Into the Quiet

The phone is off.
The television is off.
The computer is off.
The music player is off.
The car is off.

Sure, in a way it is quiet,
but still, this is not the quiet
I am searching for.

My mind is racing —
thoughts are clanging around
cares are distracting
to-do list leftovers are screaming.

How do I find the quiet?
Is there a switch?
Can I turn off all the distractions?
Is there a door?
Can I just walk away from the noise
and into the quiet?

God, take me into the quiet.
Take me into Your peace.
Please, God, let’s go together,
walk with me into the quiet.

A Prayer for Today

Prayer is powerful! I hear those words a lot. I say those words a lot. But I must confess, sometimes I forget what they mean. Prayer is nothing less than a great opportunity to converse with the creator of heaven and earth!

Many times when I get busy rushing through the demanding schedule of my day, I can easily lose sight of God’s presence in and involvement with my life. Instead of reacting to the stress of decisions by turning to God for guidance and answers, it’s easy to depend on my own reasoning and wisdom. Each time I do so, I miss the blessing of being in prayerful communion with God and I forfeit God’s wisdom.

Today, instead of merely “thinking things over” in my mind, I want to place them before God in prayer. Instead of worrying about decisions and plans for the future, I want to trust God to lead me. I know God wants to have a relationship with me, and that includes listening to me, even when I am stressed.

Father God,
Thank You for listening to my heart.
Provide guidance and peace for the day.
I love You, God.
I trust You, God.
Again, I thank You!
In Jesus’ name,
AMEN.

Grace and Peace

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”
(2 Corinthians 1:2).

Grace and peace.

Can you think of anything needed more desperately in our time than grace and peace?

We live in an age where deserved judgment is distributed liberally while undeserved gifts are hard to find. We need grace. We live in a violent world of crime and war. We worry, tossing and turning through the night. We need peace.

But do these words mean anything anymore? Have they lost their meaning? Have they become cliche? What can we do to recapture the meaning?

Maybe we begin the process by realizing God gives grace. God gives peace. God can make grace and peace a reality in our life experience. Today I will pause and reflect on the grace God has poured out on me and the peace that grace affords. And after I have soaked for a while in grace and peace, I will try using the words in a meaningful way. Saying them. Meaning them. Living them.

I need grace and peace. We all need grace and peace. Could today be the day that I reclaim the richness of these words?

Father God,
Thank You for your grace and peace.
May I help You pour?
In Jesus’ name,
AMEN

Building Credibility

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Seems like everywhere you turn you find conflict. Look at some recent reports of incidents from around the world.

Police called to fight over toilet paper. Two hotel maids in South Carolina got into a brawl over a roll of toilet paper. The weapons of choice in this fight were a mop and a plunger. Try not to picture that scene!

Melee breaks out at Crossroads Mall. A fracas involving 30 young people recently broke out at a West Virginia shopping mall. The news account I read called the conflict “a potato-related dispute.”

Tennis father accused in opponent’s drugging. A man in France has been accused of drugging athletes his son and daughter were about to play in tennis matches – on 27 occasions!

The message of Jesus could make such a difference in the world. Embracing the teachings of Jesus and adopting His lifestyle would put an end to so many of the disputes that put people at odds and divide them. Oh, how we need Jesus! Think of how He changes our thinking and actions.

Valuing peace means some things just are not worth fighting over (Romans 14).

Walking away from potential conflict is sometimes the best approach (Proverbs 26:17).

Winning the fight to get your way is often the result of self-centeredness (James 4).

Bullying is the way of the world, but not the way of His kingdom (Matthew 20:25 ff).

Sure, we need to take the message of Jesus to a world in desperate need. But before we start our efforts to coach the world in peacemaking skills, we first might want to build up some credibility by learning to be a peaceful people among ourselves. Outsiders view some of our intramural church skirmishes to be about as important as fighting over toilet paper. They perceive our methods of fighting about as silly as waving around a plunger. They consider our zeal for superiority as misplaced as the infamous tennis father. And they are right.

May God help us model peace to the world, and thereby build up the credibility we need to become a peacemaking people.

Easily Unsettled

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

Jesus is coming and when He does, His people will be gathered to meet Him. God wants His people to be encouraged and comforted by this basic Christian teaching.

God does not want us to be a fearful, troubled people. And what better to settle us down than to let our minds rest on the end-times scene of the sky cracking open, Jesus being revealed, and our being gathered to Him.

This coming of and gathering by Jesus brings peace of mind to hearts troubled by illness, grief, poverty, spiritual struggles, and personality clashes. Whatever trials we may be going through, we can rest on God’s promise of Jesus’ return. What a blessing to be a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd — green pastures. quiet waters, and the assuring presence of the shepherd’s rod and staff.

Yet sometimes the peaceful flock is excited, shaken, even troubled by people claiming to have a message from God.

A rumor here.

A report there.

You begin to feel the wool standing on the back of your neck as you grow alarmed at the claims you are hearing.

“Listen to this.”

“Read that.”

“You have missed out on what God is doing.”

“This is not my opinion, I have a word from God.”

While it’s hard to believe there are people who would do this to a peaceful flock at Thessalonica – upset their tranquility by trying to convince them they were going to miss out on the joy of Jesus coming and gathering His people — it’s even harder to believe they justify their actions by claiming authority from God.

The apostle Paul calms the flock with words of reassurance. He asks them to slow down and not jump to conclusions. Not every vision, prophecy, or “breathless report” (MSG) is to be accepted. Simply put, some people who loudly and boldly claim to have a message from God, in reality, do not.

Jesus is coming and when He does, His people will be gathered to meet Him.

Settle on this promise.

More Than A Greeting

“This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. It is written to the church in Thessalonica, you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May his grace and peace be yours” (1 Thessalonians 1:1 NLT).

Ancient letters generally followed a standardized form. Paul and his mission team follow the pattern here.

  • Who is writing?
  • To whom are they writing?
  • For what are the writers thankful?
  • For what do the writers wish on behalf of the readers?

So often when reading a New Testament letter like 1 Thessalonians, I read right over those words of greeting in the opening line. I do so at great loss. These words are more than just a greeting. They are packed with meaning.

Paul and the evangelistic team that had worked Thessalonica are writing to the new Christians there, perhaps just months after their conversion. “To the church in Thessalonica” is a declaration that the first readers had a new life in Christ. They were delivered from the grip of idolatry and the world. They were “church.” They now “belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“May his grace and peace be yours.” Again, these words are so much more than just a greeting. They are a reminder of what has happened in the readers’ lives because of the gospel. Grace (here Paul uses a word distinct from the standard greeting to “Christianize” the message) and peace (a word closely identified with the Jewish roots of Christianity) are the team’s desire for the church.

Rather than reading right over these words, I need to pray over them. Experiencing God’s grace in conversion. Living in God’s grace in everyday life. Sharing God’s grace in church community. Knowing God’s peace in relationship with Him. Enjoying God’s peace in life with one another. Resting in God’s peace in spite of life’s challenges.

I need grace and peace. You need grace and peace.

We need to be a church of grace and peace, after all, we do belong to God!

A good starting point may be paying attention to these often overlooked words. They are more than a greeting.