Peace Is A Person

FEAR NOT PICI often forget what I’ve written in days gone by, especially on this blog that has been sort of off my radar for some time since I’ve been busy writing elsewhere. So, when I posted Paul Knight’s recording, Afraid? just a few moments ago, I was surprised to see my own post, Shelter In Place, from March 5, 2020!

God has not been taken by surprise by the Coronavirus threat the world faces today, and He is still our refuge, as is clear in Psalm 91. He not only knew the days of our lives that were appointed for us, but also is aware of every word before we speak it. In this time we can take great comfort in His truth as expressed in Psalm 139:1-18:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you;the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Yesterday I wrote the preface for a new book, a portion of which I will share here:

By the time this book is published, the pandemic will be history; but as Jesus foretold, the latter days, or end times, will be rife with terrible and frightening events. Even so, His promise remains certain:

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)

Contrary to the media, Christianity is not against science. Rather, the media hates Christianity and denies God’s righteousness; it denies the reality of His truth regarding the spiritual world, which the Bible identifies as the heavenly places. Oh, fictional supernatural thrillers and super heroes are fine, but in the physical realm our supernatural God is unwelcome by many. 

During this stressful time, not-so-helpful suggested coping mechanisms I’ve read include:

    • Embrace the resiliency of life; after all, regardless of what happens, human life will go on and years from now this will be just a distant memory
    • Take a deep breath, hold it for ten seconds and release it slowly to alleviate some of your fears
    • Burdensome to-do and not-to-do lists of things that will lessen anxiety

Regardless of the advice, unless biblically based, it all seems to come down to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” Not true! Peace is not a place; it’s not a state of mind that one achieves; peace is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called WonderfulCounselor, Mighty Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

May the Prince of Peace meet you at the place of Your greatest need. Rest assured that He is able to bring you through the storm. As Jesus so often taught, fear not


 

Storms of Life

20180416_100328_1523899731218The old idiom that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb didn’t quite hold true in the Midwest this year, as is well illustrated in a message from a friend in Minnesota in mid-April: “Today’s Spring blizzard is reminiscent of the delicious winter blizzards of my youth that caused school cancellations (public libraries are closed today because of storm—a small nod to the school closing ‘cheers’ of my childhood). The wind is angry, and pounds in bursts that nearly knock you over; snows whirl in madness; snow-downfall can be measured in inches per minute, and drifting creates splendid art forms that no human hand can rival; visibility is measured in feet, wind chill effect on temperature is surprising, and it’s all better looked at than felt!  I suppose, all in all, it is an exciting farewell to winter.”

I’ve rarely experienced such a snow storm, but can clearly remember the historic Christmas flood of 1964. Today there are markings on trees and buildings of how high the water got, and it boggles the imagination. All roads into Humboldt County were cut off and the sky was full of helicopters doing all the things that helicopters do when there’s no other way in or out. We lived about half a mile from the Mad River, fortunately on the uphill side. This very angry river was often reduced to a trickle during the summer when it would only reach to our ankles as we waded across. But looking out over it that Christmas, all of the surrounding dairy and farmlands were totally under water for miles, with the tops of houses or barns peeking out of the water here and there.

The upside for us kids during what came to be known as a thousand-year flood, was that since there was no reception from any of the 3 incoming television networks (totally laughable now!), the local station played old movies nonstop. Since we couldn’t go outside in the rain and were on Christmas vacation anyway, Mom let us sit there and watch them for hours on end, an unheard-of treat. What else was she going to do in a house bursting at the seams with five bored kids in those day that were pre-computer, pre-smartphone and pre-electronic games? I loved it!!! Finally, when we could go back outside, there was a huge pond in the woods across from our house and someone built a raft that we paddled around for weeks, often falling off and getting soaked, but such fun!

It was pretty exciting to be in the midst of this big, terrible storm, but I had little comprehension of the impact of grief and despair it was having on many other people because we were safe and warm, and I had not yet experienced anything so tragic in my own life.

I still have some local newspapers that my mom saved, and looking through them on occasion reminds me of the widespread devastation. By the end of January 1965, about 200,000 square miles had been affected in parts of Oregon, Idaho, California, Washington and Nevada, 47 people had died, and thousands were left homeless. In our area near the mouth of the Mad River, the river not only met the ocean but also reached over to join with Humboldt Bay, causing a whole peninsula to become an island. Hundreds of dead cattle floated out to sea along with innumerable logs and stacks of lumber from the many sawmills the area, and the beaches were left with piles of wood and trash where the mighty waves of the Pacific deposited much of that which was lost. Aside from the physical and emotional trauma that cannot be measured, the price tag of about $540 million would equate to around $3.9 billion now.

Planted by the Rivers of WaterToday, if one is traveling through the scenic Avenue of the Giants a stop at the Immortal Tree will show the incredible contrast of a gorgeous little creek flowing behind the tree and a high-water marker on the front—mind boggling! IMG_2023

 

 

Perhaps my youthful lack of sensitivity to the vast reaches of destruction all around me are representative of the ‘it-can’t-hurt-me’ philosophy of so many today in regard to what the Day of the Lord will look like when Jesus returns:

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
    cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
    and to destroy its sinners from it. (Isaiah 13:9)

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3)

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:10)

The great day of the Lord is near,
    near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
    the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
    a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
    and against the lofty battlements.

I will bring distress on mankind,
    so that they shall walk like the blind,
    because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
    and their flesh like dung. (Zephaniah 1:14-18)

 

I pray that many will choose the safety that will belong to those who have chosen Jesus, for we will not have to endure His holy outpouring of judgment against His enemies that far, far exceeds anything as small as an April blizzard or a thousand-year flood.

...so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:7-8

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)

 

An Upgraded Mind

img_3311In my dream, I was in a restaurant where food was ordered and picked up at a counter, and there were a few tables scattered around. I was with three unidentified friends (represents God in all three persons) and there was one table for four but it was right by the line/register and was very crowded. One friend suggested we go upstairs where there were some more tables and we headed up there. I didn’t actually see it, but knew instinctively that it was surprisingly spacious and open.

At the same time, there had been an experience going on in which I had received what looked like a balloon with a small amount of water—maybe 1/3 full (me, undergirded by God!)—so plenty of room for expansion. I remembered that much earlier in the night I had been awake and got the word, ‘backdoor’, but didn’t understand why.  I was developing a prayer in my sleep and couldn’t remember it when I woke up, but immediately realized that my mind/brain is an exquisitely designed computer and that programmers often leave a backdoor entry so they can get in when nobody else can. I got up and wrote a ‘backdoor’ prayer, also asking the Lord to apply to me personally everything I had ‘written’/prayed while in the dream state, though I don’t recall the exact words.

The backdoor prayer, “Lord, please forgive me for all unrighteous thought and for believing the lies of the enemy. Please forgive me for not setting my mind on things above and for allowing fear, worry, and regret to dominate my thinking. As my Creator/Designer/Programmer, please access the ‘backdoor’ of my brain/mind, which is like an elaborate computer system. Close all doors that should be closed, and open all doors that should be opened so the gates of my mind may never be shut against You. Please kill all viruses and erase all ungodly pathways. Please upgrade my speed, memory, and storage capacity so I can quickly recall all that You want me to know. Please re-program me; upgrade my existing programs and install new ones that align with your latest designs for my life; and set my entire being for automatic updates and releases. Please build a firewall of Your truth through which deception cannot penetrate, and install the Word of God as my always up-to-date anti-virus program. Please cause all of my thoughts to be aligned with Yours so I can always understand what You are doing and know how to respond appropriately in the world. Conform me to Your image, Lord.”

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

 

Fear Not

FEAR NOT PIC

I’ve often written about fear, but it seems to be on the Lord’s mind this morning so here we go again. If a lesson can be repeated over and over in the Bible, I guess it’s not redundant if I do the same.

As anyone who has paid attention to the news lately will know, fear is rampant throughout the world. The latest international incident motivating fear was the attacks against women that occurred in Germany and throughout a number of other European countries on New Years Eve. Nationally, it’s the story of a police officer in Philadelphia whose assailant walked right up to the window of the patrol car and blasted away, critically wounding him. As I watched a news program last night, I lost count of the number of times someone said, “I’m afraid,” “Should we be afraid?” or “You/we should be afraid.” But I’m here to say, NO, we shouldn’t.

Fear is NOT God’s plan for His people, as He made clear to me once again this morning. Currently, I’m reading in Genesis, Isaiah, and Matthew, which obviously covers a pretty broad span of time, yet God’s message never changes, so just from my devotional time this morning without considering the hundreds of other biblical references to ‘fear’ or ‘afraid’ (do a word search, and you’ll be reading for hours!):

And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” Genesis 26:24

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Isaiah 8:11-13

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced. Isaiah 54:4a

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Jesus is the antidote for our hopelessness and fears, whether they are phony or based on very real threats, such as the terrorism that is rampant throughout our world. Fear not, for I am with you says the Lord!

A New Year’s Prayer

2016On December 31, 2015, New Year’s Eve, I awoke from a vivid dream in which I’d been surrounded by others at the sort of conference center that one might find in a nice hotel. A pianist was playing nice background music from the lobby, catching my attention as she began to play a familiar tune. As I began to sing, many others joined in:

God bless America, land that I love
Stand behind her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above
From the mountains, to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America
My home sweet home

I’d sung the words as a heartfelt prayer, with my eyes closed. When I opened them there was a nice looking man standing next to me who I believe was the Lord, and He encouraged me to keep on singing. Today, as I welcomed 2016 during my quiet time, He directed me to Psalm 100 and Psalm 101:1:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will make music.

May 2016 be a year in which we, His people, seek Him above all else and joyfully sing His praises, for:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

May God bless all who read this, whether you are in America or in any other nation on earth, for He is there. May 2016 be a year in which you encounter Him  and His sufficiency, His grace, and His mercy in every aspect of your life.

A Response to Terrorism

277359-20151124Have you watched the news today? Undoubtedly, there’s a report of a new terrorist act somewhere in the world. Last week it was in Paris. This week, nations are on edge as threats abound and warnings are issued here, there, and everywhere. Surely we are experiencing the terrible times of which Jesus spoke when lawlessness increases and the love of many grows cold, the end times when betrayal and hatred run rampant in our streets. All around, His words come to life before our very eyes:

You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake…And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Luke 21:16-17,25-26

Sounds pretty bad, huh? And, of course, it is! But it’s not the end of the world quite yet, and we must not focus on the abounding terror but on the One who is ultimately going to bring it all to an end on the Day of the Lord. He has not left us un-prepared or without hope, and He is sufficient in even the most desperate of times. But what does that look like? There’s a perfect example in the story of Esther, the Jewish woman who became Queen of Persia, which is, interestingly, the region we know as Iran.  It’s also interesting to note that those Persians of long-ago were just as violent and cruel as are the radical jihadists of today.

In summary, in his hatred of the Jews, Haman initiated a plan to have them all wiped from the face of  the earth and the king approved it for Haman was a highly favored and trusted official. Esther 4:3-17:

And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. 

When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. 

Can there be any doubt that Mordecai, Esther and the entire Jewish people were in mortal danger? Can there be any doubt that the terror they faced was very much like that which is seen today? I don’t think so.

So, what was their reaction? It was one we should model as we enter into mourning, prayer and fasting, and seeking the Lord for His sufficiency in our own time of trouble. We do have hope, for just look at how our amazing God stepped in when His servants humbled themselves and took a stand for righteousness, regardless of the potential consequences.

Previously, Mordecai had learned of a plot to kill the king and had saved his life. His action had been recorded but has seemingly escaped the memory of the king. Meanwhile, Haman had come to hate Mordecai more than any other Jew and even the sight of him made him very angry so he built a gallows on which to hang Mordecai, but on the very night before he approached the king about it, God intervened (Esther 6:1-11).

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows[i] that he had prepared for him. And the king’s young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”

Talk about God’s perfect timing! And what delicious irony, as the bad guy had to parade the good guy through the streets of the city proclaiming the king’s favor over his enemy; favor he thought should have been his.

Long story short…well, not really very long because Esther is only ten chapters…not only did Mordecai and Esther survive, but so did all of the Jewish people. And even more, the king granted permission for them to avenge themselves against their enemies and 75,000 unrighteous haters of God’s people were destroyed.

Our King is coming, and His arrival is imminent. Nobody can say exactly when that will be, but it is certain that all of the signs of the end of which Jesus warned are manifesting now. Let’s not allow our hearts to fail us from fear, but let’s rise up and stand in faith in our God. He is always sufficient and His timing is always absolutely perfect.