Archive for December, 2005

Peace

Posted in Devos on Thursday, December 22, 2005 by drumsalot

I’m sure that many people reading this realize that my blogs have been focused on the personal study I’m doing on the fruits of the spirit. I’m taking a some time on each and dissecting them and putting some of my thoughts down in the hopes that someone out there in the world of the net will learn more of who God is by seeing who He is in my life and how He has changed me and continues to change me. This one is a little different. I have been studying peace in my personal studies for the past few days, but it’s more about the season than the study in this entry.

In this tumultuous time in our world, peace seems to be out of reach. War rages on our own homelands soil. Gangs rule inner cities, every night the news in most areas broadcasts the grim news of killings and violent crimes. Road rage, kids beating other kids in school over the way one looked at another, random acts of meaningless violence on the streets of even the usually peaceful towns, even Christmas shopping is becoming a contact sport as people are getting trampled in Wal-Mart trying to get the hottest toys for their kids. The rest of the world is just as crazy. Our brave troops are fighting for the survival of a foreign land’s innocent and many are making the ultimate sacrifice. Areas of the world are attempting to build nuclear arsenals and assessments are being made as to the viability of an assault on America and other nations. Peace is a lost concept for many souls as well. There are countless people who are constantly living in turmoil. People anxious about jobs, relationships, family issues, finances, the future and so much more. So many that we know are not sure of who God is, and struggle with the questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, the meaning behind tragedies and why God would let them happen.

Isaiah was given the gift of seeing the coming of Jesus, and with Him the peace the world longed for. He saw the distress and turmoil that the world was suffering, and he saw the coming of a King more powerful than any before, a king that ruled not just the kingdom of David, but the whole world. He knew that Jesus would not only rule the world, but would be a light in the darkness, that He would be peace for a peace-less world. He saw true hope, and a promise of life as he knew God really meant it to be.

“Distressed and hungry they will roam the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea along the Jordan — The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in he land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince Of Peace. Of the increase of His government and kingdom there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah ..8:21.. – 9:7)

Obviously God has it for us to live in peace. Isaiah wrote those words hundreds of years before Jesus was born, anticipating the coming of a king so the world may know peace and be ruled in righteousness. Isaiah knew that God despised the distress in the world, and He would soon send a savior that would redeem the world. We, as Isaiah had, now anxiously await the return of the Prince of Peace. To me, the first part of that passage sounds a lot like the world as we know it today. The great part about that is the hope that comes next. We are in a tough and distressed time, but God has something amazing up ahead. To me, that is what Christmas is all about.

My favorite Christmas song is “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” The words are so amazing. It was written in 1864 by Henry W. Longfellow. The trial and strife of the American Civil War spoke loudly through the original third and fourth stanzas, which have been omitted by contemporary hymnals. (I’ve written the whole hymn out at the bottom of the page with the original stanzas intact) The second to last verse is my favorite. “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, good will to men.” What a truth, what a promise for this crazy lost world. It makes sense in the context of the song as we know it today, but when read through with the original lines, this stanza means so much more. Our blessed country was tearing itself apart. Brother against brother, father against son. Families divided at the Mason Dixon line, sharing loyalties with the north and south instead of with the blood in their veins. But through it all, in the midst of a despairing country, words of hope rang loud and clear; “God is not dead nor doth he sleep!” written by a man who lost his wife in a fire in July, 1861, just three months after the start of the Civil War. Longfellow himself had been severely burned in the fire and was unable to care for himself or his children for several weeks. Around Christmas of 1863, his son, Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the ..Potomac.., was severely injured when a bullet passed through his shoulder and destroyed a spinal process. But on Christmas day, 1864, just under five months from the end of the war, Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells”, which later became “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”. A man who had seen so much tragedy, and had lived for just under 4 years in the hell of war ravaging the country in which he lived and which he loved. He knew of God’s promises, and believed that His hand would soon restore the peace they had known.

I guess what I’m trying to say through all this is that Christmas is not what we’ve made it. Longfellow knew that through all he had suffered, and the war that destroyed his beloved nation, God still had control, and God still wanted for his people to live in peace. Cannons roared outside his house, but Longfellow had peace in his soul. In this season it’s hard to remember that peace is more than the peace on earth, good will to men we hear so often. This season is about the Prince of Peace and in everything, peace is the goal. God gave us His Son for Peace. Jesus Christ is coming back to bring Peace!! Not just peace on earth, but peace in every aspect. Peace for the heart, the soul, the mind. Peace within families, churches, governments, nations, the whole world! Peace through the amazing gift of His sacrifice and the blood that was shed in violence to bring us salvation and peace!

An amazing thing about our salvation is that not only does it ensure an eternity with the Lord in Heaven, but it is peace. Salvation is the acceptance of Christ of our savior, but it is also the cessation of the war that is fought within our souls. We will still have trials and we will always have struggles, but the most important element of our existence, the future of our soul, is settled and that element of our life is at peace. If we allow God to work in our lives and build on that salvation, the peace our souls experience will spread to the rest of our lives, no matter how crazy life gets. I can really attest to that fact after the past three months. I have been through what I felt to be the worst possible thing life could ever throw at me, but through it, I have an amazing peace that I know only comes from God. I love where I am. I have a great life now. I know where God wants me and I know how to ge there, and no matter what people do to try to keep the past alive and drag me down, God has granted me His peace and led me with His hand. I know I’ll have hard times, and there will nights when I just want to hide under my blankets for a few years and let the world move on, but the pervasive and encompassing thing in my life is the peace I have. No matter what happens, God is my strength, God takes my hand and grants me His peace. The best feeling in life is knowing that the Lord of all creation, the God of the universe loves you enough to reach down at your worst and pick you up, calm you down, and grant you his peace. Not just a ceasefire, but everlasting peace. Nothing compares.

Peace isn’t just the absence of war, violence, or turmoil. It’s the absolute presence of God as the true source of peace. That is the meaning of Christmas. Peace is a tough concept to grasp when looking at the world we live in, but that’s why God sent His Son. We could never really grip what peace is without the grace of God And the example set by His sacrifice. As Jesus told His disciples in the upper room,”Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27). There’s no peace more real than that. Christmas is the time when we are supposed to remember the first time the earth had ever felt the touch of God in human form. It was the first time the world had ever known true peace, even if there was still turmoil, because the Prince of Peace was now on earth. And it was the day that all creation had a hope of salvation and there wasn’t a need to sacrifice any more because the sacrifice for our sins was now in our midst. Peace was now a tangible reality, and a new and amazing hope was alive for the first time. I think Christmas should be as it was in Bethlehem 2005 years ago. I think it needs to be celebration – a loud, crazy, off the wall celebration in honor of our Lord’s birth. But I also feel it should be a time for families and friends to stop and reflect on who we celebrate, and why He came. Taking a few moments in peace is a good way to honor the Prince of Peace. I really don’t feel like honoring Mattel and JC Penny this year. I will most definitely get gifts for my family and friends, but if I were to get nothing except a few more minutes sharing the amazing reality of what Christmas actually is with family and friends, then I have gotten the most awesome thing I could ever ask for.

I think Linus put it best: “And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them , and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, and good will towards men!’ That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet the words repeat,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll’d along th’ unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

‘Til ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bow’d my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

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, good will to men.”

Patience

Posted in Devos on Saturday, December 17, 2005 by drumsalot

Patience stinks. I hate having to be patient for what I want five minutes ago, and my impatience in these times usually leads to me goofing something up and making my wait longer. I am often too impatient to stop and pray for patience. I have often wondered if I was an absolute idiot for praying for patience, and my gut reaction is… yes I am an absolute idiot for praying for patience. I have been warned a million times about the danger of praying for patience, about how it’s “the prayer God hears first, answers fastest and takes advantage of the most.” I have come to the conclusion that praying for patience is the best possible thing you could ever do for your spiritual life. There are many people close to me who are gasping in horror right now because of that last sentence. Don’t worry, I have not gone nuts, just bear with me for a minute.

Patience, for being the biggest pain in the butt, has always proven itself. Take Jacob and Rachel for instance. Jacob loved Rachel so much that he put himself to work for her father for seven years just to earn the right to marry her. I personally would have hated that, and been miserable, whiny, and begged God to make it end. But Jacob had the drive and patience to make it easy. Genesis 29:20 proves that; “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” And that’s not all. Jacob was deceived by Rachel’s father, and once he had Rachel he was made to work another seven years for her father. That’s patience…. and a load of dedication.

God has always rewarded those patient in him. We as believers are charged to wait patiently for the return of our Lord and our patience and faithfulness will be rewarded with immeasurable treasure in heaven. It is also promised that patience and perseverance will serve to grow our faith and improve who we are in Christ. In Romans 5:3-5, Paul says basically that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. So my deduction is that since perseverance in the end produces hope, patience has the same outcome, since, at least to my mind, patience and perseverance require each other. So…. I have to believe that my patience will serve to create in my life an improved character, and ultimately, hope. Sounds like a winner to me!

All this is evident and understood by me, but I still can’t wrap my brain around being really willingly patient. I have been “forced” into being patient by the things that have happened in my life over the past few years. I had to learn to rely fully on God for everything, but mostly for the peace and patience not to go nuts while everything went different ways from where I thought they should. I hated it…. and still do to an extent. I hate the feeling of having no control over my own life and the things I want now and the things that should have happened yesterday. It’s those things I had to give totally over to God. And that’s how patience is bred in a heart, getting to the point of realizing that you cannot control it, and giving it all over to God trusting that his timing is perfect, and it’s not going to kill you to wait on Him. My patience in the last years, although it was a hard road, and incredibly difficult to get to the point of being past my desires enough to be patient, has definitely paid off. I have so much more now than I did when it all started, and my faith and relationship with God is absolutely amazing. It’s still tough, and I still miss some elements of my past, but I’m glad they are behind me, because it opened a huge door for God to take my life and do amazing things. Patience is suffering sometimes, but if we rely on God through it, it will be well worth it. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently remarked, “As Christians we are called first to suffer, service is a secondary project made more effective by the suffering.”

Romans 8:18-27 says; “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by it’s own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from it’s bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

God desires that we be patient and lean on him, and according to my understanding of those verses, God subjects us to the frustration of waiting with the intent of giving us the means to liberate ourselves from our bondage by learning to rely on Him. The whole of creation shares in our frustration, Those who are saved and have accepted our adoption as sons have the frustration of waiting to be with our Father for eternity, and those who are still unsaved have the frustration of a life that is against God’s will, whether they realize it or not. It is amazing that the Spirit goes to God on our behalf regarding these frustrations, I definitely need the backup! I have to believe though, that the Spirit isn’t asking God to make it all stop, but to make it a little easier on us, and give us the means to patience when we need it most. The verses say that the Spirit intercedes only to the will of God, so I know that the Spirit is asking the best possible thing for me.

Patience is unnatural. Patience is painful. Patience is against the will of man. And that is why patience is so important. If we can be patient and wait on God’s almighty and perfect will and timing, and not rush headlong into what it is we want, we will be in God’s will and have been improved by Him in the waiting. God requires that we test his will, that we put every leading to a litmus test of scripture, prayer, and patience. If we assume that every leading we have is God’s will and fly right into it, chances are we are missing his true leading much more than we are following it. This patience in seeking an assurance of his leading and will is perhaps the most important patience we can have, because if we don’t, and what we feel to be a leading from God is actually not from God, we can do so much damage in our own lives and the lives of people around us, perhaps even losing souls by our impatience. If it truly is Gods will, it’s not going anywhere, and He’s going to be there waiting to make it real in your life on the other side. The only benefit to rushing in is the fulfillment of our own desires and selfishness, and nothing of that is ever in Gods will. Patience does not always produce what we want, but it always produces God’s perfection in that aspect of our lives if we are willing to trust his hand through the time of waiting. I hate patience, but it is the very thing I am called to, and God has promised His help through it, and there are amazing rewards at the end of the waiting. And that’s more than enough for me.