November 18: Careless In the Care of God

Read Matthew 6:25-34

“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds” (v. 26, The Message).

To be careless in the care of God. Doesn’t that sound like a lovely state of being?

I lived in the middle of a European city a few years ago. So did a lot of pigeons. We could see them almost everywhere we went. Often they were perched together on a rooftop waiting for whatever it is birds wait for. Sometimes they would fly down to the ground in search of crumbs or trash. Mostly, though, the pigeons would just sit there, wherever they were.

Nowhere to go, I imagine. Nowhere except anywhere. That’s what I find so amazing about pigeons.

They’ll go where the food is, without worrying about where they might find the next crumb. They have this innate calm that just knows their Maker’s going to provide enough. It’s a trust that enables them to gather on a rooftop on a sunny Saturday afternoon and hang out with a bunch of other birds.

I consider this about pigeons, and I think I’d like to try it. What would it be like to just know that my Maker cares enough about me to provide for every next moment? To be where I am, not worrying about where I need to go next or about where I will find my next piece of sustenance to get me through whatever awaits me around the bend.

To hang out on rooftops all bold and waiting for whatever food He shows me and then to fly down and grab it just as soon as I see it. Not a moment too soon. Not an instant too late.

Pigeons don’t seek God, but they don’t worry, either. Matthew tells us that seeking God can replace worrying about stuff.

When we are busy seeking God, setting our minds on His things, earnestly and honestly searching out the things of Him — His face, His will, His ways — we will be well taken care of. We will be too busy seeking Him to be worried about the stuff He’s already taking care of.

If a pigeon can do it, so can we.

brw

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November 17: Know Jesus. Know Peace.

Read Romans 5:1-11

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like without Jesus. Without the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, how much different would my life be? How would I handle conflict? How would I handle stress? How would I handle the unknown? When I look over my life — the choices I have made, the things I have done, and the places I have gone — I am thankful for the work God has done in my life. It’s nothing short of miraculous.

Have you ever thought about how different your life would be without Christ? When you do, you become so thankful for Christ in your life. Perhaps you are not a follower of Christ. Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “I just don’t get what’s so important about Christianity? Why would I want to give control of my life to a man in the clouds?” Let me tell you.

One thing you have with Christ is hope. Romans 5:3 says, “…But we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope . . .” With the events that are taking place in our world today, it may be easy to say the world is falling apart. However, we know that with Christ, we can praise God in the midst of tribulation because we know that God can work in those times to make us better. Ultimately, He can use hard times in our lives to bring about hope. Hope that there is a better life coming, hope that because of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, we are destined for eternity in Heaven.

What makes Jesus so amazing? How do we get peace through God? We revel in what He has done for us and for humanity. Verse six tells us that when we were helpless, when we were enemies of God, when our lives were destined for Hell, Jesus died for our sins. Although our lives were plagued with sin, Jesus looked past that. Even though we openly reject God and sin against Him, He still died for us. The punishment for our sins has already been paid for. Because of that, we can be reconciled to God.

You and I can have hope and peace because we know that after this life, there is another one waiting for us and it is one that will bring us eternal joy and happiness. Will you join?

jdl

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November 16: The Hope of Eternal Life

Read Romans 8:1-11

Four years ago, I read through the Bible cover to cover with a group of other Bible students. It was a great experience. To that point in my life, I had read most of it, or at least I knew of most of it, but there were parts of the text I hadn’t read through. There were parts of the Bible that were fun to read like the life of Jesus and the Pauline epistles, but let’s be honest with each other, there other parts are more challenging and difficult to read. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I fell asleep a few times reading through the Old Testament Law. Knowing the dimensions of the tabernacle and the kind of material that had to be on the priest’s robe wasn’t that fascinating to me.

The Law was a very hot topic in the churches around Asia when the book of Romans was written. The Jewish people held so very tightly to the Old Testament Law that often it clouded their judgment and their spiritual life. They were so fixated on keeping every aspect of the Law that they often operated with tunnel vision, missing out on some truly life-changing content.

Paul wrote Romans 8 to the Church in Rome to assure them they had been delivered from the bondage of the Law. Matthew 5:17 tells us that Jesus fulfilled the Law through his life and subsequent death on the cross. Because of Jesus, we no longer have to be fixated on the Law. We find it in verse 3 — God did what the Law couldn’t do. The Law only went so far. God took it to the next level by sending His only Son to take the punishment for sin.

Ultimately, we could never completely fulfill the Law, there would always be a part of it we couldn’t keep. Verse 10 tells us that, because of sin, we are spiritually dead.  Without Jesus’ payment for sin, we are destined for Hell. However, the very one who fulfilled the Law, hung from the cross for our sins, and raised from the dead, thus conquering death, is the very one who is inside of us.

If we accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation, we are delivered from sin and we know for a fact that we will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus. That brings us peace. True and eternal peace.

jdl

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November 15: God’s Peace In Real Life

Read Psalm 91:1-16

Perhaps you’re like me and you read this Psalm and can’t help but focus on the problems it prevents rather than the promises God gives. It’s hard to know what to do with all the people mentioned in this Psalm who trusted God but suffered. How do we reconcile these sixteen verses with people like the Christian martyrs throughout the Scriptures and throughout the ages? And how do we know but what our paths may lead me through trouble?

Can we really count on what we read here?

Of course, the answer is a thousand times “yes.” Bible commentator Bob Deffinbaugh describes a person who experienced great peace as a result of these verses. He writes this:

“She found comfort in Psalm 91. Not because it promised her a long, trouble-free life on this present earth, but because it assured her that in Christ she would escape the wrath of God. In this life, she did not need to fear danger or even death, for He will raise her from death to eternal life, in His presence, free from pain and sickness and sorrow. That was her hope, and thus we can rejoice in her sufferings and death.”  https://bible.org/seriespage/god-protector-psalm-91

Let me encourage you to do what I needed to do. Turn your attention as quickly as you can from the apparent problems to the incredible promises of Psalm 91.

  • Focus on the Most High who shelters you from harm.
  • Turn your attention to the Almighty whose shadow protects you from the blazing heat.
  • Train your thoughts on the Guide who points out the trapper’s snare.
  • Rest in the fact that the wings of the God of Heaven protect you as one of His little hatchlings.
  • Find peace in knowing that angels guard you and that neither lions nor cobras need to cause you fear.
  • In peace, you can call upon Him and be assured of His answer.
  • Be comforted in knowing that He will be with you in trouble.

We can breathe a deep sigh as we acknowledge with the apostle Paul that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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” (Rom. 8:38, 39).

sbk

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November 14: The Peace of God. The God of Peace.

Read Philippians 4:4-9

We moved to Germany in June. We’d never been there, so we had a lot to be anxious about. Our family of four left home and everything comfortable in Wayne County for a year of unknowns in a foreign land where people spoke a language we could barely understand and ate food we knew little about.

And that doesn’t even touch on the worry that accompanied our travel. Checking eight overweight pieces of luggage, carrying a total of six carry-on bags plus an American Girl doll, some Euros and our passports while balancing the duties of parenthood and conscientious Americans traveling the world carried an entirely different level of anxiety.

Guarded minds were exactly what we needed as we left our comfortable lives for the adventure of a lifetime.

That’s why our then seven-year-old’s list played an important role in our lives that year. She grasped it firmly in her hands through that first flight’s turbulence. I’ve held it tightly in my heart ever since.

“Whatever is true . . . noble . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . . admirable . . . excellent . . . praiseworthy — think about such things” (v.8).

It’s a list of filters for our thoughts. These kinds of things are where our minds must go when we let God take our anxieties and leave them at His feet. The God of peace is present, and our minds are steadfast when we let His things feed them.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). God made the promise thousands of years ago through His prophet Isaiah. Then Paul re-iterated the same promise when he instructed the Philippians to be anxious about nothing. “. . . (B)ut in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 7).

When we let God be God and we give Him the worries that pull us into fretted living and fearful thinking, the God of peace uses the peace of God to protect our minds. So we can live freely and unafraid. We can rest at ease because Jesus Christ is alive and with us.

So where will your thoughts go today? Will you let God carry the anxious ones? Will you let the God of peace show you the peace of God? Will you let Him guard your heart?

brw

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November 13: The Prince of Peace

Read Isaiah 9:1-7

Perhaps today’s reading is all too familiar for you. In fact, you may have read or heard these prophetic statements about the birth of Jesus many times in years past at Christmas time. Yet they were written nearly 700 years prior to His entrance into the world.

These verses were written at a time of animosity amongst the Jews. The once unified nation had split into ten northern tribes, called Israel and two southern tribes, called Judah. What’s more, there was animosity between the northern tribes and Assyria. In addition, Isaiah predicted future conflict between Judah and Babylon. In many ways, “peace” was a foreign concept.

It can certainly be said that animosity describes our world today. Just last week, our nation experienced its most deadly church-shooting in history. Over the last years, racial issues have arisen that I thought had long been in the rearview mirror. Threats of terrorism have us on edge. There is an undercurrent of fear that has forced people to introduce precautions and protocols in schools, sporting arenas, and other public places. Tensions between nations bring with them bloodshed and accusations. Yes, “peace” is in many ways a foreign concept for us as well.

Isaiah’s prophecy, however, pointed to a light on the horizon for the nation of Israel. It was a coming day when God would fulfill his promises that He’d extended to Abraham and to David. It was a day when conflict would be foreign. It was a day when a child would be born who would be God in the flesh, King over Israel, and Prince of Peace.

But the Prince of Peace doesn’t only benefit God’s chosen descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This peace does not only permeate a relatively small parcel of land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. One day, this peace will be universal and endless.

There are two important details about this peace that we must understand:

  1. This peace is not for all. It will only be those who have come to faith in Christ that will experience it. Will you experience it?
  2. This peace is yet future. Although the Prince of Peace entered the world 2,000 years ago, at His second coming He will reign and bring with Him this harmony and tranquility. Are you anticipating it?

sbk

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November 12: Where’s the Peace?

Sometimes peace feels hard to find. But God promised us peace throughout His Word. In fact, He offered Himself in the form of humanity and conquered death so that you and I can know peace. He gives peace. He calls us to peace. So as we enter the season that marks both the birthday of the Prince of Peace and one of the busiest times of the year, let’s pause and consider true peace. The peace Jesus offers.

Read Judges 6:1-24

I sat in traffic the day after my grandma died listening to Christmas music. She loved Christmas. The song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” started playing, and I listened to the words for what felt like the first time ever.

“(I)n 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, good-will to men!”

I found myself agreeing with the anguish of the song, even though I knew my grandma would be spending this Christmas with Jesus in heaven. Where is the peace?! What’s the point of Christmas bells that ring loud and strong and proclaim peace on earth when hate and evil and sadness and terrible things happen and make living here on earth so hard? Then in what felt like a whisper from God, the despairing lyrics turned to hope. “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep . . .'”

God whispered hope through my car radio that day. God is alive. He is with me. This is peace.

Jesus was born on earth in the form of a baby. God took care of the desperate status of mankind when He gave His Son to death and brought Him back to life, having conquered all that threatens our peace and our life.

God is with us. He does not sleep.

He assured Gideon of this in an Israelite winepress. We read it today. Hiding from the Midianites, Gideon was afraid and discouraged. I guess he figured they wouldn’t know about his wheat harvest if he took it into the winepress to thresh it there. That’s when God told Gideon he had all he needed.

“The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (v. 12)!

Don’t you love Gideon’s honesty? “Pardon me, my lord, but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us” (v. 13)?

It’s a question I asked that day in the car. I’ve asked it more than once. Maybe you have, too. If the LORD is with us, how can we be in this mess! But God assured Gideon that He was with him. Therefore, he had all he needed. We have that strength, too. God is with us. He is not dead! He does not sleep!

The God who is Peace lives in those of us who trust Him to lord our lives. And we can be sure we have all we need for all we face. Because God is peace.

brw

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