He Ordained Peace

 

 

O LORD, you will ordain peace for us; you have done for us all our works. Isaiah 26:12

Peace.

I doubt whether there is anything so sought after or valued in this world. Peacemakers are commended, both in Scripture and by society.

Why, then, is there not peace? War and conflict spread overwhelmingly and unceasingly around the world, which begs the question, “Is complete peace possible?”

And yet, God promised peace in Isaiah. Even more than that, the Sovereign Lord decreed, commanded, ordained that it should be so. Peace for us.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
         And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14

Around 700 years after Isaiah told of God’s promised peace, angels descended on the hills of Bethlehem to declare that peace had come to those of God’s favor.  What peace was this? This peace was Jesus, the Christ, who did our works for us. The Messiah who was our righteousness, became our sin, took our judgment, and delivered us from death.

And he ordained for us peace. Peace with God the Father through forgiveness. Peace because Christ has overcome this world — including sin and death. Peace that guards our hearts and minds. He is the Prince of Peace. Since it is his sovereignty that has ordained peace, peace must, therefore, be ours.

That must also mean, then, that wars and sin struggles are not the end. Senseless violence will not endure.

God has ordained peace.  By His Spirit we have peace with our God that our hearts can feel even in this war-torn world. By His perfect peace and strength may we persevere as peacemakers even as we await the fulfillment of time when the people at peace with God will live in a world of peace.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you; because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever, for the the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4

 

 

Saturday Song: Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)

Longing. Hoping. Fulfillment.

“What fear we felt in the silent years. Four hundred years… Can he be found?
But broken by a baby’s cry,
Rejoice in the hallowed manger ground!
Emmanuel. Emanuel. God Incarnate here to dwell!
Emmanuel, Emmanuel. Praise his name- Emmanuel!
The Son of God here born to bleed.
A crown of thorns would pierce his brow.
And we beheld this offering,
exalted now the King of kings.
Praise God for the hallowed manger ground!”
Emmanuel
(Hallowed Manger Ground) by Chris Tomlin

The confessions of a New Year’s Scrooge

DSC_0519

I’m about to confess something that may make me wildly unpopular, but here goes: I don’t really like New Year’s Eve/Day as a holiday.

Author’s note: Please filter this post with the understanding that as I write this, I am by turns smiling, laughing, and teary-eyed.  I am by no means sitting on my couch with a soured frown and permanent crease between my eyebrows. Thank you.

I think I gave up on making resolutions in high school.  Why make more goals (read rules) for myself when I struggle and then fail to keep them? Why, yes, I think I’ll start my new year off by setting myself up for disappointment. (Okay, I don’t really feel that strongly about it.  But, in all fairness, I think there are enough self-help articles about actually keeping the New Year’s resolutions one didn’t manage to keep last year to support my point here.)

Getting new planners is nice, but the empty pages will invariably fill with same busyness of last year.

I see friends on social media getting “excited about what 2015 will bring”. Like many people, I’m still blinking in sad disbelief at what 2014 “brought” and can’t even begin to try to guess what could happen in the next 365 days.

To be honest, I think my lack of enthusiasm over a new year is a combination of fear of the unknown, lack of thankfulness, the fact that life is hard (and often sad), and the desire for something new when every year is filled with so much old.

Now that I think about it, I may be more of a New Year’s Charlie Brown than a Scrooge.  In the movie ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, Charlie Brown is depressed and unsatisfied with the popular, commercial meaning of Christmas.  My favorite holiday is Christmas.  I celebrate it for months.  But, switch out Christmas with New Year celebrations, and I understand him perfectly.

Really, what I love the most about Christmas is also the one thing I need for the incoming New Year.  To me, Christmas means joy and hope.  It means longings fulfilled.  I look at every nativity scene and see Christ come to earth. I sing along to my favorite Christmas songs:

Father in heaven,
You gave us reason to see past the pain of today
We celebrate…

Unending hope for all time
When the King of the ages arrived — Selah, “Joy”

Christ is come.  Even though this past Christmas morning brought news of a friend’s death (as did the Christmas morning before that), I know that Christ has come.  And I know that those friends are truly and perfectly whole and home because of Christ. In every aspect of Christmas, I see Christ.

Then it hit me: because that’s what New Year’s is all about, Charlie Brown.

It may not seem like a profound revelation, but it was for me.  The reason I don’t like New Year’s is because I don’t look into the new year and see Christ.  I don’t need to be the best me by losing weight, or running, managing my time more, or getting excited about a new year of possibilities.  I need to see Christ.

If I hope in resolutions, I will fall flat.  I can accomplish them and still feel empty.  My only hope is Christ.  The only redemption for the reoccurring old in the new year is that Christ is still at work, even if it seems things don’t change.  I need to not fear the unknown because I see the One I trust the most guiding me there.  I can evaluate the old year with thankfulness because Christ was in it.  I can set goals for the new year because I’m able to ask Him, “Lord, what would you have me do?”

So, I look into the new year and see that I will go back to the same classroom, write the same (but hopefully improved) lesson plans, try to maintain focus through the same evaluation and state testing stress, laugh off the same singleness comments, enjoy one last year in my 20s, read new books, try to prioritize better, hopefully eat healthier, maybe blog more, and meet with many happy and sad unknowns.  But, above all that, by the grace of God, I look into the new year and I see Christ.

“O to enter this new year with the realization that the one who loved me and gave Himself for me, accompanies me into it! Then why should I fear what may lay ahead of me? Whatever may be my circumstances, whatever changes I may pass through, whatever I may be called upon to bear – Christ Himself will be my constant companion! But only faith – not imagination or feelings – will be able to realize and appreciate His presence.”~ Arthur Pink, “His Presence”

Oh that the whole world would know this joy.

 

 

Christmas 2013: “I came that they may have life”

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

I’ve said it many times before — I hate death.  In fact, anyone that has breathed, I would guess, has said those words at least once… some years, more than once.  A Christmas post on death may seem strange or out of place; I had a different one planned, in fact.  Today, though, one phone call reminded me that death is still a thief at large in the world, and that it had stolen my adopted grandma, a spirited and godly British lady next door that I had the blessing of growing up knowing — her as a grandma to me, me as a granddaughter to her. Since this summer, it seems that death has stolen much from my family and the friends around us: a brother, an uncle, a husband, a friend, a father, a grandmother, a mother, a wife… four living testimonies to the grace of God.  Just as I was mourning this latest news, the Holy Spirit prompted my heart with Christ’s promise in John 10:10.  Yes, the thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Christ has come that we — that Papa Glen, Ross, Uncle Stevie, Grandma Daphne — might have life and have it abundantly.

That’s why we have Christmas.

Christ came.

The almighty as a baby.

Emmanuel. God with us.

The righteous for the unrighteous.

So that we may have life and have it abundantly.

Christ was born to live perfectly, take my sin upon himself in death, and rise in victory, defeating death.

Because without Christ, we have no hope for life.  Without Christ there is only the expectation that Death will come to steal and keep forever those that it claims.  But for those in Christ, what was true of Him is true of them: it is impossible for Death to keep its hold on them.  Death cannot keep the Christian that it claims.  Instead, Death must submit to God and act as a doorway to eternal life.  Death cannot separate the believer from the love of Christ.  Though it steals from us below, it cannot steal from the Good Shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”

John 10:14

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:27-30

So even though I have been left behind for now, I know that my loved ones in Christ are not dead, but eternally alive.  While I am celebrating the remembrance of the angels that sang over Bethlehem’s hills, they can hear the angels before the throne.  While I am remembering Christ come as a baby, they can see Him as the risen King.  While I see as through a mirror darkly, they can see face to face.  While I am right to grieve down here, they are right in rejoicing with a joy exceeding that of the wise men.

All because of the reality of Christmas.

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 1:1-18

Recommended Read: Albert Mohler “And Them That Mourn — celebrating Christmas in the face of grief and sorrow.

DSC_0432