The Peace of God or A Piece of God

peace-2piece-of-pie-2In his book I AM, Steve Fry says, “Peace is the evidence that we have submitted to God.” Scripture talks about a peace that surpasses all understanding. I can only experience this kind of peace when I completely trust God with everything in my life. This included the good, the bad and the miraculous. Steve Fry goes on to say, “The rule of peace begins when we no longer want answers, but only want God.”

In other words, I cannot just have a piece of peace. This concept is contrary to what I perceive when I think about a piece of fruit pie. If I had baked an apple pie that was setting on the kitchen counter and I wanted some to eat, I would cut a piece for myself and leave the remainder of the pie. A whole pie would be too much for me to eat. This is not how the Lord does things. I find His spiritual fruit pie in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I notice that Paul says it is “fruit” – not “fruits” – of the Spirit. In other words, I cannot simply cut myself a piece of peace without also having a serving of self-control and seven other things. God serves me with His sovereignty. I must not question what the Lord puts on my plate.

God wants me to understand His rulership and authority over my life. His sovereignty goes beyond my knowledge, and even goes beyond my sense of His presence. When I grasp this concept, I will be able to experience true peace. This peace comes only when I trust God and submit to Him not because of what He does but because of who He is. With this in mind, I want to share some scripture verses that describe the kind of peace available.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are
steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

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

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may
have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take
heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

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

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

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace
at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
II Thessalonians 3:16

As I look at each of these pieces of peace, I see that surrendering to God’s sovereignty is significant to my experiencing the peace of God. I cannot allow my own understanding, or lack of understanding, to allow me to cut out pieces of the whole pie God prepares for me. One piece of apple pie may satisfy my hunger, but my spiritual hunger will only be satisfied when I accept without question all that God hands me. The peace of God comes when I submit to each piece of His personal plans and purposes.

So, Lord, take me into a deeper understanding of your ways. And, Lord, give me your peace. I do not want to settle for just a piece of your peace!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

*Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.

End the Year with Gideon

 

colored-candlesHow do I describe the month of December? Busy! A good busy, but busy. Now it is time for me to take time to reflect upon not only the past few weeks but the whole year in general. Listen to the message of the quote below taken from the December 24 entry of Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman.

Yet our time is never more profitably spent
than when we set aside time for quiet meditation,
talking with God, and looking up to heaven.”

When I first read these words, I was too busy to do what was suggested. I know it would have been to my benefit to sit by the manger and look into the eyes of Jesus, the baby who became my Savior, but I did not choose to tarry in His presence. Now at the end of the year, I want to accept the challenge of setting aside time for quiet meditation. And, My Reader, I challenge you to do the same.

spread yourself like Gideon’s fleece,
allowing itself to be soaked with the moisture of the dew of heaven.
We should have intervals of time when we do nothing, think nothing,
and plan nothing but simply lie on the green lap of nature and “rest awhile.”

These words are also from December 24th reading in Streams in the Desert. I like the image of my lying down and soaking in the presence of God. After all the commotion of Christmas, I tend to have a feeling of spiritual dryness regarding some aspects of my life. The dew of heaven is very appealing! I want to drink in the Lord’s nearness. I desire to sit in the lap of my Lord. I open my Bible to the story of Gideon.

Then Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel
by my hand as You have promised –
look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.
If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry,
then will I know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You said.”
And that is what happened. Gideon arose early the next day;
he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a bowl full of water.
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me.
Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test
with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground
covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry;
all the ground was covered with dew.
Judges 6:36-40

Commentators have criticized Gideon for testing God, but that is not my focus today. I want to think about what happened for Gideon with his fleece. I reread some handwritten notes in my Bible that suggested the fleece represented Gideon himself. When the fleece was wet, it promised Gideon that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit who would empower him to fulfill the task the Lord was asking of him. When the fleece was dry, it assured Gideon that even though he felt dry, God could and would still use him. The message for me today is that even though I feel tired and dry at the end of 2016, if I will bring myself before the Lord, I will experience the presence and power of His Spirit. He is just waiting for me to lie down in His green pastures in order to be refreshed with His quiet water. (see Psalm 23:2)

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6:31

This is how I want to end the year of 2016. I want to take time to be alone with Jesus in a restful quiet place. Judges 6:24 tells how Gideon had made an altar to the Lord and had called it “The Lord is Peace.” I find it interesting that Gideon knew God as his source of peace before he made his petition to the Lord regarding the dryness and wetness of the fleece in Judges 6:36-40. He may have needed this extra reassurance of a sign from the Lord as to how God worked in his life. Maybe he had been busy working on the threshing floor and needed a touch from the Lord before he began his next assignment. Maybe he needed an additional anointing. I have been reading the words “Peace on Earth” on Christmas cards and singing about it through the words of the traditional Christmas carols. However, I have not been experiencing the peace that passes understanding to its fullest extent. I, like Gideon, need a fresh anointing.

My Reader, how are you feeling today? Are you still too caught up in the busyness of Christmas celebrations? I pray you will find a quiet place and take time to drink in some of the dew of heaven. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with His presence so that you will be able to spend your time more profitably in 2017.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Your Personal Puzzle

puzzle-1puzzle-3A good wintertime activity for families may be putting together a puzzle. For me, the first challenge is to find all the straight edges to make the frame. While working on a puzzle with others, differing opinions arise as to what color shading will go in a specific area. It all fits together for a fun, warm, indoor pastime when no one wants to go outside in the cold. However, do you ever think of your life as being a puzzle that God has planned for you to assemble? Let’s put together some puzzle possibilities today.

puzzle-2There are various options of how to consider your personal puzzle. You could think of each piece representing a year of your life creating one big picture. You might want to shrink your puzzle to symbolize one year of your life. Maybe you want to add one piece per week. Each piece will be uniquely shaped by the experiences you encounter. The length of time for a particular circumstance will alter the size of the piece while your attitude may influence the coloring. Your responses and responsibilities have an influence upon each puzzle piece. A good goal to consider when thinking about your part in your puzzle is found in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

puzzle-2When our family puts a jigsaw puzzle together, we keep the box with the picture of the final scene in view to give us a few clues as to what the final outcome will be. However, with the puzzle the Lord has for each one of us, only He knows what the outcome will be. He is the only one who sees the big picture. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.‘” Ephesians 1:11 tells us, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” These scriptures sound like the formations of a puzzle. II Timothy 2:19 states, “the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,.’” Personally, this verse suggests that the Lord has laid out the foundation or framework of my life, or the straight-edged pieces of my puzzle. He has my puzzle pieces designed to fit together for His purposes.

puzzle-2The Lord may choose the shape of my puzzle pieces but I have an influence upon the coloring of the pieces. If I joyfully accept a situation I encounter, the colors of that piece will be brighter while if I complain about it, the hues will be more muted. However, the nature of the experience I am facing will have some bearing upon the overall coloring. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” When I think about my supernatural puzzle, maybe I should say, “I can put all kinds of puzzle pieces together with Christ who gives me the strength to complete my life’s puzzle.”

puzzle-2In my mind I think of the supernatural puzzle being more of a mosaic while the natural puzzle being more of a physical depiction of a scene. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” It is reassuring to me that God is forming and conforming every event of my life into a puzzle piece that will ultimately fit together to present an image in the likeness of Jesus Christ. My life has the potential of becoming a magnificent mosaic! I desire for my  life’s puzzle to be created to glorify God and the beauty of His manifold perfections. When complete, there will be both vibrant and dark pieces in my puzzle, but each piece will be according to God’s design. There will ultimately be a bright and awesome radiance in the portrayal of my puzzle that reflects a visible manifestation of God’s perfect character. It is amazing for me comprehend that God is designing my life into a puzzle that will be preserved throughout eternity.

puzzle-2While the Lord has designed my life’s puzzle, I still have the responsibility to put the puzzle together. Some pieces will fit into their proper places easily with love and joy while other pieces may require more patience and self-control. Either way, the fruit of my labor will be more pieces to my personal puzzle. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” As I assemble the puzzle, I may try to jam some pieces together to get them to fit but it just will not work. There will be pieces that look similar but the Lord has specifically fashioned each piece to fit in only one place within the overall picture. I must not try to rearrange the order or location. Some pieces will simply be puzzling at a certain time. When that is the case, I should put the piece aside and wait for a better fit. I must “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” according to Proverbs 3:5. Just because one piece does not fit the first place I try does not mean that the piece does not have a place in the completed puzzle.

puzzle-2I like the quote, ““You can’t find peace until you find all of the pieces.” (I have heard this statement made by Troy Dunn on the television program The Locator. It is also the title of a book by Marie Maiden.) These words remind me of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” True peace, which is the peace of God, transpires only when we find and accept all the pieces of our life’s puzzle. We may not understand the shape and color or the meaning and purpose of all of the pieces but God knows; and He will guard our hearts and minds in Christ while each piece of the puzzle is being placed in our lives. We have the assurance that the peace of God will come into our lives when we have put together all the pieces of our personal puzzles.

puzzle-2My Reader, how are the pieces of your life’s puzzle shaping up? Do you have some pieces that do not seem to fit properly? Jesus says in John 13:7, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Since your puzzle is not yet complete, you do not yet understand or see every piece fitting together perfectly but our gracious God knows the beauty of your completed puzzle. You have your own personal puzzle to assemble. It is a unique puzzle designed from all eternity by God just for you. Your puzzle is infallibly formed with every event of your life. When all your pieces are in place, you will experience true peace.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Another viewpoint: Think about a bigger puzzle that the Lord is putting together. Consider each person God has created as being one piece of His perfect puzzle. You are one special piece of that puzzle! Without your piece, His puzzle cannot be complete.

A Journey to Bethlehem – Peace

 

advent-wreath-1As Christmas Day is getting closer, so am I getting closer to the completion of my spiritual journey to the Bethlehem of my heart. In order to reach my destination of a joyous, meaningful celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, my travels now take me along the Path of Peace. On Christmas Day, I want to humbly bow at the manger where the Baby Jesus is laid. Currently, I am in the company of all the men and women traveling to Bethlehem for the sole purpose of registering for the census required by Caesar Augustus.

traveler-1Luke 2:1-3 states,In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.” Although registering for a census was not a common occurrence, no one was exempt from this decree. Anyone whose ancestry traced back to David had to travel to Bethlehem regardless of where they currently resided. Consequently, I encounter many people traveling the Path of Peace that leads to Bethlehem. I realize that not everyone has covered the same number of miles nor have they come from the same direction. For me, this symbolizes how anyone who comes to know Christ travels their own unique journey to find Him. However, the sad thing about these sojourners on their way to Bethlehem was that they did not know that they were on the same road as Mary and Joseph just before she would give birth to the Son of God. Many who lived in Bethlehem or were spending the night in that town had no idea of what sacred event was taking place in their midst. Luke 2:7 tells me that she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” I wonder if the inn keeper who shut the door of his home to Mary and Joseph eventually went out to his stable to see the Christ child. How many people today shut the doors of their hearts to Jesus preventing His birth into their lives?

While covering the miles of the Path of Peace with other travelers, I am curious about how many of them truly knew what a privilege it is to walk the Path of Peace. I wonder how many of the people around me today know the difference between the world’s peace and God’s peace. I want to make a couple of physical and spiritual comparisons. First, these people who over 2000 years ago made this journey because the emperor required all Romans citizens to write their names in a census book. The Lord has a more important book where I want to be sure my name is written. Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Secondly, Caesar Augustus was the ruler of the Roman world during this time of relative peace. Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

I agree with the Psalmist who tells the Lord in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” As I travel along the Path of Peace during this Advent season, I notice some scriptural sign posts along my way. Jesus says in John 14:27,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.” Philippians 4:7 tells me, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, Colossians 3:15 reminds me to, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Mark 1:3 says “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” and Isaiah 40:3 says, “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” During the past four weeks, I have been on a spiritual journey to the Bethlehem in my heart, I have been traveling a highway comprised of the Road of Hope, Trail of Love, Route of Joy, and Path of Peace – all with the intent of making the path of my life straight so that I can sincerely celebrate the birth of Jesus in just a few days.

My Reader, I hope you have been traveling with me as we have retraced the route to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to prepare ourselves to celebrate His birthday. It seems appropriate for us to conclude our spiritual journey to Bethlehem by focusing upon the Christmas carol by Philip Brooks known as O Little Town of Bethlehem.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

For Christ is born of Mary;
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth;
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.

We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Merry Christmas to All My Readers!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.

PEACE that does not CEASE

Even though I have read a specific scripture many times, I can always discover something new about a passage! Since we just celebrated Easter less than two weeks ago, I have still been reading about the events during this period of sacred history. Today the verse that stands out for me is John 20:19.   These are the first words Jesus speaks to his disciples after his resurrection: “Peace be with you!”  He didn’t say, “Hi!” or “Glad to see you!”  This must have been a pressing message that Jesus wanted to share with these men.  I can identify with this sense of urgency.  If I want to share something exciting with my daughter, I will call her and probably the first thing I will say is, “Guess what!” and then go on to share whatever is on my mind.  At a time like this, I most likely forget the phone etiquette of asking how she is or what she is doing before sharing my news with her.  Now back to Jesus, he simply said, “Peace be with you!”  The setting for this statement is in a locked room where the disciples were hiding from the Jews.   I think about how reassuring these words must have been to these eleven men. The end of verse 20 records that the disciples were overjoyed with this message.

FREEDOVE31

  What is this peace that Jesus is so excited about sharing with his disciples?  According to the definition in the Spirit Filled Life Bible, peace comes from the Greek word “eirene” and is defined as being a state of rest, quietness, and calmness; an absence of strife; tranquility.  It can refer to a harmonious relationship between God and men or among people.  When Jesus spoke these words, the disciples needed peace in both of these respects. They needed peace with God because they did not understand everything that had happened over the last few days and their minds were in turmoil.  They needed peace regarding their relationships with other people because their fear of the Jews resulted in their hiding in a locked room.  However, this is not the first time Jesus shared with his disciples about their need for peace.  in John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

FREEDOVE#2

Is Jesus still speaking these words of peace to me today?   Jesus says in John 14:27, “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.”  If these words of Jesus have been preserved in scripture for me, then Jesus must have known there would be times when I would feel afraid. He is still offering me His peace for these times!  (An interesting study to do by oneself would be to look up scriptural references of  God telling various people not to be afraid.)

FREEDOVE31I have been reading Steve Fry’s book, I AM.  Steve points out that peace is the only fruit of the Spirit that cannot be cultivated by choice. (p. 185)  I cannot choose to simply be peaceful, but peace is a byproduct of other choices.  Peace is not just a feeling that is the opposite of being anxious.  Peace permeates me when I am in the presence of the Prince of Peace. Psalm 29:11 says, “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”  Then Paul tells me in Colossians 3:15 to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart.  The Lord chooses to bless me with peace, but I must choose to let this peace be in my heart through multiple choices I make regarding how I live my life. 

FREEDOVE#2 In Isaiah 26:3, the prophet says that God will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in God.  So, my Reader, may you and I keep our minds upon the Prince of Peace and trust Him as much as possible.  The result will be our receiving the same peace into our lives that Jesus offered to the disciples the first time he saw them after his resurrection.  Remember, today Jesus still says, “Peace be with you!”

Joyfully,
Cheryl

 Thought for the week:  You will not know peace by only giving God a piece of your life.
Challenge for the week:  Extend the peace of God to someone else this week by sharing this blog with them.