On Wings Of Eagles

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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Power of a Little Seed

Matthew 17:20 (NIV)
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Want to see a miracle? Try this.

Take a seed the size of a freckle. Put it under several inches of dirt. Give it enough water, light, and fertilizer. And get ready. A mountain will be moved. It doesn't matter that the ground is a zillion times the weight of the seed. The seed will push it back.

Every spring, dreamers around the world plant tiny hopes in overturned soil. And every spring, their hopes press against impossible odds and blossom.

Never underestimate the power of a seed.

 I never read that James, the epistle writer, was a farmer. But he knew the power of a seed sown in fertile soil.

"Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness."

The principle for peace is the same as the principle for crops: Never underestimate the power of a seed.

The story of Heinz is a good example. Europe, 1934. Hitler's plague of anti-Semitism was infecting a continent. Some would escape it. Some would die from it. But eleven ­year-old Heinz would learn from it. He would learn the power of sowing seeds of peace.

Heinz was a Jew.

The Bavarian village of Furth, where Heinz lived, was being overrun by Hitler's young thugs. Heinz's father, a schoolteacher, lost his job. Recreational activities ceased. Tension mounted on the streets.

The Jewish families clutched the traditions that held them together-the observance of the Sabbath, of Rosh Hashanah, of Yom Kippur. Old ways took on new significance. As the clouds of persecution swelled and blackened, these ancient precepts were a precious cleft in a mighty rock.

And as the streets became a battleground, such security meant survival.

Hitler youth roamed the neighborhoods looking for trouble. Young Heinz learned to keep his eyes open. When he saw a band of troublemakers, he would step to the other side of the street. Sometimes he would escape a fight, sometimes not.

One day, in 1934, a pivotal confrontation occurred. Heinz found himself face-to-face with a Hitler bully. A beating appeared inevitable. This time, however, he walked away unhurt-not because of what he did, but because of what he said. He didn't fight back; he spoke up. He convinced the troublemakers that a fight was not necessary. His words kept battle at bay.

And Heinz saw firsthand how the tongue can create peace.

He learned the skill of using words to avoid conflict. And for a young Jew in Hitler-ridden Europe, that skill had many opportunities to be honed.

Fortunately, Heinz's family escaped from Bavaria and made their way to America. Later in life, he would down-play the impact those adolescent experiences had on his development.

But one has to wonder. For after Heinz grew up, his name became synonymous with peace negotiations. His legacy became that of a bridge builder. Somewhere he had learned the power of the properly placed word of peace. And one has to wonder if his training didn't come on the streets of Bavaria.

You don't know him as Heinz. You know him by his Anglicized name, Henry. Henry Kissinger.

Never underestimate the power of a seed.

Dear Lord, help us be the one that brings peace to a world that needs it. We pray that we would not underestimate the power our part can do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Do You Need the Peace of God Today?

Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Hanns Lilje was born in Hanover, Germany in 1899. After serving in the military in World War I, he studied theology and art history at Gottingen and Leipzig. He was ordained in 1924 as a minister in the Lutheran Church and became the student chaplain in Hanover. After Hitler came to power, Lilje worked in cooperation with others within the Protestant Church of Germany to oppose National Socialism. On August 19, 1944, Lilje was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned. At first he was upbeat. But in his autobiography "The Valley of the Shadow", Lilje writes about that first night in prison: "Then fear and panic began to creep over me, like an evil beast creeping out of its den. I began to see myself and my position very clearly." The next morning was Sunday and it also his forty-fifth birthday. Lilje wrote: "Suddenly, from a window in another wing, I heard someone whistling the first line of a familiar hymn. I was electrified, sprang to the window, and as soon as my unknown companion ceased whistling I answered with the chorale: 'Oh for a thousand tongues to sing. . . .' Hanns Lilje was able to enjoy the peace of God in the darkest of situations.

The peace of God does not depend on external circumstances. It comes directly from the Lord and it is placed in our hearts.

Do you need the peace of God today?

Dear Lord, help us sing a song of praise from our heart.  We ask today that You will guard our heart and our mind that we may be positive in what comes our way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thougths About World Series Game 7

Jude 1:24 (NIV)
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

As I sit here and watching game 7 between the Giants and the Royals wishing that it was the Tigers playing the Giants. But as history has it they went down early in the playoffs and didn’t make it to the World Series. As a true Tiger fan says “There is always next year.”  As much as I love to cheer for my teams it is great to know that my eternal destiny isn’t determined by my team winning or losing.

In Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was brought in to preserve the lead against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the ninth inning, his errant throw opened the gates to a 2-run rally. The Yankees lost the game and the World Series.

In the 2009 Super Bowl, just seconds before halftime, Kurt Warner threw an interception that was returned 100 yards for a Steelers touchdown. The Cardinals lost the game by four points.

Both Rivera and Warner are strong Christians. Both would tell us that those physical miscues, though costly, will have nothing to do with their eternal destiny.

What about spiritual miscues, that is, our sins? What do they have to do with our eternal destiny?

Rom. 3:10 says, “There is none righteous, not even one.” Rom. 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” Psalm 5:4-5 indicates that sin, in any form, cannot dwell in the presence of God.

So we’re in trouble, unless somehow our sins can be deleted. I Tim. 1:15 says the very reason God sent Jesus to earth was to save sinners! Praise God above!

The Bible says that if we trust Jesus as our Sin-bearer, He will “present us faultless” before the presence of God. We’ll be faultless in the presence of a holy God. What a humbling thought.

Dear Lord, thank You that our eternal destination doesn't is not decided on whether our team wins or loses. Thank You for forgiving us of our sins. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Praying for Peace

John 20:19  (NIV)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

The word "peace" has been used a great deal during the last number of years. Every time we turn on the television, we hear people talking about peace in places where there are wars and uprisings: in the Middle East, in Syria in particular, and in a number of African countries as well. There are a lot of negotiations, but there does not seem to be a lasting peace.

May the fifth, 1945, was when Canadian soldiers liberated the Dutch people. Dutch flags were out everywhere for the first time in five years. People were out in the streets, the sun was shining, there was peace at last. But it did not last very long. Within two years, the Dutch army was involved in a war in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), and soon, there were wars in the Middle East, in India, and in Korea. Peace on earth seems very elusive, and we have come to the realization that peace is not a period between two wars but rather a feeling within ourselves, a feeling in our hearts.

The disciples were in quite a state when they were gathered in the upper room. Their friend had been crucified, and the authorities were after them. They sat and wondered what to do next. Some of them were ready to go back home. And suddenly, Jesus was with them, and they heard those wonderful words, "Peace be with you."

And we, too -- sometimes we doubt and worry, we lie in bed at night and worry. We pray about it, or we go to church to worship, or we pick up the Bible and read those wonderful words, "Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NKJV) Or we hear Jesus' words, "Peace be with you."

Before one war is over, another one has started. There seems to be no end to it, and we have learned nothing from history; there is no lasting peace. But inner peace is for all of us to have and to hold through faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. We know that the triune God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- is our source of lasting peace, and then, it does not matter what might happen in our lives, for we can be at peace through faith, and we will have peace in our hearts.

Dear Lord, we pray for those who are in political power.  We pray that they will seek Your will in all the decisions they make. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Peace in the Lakes of Canada

Psalm 23:2-3 (NIV)
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for His name’s sake.

Growing up I was part of a group at our church called Christian Service Brigade.  We met on Thursday nights for a time of Bible study, working on our books and game time.  It was always a great time joining together with the men of our church that took the time to be mentors for the boys of our church.  One of the highlights of Christian Service Brigade was the monthly camp-outs that we took.  We would load up the church bus with all our camping gear and we would head out for a weekend of enjoying God’s beauty.

One of my favorite trips was a 10 day trip we took. We loaded up in canoes and set sail through some of the lakes in Canada.  It was great to enjoy the peace as we glided through the water. It was easy to experience the glory of God while surrounded by His wonderful creation. I remember how close we felt to God as we enjoyed the time we had. 

Even though it was easy to experience God so vividly there, we can experience Him fully wherever we are. No matter what our circumstances, we can enter this other-worldly spot and find utmost peace. All simply by following Jesus' advice: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28 NIV).

Notice the benefits of such peace, as recorded in Psalms 23:2-3a:

1. "Lie down" -- Another way to say "rest" and "relief".

2. "Green pastures" -- Food for sheep. Another way to say that all of our needs will be met, both physically and spiritually.

3. "Quite waters" -- To relieve our inner thirst. These waters are quiet because in those moments we can hear His voice more clearly.

4. "He restores my soul": Too often we think there is no rest for the wicked, and we include ourselves in with that bunch. Restoration of our inner souls is possible however, not by our own might, but by His!

In other words, to experience God fully, we need to let go of our tendency to be in control, and we need to start enjoying His peaceful guidance.

Dear Lord, thank You for the guidelines You have given to us so that we may enjoy peace.  Help us completely rest in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

In Christ You Are a New Creation.

Hebrews 8:11-12 (NIV)
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

Scripture says if you are in Christ, you are a new creation. My question is are you?

A lawyer moved into the community, hung out his shingle, and buried himself in his new practice. In the morning the townspeople saw him walk to work; in the evening he reversed the process. He was always alone; his head always hung low, and his shoulders always stooped. Even more, his face always seemed to show a sense of ongoing and profound sadness.

One day the lawyer confessed to a Christian artist that when he was just starting out, he had committed a grave error. That sin from yesterday was still, even now, weighing him down. The artist listened, but he gave no guidance or suggestions ... at least not then.

Weeks later, he invited the lonely lawyer to come to his studio and see a newly completed painting. The attorney arrived and was surprised when he saw himself in the picture. Yes, it was his likeness, but it was somehow different. In the picture he had his shoulders back, his head lifted up, and a look of hope was shown in his smiling face.

Behind him in the background of that picture was a hill, and on that hill, an empty cross. At the foot of the cross had been placed, along with many others, a great, heavy package. The artist was implying that the lawyer had left his burden at the cross. At the cross he had found forgiveness and peace, which had made him a new creation.

The artist affirmed the lawyer's interpretation of the painting.

But the artist went deeper when he pointed to the other packages at the cross. “These,” he said, “were packages that once belonged to other people.” Although he didn't identify which one, the author acknowledged that one of those boxes had been his.

The boxes were different in size and content, but they had this in common: they had all been left at the cross.

That picture is one for all of us since all of us need to know that when Jesus is your Savior, when your sins are washed away, you become a new creature. Now I don't know what that good news does for you. I can tell you what it did to the lawyer.

Carefully, he considered, “Is this how God wants me to look? Can burdens really be left at the cross? Is it possible?”

Then, having had the Holy Spirit give a “yes” answer to all of His questions — by the power of God's grace — the lawyer became a new creation.

My question is are you? 

Dear Lord, thank You for carrying the sins of the entire world to the cross. Since Your work has been successfully completed, help us give all our sins for You to carry. In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Trusting Faith in God.

Psalm 23:4 (NIV) 
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Bobo is a cuddly-looking donkey whose main job is to guard sheep. One wintry day he was standing near a flock of sheep, which were grazing contentedly at an outdoor hay feeder. Bobo looked quite placid and harmless. But apparently, he can run down any canine, bite it, kick it, pound it, and chase it off. When Bobo is near the sheep, predators stay away!

Bobo's owner, Mrs. J, has noticed that the sheep thrive better when he is nearby; they are relaxed and calm. But when Bobo is gone, they get edgy; they won't eat or rest. Then, when he joins them again, she can immediately see their bodies relax.

Bobo and his sheep remind us of the twenty-third psalm. The psalmist, David, compares himself to a sheep who feels safe and secure. He knows that his mighty Guardian is nearby; so he has no reason to fear deprivation, evil, or even death. Interestingly, those are among the most common sources of fear and anxiety still today.

Of course Bobo can't provide everything a sheep needs. But for David, God could indeed meet all his needs. David wrote, "I lack nothing." (v.1) He also wrote, "My cup overflows." (v.5)

The "cup" here refers to the sum total of one's lot in life. For each of us, that cup is half-empty and half-full. What matters is the half through which we see life. Those who see from the empty half will brew over what they lack or what might run out. Their conversation suggests that they always feel shortchanged. They live in a constant state of anxiety, distrust, and discontent. Like the sheep without Bobo, they are edgy. They cannot enjoy the present because they are resentful of the past and worried about the future. Being in the empty half of the cup, they cannot see the amazing depth of the full half.

Then, there are those who dwell in the full half, and we can tell. They can enjoy the present. Their eyes are fixed on the qualities of life that never run out -- but rather grow richer -- like goodness and love. These people are content, forgiving, and generous. The more blessing they give away, the more they receive. We enjoy their company and feel renewed by them. That would describe David.

David was convinced that no matter what happened, God was nearby to protect and provide abundantly. With God, life would never become empty and meaningless: God would always give him direction ("He guides me along the right paths" - v.3). For David, life would always overflow with divine blessing. David lived in the full half of the cup and was confident that goodness and love would remain with him forever -- even into eternity.

That portrays a trusting faith in God.

Dear Lord, help us learn to trust You so that we can see life as an overflowing cup -- and discover the delightful abundance in Your presence, protection, provision, and purpose. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Where is Your Focus?

Colossians 3:2 (NIV)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Brent walked past the familiar park where he’d often visit and sit in close proximity to five or six old men who had erected an old foldout card table to play chess. It had become an ever-increasing fascination to watch the old men play for hours on end. Although it had been distracting him from his studies at the seminary he attended some 300 yards from the park, something kept driving his regular visits to the chess masters that would begin playing early in the morning.; often they’d still be playing until late into the afternoon.

The weekend had passed and Brent had racked up over forty chess matches -- routinely won in short order with people playing over the Internet. His reputable father, the distinguished surgeon Dr. William Wisor, felt Brent could use his brainpower to become the great financial success he’d boast about every time Brent would come home on a long weekend or for the holidays.

His father had gotten Brent involved in chess when he was only four year’s old. His father seemed to take an almost morbid joy in beating his son repeatedly in chess matches after dinner, when Brent began high school. If Brent had heard his father ask him this rhetorical question once, he’d heard it a thousand times after yet another systematic game won by “Doc Dad”, as Brent good-humouredly called his father when around his friends. “Son, where‘s your focus?“

Brent’s friends couldn't tolerate his dad’s pretentious mannerisms and the smugness he transparently evidenced when they were asked to come over to supposedly learn how to think. Invariably, all it involved was Brent playing his father in three matches of chess and his friend’s observing him lose to his insolent father’s arrogant self-adornment.

“I’d love to see your dad get his butt stomped by someone in chess someday,” Kenny told Brent a few days later.

Since that time, Kenny remained Brent’s best friend and had chosen the same path Brent had and was even his roommate at the seminary.

Kenny entered their small but neat dorm room and to his surprise, saw Brent sitting on his bed. Normally, at this time of day, Kenny would bet his limited banking account on Brent’s whereabouts -- down at the park watching the old men playing chess. Today, he watched Brent cry tears of anger in their dorm room as he restlessly manipulated a chess pawn in his right hand with his left hand covering his eyes.

“What’s up Brent?” Kenny asked as he softly shut the door behind him.

“My dad is what’s up! I can’t stand him and he’s my dad,” Brent shouted through resentment wrought tears. Kenny sat down on his side of the room while bracing his elbows on his knees.

“My perfect father called the Dean’s Office and they gave him my grades! Doctor dad called me and said that my 3.65 wasn't good enough and threatened to take me out of here and that he’d make me go back home and attend another school with a different major,” Brent continued as he heatedly threw the pawn against the cement block wall.

“What are you goin’ to do now?” Kenny asked.

“Leave me alone Kenny. Just let me pray and calm down, okay?” Brent answered as he stood up and walked over to their small window that over-looked the park.

“No problem man,” Kenny softly uttered as he grabbed his backpack and shut the door behind him.

Brent meditated for about 30 minutes and picked up the slightly cracked pawn and headed down to the park to watch the remaining two old men finish their chess game. Brent thought his facial displays of his earlier felt anger were gone, but one of the old men could tell something was wrong.

“Son?” the old man asked, “come over here and tell me what’s on your mind.”

He looked like a gentle grandfather from a Norman Rockwell painting and so Brent couldn't find it in himself to refuse his offer.

“Hi sir, my name is Brent and I go to school up on the hill.”

The old man smiled and asked him to pull up a lawn chair that was near the card table.

“I’ve seen you down here before Mr. Brent,” the old man replied with a chuckle in his voice.

“I take it you like chess?” Brent pulled the lawn chair in a bit closer before replying, “Yes sir, I love chess but I can’t stand my dad.”

The old man glanced over and caught his gaze.

“Well, that doesn't sound good at all. Why do you dislike your daddy, if you don’t mind me asking?” Quickly it came out: “My dad’s always putting me down and thinks he’s better than everyone else is. He is mad at me because I have a ‘B’ in one of my classes.”

The old man chuckled again before he asked Brent an odd question that seemed to come from left field. “You play your dad in chess, don’t you? He’s insecure and beats up on people he knows he can beat up on and you’re sick of it.”

Amazed, Brent listened on: “Your dad feels good when he wins, but has no joy in his life. Brent, your father needs you!” the old man finally ended.

“How did you know so much?” Brent exclaimed.

“And what do you mean, my dad needs me? He needs no one but himself!”

The old man patted Brent’s hand and stated confidently, “Your dad needs to be humbled. I know you are confused, but I know your dad fairly well. I’m a retired professor from the seminary and your father assisted Dr. Walters some seven-years ago when I had double bypass surgery. Your daddy was cocky then, and hasn’t learned much has he?” the old man finally ended with his eyes flattened upon Brent’s face.

Brent had never heard someone speak with such conviction and more astoundingly, with more accuracy. “No, no sir,” he spoke with bewilderment.

“So what do I do now, Mr....?”

“Just call me ’Preach’ my friend," the old man answered with a big grin on his face.

“I believe I could beat your father blindfolded, but it’s important he gain respect for you because longevity doesn't mean legitimacy.”

“What’s that mean?” Brent inquired.

“It means that your daddy knows how to get to a patient’s heart, but you can help him learn to emotionally open his own. There are many old fogies my age who can learn from many a young heart bent towards heaven.”

“Understood Preach -- anything else?” Preach pushed his glasses up on the bridge on his nose and continued.

“This is what I want you to do Brent. You go home in a week or so for Thanksgiving, so play him a whole lot and remember to smile each time he beats you. The most important question you need to answer about your daddy is what grabs his attention the most.”

Hardly puzzled, Brent stated without a moment’s pause, “Money, money, money! Seriously, that’s all he thinks about Preach,” he sternly lamented.

“Okay then, you’re on your way to a win and it‘s not you who will be the only winner; God will win that wandering lone sheep of the 99 already secure in his fold. Do you see what I’m getting at Brent?”

Brent knew the scripture he was referring to and immediately nodded affirmatively.

“Again, remember to smile each time he beats you.”

“Well, I will do what you say but I don’t know where this is going.”

“Just do it Brent, and when you come back to school, bring one of your best friends down here and let me know what you found out about your dad’s play.”

While Brent was home over Thanksgiving, he did as Preach asked. “Good game dad!” Brent would happily remark after his father would win each of about four games they’d play each night after dinner. His father was taken back by Brent’s easygoing nature and one evening, his even-tempered son’s smile finally unnerved him and his play.

“Son, why are so relaxed? Don’t you want to be a winner at anything in . . . ”

His father stopped in mid-sentence as he watched his cheerful son move his bishop smoothly over in direct alignment with his King.

“Checkmate dad," Brent calmly informed his panic-stricken father.

“Hold on here Brent! What did you do here? His father questioned desperately.

Brent remained calm and asked his father to look at him in the eyes.

“Dad, it’s very simple what I just did. I beat you. And you know what? I am a winner in life just to answer your question. And one more thing dad.”

Brent leaned forward with his jaw resting in both of his hands with the continued kind smile on his face. His father nervously looked at his watch and irritably responded, “Yes, yes, yes, go on!”

“Dad, you seem so, well anyway, my only question, and you don’t have to answer is, where’s was your focus dad?”

Brent leaned slightly in the wooden kitchen chair and folded his arms across his chest. His father’s irritability almost pitifully turned into a look of despondence and he did, remarkably, answer Brent’s question he himself had so often asked.

“Brent, my focus was on the peace of mind you had after you’d lose to me.”

His dad wiped the first tears from his eyes that Brent had ever seen from his cocky, or maybe not-so-cocky anymore, father.

“Son, I've got money but I’m desperately miserable. You've had a calmness about you son, that I've always wondered about and I guess that is what I was really asking when I’d inquire about where your focus was.”

Brent got up from the kitchen table and walked over to his dad and hugged him tightly as his father melted in tears -- crying like even Brent’s mother had never seen her husband of 24 years weep.

“Dad, the peace I've had comes but from one place and if you’d like to have it, I’ll be more than happy to show you where you can find it.”

His father looked up and said nothing but simply shook his head, indicating his willingness to discover this peace his son had had for so many years.

Brent’s father called and cancelled his appointments for the upcoming Monday, as he wanted to go to the seminary and find this elusive peace and joy.

“Why are you stopping here Brent? The school is up the hill a bit,” his father asked curiously. “I know dad. I want you to meet a friend of mine--his name is Preach.”

As they walked up to the old foldout card table, Preach glanced up quickly and directed his attention equally as quick back to his chess match.

“Nice to meet you, Dr. Wisor. I've been talking to your son and he thinks the world of you.”

Brent’s father was more than confused upon hearing this and remarked, “Hi Preach. Well, it seems Brent’s bragging about me probably isn't deserved.”

Before Dr. Wisor could say anything else, Preach replied, “Dr. Wisor, I didn't say a single word about your son bragging on you. I said he sure seems to think the world of you as I recall,” Preach finished with his eyes steadied on the chessboard.

“Hi there Preach,” Brent inserted, “looks like you’re getting ready to lose the first game I've ever with this one.“

Preach looked up at Brent and then turned his attention to Dr. Wisor with a gentle smile on his face.

“I suppose I am going to lose this one Brent, but it doesn't bother me any. You see my friend, my focus wasn’t on the game, but on meeting your dad and so I made what some folks would call a mistake.”

“Checkmate,” Preach’s chess partner evenly informed anyone within listening range. Preach smiled at the old man sitting across from him, shook his hand, and directed his attention back to Dr. Wisor.

“God has an uncanny ability in getting our focus back on him, and sometimes he’ll use failure to get us back on track. Remember that if you've learned from losing, it wasn't a loss.” Brent’s father began to wipe his eyes again as he smiled his first genuine smile in over 20 years.

The remainder of the day was spent at the park and Brent’s father lost every game he played against Preach, and loved every minute of it.

Where is your focus?

Dear Lord, we pray today that our focus would be up on You. Help us not let the things of this world take our focus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Real Peace

Isaiah 54:10 (NIV)
Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell, and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest ........... perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize?

The King chose the second picture, "because," explained the King, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace." That peace can only come while we trust in God fully.

Dear Lord, we thank You for the peace we can have with You.  Help us completely put our trust in You so that we can rest fully in the peace only You can give. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

He Will Bring Peace

Mark 4:39 (NIV)  
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Mary Brenner first visited La Mesa State Penitentiary in 1965, when she was a prosperous Beverly Hills homemaker. What she saw moved her so deeply that she knew she had to return and began volunteering a few weeks at a time.

During her visits, she started wearing the habit of a Catholic nun - in part for her commitment to the Church and in part for her own safety. Her mission inspired others who joined her which resulted in the founding of a new religious order recognized by the Catholic Church.

The former Beverly Hills, California, resident took vows as a missionary sister at age 50, after a divorce ended a long marriage and her children were grown. She took the name of Sister Antonia.

Since 1977, she has lived among the more than 2,500 male and female inmates incarcerated at La Mesa Penitentiary. She has survived several prison riots at La Mesa.

During one of the riots, inmates battled the guards with bottles and rocks, while the guards shot back with machine guns-until Sister Antonia walked into the middle of the war, raised her hands, and signaled for quiet. Remarkably, calm fell on the prison.

She has poured out her life for these prisoners, nursing their wounds, getting them eyeglasses and medicine, caring for their families, and washing their bodies for burial.

She has said: "I wouldn't trade this cell for any place in the world."

Peace is a place that is found in Jesus.

Dear Lord, today we take our cares and concerns to You. May we rest in Your peace that will bring comfort to us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Barrier of Sin

Ephesians 2:14 (NIV)
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

In 1992, an Arab terrorist drew a knife among the throng of shoppers in a Jerusalem marketplace and managed to stab two young Jewish men before fleeing for his life. The crowd of Israelis, incensed, began running after him, a number of them drawing pistols as they ran. The Arab darted across the street, running straight towards a Bella Freund, a forty-year old Jewish woman.

In a split second, she sized up what was happening. She stood in front of him for 27 minutes while people kicked and punched her; one even burnt her with a cigarette as they tried to get to the terrorist. Finally, the police arrived and took the Arab into custody. Later, when the reporters got to her, Bella Freund said: "It was very simple. If you can save a life, you do it." Her hatred of Arabs, her lifelong conditioning never to touch a man who wasn't her husband, all of it was set aside in a split-second of truth. "I could not see a helpless man killed by a mob, whatever he had done," she said. "That's not the way I was brought up. I had to be a barrier for him.”

There was a barrier between us and God. It was called sin. Jesus saw the barrier of sin that divided us from God and voluntarily stepped in and broke the barrier so we could have peace with God.

Dear Lord, we thank You for destroying the barrier of sin and giving us peace in Him. Help us share that great news today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2014

God Can Use Tragedy

John 9:1-3 (NIV)
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

We are all familiar with the story of the man born blind, how Jesus cures him, and the man begins a voyage of faith. But what if a person were to lose his sight in a tragic way? How would God manifest His works through such a person?

In 1972, during one of the worst years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a ten-year-old boy, Richard Moore, was walking home from school with his friends in Derry City. From inside his secure military hut, a British soldier fired a rubber bullet at this group of children at the bottom of a playground. It hit Richard on the bridge of the nose at ten feet, blinding him instantly and sending him to the hospital and onto a far greater journey.

He could have become a poster boy for those who would advocate violence as the means to solve the Troubles of Northern Ireland. Instead, by the grace of God, he learned to forgive the man who maimed him and he walked away from darkness into the light of God.

Richard  founded a charity called "Children in Crossfire" in 1996 to help children in Tanzania and Ethiopia who are caught in the crossfire of poverty and injustice. In Richard's weakness, God's strength has come through.

He tells his incredible journey in the book, "Can I Give Him My Eyes?"

He also talks about his own country and what is the path to peace.

"I have come to realize that it does not matter if you are Protestant or Catholic, Unionist or Nationalist, British or Irish, the suffering is the same. And if we are to build a true and lasting peace in Northern Ireland, then one of the challenges will be to deal with the hurts of the past and try to ensure that they are not handed on to the next generation. "

What great words for us today, as there is always someone out there we need to forgive, in order to sow the seeds of peace and to make sure that the evils of today are not passed on to our children and our grandchildren.

Dear Lord, help us even in tragedy look for how You can use it for good. Help us have a forgiving heart today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Do You Love as Christ Loves?

1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)
The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Rose Kennedy, the mother of the late President, once attended a Bible Study and she shared how she came to peace with God after being resentful of Him for giving her a retarded daughter.

"I was boiling over with resentment. There was a lovely woman who was one of our maids. She sensed my boiling soul.

'Please excuse me, Mrs. Kennedy; but I've been watching you the last few weeks. I love you very much, and I hate to see this destroy your life. I say this as gently as I know how: Mrs. Kennedy, you'll never be happy until you make your heart a manger where the Christ child may be born.' "I fired her on the spot! You have no idea how filled with anger, how isolated, how focused on doubt I became..

"That night, my mind ruminated relentlessly, keeping me awake until the late hours. I could not forget that lovely face, the sweetness of her countenance, the sub-surface joy that seemed to boil up continually in her spirit . And especially those deathless words: 'Mrs. Kennedy, you'll never be happy until you make your heart a manger where the Christ may be born.' "I have loved Christ all my life, and tried to be a good Catholic girl all my years; but this was one of those joyous moments of real contact with God and his Son. So I knelt beside my bed and prayed, 'Dear God, make my heart a manger where the Christ child may be born.' I felt a fresh new divine entry into my life, and there was born in me a passion, a love for retarded children. Oh, by the way, I rehired the lovely maid. She was with us for years, until her death."

The Lord will allow many different circumstances to come into our lives. Each one of them will be an opportunity to love only as Christ can love.

Dear Lord, thank you for the circumstances we find ourselves in each day. Help us look at them as opportunity to show Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

We Can Prevail Through Christ

John 16:33 (NIV)
“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.”

The news is filled with stories of people in desperate circumstances.

Many of us know people who are in danger of losing their homes.

Ed Roslonski, of Detroit, is a man who lost his home. But Ed didn't lose his home to a foreclosure. One day, Ed drove home, and his house wasn't there. He says, "I drove up and down the street three times -- (asking) where is my house?"

Ed's home had been scheduled for demolition when he purchased the"fixer-upper." In an effort to improve the house and make the city a better place to live, Ed put $30,000 into making necessary improvements.

Then, somehow, someone placed his home back on the list of places scheduled for demolition.

Somebody put it on the list, and nobody took it off. That's how Ed's house disappeared one day. It disappeared without a trace.

Like Job, like the writer of the book of Lamentations, like many folks, Ed could say, "for these things I weep, my eyes flow with tears . . . . "

But that is where the similarity ends. We who have been blessed to be called to faith in the Savior can never say the "comforter is far from me . . . The enemy has prevailed."

Truly, in our Savior we have been given a peace, which passes human understanding. We know through Jesus' innocent suffering, death, and resurrection we are victors; indeed, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Dear Lords, in this world of sorrow and tears we are thankful for Your sacrifice and resurrection that has made us victorious. May we live our days praising You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hear The Words.

Proverbs 15:13 (NIV)
A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
    but heartache crushes the spirit.

"Son!", Tim's father shouted, "Is it possible you could please turn that noise down!?" Tim, who had only two months earlier earned his driver's license, calmly ejected his favorite music CD that had his favorite song on it.

"Sorry dad, but I love that song cranked up loud because it makes me happy every time I hear it!", Tim less than calmly replied with a grin on his face. His father glanced over in his son's direction briefly with a look of disgust. "Tim", his father finally responded, "What on earth makes you happy by listening to that screaming guitar and what's the name of that garbage?"

Tim softly smiled as he vowed to himself that he would not become the same bitter, constantly angry, negative, and sadly miserable father he had seen his entire life who sat unsettled next to him on the drive home. His mother tried her best to fend off any possible future negativity in Tim, their only son and child, by always praising him and occasionally clapping in rhythm to the music Tim would ask her to hear.

She had grown weary of trying to explain to Tim of how happy his father was when they first got married. In fact, Tim told his mother one day many months prior that she didn't have to defend his dad. He told her that he would be more like her when he got married and had a family to call his own.

"Well dad, the song is called "Happy" and Phil Keaggy wrote it. He's a great guitar player and sings great too!" Tim's impudent father rolled his eyes and replied, "All I hear is that blasting guitar so Mr. Keaggy or whatever his name is must have lost his vocal chords," his father bitterly answered.

"No way dad! You tell me to turn if off before he gets the chance to sing! You never listen long enough to hear the words!"

His father shifted in his seat and pointed to a scripture Tim had pinned up on the old sun-visor of the car Tim had bought a week before he got his driver's license. The old AMC Pacer was all Tim could afford with the money he'd earned since he was 14 mowing lawns in their neighborhood.

"That church you go to would be ashamed of you boy if they only knew the trash you listen to that makes you so happy! Your mom takes you there but it's obviously a waste of her time. And you wonder why I don't go?!", his father replied again with that same unsettled look Tim was painfully accustomed to seeing.

As Tim neared the familiar bend in the narrow two-lane road leading to their home, a new red sport's car was clearly out of control. Tim frantically tried to steer to the right but the red bullet slammed into the driver's side of the Pacer--sending it swirling up a sharp grassy incline where again, the Pacer hit with great force on Tim's side of the car against a big maple tree.

Tim's father was jarred but had not one blemish as he looked over and saw Tim's face covered in blood slumped forward and resting with no movement on the steering wheel.

"Oh God! Someone help my son!" Tim's father shouted as he ran to the street to flag down a motorist. The driver of the red sport's car, also without a blemish, ran from his slightly damaged car with a cell phone in his hand. "Sir, I'm sorry! Here's my phone!" The college aged young man shouted with a strong smell of beer on his breath.

Tim was taken to the same hospital where his mother, with his father by her side, was rushed to when he was born. As Tim's mother arrived in the emergency room, she embraced her distraught husband as both cried with fear uncontrollably. The doctor who'd administered only 30 minutes of treatment in an effort to save their son's life, asked them to come to a private room.

"I have only had to share this kind of news three times since I began working in the emergency room at this hospital and three times is way too many times," the gray haired doctor somberly stated. "Your son's chest cavity was crushed and we did all we could, but he didn't have the strength to hold on."

Tim's parents placed their hands to their faces, sobbing and hoping that what they had just heard was wrong. "Doctor, Tim's mother through anguished words asked, "Are you telling me my son is dead?" The doctor steadied himself and gained as much composure as he could before replying, "Yes ma'am, your son's injuries were extremely severe but he was cognitive for the last ten minutes we were trying to save him." Tim's parents looked startled and awaited grievously for what the doctor would say next.

"Your son smiled at me and asked that if he died, that I'd promise to tell his dad something. I don't know, sir, what your son's final words will mean to you, but I am going to honor his request. I've never, in all 27 years of practicing medicine, heard anyone speak with such strength and clarity as your son did being in the condition that he was in. Sir, he asked me to tell you to...please listen long enough to hear the words."

Tim's father melted to the floor and the doctor discerned that it would be best to leave the grieving parents alone in the private room.

Two weeks after Tim's burial, his father opened the passenger's side door of the Pacer that he simply could not bear to sell. He took the music CD from the car's CD player and pulled the scripture down that remained on the visor. He got in his Jeep and turned Tim's favorite song up loudly and listened through the guitar solo until he heard the soulful man's tenor voice sing the words to this song entitled "Happy."

The lyrics rang out joyfully, "I'm so happy Lord; I'm so grateful Lord since You came to me; You set me free and You welcomed me, in Your family..."

He listened to the song repeatedly for a solid hour before he pulled his new Jeep he'd selfishly bought only three days after Tim so happily bought his old beat up AMC Pacer. The Jeep meant nothing to him but as he pulled the scripture out of his shirt pocket, he knew what Tim had been trying to tell him for so many years. Tearfully he read the pin-punctured note's words: "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:13

Dear Lord, help us to take the time to listen to the end.  We pray that we would be cheerful in all that we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.