Advent

  • Love Came Down

    Each year during the Christmas season, we find ourselves surrounded by songs, sermons, and scenes depicting Jesus as a baby in a manger. We sing carols about how he came to save us and to bring hope, peace, joy, and love – all incredibly powerful truths. But this year, as my family has been walking through the Advent season together, I’ve been pondering what it means that God came to earth, not mature and fully formed, but as a loud, messy, unpredictable baby. 

    This can be a difficult idea for our image-obsessed culture to embrace. Most of us prefer our lives to be relatively tidy, logical, and orderly – at least from the outside looking in. But how often does everything in our lives stay neat and tidy for long periods of time? How many of our intimate relationships stay neat and tidy for long stretches of time? Where there is life and growth, there are messes! So if messes are inevitable, maybe they aren’t as bad as we think they are, but perhaps instead we need to examine our responses to the messes that happen.

    In John chapter 3, Jesus explicitly referred to the growing-up process we all go through when He explained the Kingdom of God to the religious leader named Nicodemus. Nicodemus had come to Jesus under the cover of night, searching for more answers to his questions. They didn’t talk long before Jesus had revealed the secret of God’s kingdom to him, saying “you must be born again”  (John 3:3) 

    If you’re like me, you might read that verse through your “Christian filter” and it might sound pretty normal. But what might Nicodemus have thought when hearing that sentence for the first time? How unexpected it must have been! I imagine He had expected Jesus to share some sort of profound statement full of wisdom that would blow His mind. (And in fact, that’s exactly what Jesus did.) But at the time, I don’t think Nicodemus expected to hear that he needed to become a baby again! In the next verse, we can see that he responded quite literally to Jesus’s statement, exclaiming, “how can someone be born again when they are old? Can they enter into their mother’s womb a second time?” (paraphrase) But of course, we have the helpful perspective of knowing that Jesus didn’t mean literally, He was speaking metaphorically. So if we follow that metaphor to its natural conclusion, what do we infer?

    Well, first of all, we can first infer that becoming a spiritual baby who is learning everything all over again is not only OK, it’s actually a requirement!” You MUST be born again,” Jesus says. And yet this metaphor of birth and babies sure brings with it a very messy-sounding reality. Many of us, if we’re honest, might admit how uncomfortable it sounds. After all, who wants to go back to the baby stage of being helpless and vulnerable?! Isn’t it better to maintain the posture of being wise and respected? Shouldn’t that be of the most value in God’s kingdom?

    But God’s kingdom is not of this world. It thrives not in the pride of perfection, but in the simplicity of our humble, messy growth. The step-by-step stages of our spiritual growth and development may never feel easy or tidy; but over time, as we embrace God’s good plan to parent us, we grow from spiritual babies to curious children, to mature adults. This radical acceptance of God’s wisdom and timing sets us up towards sustained maturity and great wisdom through our dependence on Him. Meanwhile, there is so much more grace for our messes and mistakes than we think there is! God is not surprised by them, and just like every good parent, He will help us – teaching us and loving us unconditionally through it all.

    We will all continue to make messes and mistakes throughout our lives, but because of Jesus, they don’t have the power to define us or to change our identity. Messes and mistakes are a normal, even expected result of our growth and development as people and Christ-followers. We must remember that as children of God, we desperately need Him to parent us to maturity. 

    In Psalm 40:2, David describes God’s mercy this way: 

    “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

    Psalm 40:2

    From a muddy pit to a firm and strong foundation, God’s love for us, through the life of Jesus, brings help, hope, and redemption to even our worst messes!

    This Christmas, I encourage you to spend time remembering that Love came down as a baby. It wasn’t easy, quiet, or tidy, but it was good. Let’s give thanks to God for sending Jesus into our messy world, to redeem it and restore it. No matter what messes might be present in your life, you can take heart knowing that God will not leave you there in your mess, but lift you up out of it and set your feet on solid ground. We can give it all to God, the redeemer of our messes, and proclaim like the angels in Bethlehem so long ago, “Glory to God in the highest!”  Love has come.

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  • Joyful in God

    When I was in second grade, an older kid on the playground tried to push me off the swings. I hollered and protested but to no avail. Thankfully a sixth-grader named Tony heard my pleas for help and crossed the playground with what seemed like a single stride staring down my opponent with a look that no one dared challenge. My bully slinked away defeated, and I was overcome with triumph and pure joy as we celebrated the victory with a triple-under-dog push on the swings. To this day, I don’t remember the fear or trouble of the conflict, only the joy of having found such a friend and defender. 

    Often in the Bible, we see that joy and trouble seem to hold hands. It’s easy sometimes to think that joy is the natural response to everything being alright in our world. But if that were true, we would hardly ever experience any sense of joy. Even though we may have seasons where most things are going right, it’s rare they stay that way for long. Joy doesn’t come only in the absence of trouble but is made all the more meaningful and more pronounced by the presence of trouble.

    But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You.”

    Psalm 5:11

    In times of trouble, those who put their trust in Jesus have reason to rejoice—not because the battle is over, but because they are sheltered in the midst of the battle. God doesn’t always eliminate the trouble, but he does give us protection and will defend us in the middle of it. He is faithful to hear our cries and works powerfully on our behalf when we call His name for help. 

    In John 16:33, Jesus acknowledges that there will be trouble in this life, but in the same breath, He reminds us to take heart because He has already overcome anything we could ever face. We can trust Jesus to know what we are going through and to help us in our need. In fact, in the very next chapter, Jesus prays for all believers. That includes us! 

    Let that sink in for a second. Jesus prayed for us. And with Jesus praying for us, there’s no trouble in the world that could dim the joy of being loved by the ultimate Defender, Savior, and Friend. 

    Yes, life is hard. Impossibly hard at times. We can go through seasons where the trouble never seems to end. But when we choose to turn our hearts toward the source of our salvation, instead of focusing solely on our situation, that same trouble and turmoil can serve to push us into the open arms of Jesus where real joy lives. We can rejoice again because God is worthy of our trust. We can shout for joy because we are His children and He defends us. 

    Whatever you are facing today, I pray that you know you are not alone and that there is joy waiting in the arms of our Savior Jesus. Let Him hold you close as He restores your heart, and renews your joy.

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  • Hope for the Hopeless

    A few years back I was rehearsing with my church choir for our annual Christmas program. To be honest, I didn’t want to be there. My Christmas spirit had up and left. It was difficult for a spirit of joy and anticipation to thrive in my mental state of mind on that day. There was just no place for joy to take root in my spirit of negativity and self-doubt. I had been fighting intrusive, negative thoughts most of the year and I was tired. Tired of not being good enough. Tired of the world being a broken place to live in. Tired of fighting to put one foot in front of the other. And that tiredness was manifesting itself into hopelessness. I was starting to believe things would never get better.

    Then, we sang the first verse of “O Holy Night”: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks, a new a glorious morn.” 

    These words spoke directly to how I was feeling. Pining means mental and physical decline, especially because of a broken heart. That explained my heart exactly. By allowing negative intrusive thoughts to rule in my life, my heart was broken, and it was hard to feel joy. When I read the news headlines or ran into an unkind person in the store, it added to the sense of brokenness I felt. But “O Holy Night” revealed what God did to help that broken heart.

    “Till He appeared…” Those living in the times of Jesus, were living in a broken world as well. They were under a harsh Roman rule. There were high taxes. Roman soldiers on every corner watching you. The religious leaders had created a law that was impossible to follow. It indeed appeared hopeless. Those that tried to throw off Roman rule were killed. Those that didn’t follow the man-made religious law, were outcasted. Their one lifeline of hope was the promise of a Savior. The promise of the Messiah, God’s anointed.

    “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…” One evening some 2000 years ago, the long awaited day arrived. The promised Messiah, our hope of salvation, entered the world. Luke 2:10-11 describes the angelic birth announcement:

    “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’”

    Luke 2:10-11

    Isaiah 9:1-7 shares the hope the Messiah would bring to broken, hopeless hearts.
    “No more gloom for those who were in distress.” (vs 1)
    “People walking in darkness will see a great light.” (vs 2)
    “He will increase their joy.” (vs 3)
    “The yoke that burdens the people would be taken away.” (vs 4)
    “He will establish justice and righteousness.” (vs 7)

    The Messiah was coming to take away the hopelessness and replace it with joy. He gives us hope that brokenness is not a place we have to live in any longer. In the gospels, we see time after time how Jesus shared hope with others. Jesus, forgiving the sins of the lame man on the mat, gives hope that living in the depth of sin is no longer a reality we have to live. Talking with an outcast woman at the well, He gives us hope that despite our past choices we can receive love and acceptance from Jesus. Jesus’s death and resurrection secures our victory over death giving us hope that no matter what happens in this life, we will rise to an amazing eternal life with a loving God.

    The gospels show Jesus offering and proclaiming hope to those who believe, so why was I living as if Jesus never came? I struggled with living in the hopelessness that I am not good enough. That God will never fully accept me because of my shortcomings. That there is no hope for my brokenness or my broken world. As I lived in my false sense of hopelessness, I found myself giving up, becoming a recluse inside myself and my house. I realized, that is exactly where Satan wants me to be–living a life disregarding the fact that Hope has already entered the world, ignoring that Hope had chosen to live inside me though the Holy Spirit. When I live that way, I am unable to use the gifts and talents He gave me to bless the broken world I live in. But I don’t have to live in hopelessness and neither do you! God already gave the remedy for it–He sent Jesus on that “O Holy Night.”

    “Yonder breaks and new a glorious morn…” The Christmas story reminds us of the ‘hope to which we are called’ (Eph 1:18). Hope came into the world, but we have to claim it. We no longer have to live in the darkness of hopelessness, but we can choose to stand in the light of a new morning filled with the hope and joy that we are loved despite our faults. To live in the joy that God still works and lives within us, transforming us into his vessel of hope and joy. To live in the truth that no matter what happens we have victory over sin and death, and a promised eternal life with God. Beloved, I hope that this Christmas you will be able to lay down any burden or hopelessness you carry and run like the shepherds did, to the presence of Jesus and rejoice.

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  • Guiding Us Toward the Path of Peace

    I love reading the Christmas story with my kids each year. We curl up on the couch in front of the fireplace, all cozy in our fuzzy blankets and jammies, each night before bed and read about when our Lord came to earth as a baby (out of his great love for us) to bring us hope and joy and peace.

    And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

    Luke 1:76-79

    These words were spoken by Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, when he saw his miracle child. Zechariah was a priest, and he and his wife, Elizabeth, had just given birth to their son, named John. Zechariah and Elizabeth had been childless for many years and were well past child-bearing age when this miracle happened to them.

    John was the one prophesied to come before Jesus and sent to prepare a way for Him, announcing His coming. Up to this point, the whole world had been waiting in the darkness for the light of hope to come. This story of John ushers us into the very beginning of the Christmas story–a story of when the light of the world came to “guide our feet into the path of peace”, to bring us hope in salvation and forgiveness of sin. John’s role was to point to Jesus and go ahead of him, giving the people hope that the one whom they have been waiting for, for so many years, is finally here!

    Jesus is “the rising sun”, shining light into the darkness in order to guide us into his peace. As we allow the light of Jesus to illuminate the dark places in our life, the peace of Christ comes to us and replaces all fear and doubt with rest and assurance.

    Father God, we ask that you help us see the areas of our lives where we need your light to shine forth in darkness. Bring your everlasting peace to our hearts and souls, replacing all fear and doubt, and helping us point others to you, the Prince of Peace. We long for true peace that comes only through your son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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  • Peace of Christ

    Peace.

    This evening after work, my husband discovered a leak in the very old hot water tank of our newly purchased home. So instead of enjoying the relaxing evening we’d planned, curling up on the couch with our kids and the latest Mandalorian episode, we raced the clock to pull up wet carpet and subfloor, buy and install a new copper pipe, cook supper, and get everyone fed before bedtime … all while trying to stay calm and be nice to each other.

    It almost seems laughable how frenzied we all became so quickly. It became increasingly difficult to give each other grace and margin for our disagreements and different priorities throughout the evening.

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

    John 14:27 (ESV)

    I don’t know about you, but this promise from Jesus to his disciples sounds almost too good to be true. Especially right now. I’ve been a Jesus-follower for a number of years now, and I’ve heard this particular passage more times than I can count. But I have to be honest: after a year like 2020 I feel as if I’m reading these words for the first time. How can Jesus make such bold statements? Is His peace really so accessible, even today? How can we keep our hearts from being troubled and afraid of the pain and chaos around us? How do we gain access to God’s incredible gift of peace?

    Let’s look a bit further down in John 16 where Jesus is once again speaking to His disciples about peace:

    Jesus asked [His disciples], ‘Do you finally believe? But the time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

    John 16:31-33 (ESV)

    This one hits hard. Jesus is describing His upcoming betrayal and abandonment from the very people he’s sitting next to – His best friends. I cannot imagine a worse scenario to foresee. If anyone had foreseen the tragedies of 2020, would they have been able to handle the grief and the apprehension? Would they have been able to hold the tension of gracious acceptance and brave fortitude? Jesus saw the future as God revealed it to him and He spoke of supernatural peace, even in the darkness of those events. What mattered most was not actually the events themselves, but more so Who was still present and offering peace in the midst of tragedy.

    Jesus confirmed over and over again throughout the Bible that life on earth will be hard, with trials and sorrows guaranteed to come our way. But the trials and the sorrows aren’t the end of the story because God is present through it all, and His promises stand firm.

    Let us open our hands this Advent season, to give Jesus our pain and sorrow and receive His supernatural gift of peace.

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  • Treasuring Immanuel

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 

    “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

    When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:8-19

    There have been times in my life when there’s been a plot twist so big that words fail me and I’m left to ponder in quiet stillness. This uncharacteristic calm is something that still surprises me, especially since I’m typically the kind of person that processes things out loud. But sometimes there are just events or circumstances in life that are so big, they are beyond our comprehension. In those moments, I find the only way to make sense of things is to sit with the Lord and let Him make sense of it for me. 

    So I’ll steal away to a quiet, comfy place in my house, or to a coffee shop where I can write and think and pray. Inevitably, as I sit with the Lord, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of safety and peace. He is my safe space, my refuge. He’ll never judge me for feeling like my thoughts are chaotic and scattered. He is patient with me and helps me lay out all the pieces of the puzzle so that I can begin to process and see where God might be at work. Without fail, He leads me gently to a place where, even if I can’t see the whole big picture, I can at least see Him. 

    I imagine Mary had several of those moments in her life where life took such a big turn that words just failed her and she had to just sit with the Lord and take it all in. I wonder if that’s what Mary was experiencing in Luke 2:19 when it says,  she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” 

    In this part of Mary’s story, she had just given birth to Jesus, in a barn, after days of traveling. She would have been beyond tired, and this was likely not the birth scenario she had imagined. Sitting in that barn, looking at this little baby who was fully God and fully human must have felt so surreal, so beyond comprehension. In these moments after Jesus’ birth, she would have been busy caring for her newborn, focused on his needs and on resting and healing herself.  Having strangers suddenly drop by may not quite have been what she envisioned. But when a group of shepherds show up at the stable after an angel of the Lord tells them of Jesus’ birth, Mary is gracious. Instead of shooing them away or recoiling at what may have felt like an intrusion, Mary is generous with her time, with her heart and with Jesus. 

    As the shepherds stood there amazed at the foot of the manger, they recognized that this baby was the Messiah. Maybe it was in that moment that Mary zoomed out and saw a bigger view of an even bigger picture. Perhaps it was then Mary realized that she and Joseph were not the only ones who believed that what God said would happen, was now finally happening. Immanuel, God with us, had arrived. 

    As the shepherds left to go tell everyone what they had seen and heard, Mary was left in the stillness, in a quiet moment of solace to ponder and marvel at all God had done, was doing and would do in the days to come. She knew they were on the edge of something big, and even though she couldn’t see the whole big picture, she could see God in the face of her newborn baby.

    In our lives we experience many twists and turns. We experience events when time seems to stand still, whether for better or worse. We too can sit with the Lord in safety and peace, and see his face in the midst of whatever we are going through. He was then, and is still, our hope, our comfort, our Immanuel, God with us. 

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  • Quiet Confidence

    As we enter into this advent season, my mind often turns to the women who played such an instrumental role in the Christmas story and what it must have been like to see the life of Jesus unfold firsthand. 

    Often we focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and understandably. A teenage, unwed virgin bearing the Son of God warrants noticing. But I’m also struck by her older cousin Elizabeth, who’s own miraculous story is intricately woven into the beautiful tapestry of the Christmas story.

    The name Elizabeth means “God is my oath” and it couldn’t be a better fit for her. In Luke 1:5-60, we learn that Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were well along in years, but had no children. In Elizabeth’s day, a woman’s value was wrapped up in her ability to be able to bear children, and not just children, but a son to carry on the family name and her husband’s legacy. With each passing childless year, Elizabeth and Zechariah’s disappointment would have been profound. But where faith might falter for many, they instead leaned into the Lord’s faithfulness and continued to pray for a child. They continued to serve in the church and in their community. Elizabeth’s years of disappointment deepened rather than destroyed her faith. 

    Imagine her surprise when an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah to tell him that they would be parents to a son and they should name him John. And he wouldn’t be just any son, but great in the Lord’s eyes, a joy and a delight and one who would help prepare the hearts of all Israel for the coming Messiah. 

    I can only imagine the flood of emotion and wonder that must have rushed over Elizabeth in that moment. Even though she was well past her childbearing years, she would be having a son! In her joy, she praises God, saying “How kind the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” (Luke 1:25 NLT)

    What I love about Elizabeth is that she is a picture of calm, and quiet confidence. She appears to be unruffled by life and seems to take everything in stride. No doubt she experienced all sorts of emotions and feelings, but when we see her described, she is not ruled by her emotion, but by her faith. That quiet confidence came from her relationship with God and her heart being open to the Holy Spirit guiding and helping her. Her confidence was in God, because He has always been faithful. And now she was literally living out a miracle in her own story. 

    Because Elizabeth knew God, she didn’t question how He was working. She was secure in who He was, therefore she was secure herself. This translated to many different areas of her life: how she dealt with disappointment, grief and possibly shame during her childless years, as well as how she interacted in her relationships. Establishing her identity and confidence in the Lord, positively impacted her relationship with her husband by helping solidify their faith as a couple. It rippled out into her extended family and to her friends and neighbors as they shared her joy when her baby was born (vs. 58). Her God-confidence influenced how she navigated the unexpected surprise of a baby in her later years and how she related to her younger cousin, Mary, when she came to visit with the news that she too was pregnant with a miracle.  

    This interaction between Mary & Elizabeth is perhaps my favorite part of Elizabeth’s story and such a beautiful example of God’s provision of community. As baby John leaps in her womb upon hearing Mary’s voice, Elizabeth immediately recognizes that Mary is the mother of the Lord. It makes sense that she would recognize God’s handiwork having just experienced a miracle of her own. The joy and wonder she and Mary share as they marvel at how the Lord is at work in their lives, and through the lives of their children is a treasure.

    What a gift God gave them in being able to relate so deeply to one another, even just to process together all that was happening and unfolding.  It is such a beautiful example of God’s perfect provision and timing. John was going to prepare the people’s hearts for Jesus’ arrival. Had he come when Elizabeth had first prayed for a child, too much time could have gone by between John’s teaching and Jesus’ arrival, and the hearts of the people may have again grown cold. Perhaps God was preparing Elizabeth all this time, knowing that Mary would need a caring and wise, mature mentor to help her navigate the difficulties that lay ahead in her own story. Whatever the reasons, Elizabeth’s quiet confidence and mature faith, no doubt blessed Mary more that we can even know. 

    As we reflect on the Christmas story and the anticipation of Christmas itself, I want to encourage you, in your own season of waiting. Maybe you are bringing your own persistent prayer ever before Him or you’re eagerly awaiting the day when the Lord returns and sets all things right again. Perhaps you are experiencing the chronic disappointment of life not going at all the way you had hoped or planned, or you’re reeling from a sudden, unexpected change you didn’t see coming (good or bad). Know that the same God who loved and provided for Elizabeth, loves you and will provide for you too. He sees you and knows your needs. As you lean on Him, you can trust wholeheartedly that He will cultivate in you a faith that leads to joy and security in any situation. Because of your relationship with God, you too can have quiet confidence that God is working powerfully in your circumstances, and that the story He is writing in your life will also be one of His perfect provision and profound love. 

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  • 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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