Practicing Peace ~ Jesus Calling: February 11-24

How do we “practice” peace?

In a previous post, I described the practice of thankfulness as being a discipline in one’s life. And as with any discipline, you only become more familiar with what you are practicing the more that you practice. As with thankfulness, I believe that practicing peace will not only bring Jesus into our daily lives, but it will also bring us closer to the mind of God.

The first element of practicing peace is believing that Jesus is who He says He is. There was much told to us about Jesus long before He was born — 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah prophesied that “a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) and “…his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) The exact meaning of Immanuel — God With Us — was then shared by the angel who appeared to Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, in a dream to comfort and encourage him as well as remind him that Isaiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled (Matthew 1:20-23).

When we practice peace, we must understand that peace is not something that can be attained by delving more and more into ourselves, but by delving more and more into the person of Jesus. In the man of Jesus we not only have God With Us, but also the Prince of Peace and the source of all peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) We can dwell in this Peace, we can clothe ourselves in this Peace, we can abide and rest in this Peace. 

The second element of practicing peace is understanding that our thoughts are precious to God. We have to believe that He has an interest in how we choose to go about our day in terms of where our thoughts lead. Not only must we “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) but we must also trust that the Holy Spirit that lives within us will help us to think the thoughts of God. Practicing peace means choosing to spend our time focusing on God’s presence — a choice that we may need to make thousands of times each day — instead of choosing to focus on our problems and limitations.

Practicing peace means abandoning yourself to His will, tackling fear, and relinquishing control. Facing problems as they come instead of anticipating them. Exercising trust and being thankful in all circumstances. Focusing on what He is already doing in your life instead of striving to imagine what you wish He would do. Laying our weaknesses before Him with the assurance that He knows us intimately and that he accepts us completely.

I know, it sounds difficult if not impossible. But we take courage in God’s abundant promises: If you are in Christ you are a new creation — the old has passed away and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Not only is nothing impossible with God (Luke 1:37), but He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). And, thankfully, His grace is sufficient for us and, mercifully, His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Friends, enjoy the practice of peace.

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Fully Understood ~ Jesus Calling: January 14-20

We all have a deep desire to be fully understood by the people we love. This is our life search — understanding from our parents, our spouse, our children. We pursue this understanding relentlessly, forgetting that we are already fully understood by Jesus. The Lord ensured Samuel that “The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7). When we are in the middle of sadness, we are sure our hearts are empty and no one can understand our despair. Is it possible to rest in knowing that Jesus looks on your heart, sees you, and offers you the peace of being fully understood? As the author of Jesus Calling says, “Do not be ashamed of your emptiness.” You are a vessel waiting to be filled.

We are offered “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) Jesus is this Peace, offered to us moment by moment. We spend so much of our time rehearsing our troubles and multiplying our suffering. Our human nature propels us to try to figure out what will happen next, how we can prepare, how we can avoid trouble. Our first parents desired this knowledge and it led to the fall of humanity. It was then that the Enemy promised the first and greatest lie: “…your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) The peace that God offered to our first parents — the peace of simply being in His presence and being fully understood — was the peace that we rejected then and continue to reject today.

God promises that “you will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Seeking His peace moment by moment is probably one of the most difficult things we can do. But we can do it, knowing that we are fully saturated in His grace and fully understood.

The Discipline of Thankfulness ~ Jesus Calling: January 7-13, 2013

Thankfulness. Help. Trust.

Have you ever considered thankfulness as an act of discipline in your life? We tend to think of thankfulness as an emotion that arises when things are going well, when something great has happened, when we feel a prayer has been answered, and we break out in spontaneous praises of thankfulness to God. But what about the times of struggle? Disappointment? Loneliness? Depression? Self-pity? Are we praising God during these times as well? God asks us to develop a discipline of thankfulness in our lives — thankfulness as an act of will.  We do all kinds of things in our lives as an act of will — we go to work each day, we exercise, we pay the bills, we buy the groceries, and…we give thanks?

God wants us to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is His will in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 5:18). He ensures us that He is our refuge and strength, an ever-present Help in trouble (Psalm 46:1), giving us reason to then rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). In other words, at the very moment that you don’t feel you have any reason to be thankful, get down on your knees and praise the One who says that “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

As with any discipline, you only become more familiar with what you are practicing the more that you practice. Any athlete, dancer, artist, or yoga practitioner can tell you this. But as Christians, we have a promise that goes along with the discipline of thankfulness — we are promised the presence of God! As we draw near to God in the discipline of thankfulness, He draws near to us because He literally inhabits our praises (“Yet you are holy, dwelling in the praises of Israel” [Psalm 22:3]).

Thankfulness is an investment in our relationship with God. This is the investment that Jesus was referring to when he told us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20-21) We respond to His presence with praise and thankfulness, the relationship is strengthened, trust is gained, and we deepen our familiarity with our Creator.

Jesus Calling: January 1-6, 2013

As I move into 2013, I find myself seeking and anticipating a time of renewal. My daughter is finally getting to an age where I don’t feel that she demands all of my attention and I can return to some of the things in my life that have been put on the back burner. One of the tools of renewal is the Word of God, and I love that Jesus Calling begins with the encouragement “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2) We cannot truly have a renewal of the mind without regular time spent in the Presence of Jesus.

A consistent theme in the first week of Jesus Calling is the presence of God. Throughout the week, the author chooses beautiful phrases and scriptural references to remind us about the attentiveness of His presence, His healing presence, the light of His presence, the peace of His presence, and His universal presence. It is one thing to understand that Jesus said He will never leave us or forsake us. But do you also realize that this means His presence is constantly with you? That in the here and now He is fully and universally attentive to you?

Don’t get me wrong — this is not an “all about me” idea. Many believers make the mistake that everything Jesus did and said was all about them and now they just need to figure out how to squeeze the blessings out of this salvation thing. Wrong. Everything that Jesus did and said was because He was carrying out His father’s plan to reconcile the world to Himself. We are part of that plan. God has desired relationship with His creation (including us) from the beginning, but it took the sacrifice of Jesus to bring that relationship back to fullness.

Relationship requires the presence of both individuals. As many people in broken relationships know, it doesn’t work if only one person is present. Jesus offers us His constant presence and in return He asks us for our attentiveness to that presence. He asks for trust, deep dependence, and profound reliance. His presence is our constant companion and place of refuge. The author of Jesus Calling encourages us to hide in the secret of His presence, knowing that we are in the Presence of the One “who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine…” (Ephesians 3:20)

Enter into His presence today.