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And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

When the Lord came to a young man named Gideon he wasn’t approaching someone who we’d see as ‘hero’ material. By his own admission he wasn’t someone who’d stand out in a crowd. No six-pack abs. No fancy car. No mile long resume describing all the people he’d saved. He was just a simple farmer from an obscure family.

In fact, when the angel of the Lord came to Gideon he was threshing wheat in a winepress so he could hide from the enemy! Hardly a sign of courage and valor. Certainly not the way you’d expect a national hero to act. We’d rather see our hero standing atop a hillside announcing to the enemy hidden among the rocks that he was going to thresh wheat as well as anyone who tried to interrupt him!

But, that wasn’t Gideon. At least that’s not the Gideon at the beginning of the story. But then God came along and changed everything. He told Gideon that he was going to be someone great. He, Gideon, was going to be a national hero. Gideon, like any of us, doubted God’s word. Some chastise Gideon for putting God through a series of tests to see if the message was truly of God. I don’t. I see the fleece idea Gideon had as a sign of cautious wisdom. “Okay God, if it’s you make the fleece wet and the ground dry.” [done!] “Okay, God, one more test. Make the fleece dry and the ground wet. [done again.]

From that point on, it doesn’t seem like Gideon has much doubt of his capabilities. Not with the God of peace at his side. Not when he tore down the idols of his neighbors. Not when God told him to whittle down his army to 32,000 to 300!

What was it that gave this simple farmer the courage to conquer his enemies? Peace. Not peace in his own abilities to get the job done. Peace in his God. Gideon learned that when a person has God at his side there doesn’t need to be any worry or fear. Even in the most overwhelming situation God will find a way of deliverance.

That’s grace. Grace says that even though I don’t deserve it, God will walk with me and give me the strength to overcome whatever is before me. Peace is the result of trusting in God’s power, not our own.

PRAYER: Father God, there are so many times when I struggle and fail. I worry about the future. I worry about my ability to overcome the stuff that lies ahead of me. Thank you that success in my life isn’t based on my ability, but on your power. Empower me by your Spirit to grow in relationship with Jesus so that I can experience the power you have for me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 


When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:14

The English definition of compassion is a ‘sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.’ While that is a noble gesture, the English word for compassion doesn’t come close to giving us the picture God intends for us to have of compassion ‘God’s way’.

The Greek word for compassion in Matthew 14 is the word splanchnizomai. Okay, it doesn’t really matter how it’s pronounced. What’s more important is what it means to you and me. The word translated in English means ‘from the gut’. It gives the idea that Jesus didn’t just have a ‘sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress.

When Jesus saw the leper he actually FELT his loneliness right down to his shoe laces…okay, sandal straps. Even so, it wasn’t just a kind gesture. He actually felt the despair of the young mom whose daughter was lying dead in the upper room. His eyes teared up as he climbed the stairs while mourners wailed in the background. He felt the fear that gripped the father as he watched his son go into yet another demon-powered seizure. He felt the darkness and confusion of the blind man who had never seen the faces of his mother or father or any of the other family members that cared for him on a daily basis.

One of the most meaningless statements a person can make to someone is, “I know exactly how you feel.” Have you ever had someone say that to you? Come on now, be honest. Just between you and me, didn’t you want to deck them? Didn’t every nerve in your body want to scream “NO YOU DON’T! HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY KNOW HOW I FEEL?” Maybe you’ve even decked a few people physically or emotionally. The words flew out before you could be ‘socially appropriate’.

Fact of the matter is. You were right. No one can climb inside your heart and feel what you are feeling. No one that is except Jesus. You may not always feel his presence, but he’s aware of every one of your thoughts, emotions and pain. His gut hurts when he feels the pain you are in. That’s compassion. That’s Jesus.

He doesn’t only feel your pain every bit as much as you do. He wants to heal you. He wants to build a relationship with you that enables you to sleep through the storms, to endure the trials and overcome the enemy. He’s never too tired. Never to angry with you. Never far away.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for the fact that you not only understand my pain, you feel it from the bottom of your gut. No one understands my pain. No one sees how much I’m hurting inside like you do. Help me to feel your presence in my life in a way I’ve never felt before. Forgive me for my part in the bad choices I’ve made. Empower me with your Spirit to grow in relationship with you. In your name I pray, Amen.


But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. James 3:17

What does it mean to be wise? How can you tell a person who is full of wisdom? The answer is found in the person of Jesus.

Wisdom is shown by our reactions in the time of storm. When the storm blew and the boat was being torn apart, the disciples feared for their lives. Jesus slept peacefully in the bow of the ship. When the woman caught in adultery was brought before him, even though she was guilty of death, he gently restored her faith in God, and in herself by telling her that she was not condemned and encouraging her to live a new life. When the soldiers came to the garden to arrest him on trumped up charges he could, Peter was prepared for war. Jesus healed the very person who was sent to destroy him. When he was disgraced and beaten and humiliated on the cross, even though he could have called legions of angels to deliver him, he endured to the point of death so that I can live.

Jesus’ example is a lesson each of us should strive for in our daily lives. The wisdom of the world says to stand for your rights; to hate those who oppose you; to grab for everything you can on earth because it’s the number of toys you have that really matters. It’s what you can get from relationships that fulfills. Feeling good now is what is important.

But worldly wisdom leads to despair and heartache. Following your heart is fine until it’s broken. Going after all the toys you can is fun until the money runs out. Building your life on relationships lasts as long as the relationship is good, but human relationships are almost certain to fail. Living to party is fun until the party ends and you are left looking in the mirror and realize the best years of your life are gone and you have nothing to show for it.

That’s when the wisdom of Jesus reaches out to you. He’s gentle. His word is always true, his motive always in your best interest. His ways lead to peace and mercy. His heart is full of mercy and forgiveness. Your past mistakes don’t matter. He’s not interested in excuses. He’s not into the blame game. He simply wants to reach out and hold you, to tell you that you aren’t condemned, to bring peace to the storm in your life. Godly wisdom destroys man’s wisdom and brings peace in the midst of adversity.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I’ve tried following my own wisdom and it hasn’t worked.  In the process I’ve made a mess of my life. I’ve hurt others with my words and actions. I’m tired of living in constant despair and frustration. Forgive me for the mistakes I’ve made. Empower me with your Spirit to live a life of wisdom based on your example. In your name I pray, Amen.


He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34

She had nothing to offer him. Nothing that would set her apart from any of the other hundreds of people who pushed closer to see him. She was weak and tired. She’d long ago lost any hope of a normal life. Her prayers, up to this point had gone unanswered. Everything that she’d hoped to be and to have as a little girl was now nothing more than a shadow of an ugly past.

She was a social outcast. Her ‘disease’ labeled her as unclean. In her era, the fact that God had not healed her left her suspect. If she were ‘righteous’ he would not punish her so. The fact that her disease continued proved that she was a sinner, nothing more than a hopeless sinner.

She hadn’t been touched by a man in years. Her family kept their distance. She wasn’t allowed to go to the temple to worship anymore. She had nothing to offer. Nothing except a tenacious faith that said, “If I can just touch him. He doesn’t need to talk to me. He doesn’t even need to know I’m here. With all these people pressing in on him, he’ll be far too busy to even notice. Just one little touch….’

And with that she reached through the couple in front of her. It was just a moment. A moment in time that would change her for all time. Barely a brushing of his robe. A simple touch that stopped the world for an instant.

Have you ever felt like Jesus was too busy for your problems? Ever wondered why your prayers have gone unanswered? Ever bought into the things you’ve heard others say about you, or your kind? “Never amount to anything….God can’t use people like him/her…People never change, not her kind anyway.”

Take a lesson from the woman who, in her desperate faith simply reached out and touched him. She struggled with a physical condition but found spiritual healing. She gave up on religion but never gave up on Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to come to him cleaned up and ready for action. He simply asks us to come. He doesn’t look for explanations or proof of our worthiness. He simply wants to feel our touch on his robe.

Don’t ever give up. Don’t listen to the voices that tell you there is no hope; that you’ve made too many mistakes; that people like you can’t change. None of us can change who we are on our own strength. Tenacious faith in the living Son of God and reliance on his forgiveness and grace is the only thing we need to be free of the things of our past.

Reach through the crowd. Don’t be hampered by those who would discourage you. Touch his robe and let the healing begin.

PRAYER: Jesus, I’ve struggled with secret sin for so long and can’t seem to overcome it. I’ve listened to the voices of those who say I’m beyond hope. I’ve started to doubt your ability of desire to help me. I’ve given up on you. I’ve given up on me. I ask that you would feel my touch on your robe. Heal me of the things that are keeping me down. I have nothing to offer you except my belief that you and you alone, can change me. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39

I saw a billboard once advertising a company that boasted that ‘We buy Ugly houses’. The company apparently bought up houses that weren’t in the best of shape and then either fixed them up or resold them.

In essence they took something that no one wanted and made it into something more presentable. They took the unusable and made it useable. They took something of little or no value and make it valuable. I think about that whenever I’m driving through the country side and see old, abandoned farm houses. Places that were once the pride and joy of the owners. Places that saw babies born and grandparents die. Places of celebration and sadness. But whatever the situation, those old ugly homes once had great value and sentiment.

This verse in Romans has always been one of my favorites for in it hold a promise that, at least in Jesus eyes, I’ll never become like one of those old, dilapidated eyesores that once were called ‘home’.

It’s easy to love a new home with fresh paint and warm carpet and shiny windows. It’s not so easy to love an old house that’s strewn with garbage and has holes in the walls, broken windows and signs of little four-legged inhabitants.

In the same way people are easy to love when they are kind, respectful, and show evidence of having had a shower sometime in the recent past. People who are talkative, intelligent and humble are a joy to be around. We all gravitate towards people who make feel comfortable and of great value.

But what about the ugly people? I’m not talking just about physical appearance. I’m talking about inner beauty as well. What about the person that cuts you off in traffic or the one that insists on driving 10 MPH below the posted speed limit? What about the wait-staff at the local restaurant who makes you feel like you are a huge disruption to their day? What about the foul-mouthed co-worker who knows how their language offends you and finds every opportunity to let you hear an earful whenever you are near.

Does Jesus love them? Yep. He does. Not only does he love them. He loves me too. He loves me when I’m angry. He loves me when I’m having a bad day and perfectly willing to share my disposition with all those around me. He loves me when I’m so sure that I’m right that I make you feel like an idiot for disagreeing.

A buyer of an ‘ugly house’ doesn’t see an eyesore, he sees an opportunity to make something useful out of something worthless; something charming out of something repulsive; of making a building into a home.

Jesus does the same for each of us. Jesus looks past our ugliness and sees a treasure, a diamond in the rough. He doesn’t care how you got into the situation you are in. He isn’t interested in your history as much as he is your future. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do to change it.

PRAYER: Jesus, I thank you for your love. I thank you that even though I can be really ugly at times you love me and see me as a chosen vessel in your sight. You see me as a palace when everyone else sees me as an old, useless building. Forgive me for my ugliness. Empower me with your spirit to be one who shows your love through all I say and do. In your name I pray, Amen.

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