Monday, November 14, 2016

peace: an invitation (part 1)

We live in perilous times. In fact, I believe we are living in the last days...

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

These are scary days that surround us with many uncertainties. Corporate scandals, unemployment, terrorism and economic declivity are at an all-time high. Furthermore, there has been an immense moral decline within our generation as both church and family institutions continue to disintegrate due to increased divorce rates, post-marital affairs, pre-martial cohabitation, adultery, sexual and pornographic sins, etc. Yes, to look at the condition of this earth - mankind is falling apart. People are lost. Yet, there is hope... an invitation to find true rest. A promise to find calm, serenity, contentment, relaxation, stillness, order, tranquility... PEACE!

Jesus says to us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy (tailor made to you) and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

These verses are so great. They show us how much Jesus loves us and wants what is best and healthy for us. They prove that our God is always ready to receive us. He will never dismiss us. He will never tell us to "get lost" or to figure things out on our own. He does not say, "Avoid me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will deny you rest. Refuse my yoke and reject knowing me, for I am hard and proud and not interested in your desire to find peace. Too bad. For my way is difficult and my burden is heavy." No. Thankfully the Bible tells us that the Lord is inclined to receive us... to turn His head to us when we seek Him. Why? Because we are His most valued treasure. Being fully aware of all the hardships that exist on this earth, our Savior quietly calls us to COME - inviting us to receive Him. In doing so, we are promised "rest for our souls".... we are promised PEACE!

If each of us took a physical, emotional and spiritual inventory, I am confident that we could all agree that it is very easy to become weary, beaten down, burdened. Satan makes a great effort to abuse us again and again. He plagues us with all forms of anxiety, fear, discouragement, hurt, despair, bitterness, hatred, lust, greed, guilt, revenge, obsession, addiction, materialism and busyness. When we give in to the enemy and allow these sins to consume our lives, they hinder our fellowship with God. When this happens, there can be no peace.

Think about your life. What do you do after a busy, weary day? After your family is home, fed, settled... what do you do with your time? Do you distract yourself with television to "relax" and fill up your down time before bed? Do you numb yourself with the entertainment and sensationalism of this earth hoping to find some form of rest and relaxation before a new day arrives? If so, I must tell you that this is not a solution to find peace... and frankly, scripture assures us that it can be harmful physically.

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." (Proverbs 3:1-8)

Did you get that? We are not to look to the ways of this world to find our nourishment. For if we look to man-made methods before we look to God-promised solutions, we are only digesting another form of distraction that will ultimately hurt our health and hinder us spiritually. You see, Satan is all about distracting us away from God. The enemy does not want us to be nourished or healthy. He would rather we abandon any reflection or relation with our Redeemer and instead deafen our hearts and minds with many forms of "self-feeding" amusements. That is why there is so much noise out there - screaming for our attention.

Satan wants to imprison our thoughts so that we are too wound up to think straight and meditate on scripture clearly. He wants us to be spiritually dysfunctional - reacting only with our feelings - always pushing forward in a constant state of emergency. Satan wishes for us to abuse our gift of adrenaline so that we never truly enjoy rest. He convinces us that a high-strung life is normal and uses our own body against us so that we become a form of walking dead... an ineffective zombie that is too tired and defeated to do anything for the sake of God's kingdom. Yes, Satan is a powerful enemy devoted to alienate us from God. He knows that if we have noisy, nocuous lives, we will never enjoy true peace... only counterfeit moments of paralysis. Without true peace, we become an ineffective, sidetracked, burdened people - loaded down with sin. I don't know about you, but I'm certain that Satan's way is really no way at all.

To find the blessed rest that Christ promises to those who come to Him, I believe we are to mirror the heart of David in Psalm 139 who said,"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24).

I am convinced that in order to find true peace, we must first be willing to let God lead us into the way everlasting! The way that focuses on His eternal promises! We must take the time to share with God our heart and anxious thoughts. We must be willing to let God guide us to walk in a way that pleases Him. This means, we must take time first to meditate on His word in order to experience and know His rest and relaxation. For all scripture is God-breathed. When we need to catch our breath and find rest... He is ready and willing to revive us with His healthy breath of life! Call it spiritual CPR, if you will.

"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

"Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods." (Psalm 40:4)

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105 KJV)

We must not let this earth distract us away from seeking God's word first. It is a bright and comforting lamp to carry in our hearts as we travel through this dark world. To find true rest, we must receive Jesus' invitation and meditate on His ways day and night. Our Savior LOVES to be a savior. He delights in rescuing us. His disposition is only focused on our well-being! In fact, the last words He left us, before going to prepare our heavenly residence, were these:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

Christ clearly left us fully equipped to live TODAY with His gift of peace. He does not want us to seek the world's counterfeit ways. No. The lost look for comfort by means of distraction... an anesthetic to dull their empty hearts. But true, lasting, eternal peace is left for us in God's word so that our hearts need not be troubled or afraid. What a comfort! We must only be willing to stop and be with Him. We must be teachable and open to receive and follow Him. No matter how many problems we may face, Jesus wants us to seek Him first. For if we do, He promises to hear our cries and will settle our souls.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

The Messiah that all mankind sinned against and abandoned for dead, is the God who lovingly welcomes us to come and find rest. How great is the love of our Father?... For even in our darkest hour, He longs to save us and fellowship with us!!! Hallelujah! We must look to Him for strength, deliverance and hope! We must abide in the Vine! For without Him, we can do nothing fruitful. It brings glory to our God when His children walk in His presence and follow His example.

And what was His example? Jesus finished more in 3 1/2 years than we could ever measure. And in that time, he did so without stress or worry. He was at peace - always following the will of His Father with a willing spirit to be governed.

TO BE GOVERNED... there exists our #1 obstacle. This is what Satan capitalizes on... we do not like to be governed. Due to our sin, we are not naturally meek and lowly at heart like Christ. We are selfish. We want to do things our way... in our own time. But our Creator assures us that we cannot find rest physically, emotionally or spiritually if we live in such selfishness and pride. He made us. He knows that if we focus on the world's false ways to recuperate, it will lead us nowhere. For when we try to gain control of our lives outside of God, we are not in agreement with where our health comes from. No. To find peace, we must seek after the only One who can calm every part of this universe with His voice.

"He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." (Mark 4:39)

Friends, in order for us to find real rest, we must get quiet and meditate on God's commands. We must BE STILL and learn how to mirror the Master's life while knowing His words. Only then will the noise and anxiety die down. Only then will we find eternal calm in our hearts. Christ's time on earth was always kingdom focused. To live as healthy and prosperous and nourished as possible, our time on earth should be Christ focused.

"For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." (1 Corinthians 14:33)

"Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." (2 Peter 1:2)

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

I challenge you to remove every distraction that alienates you from the presence of the Savior. I encourage you to seek Him first before going after the many forms of recreation and distractions of this world. In Christ alone we are invited to peace. He has overcome all pressure. He has paid the price for our life with His own. All we must do is COME.

Glory to God in the Highest! In Him, we are invited to experience true rest and comfort. Let's make a point to spend our time jumping into His eternal word like snuggling into a big, fluffy bed! Let's be still and lie down in His green, glorious pastures while enjoying the calm and warmth of His presence and savoring His abundant grace. Let's know Him better than we know the celebrities and story-lines of men. Let's COME to our Redeemer. Regularly. Often. Always. Forever.

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

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