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Posts Tagged ‘#peacethatpassesunderstanding’

In Isaiah “a voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (40:3). This voice that Isaiah is referring to is that of John the Baptizer.

It is interesting to me that today, the second Sunday of advent, the Sunday where our focus is on peace, that it is this man, John, who is part of the focus.

John, the cousin of Jesus, the one who leapt in his mother’s (Elizabeth) womb when Mary (early pregnant with Jesus) came near. He was the son that was a miracle baby for old Zechariah and his post menopausal wife. They had been waiting … waiting as we are waiting during advent. John’s choice of clothing (camel hair) and food (locusts and honey) may make him a little less relatable than others.

He was a man who took his calling as messenger seriously, “preparing the way of the Lord, (to) make his paths straight” (Mark 1:3). He did not mince words, did not deliver a happy-clappy message … he “proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (1:4). And people came, confessing their sins and having him baptize them. But, he never left them there, at their moment of public confession and being baptized. He would remind them of what … of who was to come, inviting them into the anticipation of waiting … “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:8).

Some thought he was the Messiah, but he was quick to put them straight, saying, “the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals” (1:7).

John did not shy away from his beliefs and (literally) lost his head for sharing his perspectives on the divorce of King Herod.

So, John the Baptist and peace …

Here’s the reality, the real, might not be what we want to hear, reality …

John the Baptist was firm on three things, for then and for now …

  1. he was the messenger … not the Messiah (we all need to be reminded of that in our own lives)
  2. repentance of sin is the only way to peace
  3. baptism is a public and physical act of an inner change

Jesus called John his “messenger” who prepared the “way”.

This was the way for those who followed and listened then, it is the “way” now, for us.

It is only through the peace of Christ … the peace that passing all human understanding, that we can truly be at peace …

at peace when the sun shines … and when the monsoons come

at peace when we are soaring in our academics … and when we are not making the grade

at peace in the healthy birth of a child … and when our child is ill

at peace when celebrating birthdays … and when standing at a graveside

at peace when planning a wedding … and when asked for a divorce

at peace when celebrating Christmas with parties, and concerts, and church services and family gatherings … and when we are looking to a quiet Christmas, separated by the realities of a pandemic.

Peace can come only through Christ, the Messiah, for those who have repented of their sins. This is the peace of Christmas

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

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When we moved to British Columbia I was introduced to mountain climbing … okay, not like real mountain climbing, with ropes and crampons and carabiners … more like a hike, with a backpack, water, snacks and a camera.

Growing up on the East Coast of Canada I had encountered rolling hills that showcase the beauty of autumns foliage and the great big sky. Here on the Pacific Northwest one often only has to open their door to be reminded of their grandeur and how they hog the horizon.

It isn’t until you have encountered a real mountain that one learns to climb.

Lately I have been writing about what to do once a season of wandering, of climbing steep and rugged mountains in the form of struggles, sorrows and other difficulties, through a series starting with now what.

Once we have managed to get to the other side of the mountain climb, it is tempting to keep moving forward and not ever glance back at the climb that you survived.

But, that climb of ours might be just the story of encouragement that a fellow mountain climber might need to hear. Our sorrows and struggles might just be the hand on the small of the back of one who believes that they simply cannot go on.

When I look at the past few years in my life and the lives of those closest to me, there is a trail of hurt, life-altering illness, job loss, depression and instability that touched every area of our lives. I have referred to that season as annus horribilis (as QEW did in 1992) or horrible year, but it would be more accurate to refer to it not as one year, but years.

As I look back at that time, I could have lived in fear … for the possibilities for hope were nowhere in sight. Yet, during that time, I was surrounded by a bubble-wrap-like peace … a peace that surpasses human understanding.

Was I secured because of my closeness to God? was it because I am always faithful to him? A resounding, NO.

That peace was beyond my knowledge, beyond my means, beyond my deserving … or, more accurately, my lack of deserving. It was and is a peace that is available to all. I was, quite literally, at the end of myself, my abilities, my knowledge.

It was because there was nothing within me that could do anything, that I had just trust the only one who could.

There were no voices in the middle of the nights, no message in the clouds, no ghostly touch on my shoulder … just peace … that surpassed my understanding.

I would be driving to work, or laughing with a student about a math problem, or cleaning the toilets, or making dinner and I would stop, amazed that I was still standing, still breathing, still functioning. Chaos was swirling around me, from every side, and yet … I felt peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I also shed buckets of tears, I lost my temper with loved ones, I resented individuals and I begged for mercy … yet, I felt peace.

My very real mountain taught me how to climb. Though I did not ask for it, did not want it, would not like to ever climb it again … I learned, oh how I learned.

Sometimes we climb great mountains and never fully understand why they were put in our way, why we were forced to sacrifice so much. Maybe it was so that we could know peace that is beyond our understanding, so that we can share that peace with others, just heading up the mountain.

“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 4:7

Even when I don’t see it, You’re working
Even when I can’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, You never stop working
way maker
miracle worker
promise keeper
light in the darkness
my God, that is who you are

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“Peace, bring it all to peace
The storm surrounding me
Let it break at your name”

Driving to work this week, the lyrics of a worship song I had thoughtlessly sung along to just days before in church, became clear, personal, intimate.

When we sing praises and worship we can easily just sing words, even thinking that our investment of worship is sincere … and I believe it is. There are times when we worship, though, when we do not just worship God, but we realize the strength, the truth of what we are singing.

“Breath, call these bones to live,
Call these lungs to sing
Once again, I will praise”

It is one thing to be able to simply praise God, another to praise him in the midst of the storm with pressure approaching from all around, but after that storm has past (is passing) …

when you can look back …

when you can see the bigger picture that was hidden from view in the eye of the storm …

when you can see God’s hand of comfort, of protection on your life.

Your name is a light that the shadows can’t deny
Your name can not be overcome
Your name is alive, forever lifted high
Your name cannot be overcome
Jesus, Jesus
You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus
You silence fear

And the words proved true.

As the song played on the radio, as I drove to work, that first day reminded me of the previous first day, a year ago. I was reminded of the nervousness, the anxiety, the hope that I felt driving to my first, first day at a new job. I was reminded of the many struggles of the past year …

Emotion gripped me as I contemplated how much more nervous, how much more anxious I would have been had I known what was to come in the following months. The emotions did not flow simply for how paralyzing that knowledge would have been a year ago, but how I could see God’s hand of comfort, of protection on my life.

How many drives to and from work I have called out the name of Jesus in the past year … and as I called his name, more peace than I imagined possible, fell on me. I exhaled the name of Jesus, and he gave me breath to inhale.

His name is alive, it has power, for “even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17). I don’t think that we utilize the power of the name of Jesus, I know that I have not in the past … but …

this year, I understand so clearly how calling on the name of Jesus can silence fear, replacing it with a peace that is beyond all human understanding.

It can truly make the darkness tremble.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the
Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

 

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