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peace on earthSuddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14

I heard the bells on Christmas day, Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet, their words repeat, Peace on earth, goodwill to men

I thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along in unbroken song, Peace on earth, goodwill to men

The Christmas season always has a bit of a romantic, nostalgia to it. I love the atmosphere artists and musicians have portrayed of warm cozy fires, family celebrations and kisses under the mistletoe. Traditionally Christmas, followed by New Years, is a time of new beginnings and hope.

And in despair I bowed my head, There is no peace on earth, I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song, Of peace on earth, goodwill to men

Reality hits hard. We’ve lost a sense of innocence and security over the years. That truth has come harshly in the past couple weeks with the tragedy in Paris, San Bernadino and London. School shootings have become so common place that if we aren’t careful, we see them as the norm. Families are in trouble. The economy is in trouble. It seems like everyone either has cancer or knows someone being attacked by this disease. It’s no wonder it’s easy to get discouraged by what we see and hear daily on the news and in our circles.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.

A recent headline in an Los Angeles paper screamed, GOD CAN’T FIX THIS! It’s easy to understand the author’s frustration. The fact of the matter is, God didn’t break it. We did. The Psalmist expresses similar feelings in several places in the Psalms. My favorite is Psalm 13:1-2 where he pleads with a seemingly absent God. “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” And we echo the question? How Long?

While we may never be able to understand why God allows tragedies in our lives, I’m reminded of what the Apostle Peter said just after many of Jesus’ followers left him. Jesus asks, “Will you leave too?” Peter’s response is classic. He says “Where else do we go?” In other words, what other choice do we have.

Throughout history man has found new ways to destroy the peace Jesus came to give us. But too often we fail to realize that inner peace is available to us now through faith in Christ. Can God ‘fix this?’ Yes, some day every knee shall bow. Every single knee of every religion, every ethnic group, every denomination, every political party. Every knee will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, there are so many times when I get discouraged by what I see around me. Fear and doubt set in assisted by anger. Help me to move on knowing you are with me and will strengthen me no matter how bad the battle becomes. In Jesus name, Amen.


But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10

You can’t really blame the shepherds for trembling in fear that night. Never before had there been a scene like the one played out in the hills of Bethlehem. An angel, a messenger from the most high God appears and the entire sky lights up. Not a flash, like lightning, but a light no doubt bright as the sun.

“Don’t be afraid.”

Words of assurance. Words of hope. Words of comfort. Words that remind us, when we are faced with things we don’t understand, or things that keep us up at night, that there is a power greater than our need that can conquer whatever obstacle lies before us.

God isn’t in the business of doing the spectacular to show his power, but he’ll show his power to calm our fears. That was the message of the Angle song. Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid when business is down and the bills go up.

Don’t be afraid when the tension of the relationship flares up.

Don’t be afraid when you don’t have any place else to turn to; you feel abandoned; you feel alone.

Don’t be afraid when all the things you counted on as being secure begin to crumble.

Don’t be afraid when things happen you don’t understand and are beyond your control.

Why? Because there is one who understands. There is one who guides the seen and the unseen. One who knows the answer to your situation and is able and willing to comfort your fears and restore hope in your darkness.

What fear are you dealing with today? The song of the Angels is for you. God wants to reassure you of his love, of his message of hope, forgiveness, grace and mercy.

Who do you know that is in bondage to fear, doubt and worry? Perhaps the Father is nudging you to be a message of hope and consolation to them.

To the shepherds the reassurance came through the angels’ song. Where are you getting your reassurance today? From the packages under the tree? From the songs of hope and cheer? From the parties and hustle and bustle of the holidays. We all know those things will be gone in a moments time.

The Father’s message is the same to us today as it was when he appeared to the shepherds. His message is one of reassurance and hope for all people regardless of what troubles them.

For those who fear the Angel song brings hope. For those who know Christ, the Angel song reminds us to share that hope with those who are in bondage to the cares of this world.

PRAYER: Father God. Thank you for the Angel’s reminder to each of us that we have nothing to fear. Empower me to live in your confidence and to share that hope with those in need of comfort. 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.

 


For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

When I was very young my grandparents took me with them on a camping trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Other than ‘camping’ at Bible Camp, this was my first camping adventure and everything was new and exciting.

Grandma and Grandpa had been camping for years and I learned much from him. When I read 2 Timothy 1:6 I was reminded of how Grandpa would light a fire every night when camped, or when we’d spend time at his lake cabin. Sometimes we’d have dry wood to burn and it would ignite easily. Other times the wood may be green or wet and would smolder or the flame would die out completely.

When the fire didn’t get started as quickly as Grandpa would have liked, he would take a piece of cardboard or something to fan the fire. Soon the smoldering heap would flare up into flames that would warm a cool night and cook our supper…and smore’s of course!

What Paul was really telling his student is this, ‘Remember the things I’ve taught you. Remember what you have learned about God, about yourself, about others. You, Timothy, are a gifted man. A man who God has placed in the right place at the right time to make a difference in his world.’

Our Father has the same message for us. Each of us has been given gifts and talents to be used of God. Sometimes the ‘wet wood’ of doubt can cause our flames to die out or smolder worthlessly. The ‘wet wood’ of our lives could be doubting that we can make a difference because of our past, or our current struggles. It could be doubting that we can make a difference because our gifts aren’t as good or important as other people’s gifts and talents. We could be bogged down by guilt and shame because we are suffering consequences of poor decisions in our past.

Just as my Grandpa fanned the flames into existence from a smoldering heap of wet wood, let God fan life into you to make a difference in your world. As a Christ-follower you have an important part to play in someone’s life. It could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker. Whoever it is needs to know they are loved by God and can be forgiven.

Sometimes Grandpa would have to fan the smoky fire several times before the flames would roar to life. Don’t expect change over night. Allow God’s Spirit to work in you to bring the fire in your life and the lives of others.  Don’t let the ‘wet wood’ of doubt keep you from warming the lives of those who need to experience first-hand, the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father God, I praise you for making me the way I am. By faith I acknowledge that I have gifts, talents and abilities that can be used by you. I confess that often times I feel like a failure for past mistakes and the consequences I’m now suffering as a result. Forgive me for doubting you. I ask that your Holy Spirit would fan the flames of life into me so that I can warm the lives of those around me. In Jesus name, Amen.


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

What does the peace of Christ look like in your life? The Apostle Paul tells us, in his letter to the church in Colossae that we are to let that peace be the governing rule in all we say and do. Peace is to be the one defining characteristic of the body of Christ.

It’s important to remember that the body of Christ (what we refer to as the church) is not a building. The body of Christ is not a set of rules and doctrines designed to brainwash us into being clones of one another. The body of Christ is simply NOT church as we think of it today. The body of Christ is like any other body. It’s a living organism made up of many parts that look different, act differently, and perform different yet work in complete harmony with one another for the good of each other.

A body that is not at peace is a sick body. It is unable to function properly and fulfill its duties to one another. If you have ever hit your thumb with a hammer or stubbed your toe in the dark you know how great a body is affected when one part is not at peace. The same is true in the body of Christ. When we set up rules and regulations that exclude people or take us on a path away from the word of God we weaken the entire body.

Wherever Jesus went on earth, he brought peace. He did not bring peace in the way the religious community wanted peace. He did not bring peace politically. Jesus brought a peace that can not be acquired through religious dogma or sacrifice. He brought a peace that can not be dictated and controlled by government action. Jesus brought peace to the soul. He brought peace to the soul of the woman caught in adultery; to the parents of the demon-possessed boy; to the parents of the little dead girl.

The peace of Christ will dwell in us only when we come to a realization of who we are and grow in relationship with Him. His peace comes when we confess our anger, our guilt, our shame or bitterness. His peace comes when we admit to Him our doubt, our judgmental spirit, our pride. His peace comes when we leave the emptiness of religion and enter the freedom of relationship.

The defining characteristic of a body in which the peace of Christ rules is being thankful. A heart at peace with Christ is a heart that in the midst of any tragedy can be thankful. Not thankful for the pain or the loss, but thankful that Jesus loves and forgives us and promises to walk with us along the path of life.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Son of God, Savior and Lord of the world. I confess to you that there are many times I exchange your peace in my life with rules and regulations that keep me from experiencing all the joy I can have in relationship with you. I get angry. I let my past or the brutal, stupid attacks of others get in my way. I retaliate rather than let you protect me. I judge other people. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to live in peace because of the relationship I have with you. In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

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