Category Archive: Peace

WHAT IS MY PURPOSE?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

These last few months when we have been sheltered in place, have increased a sense of purposelessness for many. Limited in our ability to connect with family and friends, we wonder how to love on neighbors beyond asking how they’re doing, praying for them, and offering to do a shopping run for them.

  • Children are out of school. They haven’t been able to play with their friends for some time.
  • Young adults have missed being in class with their colleagues.
  • Employees work from home and miss the camaraderie and stimulation that being together in the workplace brings.
  • We watch church on Facebook Live or Zoom and miss the hugs and face to face greetings we usually give and receive.

Many parents are doing all in their power to enhance their children’s online learning and develop creative, fun activities for their kiddos.

But my brother, a retired police officer, tells us the incidences of abuse and domestic violence are increasing significantly. People feel the pressure of our current social isolation.

And while we need to address social justice issues, it feels like the quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to be more open to conflict, confrontation, and aggression–on both sides!

God’s Word assures us that His purposes will be accomplished. I find myself asking “God, what is Your purpose in all this turmoil? What is it You want to change in my heart, and in our nation and the world?”

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

When we focus on God, our perspective shifts from our own fears, concerns, actions, to watching for ways to get on board with his purpose and plans. One day all men–believers and unbelievers alike–will bow before Him in all His glory.

I read of a police officer who was afraid. He asked Siri (on his smart phone), “How can I be saved?” Siri directed him to the Billy Graham online site, where he learned how he could have a personal relationship and peace with God (https://peacewithgod.net/). God is at work through this time. Let’s not lose sight of what he wants to do in and through us.

God has not promised to remove the storms from our lives; but he has promised to be with us in each of them.

So let’s start a dialogue:

What do you want/need from me? How can I encourage you as we navigate this difficult time together?

Where is My Refuge?

Pitch pipe on sheet music

Mom used to tell me how often God wakened her with a song in her heart, usually one that gave her hope or peace in a difficult time.

Don and I slept in yesterday. Our room was still in shadow, all the windows covered. Don got out of bed first and opened one of the blinds. The sun poured in, almost blinding. Immediately an old chorus popped into my mind. It goes like this. Do you remember it?

Chorus:
Oh there's sunshine blessed sunshine
When the peaceful, happy moments roll
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.

There is gladness in my soul today
More glorious and bright
Than shines in any early sky
For Jesus is my light.

I got up singing. It’s the first time in forever that I’ve had five consecutive nights of good sleep. I know people have been praying for me, and we’ve made some small changes to our daily schedule. But to waken with a song and feeling refreshed felt like a gift from my heavenly Father and my mother!

Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.

Vincent McNabb

Hope. Without it, we soon lose our way. With it, we can move forward through our fears, our griefs.

So how do we respond during this time of conflicting news reports on COVID-19, differing opinions on what kind of contact is or is not safe? Different states, and counties within states, have varying regulations. Individuals and families struggle with long-lasting illness and death. And we deal with fears, privately and corporately.

  • As we Shelter in Place, one of our biggest joys is going for a walk around our neighborhood, especially on a pleasant day.
  • Churches–and businesses–meet on Zoom or another platform (and thank God for technology that allows us this option).
  • Friends email, call, Zoom.
  • Visits sometimes occur through the windows of residential centers which cannot allow guests inside.
  • We delight in meeting neighbors out walking, retaining our distance but treasuring face time.

But we still have choices.

We can complain and be filled with negative thoughts, and pass those on to others.

We can trust that the God of the universe has not lost control, nor has He lost sight of what’s happening in our world. We can ask Him what purpose He has in this situation, how He is working out His plan as we are all reminded that ultimately, we are not in control.

I treasure this scripture.

The name (character) of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Proverbs 18:10

Don’t misunderstand. God is not promising bad things will never happen to His people. But He is promising the security of knowing He will be with us, will never leave us, no matter what circumstances we face. (Hebrews 13:5).

And we need to surround ourselves with hopeful friends who encourage and support us, who help us look to the source of our hope. If we keep our eyes on the problem we will despair, but if we keep our eyes on God, the problems take on a different perspective.

I need to keep returning to that source. It’s not at all a once-for-all thing. My fears resurface, motivation veers off course, and I need to drink deeply of the well of living water again and again. I’m encouraged by these verses.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

What’s helping you walk with hope in this challenging time?

Prayer for a Pandemic

My emotions have run the gamut this week … fear, joy (at how people are serving each other), anxiety, hope, depression, and on and on …

How about yours?

Psalm 91 encouraged me this week, and I will copy it here in full.

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

***

A dear friend sent me this wonderful prayer from the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. It reminds me that even in my concerns for my own family and friends, I need to remember the many others in very great need during this time.

Prayer for a Pandemic, Cameron Bellm

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those that have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

Amen.

https://www.ccvichapel.org/post/prayer-for-a-pandemic-cameron-bellm

God be with you, bless you, meet all your needs by His mighty power.

Harvesting

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

So if we want these qualities in our lives, how do we get them? Is it by trying harder? By putting reminders on our mirror or fridge to say “be kind today.” “Be patient with the crazy driver in front of (or behind) you.” “When you get angry, hold your tongue.”

We so often try to produce these ‘fruit’ by working harder. And yet, God says that doesn’t work…and how well I know it. Just before these verses Paul describes the works of the flesh, i.e. those qualities and behaviors that come naturally to us, as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19-21).

I can think of a time when I exhibited four of these in one incident when my temper got the best of me. So first of all, I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for the forgiveness of God that wipes out my sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9 ESV

Second, I was reminded by our pastor today that these fruit of the Spirit i.e. love, joy, peace … are HIS work in me, not mine in myself. My challenge is to spend time with Him, focusing on Jesus, loving and worshipping Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to produce these characteristics in me.

What a joy. It’s not my job to make me like Jesus. It’s my job to rest in Him, trust in Him, and allow Him to change me. That’s His job! And He can do what I cannot do myself!

Thank you Lord, for producing more of your likeness, for growing a good harvest in me as I focus on, spend time with you. I love you.

Home — not a Place, but a Presence

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.

Jude 1:24, NLT

We were talking about my friend’s house, which she enjoyed with her husband for quite a few years. Now he has passed into glory and she is thinking through her next steps. “Remember,” she said, “Home is not a place, but a Presence.”

“Presence” — defined as the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Another definition is “a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” Scripture adds to this one of the names of God–“Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us”.

What a promise! God, creator of heaven and earth, is with us! Psalm 139:7-10 state that

I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.

If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

I looked up some synonyms for presence at thesaurus.com:

Whereas a few antonyms for presence reflect negativity, anxiety, “apart-ness”: aspects of life when we are not living in God’s presence.

Afraid

Presence of God

The Scriptures often speak of God’s presence in human history. His presence may bring fear to man’s heart, as when Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God in the Garden of Eden.

But God’s presence also provides comfort in times of trouble or anxiety (Joshua 1:5; Psalm 42:5). So if we are actively living in the presence of God, we will know the assurance of his companionship, his promise never to leave us, to guide us, to grant us his wisdom.

The presence of God finds its greatest expression in Immanuel, God with us.

God himself came to save. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered a teeming humanity to give his life as a ransom for us.

In his grace, God buys us back in the most unimaginable way possible: God in Christ became a man, walked among humanity, and died for his people.

J Ryan Lister (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

And one day those who have trusted Christ’s atoning work on the Cross will be fully in His presence in heaven, rejoicing and worshiping him for all eternity. As that precious song says, “I can only imagine …”

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine…

-Mercy Me

Delight in the Lord with me as we walk this journey, knowing that His presence is the source of our strength, our peace, and our comfort; and that we are at Home there, both now and for all eternity.

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11