Month: December 2019

  • Jesus: The Prince of Peace

    Over the past three weeks, we have gotten to know Jesus our Messiah by a few of His other names, listed in Isaiah 9:6. These names spoken by Isaiah the prophet describe the character and mission of the coming Messiah: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. Isaiah culminates all these names with the capstone of them all: the Prince of Peace.

    Peace is something we all long for. It is one of humanity’s greatest needs and desires. We struggle with fear of the future, conflicts in relationships, financial stress, health problems and so much more. In this day and age when anxiety is at an all time high, peace can seem like an impossible dream.

    I’m here to remind you that God specializes in doing the impossible!

    In the beginning of time, through the creation of this world, God tamed the darkness and chaos and brought peace and order. All of creation lived in peace and unity with one another and with God.

    But peace in the garden was disrupted when creation was corrupted by sin and fell into animosity, war and chaos again. Disease, famine, war and death came into this world. The peace between God and His creation was replaced with conflict and fear.

    God saw our chaotic and hate-filled world and longed to restore and transform it with His peace and love. In order to have peace within ourselves and with others, we first needed peace between ourselves and God. Having a restored relationship with God is the foundation for peace with all of creation. So God sent Jesus to restore our relationship with Him. Jesus came as the Prince of Peace to be the One who would finally bring peace to the world.

    In order to understand the kind of peace Jesus came to bring us, we must first understand what the word “peace” means. When we usually think of the word “peace”, we think of the lack of conflict or hostility or we picture someone being free from internal and external strife.

    The Biblical concept of peace is much fuller than that. The Hebrew word for peace, šālôm, or the Greek word, eirēnē, means a sense of totality or completeness, success, fulfillment, wholeness, harmony, security and well being. It is God’s perfect peace–His complete, lacking nothing type of wholeness and harmony. It is what we might experience when we say, “it is well with my soul.”

    Jesus came as our Prince of Peace to bring us wholeness, perfect unity between us and God, harmony among creation and a victorious sense of well-being. Jesus Christ is the only reason we can truly live peacefully with God and others.

    The peace Jesus brings is one that is beyond comprehension. It is a peace that comes from knowing that God has everything well in hand, even when it doesn’t look like it. It is a sense of well-being, knowing you are perfectly safe in the middle of the storm because you have something beyond what is visible to anchor you. It is knowing that you are part of the an unshakable Kingdom where you are safe, loved and abounding with grace. This peace comes from knowing your identity is secure in Christ and your destiny is sure.

    While this world has yet to fully experience all that the Prince of Peace came to bring, His light is breaking into the darkness of this world and already making all things new. The Kingdom of God is here, bringing peace.

    Writer, Alyssa J. Howard, referring to Isaiah 9:7, says:

    Prior to Jesus, the world was far from peaceful. And while we don’t have perfect peace yet in terms of our world, what we do have is hope! I love how Isaiah speaks of Jesus’ ever-increasing kingdom. Because the truth is that His kingdom is always growing and expanding. God’s love and His peace are spreading throughout the entire world. Light is reaching dark places. And it’s so amazing that we get to be a part of it all!”

    Jesus introduced a Kingdom of peace and love when He came down to earth so many years ago. Because of that, we have hope! We, as sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God, are called to continue this legacy of peace. (Matthew 5:9).

    Let us continue His work by reflecting God’s peace and restoration to a world in desperate need of that kind of hope. With the peace of God reigning over our lives, we will see glimpses of the Kingdom as we expectantly wait for the Prince of Peace to return and complete what He has started.

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  • Everlasting Father

    During the Christmas season, I find my thoughts and daily rhythms are directed more readily toward Christ and God at work in my life and in the lives around me. It just feels like a season of miracles and my heart is perpetually on my sleeve. I can’t listen to Christmas songs without feeling all the feels and my kids lovingly tease me that I’m gushy. I absolutely love it. I’m so overwhelmed by the magnitude of God coming to earth to save us that I can’t hardly stand it. I am a completely different person because of that night so long ago.

    One of our family traditions growing up was to read the story of the birth of Jesus in the Bible, then each of us would say something we are thankful for. At the end my dad would pray.

    I love hearing my dad pray. He approaches talking with God with such confidence, the way one would after years of conversations and steadfast relationship. There is no sign of hesitation, no doubt in his voice that he is seen, heard and loved by God Himself.

    He always begins his prayers, “Our Heavenly Father, we praise your name.” It’s modeled after the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.It is something that I still admire to this day and often begin my own prayers by addressing my Heavenly Father.

    When I was little I’d try to imagine what our Heavenly Father looked like. I remembered our family prayers and that God is our Heavenly Father. I couldn’t picture what that looked like exactly, He seemed so ethereal and intangible, so naturally, I imagined my Dad. He is a good Dad, much like I would expect God to be. So my picture of God looked like a gentle and kind Latino man who makes the best pancakes and does great Monty Python impressions.

    As I grew up, I learned about Jesus, but I honestly never thought of him as a father type. A friend, comforter, wise person, and sacrificially loving to the point of giving His own life for mine. But “father” never really occurred to me.

    So when I first heard the names given to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6-7 of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, I struggled to connect a bit with the title of Everlasting Father. I just had never related to Jesus that way.

    The more I studied the Bible, the more I began to understand that Jesus is a complete reflection of God’s character and nature. He is Emmanuel, God with us. God in flesh, come to earth to reveal His character and nature to us. He can relate to all of our feelings, emotions, troubles and joys that we live daily. He has both an earthly perspective and an eternal one, making Him the perfect Everlasting Father. He can both relate to and guide us, empathize with us and care for us.

    He is truly eternal, he’s always been here and always will be. In John 1:1-3 we see that not only was He present for the creation of all we see and know, all of creation was made through Jesus.

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

    John 1:1-3

    Jesus also reflects God the Father in how he relates to everyone around him. The way he interacts and cares for people perfectly mirrors the love of The Father.

    • He is compassionate, showing mercy and tenderness. He calls the little children to him and nurtures their faith. (Matthew 19:14)

    • He holds us accountable and spurs us on to live a life that is right with God, the way a good father does.  (John 8:1-11)

    • Jesus sits with us when we are hurting and cares for us in our time of need. (John 11:1-41)
    • He encourages us to step out in faith, yet is there when we need rescuing. (Matthew 14:22-33)

    • He loves us so much that when we were still sinners, he took our place on the cross, redeeming us and saving us from death. (Romans 5:6-8)

    • Then he conquered death so that we will neer be separated from Him again. (Romans 8:34-39)

    These are just a few examples and stories where we see Jesus loving, serving and living as the Everlasting Father. He demonstrates the character of our Heavenly Father over and over, in every word of healing and every act of compassion.

    Jesus, The Everlasting Father is a tangible, relatable reflection of our Heavenly Father. When we try to picture God the Father, we need look no further than Jesus. What’s even better, is that as we get to know him, we can better recognize Him at work around us.

    This Christmas, as you turn your thoughts toward Christ, lean into the arms of The Everlasting Father. Let Him comfort you and care for you. Trust in Him, knowing that He is faithful and there to rescue you when you need it most. The more time you spend with Him, The Everlasting Father becomes even more familiar and comforting, so that when you go to pray, you can approach Him with confidence and without a doubt that you are seen, heard and loved. So very much.

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  • Mighty God

    Each week during the month of December, we are taking a look at the names describing Jesus that we see in Isaiah 9:6-7. Last week we explored what it means to have Jesus as our Wonderful Counselor. This week we will discover what it means to have Jesus as our Mighty God.

    When I think of the word “mighty”, I think of someone capable, strong and powerful. In John 1:1-4, we see that Jesus was there in the beginning of creation–through Him all things were created. In Hebrews 1:3 we see that not only did Jesus create all things, but He continues to sustain everything by the mighty power of His command. As our creator and sustainer, Jesus is mighty enough to help us in whatever we may encounter.

    Why is it important for us to know Jesus as our Mighty God?

    We have all faced a situation that makes us feel afraid and powerless. Whether it is a health diagnosis, a financial burden, a wayward child or a broken relationship. When we are facing these types of situations, every day can seem like a battle that we feel helpless to win.

    If you are facing one of these seasons right now, this story from 2 Kings will hopefully bring you some encouragement. In this story, Elisha is a Prophet of God. The enemy nation’s plans kept getting foiled because Elisha would tell Israel when and where the enemy planned to attack next. Israel always seemed one step ahead of them. When the king of Aram found out that Elisha was the source of this knowledge, he set out to capture him.

    And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city. When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.

    2 Kings 6:13-15

    Elisha woke up to an entire nation’s army surrounding him. The battle before him looked impossible to overcome on his own. It would be easy for him to feel like the battle was over before it even begun. With what appeared to be only one of him and thousands of soldiers surrounding him, it would seem rather hopeless. The young man with Elisha (who was probably an apprentice or a servant) was definitely worried and afraid. But Elisha was not.

    “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

    2 Kings 6:16-17

    Elisha could see what no one else could–God at work in his situation. The young man was afraid because he couldn’t see where the help would come from. He didn’t know that his help would come from the maker and creator of the universe–the only one who is mighty enough to save. When Elisha prayed for God to open the young man’s eyes, he saw a heavenly host, greater than any army of man, riding on chariots of fire surrounding the enemy army. They had been there all along, even before he could see them.

    You may not always feel like God is there intervening in your situation or that His mighty power is present. But if you allow God to open your eyes to see what He is doing, you may find that He is already in every detail. He delights to bring His heavenly army and all of Heaven’s might to your rescue. Nothing escapes His sight.

    Our Mighty God shows up, not only to be present with His people, but to fight on their behalf. He doesn’t just walk alongside us, He goes before us. He knows what lies ahead and is prepared to walk us through whatever comes our way. Knowing we have a loving Savior, who is a Mighty God, brings us a long-awaited hope and peace!

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  • Wonderful Counselor

    “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” – Isaiah 9:6-7

    If you’ve ever heard Handel’s Messiah, you may already be familiar with this part of the book of Isaiah. This choir girl can’t even read it without hearing a full orchestra in her head. But whether you are singing along right now, (or not), chances are the words are at least somewhat familiar. This passage of Scripture was written over 700 years before the birth of Christ, and yet it gives four names for the One that would be coming: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    For the Israelites awaiting a Messiah, these names gave them a glimpse of their Savior, long before Jesus was born. They revealed parts of God’s character and foretold of a time that was to come, the promise of a world made right.

    For us though, it can sometimes be challenging to connect deeply to something that was written so very long ago. How can these ancient words have bearing on our lives today?

    Between now and Christmas, we will be taking a look at each of the names given to describe Jesus in this verse, and how that can help us to experience hope, joy, peace and love this holiday season.

    The first name used to describe the long-awaited Jesus, is Wonderful Counselor. There are plenty of Bible verses telling us to seek wisdom and to cherish wise counsel. God even promises to give us wisdom when we ask! (James 1:5) Wisdom is important, but to counsel is so much more. A good counselor takes wisdom and applies it. They encourage you to do, say and think things that will lead to the best life for you.

    In Christ we have even better than a good counselor, we have a Wonderful Counselor. One that inspires awe and, well…wonder! He knows us better than we know ourselves, because He created our inmost being (Psalm 139:13). Jesus the Wonderful Counselor also has God’s eternal perspective that sees the whole big picture at once. Who better to guide us and teach us when our own human perspective is so limited?

    When my husband I and I were first married, I got really sick and wound up in the emergency room. It was pretty scary and honestly, we hadn’t navigated anything like this before. We felt so helpless in these uncharted waters–newly married and having to make some big medical decisions with little life experience to guide us. Thankfully, everything turned out ok. But oh how I longed for our parents to live closer, for someone older and wiser to step in and show us how to walk through this and somehow end up better for it.

    What I realized in that moment and what I cherish now, is that we were not alone.

    Not for one moment.

    Psalm 32:7-8 reads, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

    In the New Living Translation, verse 8 reads, “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”

    There wasn’t a single moment that our Wonderful Counselor was not watching over us with loving care. As we prayed, He helped us make wise choices and I saw His hand of provision and guidance at every turn.

    I still see Him working in our lives, teaching us which way to go, always guiding us under His loving watch and care.

    In Jesus, we truly find a Wonderful Counselor. And He is not a distant God who cannot relate. He was both fully God and fully human.

    There is no other religion or tradition where the Creator and Ruler of All Things, humbles himself and becomes one of us.

    There is no other God who can say from experience, “I understand.” and mean it.

    What’s more, who else can say that they planned ahead millennia for what you are facing right now? Dear friends, I’m here to tell you that Jesus did. Thousands of years before you were born, God had a plan. He sent a Wonderful Counselor who sees you and watches over you with a loving eye. Someone to guide you and teach you which way to go. In sending Jesus, He made a way for you to never be alone. Not for one moment.

    The season of Advent is about anticipation. We remember the story of the Savior’s birth long ago and we eagerly await the day when He returns. And in the meantime, we can know that He will guide us and watch over us in love.

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