Peace

Tuesday Devotional: Jeremiah 4

bible18 “Your own conduct and actions
    have brought this on you.
This is your punishment.
    How bitter it is!
    How it pierces to the heart!”

19 Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
    I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
    My heart pounds within me,
    I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
    I have heard the battle cry.
20 Disaster follows disaster;
    the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
    my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle standard
    and hear the sound of the trumpet?

Jeremiah 4.18-21

There is unnatural stress and anxiety in this world.  It seems that fears breed fears, that once we overcome one, another soon takes its place.  We are surrounded on a daily basis by the things we have and don’t have.  We struggle to maintain and protect what we have, and we fight for a place to earn and gain possession of things we long for.

While we realize that we should probably relax more, let things go faster, not strive to have all that we want and just be happy, who can really accomplish this genuinely?  Perhaps for a limited period of time we can, but eventually we hear the sound of running out, having less or needing more.  This is inevitable in our world and our hearts.  We strive for what we cannot actually obtain on our own.  We strive to satisfy our restless souls with everlasting peace; we strive to satisfy our unhappy hearts with eternal happiness that continues to elude us.

Although it is easier to point the finger and blame something other than ourselves for our restlessness, the truth is that we continues to choose our will over God’s that would lead us into the place where we desire rest and peace over anything else.  God desires that we find true peace and happiness, but He also proclaims to us that only in a life united with Him and faith in His son Jesus can we find both.  Until we yield to God’s will and authority in our lives we will forever sense the encroaching presence of pressure and strife as we seek to satisfy our souls in this world by ourselves.  No person in human history has found the holy joy and peace that God offers apart from Him.  Apart from God there is a private place in the heart of each person that longs for rest from the battle, to find what ultimately does not exist in this world.  We are designed to know peace and happiness intimately.  God desires that we rediscover our design and know peace and happiness.  Will you continue to strive and fight?  Will you stay on high alert awaiting the next wave that may or may not overtake you?  Or, will you concede defeat in the fight for control and know victory in this world by accepting the control of the living God by faith in Jesus Christ?

Above All Else: Joy

(Find the rest of the series here, here and here.)pen-and-paper_400x295_39

Today, we seek joy…

Joy when we discover Him in the storm.

For most of my life as a Christian the word “joy” was a word I would rarely use to describe my Christian identity.  More appropriate words might have been words like “duty,” “routine,” “confusion,” “obligation.” Rarely anything in the vicinity of “joy.”

In my Christian life, there was little to take joy in.  God was a distant, silent God that I did not know personally. The experiences of Christian life were nice, but far from transforming.  I had a wonderful upbringing in a Christian household. My joy in being Christian had everything to do with my family and nothing to do with God and his son Jesus.

Lacking the joy of following God, I was surprised and confused to find, when reading the Bible for the first time, that God would prefer it that we stop following altogether than to follow joylessly.  I always thought that God desired obedience above all else and cared little whether we liked obeying Him or not.  It was shocking that God viewed my motivation to serve him and the way I enjoyed said service as the highest importance.  Why did he care?

As I continued reading I saw, over and over, that God viewed his relationship to us like a marriage.  The more I started to see how he viewed our relationship, the more I realized that I had been a quite unenthusiastic and uncommitted bride (Christian) to one particular bridegroom (God). The more I realized that God desired to have a relationship with me like that of a married couple, the more I realized that it would be more offensive to me if he didn’t care if I lacked joy in being with him.  To approach such a close relationship with passivity implies disinterest and indifference, ultimately worse than hate.  At least hate brings a passion to fight, defend and protest.  To approach God from such apathy is to express the perfect anti-love.  I began to realize that this “anti-love” fit me.

At the same time I began to understand those Christians who showed such joy in being “married” to him.  Their reactions to God’s presence were like they were embracing a loved one after long absence.  This sense of anxious, unbridled enthusiasm was not only common to all of these people, but also came naturally. Not forced, and not in response to a demand.

It’s so easy to lose this sense of joy in Christian life.  In the world we live in that continues to take more than we are able to offer, there comes a time that, in terms of a newly married couple, the honeymoon is over and real life begins.  We still define ourselves by our faith, but less and less so the way we did during the honeymoon.  Honeymooners are easy to pick out of a crowd because they cannot get enough of each other. But even after the honeymoon, people that love to be married are easy to spot because there is a sense of peace, joy and happiness in their togetherness.  To them, being together is far superior to being apart.  The question all Christians should continue to ask themselves is, “Can I get enough of God?”  Or, on the other hand, “Have I had enough?”

Remember Bartimaeus? Just days away from the cross, as Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem, he was confronted by a voice from the crowd.  The scream from the crowd was from a blind man named Bartimaeus, and his reason for screaming was that his faith in the healing power of Jesus was demanding a healing and a life-change on the spot.  Here is a man who would not let Jesus go without an encounter.  The jeers and judgmental thoughts of those along the roadside, including the disciples, did not intimidate or deter him.  He wanted Jesus and nothing would stop him.  And when he received his healing, he followed Jesus.

Bartimaeus needed Jesus. He cried out for Jesus. He was overjoyed when he found Him. Are you?

Above all else, in and out of storms, fires, humdrum days and nights, excitement and stillness, remember the joy of salvation. This God comes with us into life, makes Himself known there, and wants nothing more than joy in His presence.