Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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True vs Truth- No Other Gods Session 3, Post 2

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(Fourth in a series on Kelly Minter’s Bible study, No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols)

I carry an ache with me all the time lately, even though I’m physically fine. I feel it most profoundly at night when I kiss my oldest son goodnight after putting my hand on his head to pray for him. I feel it when I look at the stacks of college-related books and papers sitting on our office counter and each time I review another essay he’s written for an application. My son will become a legal adult in the spring and shortly afterwards, he’ll walk across a stage wearing a cap and gown, signifying the end of his childhood and the beginning of the next chapter in his life. And although this is right and good, the sadness overwhelms me sometimes.

In my twenties, I used to envision the family I would have someday. More often than not, I would picture what my future children would be like as teenagers. Much of the planning my husband and I did focused on the era we’re now enjoying with our two boys. As I think about our oldest son preparing to launch into adulthood, it feels like the wave we’ve been riding since we started our family is about to crash on the sand. After all, the era we’ve been anticipating for years and enjoying thoroughly is going to change forever within the next year. Sometimes I’m tempted to feel a little hopeless, thinking life right now is as good as it gets.

Fixating on this could lead me down a dangerous path of negative thinking.  I could spend so much time dwelling on all of the things that will never happen again that I could miss out on embracing this new season my family is entering.  I have one boy on the brink of adulthood and another who will follow in a few years. Part of parenting means equipping our kids to launch well. So, while it’s true that my kids are getting older and our years raising them will come to an end, the truth is our relationship with them won’t. Beyond parenting, I trust God has many more fulfilling endeavors for my husband and me in the years ahead. Some may involve our kids, but others won’t.

True vs. truth:  it’s a concept that I’ve been thinking about for the last few days as I’ve been working through Session 3 in No Other Gods by Kelly Minter.  She uses the story of Adam and Eve to drive home some powerful observations about what happens when we fixate on isolated things that are “true” but fail to see the larger context of Truth (with a capital “T”).  As you may remember, Satan appears in the garden in the form of a serpent and questions Eve about God’s command not to eat from a specific tree. After he plants seeds of doubt about God’s goodness in Eve’s mind, the serpent cunningly convinces her to disobey God and try the fruit:

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:6-7, NIV)

Kelly Minter points out that while the serpent did deceive Eve, nothing he said was false in that immediate moment:  they did gain knowledge of good and evil and they did not die on the spot (although their disobedience did ultimately bring death into the world).  She quotes Michael Wells of Abiding Life Ministries who says, “Satan will tell us what’s true, but he never tells us the truth.”

I’ve been thinking about that quote all week.  How often do I fixate on what is “true” in the moment, but fail to see the bigger Truth?

There are many times when I let what is true at a certain time deceive me and prevent me from seeing the bigger picture– like feeling sad about my kids growing up but forgetting that I’m doing my job right if they’re actually becoming capable adults. I can lose perspective on other things too– like when a friend unintentionally hurts me, or when the scale doesn’t show the weight I expect to see.  It might be an unanticipated expense that threatens my confidence in God’s provision. It could be feeling despair about the direction our nation and world are headed and failing to remember that God is still sovereign over it all.  The opportunities to focus on the little “t” instead of the big “T” are endless.

Armed with my new knowledge, I regularly pray for the discernment to see the difference between what is “true” and what is “Truth.” I don’t want to be so easily deceived or to get so wrapped up in the small things that I fail to recognize the big picture. Jesus tells us in John 16:33  “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Now that’s Truth with a capital “T” that I can believe, no matter what.

The link below is one of my favorite songs and the video with it shows the difference between what is “true” and what is “Truth.” Click on the link and enjoy “Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray.

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Bad Year, Good God

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I’ve heard people joke that 2016 is a year they’d like to forget. Daily headlines remind us our nation and our world have seen more than their fair share of ugly circumstances: tragic accidents, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, disturbing racism and political upheaval. Our nation is deeply divided, confused and disillusioned. Our world is in turmoil. People are losing sleep and shedding tears as they agonize over the variety of complex issues that have plagued us this year.

And yet, in the midst of all of these ugly and awful things, I am thankful. Not because of them, but in spite of them. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I am thankful that my hope isn’t in human leaders, or manmade institutions. My hope isn’t in people, prosperity or earthly peace. I’m thankful because my hope is in the living God, who is sovereign over all things. I’m thankful because my ultimate citizenship is not in this world, but with God in heaven.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture seems especially fitting this week as I reflect on my thankfulness for God and his sovereignty. Below I’ve included excerpts from Isaiah 40 that cause me to feel thankful, hopeful and reassured, no matter what is going on in our nation and world:

Isaiah 40:21-25

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.”

Thankfulness Point #1: People who seem important or influential in this world may make a positive or negative impact for a time, but they will ultimately blow away like chaff in the wind. No earthly leader, no matter how wise or respected could ever compare to God. Likewise, no earthly leader, no matter how corrupt or questionable, could ever thwart God’s plans.

 Isaiah 40:26

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

Thankfulness Point #2: God knows the stars by name and calls them out one by one. He also knows the number of hairs on my head and the head of every other person who has ever lived. (Luke 12:7) Nothing escapes his gaze. I am deeply thankful that the God of great power and mighty strength knows and cares about me personally.

 Isaiah 40:27-28

“Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Thankfulness Point #3: Even when we don’t understand what God is allowing in this world, we know he is trustworthy. His understanding is beyond anything our miniscule minds could comprehend. We can be thankful even when God’s ways and purposes are hidden from us. He is everlasting and sees world events from a vantage point that has a much larger scope than anything we can see.

 Isaiah 40:29-31

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Thankfulness Point #4: God renews our strength. No matter how weary and beaten down we become, we can always find refuge in him. His strength is available and accessible to us whenever we seek it. Not only does he renew and restore us, he enables us to soar like eagles so we can rise above even the most distressing situations.

Final Thought

No matter how ugly or distressing the events in the world are, we never have reason to despair. We can put trust and hope in the living God. He is our rock and refuge. Anything else we’re thankful for builds on that one truth. God is God and we are not. And that’s something we can celebrate at Thanksgiving and all year long.

For further reassurance on God’s sovereignty, click on the link and enjoy Natalie Grant’s song “King of the World.” Make it your prayer this Thanksgiving season.

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The Sword of the Spirit- The Armor of God Week 7

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To say I was going through a rough patch would be an understatement. One of my boys was a toddler and the other was in pre-school and although life at home was good, some hard situations outside our household were weighing heavily upon me. Looking back, I see that there was an element of spiritual attack I hadn’t even considered.

I remember one morning in that season I awoke feeling especially burdened with dark thoughts and anguished emotions. Sitting at the breakfast table flanked by one son in a high chair and the other chattering beside me, something triggered a flood of tears. The lump in my throat couldn’t hold back the sobs as I pushed my chair back and abruptly left the kitchen. Throwing myself face down on my bed, I wasn’t even sure why I was crying, but the tears wouldn’t cease.

A tap on my shoulder a few minutes later gently reminded me I had little people to tend to and forced me to gather my emotions. Wiping tears away, I tried to regain my composure as I looked up to find my older son standing in front of me. He held out his Beginners Bible and with wisdom that defied his tender age simply said, “Here Mom, read this. It’ll make you feel better.” I’m still not sure how he knew to bring me a Bible, but I’d been following his advice since long before he was born.

I’ll never forget the first time the words of Scripture jumped off the page, making me feel like a passage had been written just for me. I was a freshman in college, struggling to find true friends and to live by God’s standards. It was not the easiest time in life to decide to follow after Jesus whole-heartedly. The many worldly temptations of college had wooed away the one friend from home I’d depended on for spiritual support. Trying to shine a light for Jesus in the dark was not easy. I felt utterly alone, but undaunted in my desire to pursue Christ without compromise. And then one morning I stumbled across this passage:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV)

Armed with this verse in the face of deep discouragement, I sensed God telling me not to lose my perspective. The trials I was facing were temporary, but if I persevered through them, my faith would prove genuine, which was eternal. Eventually, God also brought me friends who were godly, encouraging, and just plain fun.

Since that time, many more verses have felt especially relevant and personal in different seasons of my life. So much so, that I could make a time line of events in my life with corresponding Scriptures that spoke directly to me with words of wisdom, comfort, and direction. God’s Word has provided truth and light when I’ve been deceived by lies or have lost my way. It’s given me encouragement in times of trouble and hope when I’m tempted to despair.  I guess that makes sense considering Paul lists it as the final piece in the armor of God when he says, “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  (Ephesians 10:17, NIV)

The Bible has been my greatest weapon to fend off attacks of the evil one throughout my adult life. And because it is the spoken Word of God, it is always fresh, relevant and personal. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”  (Hebrews 4:12, NIV).  Scripture is so much more than just words on a page.  When we engage it and apply it to our lives, it changes us.  It changes our attitudes, our desires, our relationships and the things we value.   It is a guide for every aspect of daily living.  It is our solid foundation and the plumb line that keeps us aligned with God’s will.

I’ve begun to notice a clear difference between the lives of people who are actively engaging God’s Word and people who simply embrace the Christian lifestyle and its values.  People who study the Bible consistently and apply what they’ve learned have a passion and a sense of purpose in what they do.  They serve others out of gratitude to God, not as an obligation.  They grapple with hard truths and have teachable spirits.  They are hungry to know more about God and how He’s calling them to live.  They don’t follow rules and checklists–they abide with Jesus and let the Holy Spirit guide them.  Their lives are not safe and predictable.  They trust God when things get messy and complicated.  They have too much integrity to worry about whether or not they are “showing well” or impressing the “right” people. They are profoundly aware that they are sinners only saved by Gods’ grace.  Their resulting gratitude causes them to give their lives for God’s Kingdom purposes.

Putting on the armor of God daily means putting into practice what we say we believe. And when we do that, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance.

I can think of no better song to include than Third Day’s “Your Words.” Click on the link to enjoy a musical reminder of the value of God’s Word:

Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God, Lifeway Press, 2015.


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The Pursuit of Peace- The Armor of God Week 4

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Boosting myself over the side of the rubber raft, I slipped into the icy water, a shiver going down my spine despite the sunny day. A large boulder protruding from the river’s rocky bottom had stalled our adventure floating down the Truckee River. As the person with the most rugged shoes, I’d been elected by my fellow passengers to jump in the water and push us off. My sandals had thick rubber soles that protected my feet from the many jagged stones. They also provided stability for walking on the river’s uneven bed and maintaining balance in the moving waters. Once I pushed us off, I hoisted myself back in as the raft got swept into the river’s current. Without my shoes, I would have been more tentative and fearful about jumping in to help. The chances of cutting my foot, stubbing a toe or losing my balance in the river’s flow would have made me think twice before taking action. Yet having the right shoes gave me confidence and enabled me to accomplish the task quickly and easily.

Similarly, the swift-moving pace of life would be difficult to manage without putting on the shoes of peace described in Ephesians 6:15. God’s peace guards and guides us, enabling us to face anything that comes our way with confidence because we know God is trustworthy. Priscilla Shirer explains, “Shalom, the familiar Hebrew word for peace which permeates the Old Testament, does not refer to the absence of chaos, bur rather to an overall, deeply entrenched sense of harmony, health, and wholeness in the midst of chaos.” (The Armor of God, p. 98-99)

This explanation is contrary to the worldly definition of peace, which the dictionary describes as “freedom from any strife or dissension.” This kind of peace is based on exterior circumstances being harmonious and agreeable, which isn’t always possible to control. The “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” provides the inner tranquility and stability we need to navigate life when things don’t go according to plan. (Which is most of the time, isn’t it?)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle to strap on the shoes of peace. Sure, I have ultimate peace knowing that God wins in the end and that I’ll spend eternity with him. But some days, I forget to let that deep-seated peace sustain me as I navigate different challenges life brings my way. As I was looking up different Scriptures about peace, I found a repeated phrase that caught my attention: “seek peace.” (You can find that phrase in Psalm 34:14, Psalm 37:37, Jeremiah 29:7, Ezekiel 7:25 and 1 Peter 3:11).

To seek something is to go in search of it, to attempt to attain it, to ask for it or to try to find or discover it. Action is required. Peace doesn’t just come to us by accident; we must pursue it, not hope and wait and wonder if we’ll ever receive it. Like all of the other elements in the list of Spiritual Armor, it is already ours, but we must take steps to activate it within us.

Peace is one element in the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. And the only way to produce this kind of fruit is by abiding with Jesus, which he explained by saying, ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV) So in the end, the key to having peace and letting it guard our hearts and guide our steps is to spend time with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. It is only through him that we can maintain steady footing and stay balanced amidst the swirling waters of our chaotic lives.

If you find yourself feeling anxious, start your time with Jesus by applying the wisdom Paul offers in another one of his letters: “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 4:6-7, NIV) Along with your requests to Jesus, spend time thanking him for the things he’s done for you and the answers you’ve received to earlier prayers. Doing this not only re-aligns your focus, it also provides reassurance in your current struggles. Remembering where you’ve seen him move on your behalf before gives  you confidence he’ll do it again.

Sometimes I feel discouraged that all of this is so hard for me. It’s as if I’m pushing the re-set button every day to activate the peace God has given me. My natural inclination is to be anxious, so anytime I feel peace I know it must be from God. I’m thankful that it’s just one more opportunity to rely on him to supply what I can’t provide for myself.

Rend Collective has a great song called “My Lighthouse” that inspires me to seek God for peace. Click on the link and let it encourage you today.

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Infinitely Large, Intimately Small

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Stepping out onto the sunlit terrace, it took a moment to realize the intricacy of the vast wall before me. A sea of green in countless shades fluttered in the bay breeze. Moving closer to the Living Wall at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I marveled at the thirty-foot high, 4400 square foot expanse in front of me. It was impossible to count the number of different plants that were growing out of tiny fist-sized outcroppings in the concrete wall. The more I looked, the more amazed I became. Stepping closer, I began snapping close-up photos to capture the stunning array of shapes, sizes and shades of green.

Eventually, my friends and I moved on to enjoy man-made works of art inside, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that wall and God’s infinite creativity even in the simplest things. He had a whole world to build yet he chose to make leaves in more colors and shapes than I could count. That’s pretty awe-inspiring and more than a little humbling.

The God of the universe sees the big picture and cares about the smallest detail simultaneously. He can be attentive and engaged with every person that calls upon him. We never have to wait our turn, take a number or be placed on “hold.” We can pray about anything and everything, trusting that he listens and cares because we matter to him.

 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31, NIV)

Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, I overlook God’s attentiveness. I try to work things out on my own strength and wisdom and I end up anxious, exhausted and no less burdened than I was before. I forget the invitation Jesus extends to us:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:27-29, NIV)

When I accept this offer, I find peace even in the midst of the challenges I’m facing.  The best part is that God is strong enough to carry my burdens, yours and everyone else’s simultaneously. Not only that, he loves it when we ask him. And he does all of this while he holds the world together, without overlooking a single detail.

It’s hard to comprehend that God is infinitely big and infinitesimally small. The Living Wall exemplifies this paradox so beautifully. From a distance it’s just a massive expanse of green, but the closer you get, the more you realize its subtle nuances and minute details. The more you look at it, the more beautiful and complex it becomes.

Jason Gray’s latest song “Sparrows” reminds me to appreciate our God that is exponentially larger than we can comprehend. At the same time, he is intimately involved with the smallest details in our lives and in the wide world all around us. Click on the link to enjoy the song and be encouraged today.

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The Art of Avoidance- Women of the Word Part 4

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Glancing at the Christmas card as I sorted mail, my stomach lurched.  Something wasn’t quite right. Examining the photo more carefully, I saw that among the smiling faces, one member of the family was conspicuously absent. I realized an old friend must’ve had a major shift occur in her life. Without a letter to accompany the photo, I was at a loss.

Showing the picture to my husband, I began to speculate, “What do you think happened?   Do we have a mutual friend who might know their story?” I couldn’t think of anyone I could contact to ask. My next idea was to scan the family’s social media pages for clues, but I came up with no new information. Then a thought occurred to me—why not just reach out directly to my friend? I was hesitant.  Our paths hadn’t crossed in a long time and I didn’t  want to seem nosy or like I was just after “scoop.” Finally, I reasoned that over two decades of friendship was enough to show her I genuinely cared.

After exchanging several messages, we set up a time to meet. Sitting face to face with steaming cups of tea, we finally had the opportunity to share about our lives. Eventually, we also discussed the mystery behind her Christmas card photo. It was a good conversation with some hard moments, but filled with love, encouragement and compassion. We said goodbye resolving not to let so much time pass before we connected again. It’s one of those friendships I cherish, despite the infrequency of our time together.

I’ll admit, I had been a little nervous to reach out to her, but what would I have missed if I had called a mutual acquaintance to ask for “the scoop” on her instead? How real would our connection have been if I’d found the answer on her Facebook page and had sent a message to wish her well?

No one likes to have hard conversations. We don’t like to talk about situations that make us feel awkward or uncomfortable. Most of us avoid entering into dialogue with someone who doesn’t see things the same way we do. Sadly, this is as true for our relationships with spouses and family members as it is with friends, co-workers and even partners in ministry.

The art of avoidance is part of our nature–there are examples of it all around us and even in the lives of familiar characters in the Bible. And we also see the destruction it causes. A good case in point is Rebekah, the wife of Isaac and mother to twins Jacob and Esau.   Recorded in the book of Genesis, the stories about Rebekah and her family provide a cautionary tale about the dangers of avoiding hard conversations and choosing to manipulate situations in the background instead.

From the time she was pregnant with her boys, Rebekah knew that there would be challenges. When she prayed to ask God why her babies “jostled each other within her”, the LORD answered:

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23, NIV)

As the boys grew, Rebekah favored their second born twin, Jacob, while Isaac preferred their firstborn, Esau. Rebekah wanted to see Jacob fulfill God’s prophecy, but rather than talking with her husband about it, she schemed behind his back. She resorted to creating an elaborate plan to deceive Isaac and ensure Jacob would receive all the rights and privileges of a firstborn son. Ultimately, Isaac discovered the deception, but there is no record of him confronting Rebekah. In fact, the only conversation mentioned reveals Rebekah telling him a half-truth and manipulating him further. (You can read the story in Genesis 27).

Rebekah’s deception seemed to accomplish her desire: Jacob received the birthright and covenant blessings God had promised to the boys’ grandfather, Abraham. But she paid a high price, ultimately having to send away her favorite son so he wouldn’t be killed by his vengeful brother. There is no record in Scripture of Rebekah ever seeing her beloved Jacob again.

I wonder if Rebekah ever considered that God had the power to ensure the prophecy would be fulfilled, even without her schemes. How could she have forgotten that He did the impossible by enabling her to conceive twins after twenty years of being barren? Why was her first inclination to deceive her husband instead of simply talking with him about their differing opinions? Was it too contentious? Too awkward? Too challenging?

Think about all of the effort she expended to avoid a confrontation with Isaac, opting to work behind the scenes instead to get what she wanted. Now think about how it all turned out.   God’s plans were accomplished, but the family fractured itself in the process.

Now consider your life. Is there an issue you’ve been steering clear of with a family member, friend, co-worker or partner in ministry? Are you expending more energy artfully avoiding the situation than you would be confronting it? Let me encourage you to take the first step toward resolving it by praying. Ask God to give you wisdom. Tell Him why you’re struggling. Share your worst fear with Him about this situation. Ask Him to give you courage. Invite Him to show you when and how to deal with the issue in a way that honors Him and brings healing to you and anyone else involved. It’s worth a try, isn’t it? Give God room to work and watch Him transform your difficult situation in His perfect timing. Stop avoiding and start living the abundant life He meant for you to have.

Francesca Battistelli’s song “If We’re Honest” invites us to consider the blessing of facing our fears instead of avoiding them. Click on the link and be inspired by the music.

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Know Jesus, Know Peace

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Some nights, sleep eludes me- especially with the list of things to remember during the Christmas season. I wake up at three in the morning and my mind begins to race. Like a Border collie herding sheep, my thoughts dart around my brain attempting to corral the tangle of ideas that fill my mind. I can go on this way for hours, tossing and turning in the dark until I remember to whisper a prayer.   Finally, my mind rests as I lay it all at God’s feet and accept the gift of peace He promises in His Word.

The theme of peace is woven throughout the story of the Messiah, from Old Testament to New. Isaiah called the Christ child the “Prince of Peace” hundreds of years before Gabriel told Mary she would conceive a son by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 9:6, and Luke 1:31-33, NIV). The angels celebrated the birth of Jesus by giving glory to God and proclaiming “peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14, NIV) Jesus, the Messiah, would usher peace into the world unlike anything previously experienced.

Once He was a grown man and began His ministry, Jesus had much to say about the kind of peace He was bringing to earth. Knowing the troubles His followers would face, He gave this reassurance shortly before He was crucified:

 All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 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 14:25-27, NIV)

The peace Jesus offered came in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. The disciples would not fully understand what He meant until later when they experienced the Spirit’s power after Jesus ascended into heaven (see Acts 1 & 2 for the story). Today, however, His followers have unlimited access to the power and peace of the Holy Spirit.  All they have to do is ask for it.

Later Jesus also explained:

“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.” (John 16:33, NIV)

Jesus didn’t promise that He would make life easy or ensure circumstances would go according to our plans. He didn’t promise that things would always be happy. Jesus knew we would face troubles, that we would feel overwhelmed and that our fears would sometimes get the best of us. That is why He reminded us that the peace He gives is not like what the world offers—it is far greater. His peace is not based on circumstances, but on a much deeper sense of well being rooted in having a relationship with Him.

As I consider my sleepless nights and the imaginary Border collie that tries to herd my worries, I realize that what’s missing in my metaphor is a shepherd. Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10, so next time I’m fretting when I should be sleeping, I’ll picture Him walking beside that yapping collie, bringing order and peace to the chaos that sometimes rules my mind. I’ll imagine Him walking with focus and purpose, never frazzled or rushed. In His hand, He holds a curved staff that He uses to corral both the worries and the stray thoughts that keep me awake. And the next time I see a candy cane, I’ll let it remind me of my Good Shepherd’s staff.  I’ll thank Him for the gift of peace He brought at Christmas that is mine to keep throughout the year.

Given the sheep & shepherd metaphor, it seems only fitting that shepherds were the first ones to worship the newborn king all those years ago in Bethlehem. Click on the link and enjoy Sidewalk Prophets’ musical celebration of that sacred event: “What a Glorious Night.” Merry Christmas!

“What a Glorious Night” by Sidewalk Prophets