Yesterday, I shared a personal epiphany I had when I rode Amtrak to Washington. Looking straight out the window yields a blurry sight. But if I look ahead a bit, the image becomes clearer and the blur goes away.
I was challenged about this when I was reading about the angels declaring, “Peace on earth.” To what kind of peace were they referring? What peace was brought by the child born in that manger 2000 years ago? Does that peace still exist?
I want to declare, like the angels, there is peace. There is a resounding certainty that the child, the promised Messiah … whose name is Jesus … brings peace with Him. I declare, based on the truths in Scripture, this peace exists and you can discover it. Let me share three types of peace.
FIRST … There is peace with God
You may not realize it, but without the work of Jesus, we are enemies to the holy God. We are at war between His ways and ours. And, well duh, we will lose that battle every time. But Jesus’ blood, the blood shed on the cross, the blood spilt for our sins, the blood that paid the price we owed … that blood makes peace with God. We now have the right to be called children of God.
Don’t miss this wonderful truth. The circumstances surrounding the birth may not clearly show the peace He brings. But look ahead to the cross, and it the peace is clearly seen.
SECOND … There is peace of God
This world is chaos. Life is messy. I don’t need to explain, just follow the news or look out your window. Life is anything but peace. But God tells us He gives a peace that passes all understanding. So don’t let your hearts be troubled. It is not based on circumstances, not based on anything this world offers.
The peace that Jesus gives is not circumstantially based. It is peace in bad circumstances
It’s not a peace based on a retirement plan, a bank account, health insurance or locking your doors at night. Anything this world offers can be lost, stolen or destroyed in a blink of an eye. And we fear and become over-anxious. But God’s peace is beyond that. It promises a future secure for eternity, something beyond human comprehension.
Let me give an example. As I type this, I am binging the Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon. It’s intense, messy, and very suspenseful. Chase scenes, shoot outs, gritty fights, explosions, subterfuge … you get it. But you know, I’m not worried. I’m not bothered with his potential demise. I’ve seen these before. He wins. He overcomes in the battles and even returns for two sequels. Looking at the image in front of me, the end result is blurry. But I know the future, all is going to be okay.
That’s the peace of God … He has the future in His hands, and I’m going to be okay. I’ll cast all my fears and anxieties on Him (oh, they still pop up, but they’re now His.)
Peace of God … Peace with God
THIRD … There is peace with others
The first two come from Him and we claim them. This one requires us to work for it. We are to strive to live at peace with others … it may not always work, but we are to work for it. This is our responsibility with others around us.
This year, may you first know peace with God … experience His grace and forgiveness. Then as His child, you have the peace of God that comes with knowing you’re in His hands and nothing, nothing, will separate you from His love. And with those, you now have a reason to pursue unity and harmony, a peace with others.
You know, if we all had these three peace’s … 2022 will be the best year ever.
A few weeks ago, I took a day to go into Washington DC to enjoy some of what our nation’s capitol has to offer. The weather was sunny yet a bit chilly. The crowds were minimum. And the day was great as I … Enjoyed the Smithsonian Museums to the National Zoo. Perused the gardens and the National Mall. Stared up the sides of the obelisk that pierces the landscape in the center of it all. And, savored a wonderful gourmet burger and chocolate beverage from the local Shake Shack. A good respite for just a day away from the norm.
To get around the wearisome I-95 traffic, I took Amtrak. I travelled on the 98 Silver Meteor line into Union station. And though they had a delay for over an hour just outside Fredericksburg, it was still better than being in my car sitting or snailing (yes a new word I just invented = driving at a snail’s pace.) While in the train riding to and fro, I sat in a booth in the dining car where I enjoyed my beverage, watched a movie on my iPad, relaxed with some reading and even wrote a few letters.
I enjoyed the atmosphere of a train as I observed the diverse personalities and characters of fellow riders – sleepers, snugglers, squirmiers, stragglers and snackers. The steward kept singing, which was just a grand way of entertaining the few of us in the dining car.
On this leg of my journey, an epiphany occurred to me. An interesting and applicable truth was revealed. I was reading and studying some about the narrative of the Angels appearing around Bethlehem some 2000 years ago (the first Christmas). The Angels declared “Peace on Earth!” But yet, it doesn’t seem like there really is much peace. Russia mounting troops near Ukraine. Iran hacking Israeli media outlets. Americans fighting over political power. And that doesn’t even breach the personal agonies of people facing health issues, elderly parents struggling, families divided, crime escalating, etc. And don’t forget recent natural (and man made) disasters like the Midwest tornadoes, the Colorado fires, or the northwest freaky snow storms to name a few. The Angels declared “Peace on Earth!” It seemed questionable.
Okay, let me connect this … on the train, I was looking out the window. America has such a diverse and beautiful landscape. I saw rivers, forests, beaches, diverse architecture, a sunrise over the Potomac, and more. But looking straight out the window, all I really saw was a blur. The view I had was of me going through the world so fast, I only was seeing streaks of madness. And to honest, it produced quite a headache.
But … and this is a huge but … when I looked a little forward, taking the vision in from a ‘where we are headed’ point of view, I saw the landscape, the sights, the diverse beauty. It was quite a change of perspective. It was calming and delightful. We were headed forward – along the path intended – and we will get there.
Life gets messy. Shoes get muddy. And if all we look at is the blur straight out the window, madness is all we will see. You may be in a hard part of your life journey right now. Things may seem crazy and harsh and hopeless. And looking out the window, all you see is a blur of circumstances overwhelming you. And you question the proclamation of peace on earth. But if we look ahead, we get a better point of view, we see things in a clearer perspective. We realize God doesn’t take us out of the storms but gets us through them. It’s not that all things are good, but that all things work together for the good (Romans 8:28). We are headed forward. There is a path He has for us. Just keep your eyes ahead (Hebrews 12:1-2). And the One who started working in your life will complete it (Philippians 1:6).
And so, when the Angels declared “Peace on Earth” we need to look a little past the craziness of Christmas then and now. We see God has a plan. And that statement, the proclamation, that promise … Peace on Earth … it’s real.
Tomorrow, I’ll share a little more on the peace of which the the Angels spoke. Till then … Stop looking at the blur … there is a much better view if you look ahead.
As I write this, threats of winter storm Gail is blowing into my area of the country. We are just on the edge of the storm, so I don’t expect too bad of ice and wetness. Yet, already people are freaking out. Stockpiling. Closing schools. Filling car tanks. Getting generators ready. They want to be in control and be ready. And as much as they prepare, they can’t really know what’s coming.
They want peace of mind. But will they really find it?
We search for it. We long for it. And it too often eludes us. The reason, we are looking in the wrong places and in the wrong ways. We can’t supply it or keep it. But what we can do is connect ourselves to it. Or more preciously, connect ourselves to Him.
Some quick thoughts …
Peace starts in the mind. Keep it on Him and His ways.
Peace isn’t found in an absence of problems, cutting out chaos, muffling mayhem, stifling strife. Peace is found in the presence of God. He is our peace in and through the madness. That’s why He is the Prince of Peace.
The peace He gives is perfect, complete, lacking nothing.
Peace on earth, good will to men! That’s the Christmas season I want. so bring it on Gail … I’m ready!
The Messiah is called “Prince of Peace!” The angels cried out, “Peace on Earth!” Really? Look around. It doesn’t really look like peace. Forget the lack of harmony between people, which keeps escalating, look at nature … hurricanes, natural disasters, fires, pandemics, and so on.
So “Peace on Earth” seems to be a stretch. Or does it?
There is a word – Shalom. Shalom is a peace that is not an absence of chaos, not a silence with no distractions nor a lack of confusion. It is an entrenched sense of harmony, health, and wholeness in the midst of chaos. It’s even said that true Shalom is best detected with a backdrop of commotion and confusion.
Shalom remains steadfast when instability abounds. Shalom keeps its confidence when disappointment and confusion are near.
Shalom is not scheduled with an event. It is not found in circumstances. It can’t be bought with the largest of resources. And it can’t be earned. It’s not deliverable by Amazon, brought down a chimney on the 25th, or placed under a tree.
Peace is found in a person. It is written, “… for He himself is our peace.”
As we celebrate this season, we look back and rejoice the very presence of the Son of God coming and dwelling among us. The personification of peace coming to bring peace with God and the peace of God.
I also realize there is a longing for the completion, the fullness of the Shalom that happens when all things are made new. In Revelations 21, we see a glimpse of eternity … a Shalom, a peace, brought about by the Prince of Peace. The full completion of His work.
Here are five ways we see that Shalom in its fruition …
Presence – Jesus dwells amongst his people. Compassionate – He comforts and wipes away every tear. Comprehensive – ALL things new. Gracious – He doesn’t charge or make us earn His peace. Overcomer – all our conflict, all our battles are now over. He has provided victory.
And that’s real Peace, real Shalom … and it comes form one place. The person Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, the reason for the season.
I hope you know that peace, that you know Him this Christmas.
Have you ever wondered what they’ll say at your funeral? For me, I want levity, laughter, and a little musical jam session. Talk about my passions, my love for Lisa, my legacy in my son, my weird sense of humor and how this life was just a warmup for eternity in heaven. No tears. No sadness. Maybe tell a few jokes.
But when it comes to talking about my impact in this world, I hope I glorified God, served well, and made life a little better for those around me.
Wow, this sounds macabre. Let me move along quickly.
I was watching the funeral of John Lewis, a man who fought and served and lived well. Words by former Presidents from both parties shared of his impact. And I want to share how George W. Bush spoke of Lewis …
Good morning. Distinguished guests, John Miles, Lewis’ family and friends. Laura and I thank you for inviting us for being here today.
John’s story began on a tiny farm in Troy, Alabama, a place so small he said you can barely find it on a map. Dr. Warnock talked about the chickens. I did a little research. Every morning, he would rise before the sun to tend to the flock of chickens. He loved those chickens. Already called to be a minister who took care of others, John fed them, and tended to their every need. Even their spiritual ones. Where John baptized them, he married them and he preached to them. When his parents claimed one for family supper, John refused to eat one of his flock. Going hungry was his first act of nonviolent protest.
He also noted in later years that his first congregation of chickens listened to him more closely than his colleagues in Congress. John also thought that the chickens were a little more productive. At least they produced eggs, he said.
From Troy to the sit-ins of Nashville, from the Freedom Rides to the March on Washington, from Freedom Summer to Selma, John Lewis always looked outward, not inward. He always thought of others; he always thought of preaching the gospel, in word and in deed, insisting that hate and fear had to be answered with love and hope.
John Lewis believed in the Lord, he believed in humanity and he believed in America. He’s been called an American saint, a believer willing to give up everything, even life itself, to bear witness to the truth that drove him all his life. That we could build a world of peace and justice, harmony and dignity and love. And the first crucial step on that journey was the recognition that all people are born in the image of God, and carry a spark of the divine in them.
Laura and I were privileged to see that spark in John up close. We worked with him to bring the National Museum of African American History and Culture to the Washington Mall. He was instrumental in the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act, which I signed to seek resolution in cases where justice had been too long denied. And we will never forget joining him in Selma, Alabama for the 50th anniversary of his march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge, where we got to watch President Barack Obama thank John as one of his heroes.
There’s a story in the Old Scriptures that meant a lot to John. In the Hebrew Bible, the Lord is looking for a prophet. “Whom shall I send,” God wonders, and who will go for us? Isaiah answers: Here am I. Send me.
John Lewis heard that call a long time ago in segregated Alabama and he took up the work of the Lord through all his days. His lesson for us is that we must all keep ourselves open to hearing the call of love. The call of service. And the call to sacrifice for others.
Listen, John and I had our disagreements of course – but in the America John Lewis fought for, and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action.
We the people, including congressmen and presidents, can have differing views on how to perfect our union while sharing the conviction that our nation, however flawed, is a good and noble one.
We live in a better and nobler country today because of John Lewis and his abiding faith in the power of God, the power of democracy and in the power of love to lift us all to a higher ground. The story that began in Troy isn’t ending here, nor is the work. John Lewis lives forever in his Father’s house, and he will live forever in the hearts of Americans, who act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God. May the flights of angels see John Lewis to his rest, and may God bless the country he loved.
— George W. Bush (Transcript originated from USA Today)
Eulogy … literally means “good word”. They are those final words about a person. And these are some pretty good words. This is my kind of eulogy.
It is physical … I am physically sore. I hiked a bit Tuesday (Mount Pleasant in George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forest). My calves burn, my knee is bruised (fell on a rock), and my left ankle is sore. Yeah, I know, stop whining Todd. Alas, there is more. My lungs hurt. But that is from cleaning the church’s sheds yesterday. I starting gagging pretty bad from the nasty stuff I breathed in … pretty stank.
But I will get over these. Bruises will fade. Muscle pains will ease. And my gagging will eventually stop.
But I am still hurting.
It is emotional … last night, while in a Young Life info meeting, I received a text that a young lady died in an auto accident. I really didn’t know the young lady (in her 20s), she was a relative of one of our church family. She did attend my church years ago; but like many, her attendance waned and she didn’t attend anywhere. Life hadn’t been easy for her.
So I went to the grandmother’s house. Tried to bring a little comfort in the dark time of pain and chaos. I prayed with the grandmother, the father, and the collection of relatives gathered.
I hurt for them. I also hurt for the first responders that dealt with the accident. Many of the first responders attend my church. My heart is heavy for all they voluntarily put themselves through. The anguish, the mayhem, and even the deaths. Stress and anxiety wears on them.
But in talking with some at the grandmothers, and others via text or phone, I learned a twist to this narrative. I understand that the young lady attended our church this past weekend.
She spent her last Sunday in worship at our church. As I reflect on that, I examine the music we sang, the prayers that were lifted, and the message from the Word I shared. How welcoming were we to her? What was the atmosphere? Did we direct her, and every other person who attended, to before the throne of God? Prompting them to make sure their relationship with God was at peace, their eternity secure, and their life ready for anything that might come their way?
We often use the mentality that God never promised us another day, that someone in the room may not be here next week. But do we truly believe that?
But I am still hurting.
It is relational …One thing I did challenge the worshippers was to think of one person … one person whom God was laying on their heart … one person they need to be a peacemaker to this week. God desires, and blesses us, as we seek to be peacemakers.
Is there a person you need to seek out? A person with whom you need to restore a relationship? A person struggling and for whom you need to be the instrument of God’s peace?
I hurt because I exercised, worked, and more. I hurt because my heat is broken for families and individuals that are struggling from loss and pain. I hurt because I too have relationships I need to work on. But I worship the God who is bigger than my pains … and a God who tells me to cast my cares upon Him, for He cares for me.
He cares for you too. Do you know Him? If you don’t know Him, don’t let today go by. Reach out to someone …. today. We don’t know what tomorrow hold.