Peace, Perfect Peace

But the fruit of the Spirit is peace. Galatians 5:22-23

Have you ever watched a baby sleep? No cares in the world, none whatsoever. You look on her face and what do you say, “ah so peaceful.” An hour later that baby’s face could be crying and frowning and laughing with delight. The baby is no longer resting peacefully.

Now, have you ever seen a person who was at peace? You looked at his face and it was justpeaceful. I’ve seen in numerous times with a few Seniors I’ve met, both men and women. You can’t quite put a finger on why they look peaceful but they do. The world may be falling apart but you wouldn’t know it because they are at peace.

Similarly, you can also tell when a person is really struggling. Life is bogging that person down in a big way. You can see the hopelessness, the worry, the anxiety on his face.

I think most of us are in between. We’ve been that baby resting peacefully; we’ve also been that person struggling to understand life. Where are you today? What would it take to launch you into that peaceful category?

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Joy Joy Joy

But the fruit of the Spirit is joy. Galatians 5:22-23

As the children’s song goes: “I’ve got that joy joy joy joy down in my heart. Where?! Down in my heart…” I wish it were true across the board. I wish it were true in a small percentage of Christians (in the West), myself included.

What went wrong? What is causing our joy, our zest for life and happiness and God to fade away? Where did it go? How did we let it slip away? More importantly, how can we get it back?

Obviously this is a complex problem with no easy answers. The Bible speaks about the worries and cares of life. Materialism. Discontentment. Envy. Pride. And something I call “sin-creep” (questionable actions and tendencies slowly but steadily creeping into our lives). Over-entertaining ourselves. And they’re all true.

We need to get back on the joy track. We know where it is. We knew what it was like at one time. Perhaps we should adopt a “joy-flood” mindset (letting joy flood into our lives). What would THAT look like? How would THAT change the way others look at us? How would THAT change us?

With a devotional such as this, some are looking for practical solutions. One comes to mind that is easy, very easy. Embarrassingly easy.

Smile.

It’s not the be all to end all, but if we did this 10 or 20 times more a day than we did now and our lives would be transformed! Those around us might appreciate it too.

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Love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love. Galatians 5:22-23

These next verses are in direct contrast to the previous two verses that talk about acts of the sinful nature. Paul is simply saying that when you have the Spirit of God living in you, these are the attributes you should have. Just like a fruit has many attributes (color, texture, aroma, taste, shape, sweetness) so should our lives with the Spirit of God in control.

The first attribute that Paul mentions is love. Entire libraries could be filled with books and poems about love. Think of all the songs that talk about it. With all the printed and recorded material on the subject of love, it still eludes us. We still find it very difficult to practice even among fellow Believers. Instead we see gossip, backbiting, anger, rage, feeling like we’ve been wronged and a whole host of other negative and destructive emotions.

And yet, we are to love. Love when it doesn’t make sense. Love when it costs us to do so. Love when it would be easier to tear down. Love when the rest of the world around you hates.

So, I’ll ask the question I’ll ask of all the other attributes: do I love more today than I did a year ago? Five years ago? If not, why not?

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Deep Darkness

But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness: they do no know what makes them stumble. Proverbs 4:19

Many years ago I watched Larry King interview the Rev. Billy Graham. King asked, “do you have any doubt where you will go when you die?” Without a hint of hesitation, Graham responded, “Absolutely not.” It would have been interesting if Graham had turned the question back on King. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think King’s answer would have been so firm and sure.

Similarly, it is truly a sad thing to watch those who have mocked God and all things spiritual as they fade away into oblivion on their death bed. Rarely are they satisfied with what they’ve accomplished. They are often bitter and spiteful. It’s painful to watch as all they’ve lived for melts away.

And yet it’s a reminder to us who believe that “but for the Grace of God, there go I” as the saying goes. We should be grieved as loved ones and friends fumble their way through life, especially towards the end. We will be faced with opportunities to minister to those needs and we shouldn’t shy away from them. People are looking for hope and light in a very dark world.

We have that light.
We have that hope.

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Darkness Before the Dawn

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The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Proverbs 4:18

I like sunrises and sunsets. I could sit and watch them for hours if they lasted that long. I spent four years in Alaska and I could do that in the Summer if I wanted. It was even easier in the Winter because the sun could rise and set within an hour in December. I was traveling across West Texas and when I commented about the flat open road, a local said that the sunsets just linger and linger. I like that.

This verse should be an encouragement for those of us who are Believers and are wondering what kind of impact we’re having on others or the world around us. We work hard, doing our best to represent Christ, and sometimes it just doesn’t seem like we’re making a dent in the souls of the people around us. We feel like we’re taking two steps forward and one step back, or worse yet, one step forward and two steps back!

You may be in that stage of dawn where you just see a hint of light. You’re desperately hoping to see more than that. Wait. Be patient. There’s more light on the way. Your prayers and your witness and your work and your faithfulness are being noticed by the only One who can make a difference.

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Broken Sabbath

Here [at the pool] a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
At once the man was cured…The day on which this took place was a Sabbath…John 5:2-9

For 38 long years the invalid had accepted that he would be disabled. We don’t know what his ailment was but Jesus clearly saw it. By his response to Jesus, it was clear that the man felt helpless and powerless. He certainly wouldn’t be winning any positive thinking awards any time soon!

But Jesus had other things in mind for the man. By healing the man, Jesus completed two important tasks: he miraculously healed a man, and he exposed the religious leaders’ unbending attitudes towards the Sabbath. He was working on them simultaneously.

Many of us scratch our heads at some of the things God seems to orchestrate around us. We “just don’t get it.” We may even think, “how dare He work in ways that we don’t understand and according to His Divine Timetable!!” The invalid in the story probably didn’t get it either but he still had a testimony about the Man who had healed him.

This should be a lesson to us all about how we think God works and answers prayers. It’s never the way we think it should be, but consider this: maybe God is working on hearts and lives of the people around you without your knowledge. Remember, it’s not about us, is it?

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Innocence

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is shown as compassionate and loving toward children. It’s refreshing actually. He always stood up for them. You can just picture him sitting down near them, gathering them around him, and telling them stories. And oh the stories He could tell!

Children in today’s society, however, are growing up way too fast. They know things by the age of eight or nine that we didn’t know until we were sixteen or seventeen back in the day. That cannot be healthy for them or for society as a whole. I’m afraid we have failed to diligently protect their innocence.

But all is not lost. You see, we can pray for them.

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, pray for them by name. Pray that they’ll remain innocent from the our society’s vileness and moral decay. Pray that they will call out to God in their time of need. Pray as if their lives depended on it.

It’s the very least we can do. And the most.

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Judging Peter

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:60-62

Jesus had warned Peter hours earlier that Peter would deny Jesus, not once, but three times. Peter’s response? “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” We smile at this because we know the ending. You just know that what Jesus had told him had to be weighing on his mind. He was confused. Guards had taken away the Messiah and his friend. Peter’s life was turning upside down even though it was exactly how Jesus predicted it.

We’re not always sympathetic to Peter’s plight. I think we wrongly judge him for what he did. Jesus had telegraphed to Peter how the night would go down and Peter still got it wrong. But if we’re honest, we have to all admit the Peter in each of us. I’m not saying we’d deny Christ if we were given the same opportunities. Scripture clearly lays out certain principles that we – even as Believers – violate time and time again.

Proverbs tells us to seek wisdom over gold or riches. If we do, we’ll prosper. If we seek gold instead, we’ll have hardships. Which do we seek more?

James tells us to guard our tongue because we tend to flap it more freely than we should. We end up apologizing for things we’ve harshly said.

Numerous passages of Scripture scream to us to flee from sin when “it’s crouching at our door.” We ignore it at our own peril.

The number of examples of God telling us NOT to do something or to DO something else because it would benefit us would fill several books. And yet, we, like Peter say, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Dying for Jesus is easy; living for Him day by day, however, is a whole different ball of wax

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Follow Me

The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Follow me.

Follow me when times are great.
Follow me when times are tough.
Follow me when you’re surrounded by loving, caring people.
Follow me when you’re all alone.
Follow me when the world is heaping praise on you.
Follow me when the world wants to stone you.
Follow me when you barely have two nickels to your name.
Follow me when your bank account is full of money.
Follow me when you have a solid roof over your head.
Follow me when a flimsy plastic covering keeps you dry.
Follow me when you’re young.
Follow me as you get grayer and grayer.
Follow me when it’s the “in” trend.
Follow me when it seems like you’re the only one.
Follow me when you can run and jump hurdles.
Follow me when you can barely sit up in bed and your pain is unbearable.

“Follow me,” Jesus says.

“Follow me.”

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