Benediction of Peace

Peace is not an external thing to be grasped and held. It is not dependent on what is going on around us or what is happening to us. It is a condition of the heart that exists when, as children of God, we learn to know and trust our Father’s presence, power, authority, and character.

So may His Spirit bring more and more peace into your minds and hearts as you learn to know Him better.

Amen.

 

Psalm Prayer:

I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God. My times are in your hands.
(from Psalm 31:14, 15)

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MORE words of peace: Psalm 5:11-12; Psalm 16:8; Psalm 23:1, 4, 6; Psalm 23:3-4; Psalm 31:4-15a; Psalm 33:18-22; Psalm 34:8-10; Psalm 55:22; Psalm 56:4, 9b; Psalm 63:8; Psalm 91:1, 2, 4; Psalm 103:13-19; Psalm 116:7-9; Psalm 121; Psalm 145:14-20; Proverbs 10:25; Proverbs 12:3; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:3, 4; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 48:17-18; Isaiah 50:10; Matthew 6:26, 30; Matthew 8:26; Matthew 10:31; Matthew 11:28-30; Matthew 14:31; Luke 1:78-79; Luke 6:46-49; John chapters 14-16; Philippians 4:6-9, 19; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; 1 Peter 3:12; 1 Peter 5:7; 2 Peter 1:2; Jude 1:1, 24

 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

We will always have a Helper

There is yet another reason, Jesus tells us, that our minds and hearts can be at rest: We will always have a Helper. In each of the three chapters we’re reading (I hope you are!), He promises that the Holy Spirit comes to each child of God to teach, guide, and help.

Look at the warnings and admonitions Jesus gives in John 14, 15, 16: If you love me, do what I’ve taught you. Stay connected to me. Love each other in the same way I love you. You’re going to run into a lot of trouble from the world. Ask the Father for whatever you need, believe, and you’ll do even greater things than I’ve done.

Oh my. That’s quite a job description. How am I going to do all that? Loving as Jesus did? Holding firm to my faith even when under fire from those who hate God? Sticking so close to Jesus that I’m part of Him and He’s part of me?

Lord, you know I’m not qualified for this position. You know I don’t have what it takes … And most of all, you know that I can’t keep my heart and mind from being troubled and worried about all these things …

Yes. He knows. And that’s why the Helper is here. He does in us what we cannot do. And Jesus promised that this Helper will never abandon us.

Galatians 5:16-26 portrays the difference the Holy Spirit makes in our lives. Guided by our own nature, our lives produce all kinds of immorality, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, and crazy partying. But a life guided by the Spirit? There is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Paul wrote to the Romans:

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

To my mind, looking at the two lists from Galatians, the first one represents death even while we are alive. The second one represents life and peace.

You can have peace, Jesus says. The Helper will lead you to it.

 

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God. My times are in your hands.
(from Psalm 31:14, 15)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Three steps to peace

The world scrambles for peace. Gurus try to teach their disciples how to find it personally. World leaders wrangle for months and years “hammering” out agreements to “bring” peace. Yet the most telling clue to the world’s attitude toward peace is that sly two-word phrase that’s become a joke: World peace. Behind all the scrambling, the world knows it can’t find it, bring it, or hammer it out.

Yet the children of God are given three simple steps to an incredible peace.

(I hesitate to even type that. It sounds like we’re descending into those sensational headlines of junk mail and internet ads.)

Seriously, take a look:

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 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. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Three things, to take you to a place of peace.

Pray about everything.

Tell God what you need.

Thank Him for what He has done.

The psalmist somehow knew that the Lord cares about both the everyday detail of our lives and the anguish of our souls (see Psalm 31:7 and 37:23). Peter wrote that we can give our worries to the Lord, because He cares about us (1 Peter 5:7). But I especially love what Jesus himself says in the three chapters of John we’ve been looking at this week.

Jesus includes prayer in His instructions to the disciples. Prayer is going to be another anchor, He says, that will give you joy and peace. And now you can go straight to the Father with your requests, “for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me …” (16:27)

There it is again. That language of love and intimacy that holds all those who believe in Jesus securely in relationship with God.

So pray and tell Him what you need. He loves you dearly.

And don’t forget step 3: Thank Him for what He has done.

If you are careful not to forget step 3, it will keep you from forgetting.

Thankfulness keeps us from forgetting who God is and how much He loves us. It keeps us from forgetting all the things He’s already done in our lives. Remembering all this also brings a peace and security: We can trust Him. He is holding us.

Almost too simple to be true, right? Yet this is truth.

The peace that comes with these three daily habits is a peace beyond anything the world has to offer. It’s “God’s peace.” And I like the image of how it protects us — it sets guards around our hearts and minds. No sly enemy of worry and fear is going to sneak into the stronghold of God’s peace.

I’m going to go pray and tell and thank, right now.

God’s peace to you today, my sisters and brothers.

 

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God. My times are in your hands.
(from Psalm 31:14, 15)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Taking Him into account

It would have been comical if it were not so heartbreaking. The toddler had an uncanny sense of her mother’s presence—or absence. As long as mother was in the house, the little girl played happily, seemingly absorbed in what she was doing and oblivious to adults. But the moment her mother tried to sneak out and leave the babysitter in charge—wide eyes looked up, filled with alarm, and the petite face crumbled in absolute, wretched despair. Followed, of course, with inconsolable wailing.

I wish I had that little one’s radar that was constantly tuned in to the presence of one particular person. I wish I was so sensitively, uninterruptedly aware of my God’s presence.

This illustration is not quite perfect—because my Father never tries to sneak out and leave me alone.

Rather, it is my own limited sense of His presence that sometimes leads to my distress and despair.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “We become troubled because we have not been taking Him into account.”

How many times we feel despair. We feel we are near breaking. The feeling may come from all sorts of things: everything from an overloaded and chaotic schedule or from great tragedies and losses.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We don’t need to read Jesus’ words predicting trouble—we are all living it. Many different kinds of storms tear through our lives, bringing loss and sorrow. No life goes untouched.

What we do need to read, again and again and again, is that Jesus overcomes all of it. In any disaster, any loss, any stress, any setback, any sorrow, we must — in Oswald’s words — take Him into account. He can overcome all of it.

What does that mean, for us in our sorrow or trouble?

Certainly overcoming implies that one is more powerful.

Overcoming also involves disabling the power of another.

And doesn’t overcoming also carry the sense of beating, triumphing over, outweighing, prevailing over…

Many things have the power to rip great, gaping holes in our lives. But Jesus says that we can find our peace in the assurance that He has an even greater power.

We need to hear His words in the midst of the storm:

“Don’t be afraid. I am here.” (Matthew 14:27)

Take heart. You are not at the mercy of this trouble or tragedy that besets you. He is here.

How can He save us from these things? The saving does not come in preventing such suffering. But the Rescuer can break the power that trouble and sorrow wield over us. We will not be imprisoned by it. Trouble and sorrow may fill our lives, but they do not rule. Death, divorce, cancer, depression, unemployment, natural disasters, and evil people, little daily irritations and huge, life-altering disasters—none of it will rule our lives…

Because we are held in healing, rescuing, restoring hands. Christ’s life-giving power takes us from one day to the next. The high King of Heaven will not let His children be enslaved and paralyzed by trouble and sorrow.

Yes, His power even takes our suffering and sorrow and uses it for our good. Hard to imagine? Difficult to believe? But this is what our God says He will do – and He has the power to do it.

If we believe it, then our hearts might be battered by many storms, but peace still anchors our boat.

 

Psalm Prayer:

I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God. My times are in your hands.
(from Psalm 31:14, 15)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

“Remember what I told you”

Apparently, God has a plan. And no matter what things might look like in the world, He is carrying out His plans.

Let’s pause a moment, and let that sink in …

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John 14, 15, 16 are Jesus’ words to people of all time who believe in Him. They are words meant to help us trust God and give us peace and joy. And when you read all three at one sitting, listening to Jesus’ voice, then you can’t help but notice that God has a plan.

Jesus said, “I’m going away for a while. Then I’ll be back. While I’m gone, remember everything I’ve told you.”

There is a plan. Watch it unfold and remember what I told you and through everything, hang on, don’t abandon your faith.

Trust God, because He has a plan and He is even now carrying out His plans. Remember what I’ve told you.

He has a plan for this world.

He has a plan for bringing those who follow Him through this world to eventually be with Him in a place He is preparing for them.

He has a plan to continue teaching and guiding them.

He has a plan that will keep them strong and vibrant in their mission.

He has a plan for the world who hates Him.

Hard, terrible things will happen—yes, even to His people, because they are passing through the enemy’s kingdom, but take heart, because God has a plan and He is executing that plan.

I think Jesus’ words to Remember what I told you, apply to all of God’s words. Holy Scriptures outline God’s plan and tell us that He is in control, from the beginning of this world to the end.

He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
(Psalm 91:4)

We often go to this verse when we’re looking for peace, when we need reassurance of God’s shelter and rest. But look at the last part of the verse: His promises are part of the armor and protection He provides!

This is the reason we need to remember His words to us. Our Father’s promises are the only thing we can truly rely on as we pick our way through the litter and trash of this world. They are the solid rock we can build on, the anchor that holds us in storms, the sustenance that gives us strength, and the armor that protects us on our journey.

These words are what keep us holding on and trusting Him; they give us the foundation for peace.

Our peace and security come from His words.

So remember everything He’s told us. Remember our hope.

 

Psalm Prayer:

I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God. My times are in your hands.
(from Psalm 31:14, 15)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)