Prince of Peace

17 12 2014

We live in a climate of conflict. Terrorists kill innocents to assert their agenda. Blood feuds rage between countries, tribes, and neighbors. Race, gender, religion, and politics become lines that divide people into conflicting ideologies. Fear is wielded as the weapon of choice. Angry rhetoric fills the air. Every day there is another headline, another wave of sorrow, another reason for peace to sound like a long lost dream.

Peace. I don’t have to turn on the news to hunger for its presence. I just need to look in the mirror. The conflict within me rages hot enough to scorch the edges of my soul. Worries, selfishness, exhaustion, frustration, and desperation collide with pain and circumstances causing my heart to languish, weary and worn. Sin gnaws at my resolve. Good intentions meet my tendency to be overwhelmed, leaving behind a wake of guilt.

“…and his name shall be called…Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:c

Here is good news. Peace isn’t an elusive emotion we stumble after in the darkness. Peace is a person who loves us, is committed to redeeming us, and invites us to join Him in the light. Hungering for peace means I ache for Jesus. His presence helps us stand, rather than crumple, in the middle of our circumstances. His faithfulness fuels our faith as we declare, even if only in a whisper, that God reigns in this world no matter what others are yelling. His promises chase away the shadows of sin, guilt, and shame, allowing peace to take up residence in our lives.

My Jesus Resolution today is to untie my knots by tying myself to Jesus. Peace doesn’t come because I get it all right, have it all together, or figure out all the answers. Peace comes when I fall, broken and needy, at the feet of the right Person. It is His presence that makes the difference. It is His power that can transform my days. It is for this purpose that He entered our conflict, coming as a child, leaving crucified, and declaring with His life a love so vast it brings peace on earth and goodwill toward men.





Everlasting Father

15 12 2014

He ran across the restaurant into his dad’s arms. Understand that this was no discreet, take-your-time, I’m cool embrace. He literally dove into his father’s open arms. The boy is now taller and bigger than his dad, but in his movement I saw the shadow of a thousand similar runs – toddling baby steps, look-how-fast-I-am steps, I’m-so-sorry-dad steps, wow-I’m taller-than-you steps, and so many more. It was neat to watch his enthusiasm, excitement, sense of security, and absolute knowledge that he is loved beyond measure. His dad’s arms are safe haven.

Fathers are a child’s first picture of God. That is why their role in a child’s life is so critical. A father has the power to shape images of God’s presence that resonate deep in the soul. Of course, not every father fulfills this purpose. Much of the brokenness in this world finds its heartache in people who have never known a father’s unconditional love.

Good news pours from the pen of Isaiah as he continues to tell us about the Messiah coming to bring salvation to the world.

“…and his name shall be called…Everlasting Father,” – Isaiah 9:c

No matter what type of earthly father you have, Isaiah paints a picture of Jesus that speaks to every individual’s heart. He is an Everlasting Father. This isn’t a formal name or title as it is with God as much as it is a portrait of Jesus’ love. He enters the world, stepping into our lives as a safe haven, a steady presence. He opens His arms, inviting us to run full force into His strength, His faithfulness, His mercy, His provision, and His comfort. He covers us with grace, sheltering us beneath His strong arms. Everything you have ever needed in a father, Jesus provides.

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn from my son how to run into the arms of the Everlasting Father. There was no hesitation. He didn’t doubt his steps or his reception. Neither should I. And as amazing as it was to see my son’s face as he ran to his father, it was the joy on his father’s face that spoke deeply to my heart. The boy looks like me, needs, insecurities, worries, and fears hanging out all transparent and desperate. The dad looks like Jesus, joy in His eyes that His child is running into His arms.





Mighty God

12 12 2014

Superheroes are big at my house. There are ongoing discussions comparing the strengths, powers, strategies, and tools of the different heroes. Age doesn’t seem to matter. Little boys strike poses, pretending to cast webs, fight enemies, and protect the house from evil. Big boys dig into the particulars of different heroes, analyzing, and perhaps dreaming, of what it would be like to have their own super powers.

Super powers, in real life, don’t look anything like the comic books. Being a hero isn’t about being the strongest, fastest, or most pumped. Heroes, real heroes, are the people who with quiet humility move through their days with compassion, grace, and a sense of purpose. They see God in the ordinary, sharing His love in tangible ways, and helping others experience His presence. You don’t always realize that you have been with a hero until you leave them. You just know that you are breathing again, hoping again, smiling again, believing again.

“…and his name shall be called…Mighty God,” – Isaiah 9:c

The child Isaiah tells us is coming is no mere mortal. He is the Mighty God. All of the power, strength, majesty, and glory of the Lord is His. Heaven is His throne room. The earth His footstool. And yet, He emptied Himself, took on the skin of man, the form of a servant, and entered this world in the quietness of a stable. There were no trumpets, cameras, news announcements, or press releases. Heaven opened up, poured its heart onto the earth, and watched as a mother held her newborn son. Very few saw Him for the hero that He was. But He left the world with hope, and that is the mark of a true hero.

My Jesus Resolution today is to stand in wonder. Our Messiah is the Mighty God. He could have commanded armies, brought down kings, and demanded homage. Instead, He walked and talked about God. He showed mercy. He touched the unclean, held children, and noticed those the world had dismissed. And He gave us all the power to be heroes. You can do what He did, talk about what He talked about, love, notice, serve, and sacrifice. You can point others to the heavens, and show them not a bird or a plane, but Jesus.





Wonderful Counselor

10 12 2014

The call came late. I answered with a question mark in my mind, knowing from the caller ID that it was my son on the line. We chatted for a minute before he started talking about what was on his heart. He needed a listening ear, some words of advice, and a dose of mom love.

Who do you call when you need guidance? Where do you go when your heart is heavy, when your way is cloudy, or when you need a friend? We all need people in our lives who will speak truth into our questions, love into our hearts, and confidence into our fears. We need friends who can help us feel God’s presence, trace His fingerprints, and discover His purpose.

“…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,” – Isaiah 9:6c

As Isaiah points forward to the child coming to bring salvation to the world, the prophet begins to reveal the names that will define His movement in our lives. The first thing we learn about the anticipated Messiah is that He offers Himself to us as our Counselor. His wisdom illuminates our questions. His presence infuses our loneliness. His truth transforms the doubts that plague our hearts. He is a wonderful counselor, inviting us to call on Him, draw close to His heart, and rest in the surety of His strength.

My Jesus Resolution today is to call on my Counselor. For all the excitement of the holidays, there is also a lot of stress. It sometimes feels strange to struggle at a time of year in which everything is billed as jolly and bright, but the truth is we all have those difficult moments. Jesus reminds us that no matter the day, the situation, the hurts, or the need, He is here, available to bring His peace and perspective to our souls.





The Gift

8 12 2014

I have a December baby. He was born between Thanksgiving and Christmas, between gratitude and joy. We anxiously awaited his arrival, knowing that every year we would celebrate and remember the way his presence brightens and transforms our family.

All children are a gift. They teach us about trust, dependence, unconditional love, laughter, fearlessness, and grace. In their faces, we see a reflection of ourselves. In their actions, we are challenged to be better. In their faith, we are invited deeper into the Father’s presence.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;” – Isaiah 9:6a

Isaiah announces the greatest gift of all. Wrapped in the small bundle of a newborn, the Messiah enters the world as a gift given to us in love. His presence defies logic, stuns reason, and stretches the imagination. Never could we have dreamed that the Savior would need diaper changes, skin his knee, or cry to be held. Never could we have imagined that God in His might would humble Himself by entering our experience so completely. But that is the gift that we have in Jesus. He came to live in our world so that we might live with Him in heaven.

My Jesus Resolution today is to celebrate God’s greatest gift. Christmas is a gift-giving, gift-anticipating, gift-receiving season. Children bring sparkle and excitement to this time of year. They receive with open hands and open hearts. Their enthusiasm and delight teach me how to receive the heavenly gifts God pours into my life. Today, I am going to let every package, bow, roll of wrapping paper, and gift bag remind me of the gift God gave me in Jesus.





Joy

5 12 2014

What brings you joy? Don’t answer too quickly. Let the question settle in. Explore the landscape of your heart. Look back over the last few days. Close your eyes and let it wash over you. What brings you joy?

Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is good, but it is circumstantial. If things go our way, if everything works out, if something positive happens, we are happy. If our circumstances go awry, our level of happiness diminishes. Joy runs deeper. Joy isn’t grounded in circumstances, but in our connection to God. His presence in our lives is what fuels the joy that allows us to experience contentment, confidence, and peace in the midst of whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

As Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah, he tells us that one of the primary signposts of His arrival will be an explosion of joy. Joy will fill the hearts of those who belong to Him, who follow Him, who open their hearts to His presence and power.

“You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy. Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy! The joy of great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.” – Isaiah 9:3 (The Message)

My Jesus Resolution today is to embrace joy. Joy has to be chosen because living in His presence is always a choice. It is easy to be comfortable with happiness. Joy requires digging deeper, listening more closely, seeing with eyes alert to His presence, and developing a quiet trust in His goodness. Every time I see the word joy during this holiday season, I am going to remember that the true source of joy is found in the Savior who came to give Himself as a gift to the world.





Light

3 12 2014

It is one of my favorite things to do during the month of December. I find a quiet spot, wrap myself in a soft quilt, turn out the lamps, and enjoy the glimmer of the lights on the Christmas tree. Sitting in their gentle glow, I find myself letting go of the stress of the day and absorbing the peace of the moment.

Light has a way of changing us. It illuminates, encourages, stimulates, heals, calms, and brightens. Physically, our bodies require light. People literally become ill when they are unable to absorb enough light. Spiritually, our souls hunger for light. Our spirits become withered and twisted when they reside too long in the darkness.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” – Isaiah 9:2

The prophet Isaiah points us to the Light that will forever change our hearts. The darkness of sin, shame, and guilt engulf us, overwhelming our courage and choking our hope. Jesus chose to walk into our darkness, bringing His light to shine in our souls. He clothed Himself in skin in order to show us the way back to the radiant glory of God. We were created to thrive in the light of His presence. He looked into our deep darkness, humbling Himself in order to bring us the light of heaven.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be deliberate about celebrating light. Every time I see Christmas lights I am going to remember the light of Jesus. I am going to take time to enjoy their beauty, celebrate their warmth, and remember the sacrifice Jesus made to bring His light into the world. Today I am going to stop, wrap myself in His love, and allow His light to pierce the darkness that grabs at my soul.





Overflow

31 10 2014

Psalm 119:169-176

It was my family’s favorite park. There were tall trees, lots of room to run and play, a walking path around the lake, and a beautiful waterfall. I love that waterfall. The waterfall was always the highlight of our visits to the park. In the summer, sometimes it would get down to a trickle if we hadn’t had much rain. In the fall, the red and golden leaves would cascade over the falls. In the wintertime, the waterfall would freeze into an ice sculpture that danced. But the spring is when the waterfall showed its power. The melting snow would increase the volume of water going over the falls exponentially. It thundered. It had a wild, unrestrained beauty that speaks of glory yet to be revealed.

Living in the overflow of God’s goodness and grace is the theme of the final section of Psalm 119. Drenched in truth, our hearts are changed and transformed by the power of His Word. As we learn to love His Word, learn His wisdom, stand in His righteousness, cry for His mercy, and hold tightly to His promises, the depth of His purpose saturates our souls and begins to overflow into the pieces of our lives.

“My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.” – Psalm 119:171

This is an overflow picture. When we fill ourselves with God’s Word, when we let it soak into the deep crevices of our hearts, it begins to bubble up, fill the empty spaces, and show its power. That overflow is like the waterfall. It gives others a chance to stop and behold His beauty.

My Jesus Resolution today is to live in the overflow. I want my life to thunder with God’s words. I want His power to be on display in me as His grace transforms all those rough, rugged places in my soul. I want every season of my life to showcase His beauty, acknowledge His presence, and frame His purpose.





Light

13 10 2014

Psalm 119:105-112

It was a dark, summer night at camp. The stars glittered in the sky, winking to be seen away from the city lights. It had been a long day of snacks, crafts, band-aids, and kids learning about Jesus. I was tired, but there was one more mission to accomplish. The campers had all written notes to the camp director and it was my job to deliver them. I started walking to the cabin on the other side of the camp, remembering the simple path that led from here to there. It seemed so straight and clear cut during the day. In the dark, however, I wasn’t sure of the way, and the terrain seemed so much more uneven under my feet. I hesitated, and then reached for the flashlight I should have used from the beginning. With a light illuminating my way, the journey was a joy.

Probably one of the most famous verses in Psalm 119 is found in the fourteenth stanza. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) The psalmist encourages us to hold onto God’s light even when our way seems dark. He describes how the blackness threatens to ensnare him, how discouragement hounds him, and yet clinging to the heavenly lamp allows him to walk safely through the dark.

We all have dark days, times when the shadows threaten to overwhelm our hearts. God’s Word is the flashlight we need to find our way in the darkness. It highlights His faithfulness, shines with His glory, is radiant with His grace, and sparkles with His love. There is enough light in His Word to safely guide you so that you can take the next step.

My Jesus Resolution today is to follow the Light. God’s Word has the power to show me the way, keep me safe, provide me answers, and reveal pitfalls along the way. It also has the power to ignite a fire in me that will chase away the darkness that pulls at my soul. The most important thing the lamp that is God’s Word does is lead me into the presence of Light Himself, and when I walk in Light, darkness cannot overwhelm me.





The Teacher

10 10 2014

Psalm 119:97-104

Teachers are probably the most influential people in our society. Although they get little recognition and even less compensation, they hold the future in their hands every time they pick up a book, do a math problem, or give out a gold star. We all have favorite teachers. More than teaching us the facts, teachers open our minds to new ideas, our eyes to new visions, and our confidence to new heights. The best teachers do more than fill our heads with knowledge. They stretch our understanding and help us walk in the world equipped to face new challenges.

The power of a good teacher is the focus of the thirteenth stanza of Psalm 119. The writer recognizes all the ways that being a student of God’s Word has changed him. It has made him wise, given him understanding, kept him from sin, and transformed even his taste buds.

“I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.” (Psalm 119:102)

Here’s the truth that we must never forget every time we open our Bibles. Through these precious words, God Himself is teaching us. There are information and facts to learn, patterns to recognize and follow, and new truths to understand and hang onto. The most important piece of Bible study, however, is learning to open our eyes to the truth that every time we open His Word we enter His presence. His voice echoes, thunders, invites, and whispers on every page as He guides us to the truth He most wants us to understand. We are deeply loved. We are profoundly wanted, and it is His delight to give us Himself.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be a learner. God is a Teacher. The Bible is His textbook. Learning His lessons, doing His homework, and studying His truths has the power to change my heart. The best part of being His student is His commitment to be with me as my Teacher. The lessons He wants to teach me are grounded in His example and best experienced by walking in His footsteps.