Quick hits: Enter into the peace of God

Just some food for thought heading into this weekend….maybe you’ve got some stressful issues going on in your life right now and you need some encouragement.

Take a look at this passage written by Paul from Philippians 4:4-9:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Jesus is counter-cultural….and we should be too

Our world today teaches us to be spiteful, negative and many times just downright hateful. That’s why being a follower of Christ is so counter-cultural.

Jesus teaches us to be loving and accepting of all people. That can oftentimes be the hardest thing to do, particularly when those people are not being kind to us in return.

I’ve been going through the gospel of Luke lately, and it’s always interesting to me how different passages that you’ve read before seem to connect with you in ways they previously never had when you read them again.

One passage of particular interest to me of late has been Luke 6:27-38 where Jesus is speaking to a large crowd who had come to hear him speak and to be healed. During that teaching, Jesus spelled out to us how to love our enemies and how that makes us more like God.

“But I say to you who listen: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Pretty much everything about what Jesus said in this passage goes against what our everyday norm in today’s world has turned into.

How often do you see cordial conversation, much less compassion, being shown between two people who disagree with each other politically? Have you read a comment section of pretty much any news article on Facebook lately? It’s a horrifying place to be. Imagine how difficult it would be to show love toward someone who is bullying you or mistreating you on a daily basis?

Yet, that is one of the many things that makes Jesus so incredible. Following him and putting his ways into practice is rarely the easy thing to do. But it’s always the right thing to do.

It’s not difficult to love the people who love you. As Jesus said, anybody can do that. But it is difficult to show love and compassion for people who treat you poorly.

At the end of the day, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior and walk with the Holy Spirit, we all have the ability to learn from what Jesus has taught us in this passage and watch how it will transform our lives.

Do not judge. Do not condemn. Just love. That’s what we’re taught to do, and that’s how we can change the world around us on a daily basis.

Don’t underestimate what God can do

Too often we fail to grasp or remember the power of the God we serve and what He can do in our lives.

What we have to remember is when there are circumstances that seem like they’re too big for us to handle, that doesn’t mean that those circumstances are too big for God to handle.

Jesus was explaining to a wealthy man the pathway to having eternal life in Matthew 19. The man, who was deeply concerned about his earthly possessions and wealth, became discouraged when Jesus said “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 

Jesus then talked about how it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. When his disciples asked who would then be able to be saved, Jesus replied in Matthew 19:26:

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

All things are possible. When you are having trouble finding a job and can’t seem to find anything that works, trust in the Lord. When you’ve been given a terrible diagnosis at the doctor’s office, trust in the Lord. When your life seems like it’s in shambles, trust in the Lord.

We serve a God who gave each of us life and created the entire universe and everything in it. We serve a God who cared for us so deeply that he sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins and then raised him from the dead three days later.

If God can do all of that, just imagine what he can do in your life. Whatever problems you have that you think are too big, God can handle. Whatever daily stresses or concerns you have, God can help. You just have to let him.

But it’s going to take faith from you to Him in order to make that happen. If you trust in the Lord and truly believe that He can guide you through any obstacle, no matter how daunting, then He will be with you.

Jesus healed a boy in Matthew 17 who was possessed by a demon and was suffering from seizures. The boy’s father had originally brought his son to the disciples, but they were unable to heal him.

When they came to Jesus to ask him why they couldn’t drive the demon out of the boy, Jesus replied in Matthew 17:20:

“Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

Sometimes all it takes in life is to have a little faith. If you’ve been struggling with your faith, reach out to God and ask him to help you today. Trust in Him fully and see how He moves in your life.

Don’t underestimate the power of God.

Forgiveness knows no bounds

Perhaps the easiest thing in the world to do is to take what you have, and who you have, for granted.

We don’t mean to do it. We don’t wake up every day with the intention of taking our loved ones for granted, but oftentimes that’s exactly what we do.

If you’re someone like me who has two loving parents, two wonderful siblings, four gracious grandparents and reliable friends in your life, you are more blessed than you probably realize.

There are so many people who would give anything to have one more conversation with a parent or child who has passed away. Yet there are so many people who go months, even years, without speaking to some of their immediate family members or former close friends.

Some of you have been wronged by people who were once closest to you. There have been unfaithful partners in marriage, disputes over money, arguments over disagreements that seem minor now but have led to an estranged relationship between you and somebody you once cared deeply for.

Today is the day for you to cast all of those feelings aside and do what can sometimes be the hardest thing to do for someone who has wronged you….forgive them.

I know what some of you are saying. “You have know idea what that person has put me through or how terribly they’ve treated me.”

You’re right. I have no idea. But I do know there is no limit on the forgiveness that has been given to you. And because of that, there should be no limit on the forgiveness that you show to other people.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:13:

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Think about some of the things you’ve done in your life that you deeply regret. Think about how many times you’ve lied or stolen or sinned.

If you’re a believer in Jesus, you have been forgiven of those sins. There hasn’t been a point of no return where you lose your salvation or are no longer forgiven by God because you’ve done something so terrible. Jesus knows all, and yet he still forgives.

Should we not also forgive others just as we have been forgiven?

Holding grudges against other people doesn’t accomplish anything. There’s no good that comes from it for you, and it becomes more a weight on your mind that it ever did for the person who wronged you in the first place.

I challenge you today to forgive those who have wronged you. Try to reach out and repair those estranged relationships. Cherish those who you have in your life because there will come a day when they are no longer there.

God’s forgiveness knows no bounds in your own life. Try to extend that same sort of forgiveness to other people.

Jesus said in Mark 25:11:

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”