Peace, Peace, Wonderful Peace


peace6

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

What picture does the word Peace paint in your mind?

For some it is a beautiful ocean scene with emerald blue water and rolling waves that softly glide onto white sandy beaches. Yet, for others it means a rustic log cabin set back in the piney woods with a creek gently flowing out front. Maybe for you it is a grand mountain range with deep, vast canyons and majestic mountains that seem to reach the sky.

No matter what picture comes to mind when you think of peace, it can never compare to that moment when God’s peace sweeps over your weary soul. The most beautiful landscape you could imagine could not compare to the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that only Jesus can bring.

Have you experienced that peace? I surely have many times.

Oftentimes when we think of peace, our minds tend to also picture a worry-free setting. We are quick to assume that peace means a lack of trouble. However, as I was reading in Acts 12 this morning, I came across a verse that caught my attention. In my mind it painted a rather unusual picture of peace. Acts 12:16 tells us, “And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.”  

In order to fully grasp this picture of peace, let us go back just a moment and examine what is going on in this passage. Prior to Peter being imprisoned, he has had to endure seeing his fellow disciple, James, put to death at the hand of Herod. Now Peter finds himself imprisoned,no doubt facing the same fate that he has just watched James meet.

Now, we can continue our discussion on peace. Does the word peace come to mind when you read this story? Understandably not. So, how is it possible that we find Peter sleeping in this passage? Peace, Friend. It is because of that peace that passes all understanding that Peter can find himself chained between two guards, seemingly facing death, yet he sleeps.

I dare not say that I would handle such a situation the same way. Recently I have been going through some trials much less than imprisonment and death, and still I find myself worrying. Complaining. Fretting over things of which I have no control. I forgot to choose peace. I chose to place my focus on my problems rather than giving them to God and resting in His Peace.

Friend, I am reminded this morning that peace is a choice. Peace should not rely on our circumstances. Peace can not and should not be measured by our surroundings. We, like Peter, should choose peace in the middle of even the most dire situations. Peace can only be found in Jesus. You see, when we take our focus off of our problems and put it on Jesus, then and only then can He give us the Peace that we see in Peter. We can rest, right in the middle of our trial, knowing that God is working for us.

Will you choose peace today? Will you choose to stop looking at all that is wrong around you and focus on the One who holds you in His hand? It is a choice. Today, I choose peace. I choose the peace that passes all understanding. I choose to rest in Jesus today. I pray you will do the same.

 

 

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When the Storms of Life Come Your Way


Brooklyn_Museum_-_Saint_Peter_Walks_on_the_Sea_(Saint_Pierre_marche_sur_la_mer)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:31

Throughout the school year our children are required by the school that they attend to memorize portions of Scripture. Each morning we gather together and say our pledges and read the scripture that they are to be learning. As part of their daily goals, they are required to learn a new verse of the Scripture and recite it to one of the teachers by the end of the day. The portion of Scripture that we are learning right now is found in Matthew 14:22-33.

If you have never stood in a room and listened to a group of children recite memory verses, you are missing out on a blessing. As I stand and listen to each of those children recite, from memory, a portion of God’s word, I can only imagine how God must feel as He watches these precious children hide His word in their hearts as He has commanded each of us to do.

Yesterday, my oldest son was quoting the verse that I have chosen to share with you today. As he recited his scripture, the words, “And immediately, Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him,” caught my attention.

I thought about the story of Peter and how he had asked Jesus to allow him to come and walk on the water. We know that in the story as Peter steps out on the water and begins to walk to Jesus he sees the storm around him, takes his eyes off of Jesus, and immediately begins to sink. In verse 30 we read that as Peter begins to sink, he cries out to God to save him.  Today I want us to focus on verse 31. Particularly the part that says, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him,”

How many times in our lives have we acted just as Peter did in this story we read today? We ask God for the opportunity to do something, or we ask God to open a door for us, and then when He does and things get a little rough, we get scared. We allow the storm to distract us and we take our eyes off of Jesus. Realizing that the situation in which we are standing is so much bigger than ourselves, we panic. In fear, we begin to sink. If we are smart, we will do as Peter did and cry out for God to save us.

The encouragement I want to offer to you today comes not from Peter walking on the water, nor from him getting scared and sinking, but from Jesus’ response to Peter as he begins to sink. You see, the very moment that Peter cried out for Jesus to save him, Jesus Immediately reached down and caught Peter. Friends, He wants to do the same for us. When life gets scary, when we look around and realize that the storm is here, when we let the storm distract us and we let fear get the better of us, God wants us to cry out to Him. When we do that, He will do just as He did for Peter. Immediately, God will reach down, and catch us. He will set our feet back on solid ground.

Life is full of opportunities, chances to allow God to show us His power. God wants us to step out in faith and come to Him, just as Peter did. Along with those opportunities, however, we may encounter a few storms, a few waves. There are lessons to be learned from this story:

First, I believe that we must never take our eyes off of the One who gives us the power to do the impossible. We must learn to keep our eyes on the source of our strength and not let the waves cause us to fear and doubt.

Second, I want us to remember that if we do get scared, if we take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to sink, we must do as Peter did and cry out to Him. Do not allow yourself to sink in despair. Do not let fear get the better of you, cry out to God and immediately he will reach down and catch you. He will not allow you to sink. He will not allow fear to overtake you. He will pick you up, and He will save you.

Jesus is our Rock


photo by: David Benbennick

photo by: David Benbennick

 

 

 “The Lord lives,

and blessed be my rock,

and exalted be my God,

the rock of my salvation

2 Samuel 22:47

 

 

Do you ever find yourself struggling? Do you ever feel like you are just barely keeping your nose above the water. When we find ourselves feeling this way, we need to take a moment and examine our lives. When we do this we may find that we have placed our faith in the wrong place.

I am reminded this morning of a song we sing in church that goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Hymn written by: Edward Mote 1834

So many times in life we are tempted to rely on other things and other people to hold us up, be it drugs, alcohol, friends, our children, or even our spouses. They may seem stable for a while, but eventually these things will fail us and we will find ourselves sinking in despair.

I have always loved the story of Peter, and how he wanted to walk on the water with Jesus. Peter had confidence that he would be able to walk on the water, and he did for a while, but when the wind picked up and the waves began to form, poor Peter began to sink. You see, Peter took his eyes off of the rock. He began to place his faith in something else other than Jesus.

Now, it would be a sad story if it ended there, but it does not. The story goes on to tell us that when Peter realized he was sinking he cried out, “Lord, save me!” And IMMEDIATELY Jesus reached down and caught him.

Here is what I want to encourage you with today. Do not put your faith in things that can not hold you up, And do not let the devil lie to you and tell you that you can make it on your own. Put your faith in the One true God who is your rock.

If you do, however, find yourself sinking because you have taken your eyes off of Him, cry out!  Jesus reached down and picked up Peter out of the water, and our Heavenly Father will do the same for us. All we have to do is ask.

Scripture taken from: Matthew 14:22-33