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One of the coolest Christmas stories I’ve ever read about was the Christmas Truce of World War I. On Christmas Day in 1914 on the Western front if the war, some German soldiers climbed out of their foxholes unarmed and approached the British lines calling out, “Merry Christmas!” After realizing it wasn’t a trick, the British soldiers climbed out of their foxholes and shook hands with their enemy. In many places they began to sing Christmas carols, Exchange cigarettes and food. Some even played a game of soccer. German Lieutenant Zehmisch said, “Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.” The next day, the picked up arms again and went back to war.
Since Adam and Eve sinned, there had been hostility between God and man. We had rejected His rule over our lives and decided we had a better way. He established a temporary covenant with Moses through the Law to make peace between us. Hiwever, we kept breaking that peace by going back on our word. In Isaiah 9:6, God announced that a child would be born who would be the Prince of Peace. He would be the one to restore the peace between us. Then, on the night Jesus was born, the angel appeared to the shepherds in the Bethlehem field saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men” (KJV). God, in essence, came out of His foxhole, approached us saying, “Merry Christmas!” The difference was, this wasn’t to be a temporary cease fire. God was trying to establish true peace between us.
Ephesians 2 describes how God was trying to establish true peace with us. Verse 17 summarizes it, “For the Messiah has come to preach this sweet message of peace to you, the ones who were distant, and to those who are near” (TPT). No matter how far away from God you are, He wants to establish peace with you. In John 14:27 Jesus, the Messiah, said, “I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace.“ We only know temporary peace here on this earth, but God desires to create eternal peace with us through His son. When we accept Him as our Savior, we can have that peace that surpasses understanding even while the world around us is in chaos. True peace can be ours, but it’s only found in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
After months of social distancing, my 9 year old has had enough. He was frustrated last week and asked, “Why is everyone obsessed with COVID-19?” I explained that this is something new to the world and is affecting everyone. It’s causing some stores to close, and the ones that remain open have shorter hours. Businesses have shut down, people have lost their jobs and don’t know how to support their family. I also explained that no one knows how long this will last, and that the unknown causes fear. When people are afraid, they try to consume knowledge, but no one knows what information to trust because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. I said, “Because of all of those things, it appears to you that they’re obsessed with COVID, but really it’s just fear causing confusion and it shows up in people in different ways.”
Fear has been at work since the beginning. Adam and Eve were afraid that God was lying to them about the tree. Fear robs us of peace and does it’s best to distract us with the mindset that we can beat it with information. 24-hour news stations try to meet that need for people to have the most up to date information and often report things before they’re vetted. It’s easy to get addicted to the news and not realize that you’re feeding fear as it’s compelling you to keep watching. Internal peace is hard to find in an uncertain world, but it is possible. You won’t find it in the news, on the internet or from your favorite podcast. The only peace that overcomes the fear of the unknown is the kind that Jesus promised us.
John 14:27 says, “I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!” (TPT) Perfect peace is what we as believers have been given, but many of us have allowed ourselves to be robbed of it. We have yielded to fear and allowed ourselves to be troubled in this uncertain time. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take precautions or follow guidelines, but don’t let fear dictate our every move. The world is full of fear and we have the antidote with the Good News. God is still in control. He is still on His throne and has not abandoned us. Trust in Him, be courageous and yield to the Prince of Peace. I don’t need to know everything about COVID-19. I only need to know the One who holds my tomorrow in His hands and put my trust in Him to find peace in this troubled time.
Thanks to @Elijah_sad for making this photo available freely on @unsplash
When I was younger, there was a bumper sticker that was pretty popular among Christians. It read, “No God, no peace. Know God, know peace.” I loved the word play there, but I loved the message even more. So many of us struggle trying to find internal peace. We want our chaotic lives and busy minds to find peace. We want the rest that peace brings because a lack of peace in our lives is tiresome.
Each night, I pray over my family that God would give us peace in our hearts and in our minds. I pray that our home would be a place where peace dwells. I know personally the importance of having that peace and a place of peace. I’ve found that we can have peace in our storms, our trials, and in chaos. It starts with knowing God and trusting that He is in control. Once you arrive at that place, you will find peace.
Here are some Bible verses on peace.
1. But give great joy to those who came to my defense. Let them continually say, “Great is the LORD, who delights in blessing his servant with peace!”
Psalms 35:27 NLT
2. Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 GNT
3. Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]
John 14:27 AMPC
4. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 NLT
5. But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].
Galatians 5:22-23 AMPC
In a world dominated by chaos, peace is a hard thing to find. Fear is easily bred when you think of all that is going on today. Cities and countries are going bankrupt. Debts are rising. Diseases are rampant. There is very little in this world anymore that is stabile. When the future is uncertain, it’s easy to lose hope. I choose to not let the events of this world control my inner peace. What seems out if control in this world is still under God’s control.
In the book of Judges, chapter 6, Israel was in the same condition. Chaos reigned in the land. There was no hope. While Gideon was threshing wheat in secret, an angel appeared and said, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you” (Judges 6:12 NLT). Gideon’s response was like many of ours would be. He asked, “If The Lord is with me, then why have all these bad things happened?” They talked some more and then Gideon asked for a sign that the angel was from God. After seeing the sign, Gideon was terrified, but God said, “Don’t be afraid.” Gideon built an altar to God and called it Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is Peace).
Don’t be afraid. That’s God’s word to us today. Don’t let fear grip your heart, your mind and your life. We are not meant to live in fear because God has not given us a spirit of fear. It’s not in Him. He is the Prince of Peace and that’s what He wants to give you today. Peace. He doesn’t want you so consumed by the chaos and instability in your life that you lose your focus. When you have peace, you can focus on what matters and make the best decisions.
Jesus said in John 14, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me… I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (verses 1, 27). His peace is not like the false peace that we find in the world. I call it “false” because the peace the world gives is temporary. His peace is eternal. It passes all understanding and it is sufficient for you.
I don’t know what all you are facing right now. I’ve had my fair share of trouble, stress and chaos in my life. I’ve also been guilty of allowing those things to take over my mind and to get me off track. I’ve learned to trust God and to allow His peace to reign in my life. I don’t live in a utopia. I still have chaos, stress and trouble all around me. I choose to trust in Jehovah Shalom now to bring peace to my life. I don’t allow those things to control my mind. What may have caught me off guard did not catch Him off guard. He knows my future and can guide me best. He knows yours too and offers you peace. Will you trust Jehovah Shalom with all you’re worried about today?
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One of the things I’ve learned is that your thoughts affect how you feel. How you feel affects what you do in any given situation. So many times we’ve reacted in a situation in a way we wish we wouldn’t have. If I lose my cool, I feel like I’ve lost the battle. I don’t like that feeling at all, but at the end of the day, it all comes back to how healthy I’ve kept my thoughts. If I don’t like how I react in a situation, I need to change how I feel in it. If I want to change how I feel, I have to change my thoughts. Our thoughts are more powerful than we give them credit for. Scripture dedicates a lot of verses to our thought life because many times they are what’s standing between us and victory.
When we learn to have a healthy thought life, our outlook on life changes. When our outlook on life changes, the things that happen in our life change. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT) When we are at peace in our mind because our thoughts are fixed on God, our minds won’t be agitated by the things we’re going through. We all go through hard times, but those who have learned to keep their thoughts on God and His promises will be kept in perfect peace during those times. They won’t crumble when their world is crumbling. The thoughts of God’s promises produce feelings of peace and peace changes how we react.
Romans 8 assures us that no matter what you go through, it will not separate you from God’s love. That’s a promise I like to think about when times get tough. Through it all, you and I are still loved by God. He doesn’t leave us when times get tough. His love is not dependent on how we react in those situations. There’s peace in knowing that. It’s good to spend time in prayer when times are tough, but it’s even better to spend some time thinking about all God has done for you throughout your life. Keeping your mind fixed on Him will take you from panic to peace. It will keep whatever is going on on the outside from reaching you inside. You can have perfect peace no matter what you’re facing, and it all starts with keeping your thoughts fixed on Him instead of your situation.
As believers, God gives us some pretty incredible gifts. We have the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the individual gifts of the Spirit and peace. God knows that our outer world is a reflection of our inner world so He gave us the gift of peace. When there is chaos all around us and things are going wrong, we can have peace instead of falling apart. Our inner world doesn’t have to be a reflection of things going on around us. Instead, our trust in God gives us peace no matter what we are facing. It is a driving force in our lives that allows us to be strong when the weight of the world is on our shoulders.
The peace that God gives allows us to have a sense of completeness, a sound mind and contentment. No matter how broken we are, God’s peace makes us whole. When everything around us wants to create fear, God’s peace reminds us that He is in control. When everyone else seems to be prospering and we are not, God’s peace helps us to be content. This gift of peace is strong in the face of adversity and keeps our eyes on God. We need to rely on it more than we do so that we can allow it to replace the worry and fear inside of us. Remember that God has not forgotten you – He’s equipped you for whatever you will face in life with the gifts He’s given you. Hold onto them and use them so your faith can be strong.
Here are some Bible verses on God’s gift of peace.
1. I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!
John 14:27 TPT
2. I am listening to what the Lord God is saying; he promises peace to us, his own people, if we do not go back to our foolish ways.
Psalm 85:8 GNT
3. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
PHILIPPIANS 4:7 AMP
4. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 NLT
5. GOD makes his people strong. GOD gives his people peace.
Psalm 29:11 MSG
I love the story of Jesus in Mark 4. He had been teaching all day sharing spiritual insights through parables with crowds of people. When He was finished, He told the disciples to get in a boat and head to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After they had been going a ways, a sudden storm blew in and threatened to sink the boat. In the midst of the chaos and fear, someone realized they needed Jesus and He wasn’t on deck. Verse 38 says, “But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion” (TPT). In the middle of the storm, Jesus was able to rest because He trusted God.
Most of us aren’t that way. When things are going downhill quickly and everything we hold dear is being threatened to sink, we struggle to rest. Sleep eludes us as our minds think of everything bad that can happen and what we will do if everything heads south. Yet, in this story, we find that Jesus is able to rest. I believe that the rest He was given is a rest that belongs to us. We have to learn that our perception of things is not His reality. Where we look up at the storm in fear, He speaks to it in faith. When we let fear dictate our emotions and steal our rest, we lack the faith to trust His providence for our lives.
Psalm 116:7 says, “Now I can say to myself and to all, ‘Relax and rest, be confident and serene, for the Lord rewards fully those who simply trust in him.’” If you’re uncomfortable speaking to your storms, then speak to yourself. Worry robs us of the strength and rest that God wants us to have. Just because you’re surrounded by turmoil, it doesn’t mean you have to live in it. God gives His children rest and peace, but many times, we have to take hold of it and tell ourselves to take it. Sudden storms that pop up are not a surprise to God. If you will simply trust in Him, He will guide you safely to shore.
I was speaking to someone recently about the old computer operating system DOS. I remember as a kid learning how to write programs for DOS. We were taught to increase each command line by 10 so if you needed to add a line of programming later, you had the room. Another thing they taught us is the phrase, “If this, then that.” It was a way to tell the computer if the user does this, then I want you to skip to another line and run the program from there. It was all about cause and consequence.
The Bible is full of “if this, then that” type phrases. In John 15:7 Jesus said, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you then you can ask whatever you will.” II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people will humbled selves and pray, then I will hear from Heaven and heal their land.” These are just a couple of examples. God puts conditions on many promises that require an action on our part first in order to activate them just like in the old DOS programming. If we don’t do the first part, then the next part is skipped.
Another conditional promise is found in 2 John 1:3. It says, “Grace, mercy and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ – the Son of the Father – will continue to be with us who live in truth and love” (NLT). If we will continue to live in truth and love we will receive grace, mercy and peace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor which affords joy, delight and pleasure according to the Blue Letter Bible. The favor of God alone is enough, but John added in (through his use of the word grace) that we would also get joy, delight and pleasure by living in truth and love.
Next, he said we would get mercy. One of the definitions of mercy is to have the providence of God. That means that God will order your steps and guide your future. He won’t just let you wander. Your life will be filled with purpose which leads to the last promise of peace. When we live in love and truth, we will also get peace in our hearts, in our minds and in our lives. God wants to give us these three blessings if we will simply live in truth and love.
As we close the door on one year and open the door to another, I think it’s good to have a spiritual resolution for the new year as well. I believe Philippians 4:4-8 provides us with some great things we should resolve to do not just in the coming year, but throughout our life. Verse 4 says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (NLT) In 2019, don’t let anything steal your joy. Joy shouldn’t be based on your circumstances, and it’s where you get your strength from. Trust in what God is doing and stay joyful.
Verse 6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Refuse to let worry have a foothold in your life. It uses today’s strength for tomorrow’s problems. Turn your worry into prayer. Let the The things you can’t control push you closer to the One who can control them. Prayer changes our perspective and helps us to let go of the burdens that are too heavy for us to bear. Put them in God’s hands and take His burden which is light.
Verse 7 says, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Having peace in your heart, your mind and in your life is a wonderful thing. We were not created to live in turmoil. When we learn to trust a God with our decisions and with the things in our life that we can’t control, we can have God’s peace. Let His peace guide you in the coming year so that you operate in His will for your life.
Finally verse 8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Choose what to think about. Your thoughts are powerful and determine the direction of your life. Don’t dwell on what could be, but focus on what is true. One true thing I focus on is that God is in control, and nothing that happens in my life is a surprise to Him. 2019 is already history to God. Resolve to make it the year that you trust Him completely and you will experience joy, peace and faith.