But God

But God

One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “but God.”

The phrase is peppered throughout Scripture. And it makes my heart smile every time I come across one of those verses.

They bring a vertical perspective to my horizontal circumstances.

They remind me that my circumstances are not permanent.

And they proclaim that when my situation appears hopeless, the God of hope is still on His throne.

Check out some of my favorites:

  • Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…

  • Psalm 49:15 (ESV)

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.

  • Psalm 73:26 (ESV)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

  • Romans 5:8 (ESV)

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  • I Corinthians 1:27 (ESV)

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.

 

Life is difficult, but God is real.

Problems multiply, but God is the original problem solver.

People will disappoint, but God is faithful.

Satan attacks, but God is our defender.

 

What other “But God” statements can you add to this list?

 


 
Praying for Peace When Others Pray for War

What’s the point of praying for peace when your adversary is dead-set (no pun intended) on war?

Peace

As the weeks of December move us toward Christmas, many Christians recognize Advent themes that traditionally include hope, peace, joy, and love. Last week, I wrote about hope.  Hope is easy to write about. After all, the bleaker things look, the more we need and pursue hope.

But peace? Peace can be difficult to pursue, especially if the other person in the broken relationship wants nothing to do with it…or us.

We see it in the news. Nation against nation. Tribe against tribe. Ethnic cleansings. Arab groups striving to eliminate Israel. Shiites killing Sunnis. Sunnis killing Sufis.

We see it in our personal relationships. Brother against brother. Sister against sister. Children against parents.

Peace is elusive. We hope for it. We pray for it. Isn’t that what the Bible tells us to do? Yet we need the other person—or group—to want it, too.

Or do we?

As far as it depends on you

There’s an interesting verse in the Bible that speaks of peace…but it doesn’t speak of the other person. In Romans 12:18, the apostle Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (NIV).

“As far as it depends on you.” The state of my heart is not dependent on the other person. It is dependent on intimacy with the Prince of Peace. Only by His Spirit can I remove bitterness, unforgiveness, and resentment toward the one who refuses peace.

So does that mean I become a doormat, begging that individual for a restored relationship? No, living at peace means I do not desire their harm. It means they know I want peace, even if they don’t. And it means I pray for it.

But what kind of peace am I praying for? Am I trying to keep the peace or make peace?

Peace

Peacekeeper or Peacemaker?

Peacekeepers avoid conflict at all costs. Their motto is, “Don’t rock the boat.” Peacemakers focus on reconciliation, and they recognize that healthy conflict may be necessary for reconciliation to occur.

Jesus was a peacemaker. He was more concerned with making peace than He was with keeping peace. His earthly life—and His death—centered on making peace between God and humans. Yet some of the things He said did not sound peaceable at all.

Jesus understood that real peace does not ignore conflict. True peace addresses the cause of the problem to remove it permanently. For us to have peace with God, Jesus dealt with the problem of our sin with finality and in the most violent way possible.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means we are to say what people need to hear rather than what they want to hear. Of course, we do so gently and lovingly. Avoiding conflict may be easier, but Yahweh Shalom (The Lord is Peace) doesn’t call us to take the easy way. He calls us to be peacemakers.

We celebrate Christmas because God sent His Son to make peace with us. He told us what we needed to hear, not what we wanted to hear. He didn’t ignore our problem of sin, He dealt with it once and for all. And before we can hope for peace with other people, we must first accept the peace God offers us.

Then, especially in this season of Advent, continue praying for peace with others. Be ready to make peace when God gives the opportunity. Until then, as far as it depends on you, live at peace.


 
Two Types of Hope – Which One Is Yours?

Hope

If there’s one thing in short supply these days, it’s hope. Politicians promise, but fail to deliver on their promises. Family members make commitments, but disappoint us. Terrorists strike with seeming impunity. Jobs are scarce, money is tight, and the more we wish for positive change, the less probable it appears to be. Good things seem more and more like a function of luck than anything else.

Sort of like what the nation of Israel must have been feeling 2,000 years ago. The glory days of King David and King Solomon had passed 1,000 years earlier. The Israelites – God’s chosen people – didn’t feel very special anymore. They lived as a conquered people for more than 700 years, first under the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, the Medes-Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans. Four hundred years had passed since any prophet spoke the words, “Thus says the Lord.” The peoples’ hope had been sapped, little by little and year by year.

Still, Israel hoped for freedom from their oppressors. They hoped to hear from their God once again. Yet when God did speak, most of them did not recognize his voice. When God sent them the Savior they needed, they were too busy looking for the military leader they wanted.

Fast-forward 2,000 years. Some of us are holding on by our fingernails, clinging to hope because there’s nothing else to cling to. And along comes the Christmas season. Four weeks of stress added to already stressful lives. Decorate, write cards (personalized), cook (like the banquets pictured in the magazines), bake (perfectly shaped cut-out cookies), wrap presents (with color-coordinated bows)…and for what?

The “for what” is Emmanuel – God with us. Christmas is coming, a day when we celebrate the birth of the One who has saved us from sin and from ourselves. A day when God became man.

Jesus came to earth the first time in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. His coming proved that hope in God’s Word was not misplaced. His first coming proves something else. It proves that when God’s Word speaks of His second coming, we can rely on this yet-to-happen event as much as if it has already occurred. It’s not a question of if it will happen, just when it will happen.

That’s biblical hope – so different from how we usually use the word hope today. Today we say things such has, “I hope it won’t rain,” but we have no idea whether it will or it won’t. Biblical hope is a certain anticipation, a knowledge that the only uncertainty is in the timing, not in the promise. God leaves nothing to chance.

It’s the hope Israel had 2,000 years ago as they waited for the Messiah to come. It’s the hope we have today as we wait for the Messiah – our Savior – to come again.

As we wrap the presents (or not), and bake the cookies (or not), let’s rejoice that the hope for a coming Savior is already fulfilled. And He’ll be back – because He promised. That’s a hope you can count on!

How has hope encouraged you this year?


 
Did the Solar Eclipse Change You?

Solar EclipseThe 2017 solar eclipse is now history. The special glasses we sought in a frenzy have been cast aside. Life is back to normal once again.

So, has anything really changed?

For some, the waltz between the moon and the sun merely provided a diversion from the routine—a reason to stay home from school or work. Others welcomed nature’s show as epic entertainment. Still others failed to take the warnings seriously and are already experiencing eye damage.

For me, the eclipse was more than entertainment. It proved, yet again, that the universe is governed, not by chaos, but by order on the grandest scale. Validation that the cosmos is not the result of a big bang, but rather the product of thoughtful design. The eclipse reaffirmed that the One who hung the stars in the sky is still choreographing their dance.

The Bible tells us the heavens declare the glory of their Creator (Psalm 19:1). This time they didn’t just declare it, they proclaimed it in a way that made humanity stop, sit up, and take notice.

Still, the eclipse will now be a footnote in history books yet to be written. The question for us is, what will we do with the experience?

I want to hold on to the sense of awe it inspired. To remember God is big and I am small, and that’s a good thing. I want to remember that God controls suns and moons and planets, and the control I think I have over my life is an illusion at best.

Most of all, I want to remember that the Creator of the universe is the same One who invites me to call Him Father. The same One who sent His Son, Jesus, to restore my broken relationship with Him. And He is the same One who placed His Spirit in me to direct my steps. El Elyon, the Most High God, is also El Roi, the God Who Sees Me. Nothing is too big for Him to handle, and nothing is so small that it escapes His notice.

Will you join me in moving from admiring creation to worshiping the Creator? As we do, the eclipse will have achieved its primary purpose: to declare God’s glory and to encourage us to do the same.

How did the solar eclipse change you?


 
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