Adoring Jesus and Being at Peace, Like Simeon

     Simeon took him [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32 (NIV)

Lord Jesus, what a breath-taking, knee-buckling holy paradox. Eight days after your birth, Simeon took you into his arms. Yet it was by your arms that all things have been made and are sustained–“things above the earth, on the earth, and below the earth.” Everything has been made by you and for you (Col. 1:16; John 1:3), including Simeon and us.

We praise you for the humility of your incarnation, the magnificence of your salvation, and our accessibility into your presence. From eternity you came close and for eternity you remain even closer, for our Father has graciously hidden our lives in yours.

Lord Jesus, it’s only because you embraced us in the gospel that we have a good measure of the same peace Simeon experienced; for you are God’s promised salvation for Israel, for Gentiles, and for us. In you we’ve found the consolation that cannot be found anywhere else. You are our righteousness and redemption, our holiness and hope, our sanity and surety, and a whole lot more. The saints in heaven are more joyful than us, but they’re not more loved or more secure than we are.

As we stare the beginning of a New Year in the face, we want the peace of your grace to help us live by the …

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The Peace of Jesus Ruling in Our Relationships

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. Eph. 2:14

And he [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the FatherEph. 2:17-18 

Lord Jesus, this Scripture is humbling, gladdening, and healing. You entered our world at Bethlehem heading for Calvary. As this Scripture affirms, Christmas reveals you as the ultimate Peace-preacher and Peacemaker–uniting opposites and enemies. Thank you for being the hostility-destroying, enemy-reconciling, relationship-healing Savior.

First and foremost, we bless you for securing us in an intimate and unbreakable relationship with God. Because of your finished work, we no longer live with fear and doubt about what God thinks about us. Not only do we presently enjoy full access to our Father, but also live in his perpetual favor, great delight, and constant pursuit. Even when he must discipline us, our Father does so with a heart of love, never disgust or aggravation. There’s no peace like peace with God.

Though we sometimes offer you resistance, we’re also grateful you actively work to bring peace in a wide array of broken relationships. You’re committed to destroying all kinds of hostilities and reconciling all kinds of people–in our families and friendships, churches and communities–even with our enemies. Forgive us when we choose resentment over reconciliation, nursing grudges over building bridges, and rehearsing our hurts quicker than we remember the gospel.

Glorious Prince of Peace, …

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Trusting God for Peace When We See Things Quite Differently

     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 Thess. 3:16 (NLT)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:17 (NIV)

O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our worksIsa. 26:12 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, I praise, bless, and adore you for many reasons. Today, in particular, I rejoice in your commitment to give us peace–to center, settle, and encourage our hearts. You never pressure us just to ‘”get over it, buck up, and be strong”. You welcome us in our weakness, confusion, and frailties.

In Paul’s words, you promise peace “at all times and in every situation.” To know that you are with us and for us, to know that you love us and are in control of all things–that is what we need, more than anything else. Father, here is one of the “every situations” for which we ask you to “ordain” a good measure of your peace.

Grant us peace as our country (and world) reels in response to the results of the 2016 presidential election. Many are gleeful and many are fearful; many are hopeful and many are rage-full; many are ready to love our country, once again, and many are ready to leave our country, once and for all. And those are responses your children are feeling, not to mention the …

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So Much Encouragement, Peace, and Hope!

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

Heavenly Father, to meditate my way through this whole passage is like standing in front of an open fire hydrant of grace. There’s so much encouragement, peace, and hope gushing at me, it’s hard to stand up.

For starters, thank you for already declaring me to be righteous in your sight. I’m not just forgiven, but also robed in the perfection of Jesus. I have peace with you now (and forever), only because you made your peace with me through the finished work of Jesus.

2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God

And now, I have perpetual access into your holy and joyful, welcoming and transforming presence. I’m no longer weighted down with guilt because I’m standing in your grace. I no longer fear the future and things I cannot control; I rejoice with hope, because I know one Day your glory will cover the earth, and you’ll finish making me like Jesus (Phil. 1:6; 1 John 3:1-3).

3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 

    Father, you even give me grace to rejoice in my sufferings, because in Christ, there don’t have to be any wasted sufferings. As you take me deeper into the riches of this gospel, free me more and more from my whining, complaining, and …

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Getting, Being, and Staying Still

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Ps. 46:10-11

     Sovereign Father, whenever I hear the command, “Be still,” I have to remind myself that you’re not telling us to sit still, but to be still; and there’s a world and a gospel of difference between the two. Sometimes we can be sitting perfectly still but our thoughts and hearts race all over the place, and our hands reach for something to hold onto–something to either stabilize or anesthetize us in a world over which we have zero control.

     We can will our way into a seat, but nothing but the gospel can bring our racing thoughts into captivity; nothing but grace can center our wondering and wandering hearts; nothing but your love can give us an anchor of real peace and hope.

     When we’re still, we remember that you are God and nothing and no one else is. That’s the best news of this or any day. You have no competition–counterfeits, but no competition. There are demigods, semi-gods, wannabe gods, but only you are God.

     Kings and nations aren’t god; for one day you will be exalted among all the nations. The nations are like tiny droplets in your big bucket (Isa. 40:15). Storms and environmental disasters aren’t god, for you will be exalted in the earth. You send the earthquake and harness the hurricane for your …

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Trusting God for Decision-Making Peace

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Prov. 16:9 (NLT)

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. Rev. 3:7 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5-6 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, some decisions are “no brainers,” and some require nothing more than sanctified common sense. But other looming decisions tie us in knots, rob us of sleep, and keep us second-guessing. Today I’m praying for friends in this third category.

As these Scriptures teach, it’s incredibly comforting to know you determine our steps and the outcome of our plans. This doesn’t mean we’re to be passive in our decision-making, but to realize that you are very engaged–opening doors we cannot shut, and shutting doors we cannot open. This is a huge blessing. We praise and bless you for your sovereign power, constant care, and total trustworthiness.

Father, we certainly have every reason to trust you with all of our hearts, because you loved us with all of your heart when you sent Jesus into the world to be our Savior. Because of your matchless gift of Jesus, we can certainly depend on you to give us everything else we need (Rom. 8:32).

Father, make our ways straight as we seek to honor you with decisions that concern our every-age children and our aging parents; …

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The One True Source of Peace

     “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace.”  Luke 19:38-42 (NIV)

Lord Jesus, the ache within our hearts for peace is intense and unrelenting, demanding and incredibly deceiving. Though I already rest in you alone, for my forgiveness and righteousness, I still get tricked into thinking a more palpable peace can be found somewhere else, or with someone else.

Some days I’m like Esau. My peace-lust takes over, and in the moment I’ll gladly settle for a bowl of hot porridge over the hope of a future banquet (Gen 25:29-34; Rev. 19). The provision of a snack in hand blinds my eye, deafens my ear, and dulls my taste buds to the satisfaction I already have in you, and the consummate satisfaction of your return.

Other days I get sucked in the world of “if only.” If only I were 20 years younger, lived somewhere else, had a different body, had more money, had fewer hassles, had never been deeply wounded, could control the decisions of others, had a different family of origin . . . and the list goes on.

But right now I hear you utter the only significant “if.” “If …

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For Those of Us Who Struggle to Be Patient

Love is patient 1 Cor. 13:4 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, I’m not sure who first warned about asking you for patience, out of fear you’d create difficult circumstances that require patience. That’s not only silly, it misrepresents your Fatherly heart, and grace-full ways. I’m asking you for patience because I have plenty of contexts, situations, and relationships that showcase my need of this fruit of your Spirit.

Father, first of all, thank you for your unlimited patience with me. You’re never hurried, annoyed, or irritated with me; you never roll your eyes, pat your foot, or furrow your brow. So great is your compassion and kindness.

So where is my impatience most likely to rear its ugly head? When people don’t talk fast enough, I help them finish their sentences. When traffic is slow and gnarly, I get annoyed and “testy.” When my emails, calls, and texts aren’t returned as soon as I’d like, I get miffed (as though I should take priority in everybody’s day).

I get impatient when worship leaders talk too much between songs, and pastors preach too little from the text of the Bible (as though you made me the judge and jury of every worship service). When lab results take forever to arrive and people take too long to decide, I can get “turned sideways.”

I get impatient with slow clerks, busy airports, and full restaurants (as though I deserve a hitch-less, delay-less, non-waiting existence). When service appointments run late, guests arrive early, and political candidates spew nonsense, I’m not a “happy camper.”

Father, if confession …

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Choosing Peace in the Midst of Busyness

     This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lam. 3:19-24 (NIV)

     You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isa. 26:3 (ESV)

     We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothingPsalm 39:6 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, I woke up today with more things to do than there are hours in the day. That’s what makes these Scriptures so precious and timely. Jeremiah, Isaiah, and David offer wisdom with which I want to fill this day.

So even before the sun comes up, I choose to remember what matters, and Who matters. Even before I fix my breakfast, I choose to feast on your new mercies. Even before I put on my jeans, I choose to put on garments of grace. Fill me with your Spirit, your Word, and your grace.

Father, thank you for your steadfast, irrepressible, life-defining love. Life isn’t about getting everything done, but knowing you, walking with you, and enjoying you. I won’t add a day or hour to my life by stress and worry. Far better do to a few things well, with a spirit of peace and kindness, than to rush through my list and run over people. Help me to remember–all day long, “the only thing that counts is faith …

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Longing and Working for Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matt. 5:9

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18 

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Rom. 12:18

Lord Jesus, irrespective of our gardening skills, there’s at least one kind of gardening for which there’s no possibility of crop failure. When we sow in peace and seek to live out stories of your reconciling love, you guarantee a harvest of ample, delectable, righteous fruit. It may take longer and cost more than we wish, but we are never foolish to long for and to work for peace, where there is strife, disconnect, and brokenness.

O, that certain relationships didn’t get so dicey, messy, and complicated. We miss the innocence of Eden and long for the perfections of heaven, Lord. Thank you that we don’t have to pretend with you; thank you that we can bring our exhaustion and frustrations, and reaffirm our hope and trust in you.

Jesus, you are our peace and the ultimate Peacemaker. While we were God’s enemies, you died for us–destroying the hostility, and replacing the enmity with your great affection and perfect peace. You reconciled us to our Father, through the cost of your life and the currency of your love. There is no greater expression of love than the gospel. Never let us forget, or doubt, the reconciling power of the gospel, never.

Give us your patience when peacemaking requires more emotional currency than we have, and demands more forgiveness than we want to offer. Give us courage when you send …

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