Peace Be Still

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was great calm.” Mark 4:39

I’m not a huge fan of thunderstorms. Or let’s just say I have respect for them. Enough respect to not want to be trapped outside in one and certainly not on a boat. That’s where the disciples and Jesus found themselves on this particular night. Jesus had been teaching all day and when evening came He said let’s go to the other side. There were several boats on the water going to the other side when the storm arose. Jesus was sleeping in the stern, even in the midst of the waves crashing into the boat. The disciples were frightened. Now I’ve always pictured that when Jesus woke up He calmly said “Peace be still” and everything got quiet. But there is a word here that says it was a little stronger than that. He rebuked the storm. 

Now when you rebuke someone you are usually using a little more force. Some strong words may be spoken, with authority and firmness. It doesn’t mean you have to raise your voice or be mean, but the other party will know that you mean business. When my grandchildren do something wrong, my son and daughter in law get on their level and they are firm with them. They want them to know that Momma and Daddy mean business. 

Jesus woke up and he rebuked this storm. He didn’t just wave His hands. He spoke with authority. He was firm. I read that the same terminology is used when Jesus rebuked and silenced demons. Wow! That also suggests that this storm may have been a spiritual battle as much as a weather crisis. But you know what else that suggests to me and I hope to you? If Jesus was addressing this storm as a spiritual battle, He can address any spiritual battle going on in me and you too. 

What storms of life have you battered and you feel like the waves are crashing in? Night time is my worst time to succumb to the spiritual battles in my heart and mind. Things that I wish were different will creep into my nighttime thoughts and dreams until I am just like those disciples in the boats feeling like I am just shoveling water. When what I need to do is call on Jesus and pray for Him to quiet the storm in my heart and my mind, just like He quieted that storm on the sea. I need to rebuke the storms that make me anxious and turn them over to Him. I would like to tell you that I have mastered this but I can’t. I had another sleepless night last night where I simply could not shut my mind off. But this morning I am asking Jesus to come in, and quiet these storms and say Peace be still in my heart and mind as I go through this day. If you have felt that yourself, please join me and let’s take on His peace for this day rather than turmoil! 

Peace that Overcomes!

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus has been teaching His disciples and as He is wrapping up this teaching He is literally just moments away from His arrest. Yet He is making this offering of peace to His disciples. They had no idea how much they would need Jesus peace in the coming days. Jesus has been telling them that He would be going away yet they couldn’t grasp all of that in these moments. But along with the offering of Jesus peace, he also tells them that there will be troubles. But that He has overcome the world. 

This offering of peace is coming at the same time that Judas is making a deal with Jesus enemies to arrest Him. Jesus would have known all of this. He knew what was coming next. He knew the torture He was about to endure, yet He had peace in the moment and He had peace to give. 

The commentary I read made a point I almost missed. Jesus didn’t promise peace, he offered it. The disciples had to take that peace on. This made me stop and think of how many times I don’t live in the peace that Jesus is offering because of my own anxious thoughts. It is mine for the taking because I am His and He is mine. But I have to claim it. I have to choose to live in the peace or to live in the turmoil. 

Wouldn’t it be great if life could rock along and we could always live without a worry or a care in the world? But as we talked about yesterday life is not like that. And if it were, our human brains, or at least mine would be waiting for the other shoe to fall so to speak. It seems like if I get too caught up in my thoughts even when things are going good, I am looking for that thing to be worried about. 

Jesus tells us in this verse that we will have tribulation in the world. We have the benefit of knowing that when He said these words that the darkest days of history were upon Him. The disciples didn’t have that knowledge when they heard the words. But Jesus proclaimed then, just as we can know now that He has overcome the world. He overcame death that He died on that cross, when He walked out of the grave! And because of that He can make good on that offering of peace! 

Jesus doesn’t promise us an easy life. But what He is offering us is peace that can co-exist with our troubles, our sorrows and our hurts. If we just bring all of those things to Him and lay them at His feet and claim the peace that only He can give! 

PERFECT PEACE

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

The results of all the things we have been talking about the last few weeks, truth, faith, trust, joy and yes praise bring about peace! And what Isaiah is talking about here is perfect peace. In Hebrew it is actually translated shalom shalom. Shalom is peace, This isn’t just peace it is perfect peace. And it is ours for the taking IF we keep our minds on Him. God will keep us in the middle of shalom shalom when we focus our minds, our thoughts on Him and not on our circumstances. 

Believe me I know that this sounds so simple but it may feel like it is unattainable. But I promise you it is. I have dealt with fear and anxiety.  That’s what we started this little series off with, talking about fear. And out of necessity at times, I have had to dig in to scripture to keep my mind on Him in the midst of some hurtful and hard circumstances. But I can promise you too that when I do that, when I keep dragging my stuff to the cross, and I keep laying it down to Him and I keep digging in to scripture and I keep trusting Him, that there have also been times when I could actually think “I should be falling apart about now.” And I’m not! And the only thing I can attribute it to is Jesus! 

I love the way the Message puts this verse: 

“People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Depend on God and keep at it because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.” Isaiah 26:3

Keeping our minds set on Him takes action on our part. You have to take captive those thoughts that bring you anxiety. You have to fight them with scripture and trust in the one who can and will keep you. There are ways to do this. We talked about praise and worship last week, keep praise music going in your background to combat the fear and anxiety. Also, when I find a scripture that means something to me, I will write it on sticky notes and/or index cards to keep with me. I love those little index cards that are spiral bound. If I am going through a season where I am praying intently for something or someone I will get me one of those and I will write scriptures that speak specifically to my situation and I will pull it out and just read through scripture whenever I can. And it’s practices like this that I feel are keeping me completely whole, and steady on my feet. 

Friends we all know that life can be hard sometimes. We weren’t promised an easy life just because we started following Jesus. But the fact is life would be hard even if we weren’t following Jesus. We live in an imperfect world. But because we have Jesus and when we keep our minds and our focus on Him, and we keep at it and we don’t quit, we can have shalom shalom in spite of our circumstances. Because we have a sure thing in God. 

Praise worthy thoughts!

Praise and worship has been our focus this week. We have talked about Worshiping in spirit and truth. We have talked about everyday worship. We have talked about not letting rocks take our place and we have talked about praising Him even in our pain and that He will inhabit our praises. Praise and worship is an action. It is an act that we give to God and it invites Him into our circumstances, whatever they may be. It requires us to take action toward God. This verse helps us to refocus our minds toward praise. 

Paul wrote this verse and the entire book of Philippians when he was under house arrest in Rome. Physically speaking he was not a free man. But he had written this letter to the Philippians to encourage them in their faith. He had given them instructions on living for Christ. He had told them how to live in the righteousness of Christ and how not to live under the law. And he had pointed them toward the goal of pressing on to Christ. In this passage he is telling them a practical way to keep all of the rest of that in mind is to think on good things. 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

I know that my mind can be a battlefield at any given time, but especially in hard seasons of life. If my mind is left on it’s own to wander I will nit pick every thought, every encounter, everything I say and probably everything you may say to me to see if there is an underlying hidden meaning. “What did she mean by that?” “She doesn’t like me.” “My job is harder than yours.” “What are my children doing?” “Why don’t they call me more? It must be because they don’t like me.” Am I the only one. I don’t think I am, at least I hope I’m not the only one crazy. 

But over time, I have learned when my mind goes off on one of these tangents that I need to take Paul’s words to heart and to my mind. I need to think on the things that I know to be true. I am loved by my family and friends but most importantly by Christ. What is honorable, I do the best job I know how to do and that is all that really has to concern me at my job. Whatever is just, I can want justice for things that are wrong, but there is a fine line between justice and judgement and I want to be on the side of justice. I want to focus my mind on purity and commendable and excellent things. And if I keep my mind focused on these good things in this list, I will find things worthy of praise. And I will praise Him the giver of the good things in my mind and in my life. Even when things are hard, if you look, you will find things worthy of your praise. I believe it to be so. 

When I am in practice of thinking on praise worthy things, when I am thanking Him for the good things He gives me, even in the midst of some hard seasons in my life, I will turn my thoughts to praising the giver of these gifts, the sustainer of my life. I will praise the one who is worthy of all my praise ~ Jesus! I will be grateful and I will show Him my gratitude in the way I live and the way I praise! 

Praise even when I don’t feel it!

Let’s be honest. Some days, some circumstances, some seasons of life do not feel very praiseworthy, do they? Life can be all out stinking hard some days and sometimes for a lot of days in a row can’t they. And sometimes it’s hard to lift a song of praise from your own voice when times are like that. I know, believe me I have had seasons like that that I found it hard to lift my praises. 

But it’s times like that for me, that hearing praise becomes even more important. I have often heard the words that God inhabits the praises of His people. It comes from this verse.

“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3

David says it right there that God is enthroned on the praises of Israel. I never gave much thought to what the context around this verse was. I thought about this verse many times from a church worship standpoint. I thought it must have been when all the people had come together to worship. But David didn’t write this when things were going well. Nope. Go back a couple of verses and this is what you see. 

“My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:1-2

David was apparently not having a good day when he wrote this Psalm and I’m sure he had no idea that Jesus would use the same words from the cross when He was being crucified. I couldn’t find where scholars may have pinpointed the timing of the writing of this Psalm. But if you have studied David’s life you know it could have been written at lots of given times. David was anointed king but then was on the run from Saul for fifteen years before he was able to take the throne. He hid in caves, he knew battles and even once he took the throne, he had family issues, and a son who tried to overthrow him and take the throne from him. I like to study David because he was so real. He had some very good days but he had a lot of bad days too. He sinned and yet was a man after God’s own heart. He made real mistakes and he had some really hard times yet he knew God and knew God to be praiseworthy regardless of his circumstances. And this Psalm right here showed it. Even though the days were hard David knew where to turn his thoughts and his praise. He felt forsaken by God in the moment, he was praying for something and yet he did not feel like he was getting an answer but he knew that even if he didn’t find an answer if he turned his thoughts toward praise that he would find God. And that the presence of God would at least carry him through his circumstances. 

I have this playlist on my phone that I named “Battle Songs”. A few years back when I felt like I was having more dark days than good days. I had felt grief upon grief with losses. We were going through some sickness in our family and some hard circumstances that were beyond my control. Some days I would feel wrought with anxiety and my heart just hurt over it all. I would find myself thinking breathe in, breathe out, feeling like I had to think about how to breathe so I wouldn’t get too short of breath and hyperventilate. But in my office and in my car and anytime I could I would turn on this playlist to play in my background. Anytime I ran across a song that I felt spoke to me I would add it to my Battle Songs and I would set that playlist going. Sometimes I would listen intently and sometimes I just let it play in my background. That playlist brought to mind praise of Him even in the midst of some days that were very painful to me. When my lips had trouble praising Him, I still filled my ears with praise for Him so that my heart would turn to praise. And I can honestly say that through it all, I would feel His presence and it carried me.

I know that He inhabits praise of His people because when I would turn on that playlist I knew it was like an invitation to Him and I knew He was with me. And over time, it was His presence that healed my heart. If things are hard right now, if you feel anxiety taking over, even if you don’t feel like you can praise Him from your own lips, fill your ears with praise for Him and let Him heal your heart from the inside out. Let your praises invite Him in!

Creation Praises!

“He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” Luke 19:40

I love this verse. I love that Jesus said this to the Pharisees. Let me give you a little background. Jesus said these words to the Pharisees after His Triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week of His death. The disciples had gone ahead and gotten a donkey for Him to ride on and as he rode along the disciples and the people were throwing cloaks down on the road and waving palm branches. And the people began to cry “Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” There were loud shouts of praise and joy! This may be the only time during Jesus earthly ministry where He truly received the outward praise He deserved. At one time the people were all in accord. Praising Him simply for who He was! 

Spurgeon pointed out: 

“And yet, I suppose, those disciples had their trials as we have ours. There might have been a sick wife at home, or a child withering with disease. Yet they ALL praised Him!”

And the Pharisees didn’t like it, not one bit. They rebuked Jesus and told Him to get His disciples under control. Jesus said oh, but if I do, even the very stones will cry out praise to me!

Can you imagine the looks on their faces when He said that? The Bible addresses many times creation praising God. It speaks about trees, hills, rivers, mountains, valleys, the birds and fields all give Praise to God. But this may be the only place it says the very stones will cry out if the people don’t. 

I can see how the mountains the beaches, the fields the birds of the air praise Him. I can’t go to the beach nor the mountains without looking out from me and praising Him because of creation. But have you ever seen Him and praised Him in the rocks? Not enough I haven’t that’s for sure. But think about it, from what this says is if the rocks start praising Him, it’s because we have stopped. We can let the mountains and the oceans, the wind and the rain praise Him. But let’s not let the rocks take our place. He deserves our praise. He deserves it when things are going good and He deserves it when things are not going good. He deserves it just because He is God! 

I won’t let the stones cry out in my place, will you? 

Everyday Worship!

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

When we think of Praise and Worship our minds automatically go to singing. Or at least mine does. But Paul is telling us here that our acts of spiritual worship are simply living for him every day. 

Paul starts this verse with “I appeal to you therefore”. I’ve heard it put this way when you see a therefore, you need to ask yourself what is it there for. So I backed up to the previous chapter to see what was happening. When you see therefore it is building on, or an answer to what has happened in the scriptures before. In chapter 11 Paul was talking about how the Gentiles (that’s us) have been grafted in. Make no mistake ever the Israelites are God’s chosen people. But when Jesus died on the cross, He made a way for all of us to be children of God. This is what Paul had addressed in Chapter 11. So this is what the first verse of chapter 12 is saying. 

“Therefore” because Jesus made a way for us Gentiles. And Paul emphasizes this point with “by the mercies of God”. He made a way for us because He had mercy on us, because He loved us. Because of all He has done for us, we should live for Him. That’s what Paul means by “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” We know that before Jesus the people had to bring animals to the priest. I’ve heard it said that man would have to actually place their hand on the animal as the life left that animal to know the depth of the sacrifice for His sin. Praise Jesus we do not have to do that anymore. Jesus has already been the sacrificial lamb for us. So what we can do is be a living sacrifice for Him. 

Being a living sacrifice for Him simply put, means to just live for Him every day. Do your best to be “holy and acceptable” to Him. This doesn’t mean to be perfect. There is no way to attain that. But we can strive to be holy, we can strive to be acceptable. We can strive to live for Him daily. 

I love the simplistic way this verse reads in The Message. 

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you; Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 (MSG)

Well when it’s put that way, it sounds so simple for my simple mind! All we have to do is come to Him daily, ask for His help to walk out this everyday, ordinary life, knowing what He’s done for us already, and asking Him to guide us through each and every day! 

And that my friends is our spiritual worship to Him! 

Worship in Spirit and Truth!

This week let’s talk about praise and worship! I was about to wrap up these one word lessons for us with peace, but last week the word praise kept popping up and I felt like the Lord was leading me to talk about praise before I got to peace. He has led me to a few verses on praise and worship that we will unpack.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:23

This one hit me because if there ever was a time in my lifetime when I felt the urgency to worship in spirit and truth it would be now. There is so much going on in the world! Of course we also have to look at the context of this verse in the Bible. Jesus said these words to the Samaritan woman that he met at the well and asked for a drink of water from. Which was a huge no no In the first place. First of all she was a woman, second she was a Samaritan woman and third she didn’t have the best reputation. So for Jesus to be talking to her much less asking for a drink of water would have been frowned upon. But that’s Jesus, He met her where she was, and He meets us where we are too. Jesus wasn’t just trying to cause a stir, He was after her heart. 

At any rate during their conversation, the woman points out that some had worshipped on the mountain but that worship was to take place in Jerusalem. She was delegating worship to a place. She said this because before Jesus came, the people would take their animal sacrifices to the temple and there would be a ritual of killing the animal and cleansing of sins and there they would worship God. Worshiping God took place at a place, in the temple. Jesus was saying the hour would come, which would be His death on the cross, but also that He was standing right in front of her when true worshipers would worship the Father anytime and any place as long as they were with Jesus. No longer would we have to take an animal and sacrifice it as an act of worship. The only thing we need is Jesus. I love singing praises in church but I don’t have to have the church building in order to worship Jesus! 

Friends, yes there is craziness in the world. Yes, some days it may feel like the world is falling apart. Some days it feels like, and I keep hearing “end times are near”. But what I believe the Father is seeking is people who are still worshipping Him. We as children of God are not to live in fear, we are not to cower, we are not to get overly frustrated by the current events. We are to continue worshipping Jesus, no matter the craziness of the world or our personal circumstances.

The Samaritan woman didn’t have her life together when Jesus sought her out for a drink of water so that He could introduce her to His living water. We don’t have to have it all together for Him to seek us out either. Take a drink of the living water. Sit with Jesus for a little while today and just worship Him. 

Shouting for Joy!

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6

These verses are an encouragement to me. If you’ve hung around me for any length of time, you know that my past few years I have had some stuff. There have been things that have broken my heart. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that if I lined it up next to some others it wouldn’t compare. But still, while I have had many blessings over the last few years, I have had some hurts and heartbreaks. But one thing I had to realize, I could crawl in a hole and let it make me bitter and sad and despair or I could keep getting up and keep laying it down and keep praying and keep hoping and keep trusting God for some changes and for some things and at times just trusting Him to hold my heart through it. I can’t say I have always wanted to keep doing the work it took to dig and to learn but in some ways it has been my survival. 

These verses tell me what is sown in tears will reap with shouts of joy. The picture that one of my commentaries gave me is the farmer who goes out with just a little seed, maybe even barely enough to hope for a harvest. Yet as he plants and sheds a tear he also prays for a bountiful harvest. Because he does the work with his seeds he will reap a harvest. 

Our hearts are much the same way. When our hearts are broken, if we sow, yes even with tears and turn to Jesus and ask Him for direction, or just to carry us through, the harvest will be a closer relationship with Him and sometimes yes answers. The reason I say sometimes is some hardship really doesn’t have an answer or an end. For the Mom who has lost a child. The only real answer she wants is for that child to be here, and she knows that is not going to happen. But Jesus can carry her through. For the precious soul with a diagnosis that she knows will cut her life on earth short, she wants healing that may or may not come. But Jesus can give peace and carry her through. And sometimes it is direction you need in a hardship. I believe when that is the case if we keep crying out to Him that Jesus will show the way. Sometimes it’s a life that needs to be rebuilt or a relationship that needs to heal and I believe that Jesus can redeem. 

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:6

I believe that if God will take my tears and bottle them up, it is to water the garden of my seeds I plant. You see he will take our tears, but we still have to sow, if we will come to Him and dig up the soil of our hearts and study His word and learn and lean into His heart, He will water our garden with our own tears and we will get the harvest of shouts of joy. I believe this because deep in my soul, as I have come to know Him more and more I know that He takes my tears and He is making something beautiful out of them. And I will shout for the joy of knowing Him. The harvest for my soul is Him! 

Everyday Joy!

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

The last few years have not been years I want to repeat, nor continue to live in. I have had loss, I have had grief upon grief. I have had some really difficult circumstances thrown my way. This season has been a hard one. I am afraid my face has shown it, my demeanor has shown it and at times, my mood has shown it. I hope not too bad, but I am afraid it has. But I can also say that through the times that have been hard, I have learned a desperation for Jesus in my life that I hadn’t known before. I have had to cling to him and ask Him to sustain me. I have also grabbed hold of Him and begged Him to bless me. 

Yesterday I was thinking of these passages we have been studying this week on joy. And while this has been a hard season of life, that I really do not want to relive, by clinging and learning what it’s like for my heart and soul to be desperate for Jesus, I truly do not want to lose THAT part of this season. I want my heart and soul to be desperate for Him just as much in the good times as in the bad times. Many times we will turn to Jesus when life is hard but when life gets better we tend to put Him on a shelf until Sunday morning. Maybe occasionally taking Him off that shelf to attend weekly bible study. I don’t want to turn back anymore. I want to be just as desperate for Him when life is going my way as I have been when I had sorrows and troubles to lay at His feet. 

This Psalm says that to me. David wrote this Psalm and it is believed that he my have written it in tough times. If you study the life of David you realize that he was anointed King of Israel then he had to flee from King Saul for around fifteen years before he ever took the throne. David didn’t always have it easy. Then when he became king, he still didn’t always do things right, he sinned with Bathsheba, had her husband killed, then he married her because she was pregnant with his child. Then later this child died. He loved Bathsheba though he had many wives. He had family issues, his children did not always act like they should. One son tried to take over the throne, then that child was killed in battle. I think all of this is one reason I love David so much. He was real, yet he knew God and was considered a man after God’s own heart. It is believed that this Psalm was written in a time of crisis. Yet there is a quiet confidence in the entire Psalm in who his God is and how God would sustain him, and not just sustain him but that David would know joy by walking with Him. 

David learned and sometimes had to relearn that God would show him the path of life. He learned that when he was walking the path with God that there was a fullness of joy and that the pleasures and blessings of life were his to enjoy. He learned that even when you are in crisis you can have joy if you know how to remain in His presence. I love that it is believed that he wrote this Psalm in a crisis. 

Take the time to read this short Psalm today and let it speak to your heart. I want to stay on the path with Jesus. I want to know the fullness of His joy and the pleasures of walking with Him every day. I want to share the good times of life with Him as well as the tough times of life. My heart is desperate for Him every day and I pray that I never turn back so I can know the fullness of His joy!