father.  Whether he was being rejected by people or praised by people, Jesus had peace.

God’s purpose is that you have peace regardless of circumstances.  Whether you are experiencing times of accelerated success or are going through a difficult time, you can have peace when you are rooted in Christ.  When the storm around you rages, you can be at peace.  When the word fumes with anger and fear, you can have peace.  How is this possible?  It is possible because peace is not a place, peace is a person.  Jesus is peace.  If you will pray, you will have peace. 

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).  Recently, my father-in-law encouraged me, saying that the “place” is not important, what God desires is my heart.  Whether we stay in Virginia Beach, move back to Texas, or make our home in Washington D.C. (or some other place), is not as important as our heart for the Lord.  I’ve been stressing out, but when Leslie and I began to pray, we have felt God’s peace in a greater way. 

When we pray, we have peace.  I have determined that I am not going to worry about things, I am just going to pray and trust God.  He has everything under control.  He has the right job for me.  He has the right “place” for us.  I have determined to be fully surrendered to the Lord in every area of my life.  The most important thing in my life is to walk with the Lord, be obedient to Him, and love my wife as Christ loves the church.  I am certainly not perfect, but I am pressing forward to the high call of Christ Jesus.  When I sit back and think about it, my life has been an exciting adventure.  It hasn't been easy, at times stressful, but I am grateful.  I am grateful for the life God has given me.  And I am thankful that when I pray, I feel His peace.      

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beautiful In His Time

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride."
Ecclesiastes 7:8

When we walk with Lord the end of our lives can be filled with richness, blessing and fulfillment.  God’s blessing can outweigh any heartache or pain we have experienced.  God is always faithful to His promises if we are willing to wait on His fulfillment.  Impatience often leads to pain, but if we are willing to wait on God, He makes “everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:10).

Sometimes we are unwilling to wait on God to make things beautiful.  We may look at our present circumstances and question whether things can ever really change.  We may give up on what could someday bring us great fulfillment.  For example, if your marriage is experiencing hard times, perhaps even a betrayal, you may think that life can never be good with your spouse.  Yet, if you choose to forgive and choose to love, God can bring beauty from the ashes.  He can restore the years the enemy has stolen.

I often think of Joseph and how hard it must have been on him to be betrayed by his family and sold as a slave.  He remained faithful in temptation, yet ended up in a dark, damp dungeon cell.  Perhaps he stared at that cell wall and wondered if his life could ever be good again.  Yet, despite his pain, He remained faithful to God.  He endured.  In the process, God prepared Him for the throne.  His day came.  He was able to say, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” and “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:51). 

Isaiah 40:1-2 says,

“Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.”

God gave Joseph two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  I believe that number is symbolic.  As I see it, Joseph experienced two major betrayals in his life.  He was first betrayed by his family and sold into slavery.  And then, even though a man of integrity, he was betrayed by his master and condemned to the dungeon.  But God lavished on him a double blessing for all of his pain.  God will be a debtor to no person.  While Joseph was suffering, He was storing up interest in his account with God.  When His promise was fulfilled, He received a double portion of blessing, an outpouring of God! 

You may look at your present circumstances and wonder if you can ever be blessed.  You may wonder if things can ever be good again.  I’m here to tell you if you will persist in the Lord, He will bring you into a place of abundant blessing.  He will make everything in your life beautiful in its time.  As the words of the Tobymac song say, "I know your heart been broke again.  I know your prayers ain't been answered yet.  I know you're feeling like you got nothing left.  Well, lift your head, it ain't over yet, ain't over yet, so Move, keep walkin'.  Soldier keep movin' on."  My friend, keep walking!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

An Elevated Perspective

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 
-II Corinthians 3:18

The state tree of Michigan, my home state, is the white pine.  Though not the tallest tree in the world, it is a tall tree.  If I were hiking through the forest and needed an elevated perspective, certainly the top of a tall white pine would provide that, if I could get there.  Likewise, when we walk through life’s trials, sometimes we need an elevated perspective.  We need to be able to rise above the difficulties we see around us, and get a higher view.  We need to see what God sees.

We may pray for problems to go away or for circumstances to change, but God may have a greater purpose than simply fixing the problem.  When circumstances test our faith, we may question God’s faithfulness.  We may get frustrated or angry with the process.  We may get bogged down with discouragement.  Often we see things from our limited perspective.  But God has an elevated perspective to offer us, if we will humble ourselves and seek Him.  In Him we can obtain “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16).

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  What is God’s purpose?  Certainly God’s purpose is to save people.  Jesus said, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  But once we have come to Christ, God’s purpose is to make us like Jesus.  He wants to transform our lives, from glory to glory, healing us, restoring us, and perfecting us into His likeness.

Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…”  God often uses life’s trials to form within us the nature and character of Christ.  When Christ emerges from our pain, God is glorified.  In our trials, what we need to do is draw near to Christ in faith.  Rather than becoming bitter, we need to allow Him to change us from the inside.  The temptation is often to allow bitterness and disappointment to settle in our hearts.  But when we begin to allow Christ be formed in us, the work of transformation has begun and victory is near.  

God changes us from glory to glory.  It’s a process, a continual, ongoing process.  We are ever in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.  I think God is less concerned with how far we’ve come, and more concerned that we are making progress.  We are growing, little by little every day.  Sometimes we are ourselves unaware of our own growth.  You may in fact be growing much more than you realize.  But right now, because you're in the midst of the difficulty, you just can't see it.  You may feel like a failure, but God is watching you, and He is saying, "I'm so proud of you."

If you know you're not where you should be, that's okay.  Maybe right now is a good time to stop and take inventory.  Are you becoming more loving or more bitter?  Are you becoming more cynical or more hopeful?  Take a look at your heart.  Once you have taken stock of where you're at, give yourself some grace.  We “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).  If necessary, re-commit yourself today to seeking the Lord and getting in His Word.  Allow Him to provide you with the perspective you need.  He will lead us into greater dimensions of His Spirit, greater depths of healing, greater levels of intimacy with Him, and to greater heights of victory.  

Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow...