12/19 Needed: People of Peace

Sony cancels movie due to terror threat. Heroin deaths are at epidemic rate in Massachusetts (in wealthy/Caucasian/suburbs). 65% of homes with children in US are on government aid programs. 148 killed in school attack by Taliban in Pakistan. Local teen commits suicide.

These are just a few of the headlines that we’re getting accustomed to. What do they all have in common? They point to a lack of PEACE. The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace, and our world needs it in abundance!

Peace isn’t something that can be forced upon someone. It can’t just be dumped into the world. It comes a little at a time. It comes person by person as it is shared. It comes by one person acting toward another in ways that promote calm, trust, love, and compassion instead of fear, anger, hate, and violence. Peace comes through people. One person at a time. People bring peace by living out the Spirit’s work inside them publicly. Peace is a gift that you can bring to others, by taking what’s inside you and LIVING it.

Maybe you’ve heard this phrase before? No Jesus No Peace. KNOW Jesus KNOW Peace. I’d like to add to it: KNOW Jesus LIVE Peace. To know Jesus is to be a person of peace. The world needs you to live OUT the peace that you have inside you. It may be your neighbor, or a coworker, or a relative, or friend that needs peace (in fact they ALL do). If you know Jesus and have that peace, then live it OUT so that others can find peace too. We all need it!

Dear Jesus, you alone put peace in our hearts. Help us to live as people of peace. Amen.

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12/17 Sleep in heavenly peace…

Some of the greatest Christmas Carols have much to teach us about the Fruit of the Spirit, Peace. Silent Night ends with a prayer to baby Jesus, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” And, Away in a Manger, pictures the baby Jesus asleep and not crying in the hay.

A sleeping baby is the perfect picture of Peace. No matter what is going on around them, babies can sleep. My parents love to tell the infamous story of how I slept through fireworks as a small kid. I even fell asleep in a bowl of ice cream once when I was very young. No matter what was going on around me, I was able to be sound asleep. That’s peace.

Peace is being in a place internally that allows one to block out everything going on externally. A person can be at peace in the middle of a battlefield. It’s what’s going on inside that determines peace. Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of something much more powerful: Jesus. When Jesus is in your heart you can be at peace even when life all around is chaos and noise. When Jesus is in your heart you can sleep soundly in the face of fireworks. When Jesus is in your heart you can know peace that passes all understanding. It’s one of God’s greatest Christmas gifts. Not only does Jesus sleep in heavenly peace, but you can too!

Dear Jesus, you slept soundly in the manger amidst animals and their noises. No matter what is going on around us fill us with your peace. Amen.

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12/16 Timing is everything!

“When the fullness of time came God sent his son, born of a woman…” Galatians 4:4

This incredible verse reminds us that God’s timing is ALWAYS right. He waited for the exact right time to send Jesus. It wasn’t a moment too early, or too late. It was exactly the right time. This is hard to imagine because it wasn’t according to OUR timing. We would have sent Jesus much earlier, wouldn’t we?

Patience is not just about waiting, but about waiting on God. Patience is about humbly admitting that God’s time is always right. Patience is about letting go of the ability and desire to move things along at MY speed, and wait for God to move at HIS speed. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.

Christmas came at exactly the right time. It was the day of the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome that enabled the news of Jesus’ birth to spread quickly across the known world. A common language and monetary system matched up with a time of peace and an efficient system of roadways so that news could spread easily across the world. It was the PERFECT time for Jesus to come.   Jesus went viral before going viral was even a thing because God had it all planned out perfectly.

God has your life planned out perfectly too. Acts chapter 17 talks of the way that God has chosen the exact time and place that you are living so that you could grow to know His love. You are no accident and your presence here today is by design. You might be waiting for something significant to occur in your life today. Be assured that it will all happen according to HIS plan, and it will be perfectly times as usual!

Dear Lord, you control to hours and minutes of our lives. As we wait for your hand to act, give us patience and trust. Amen.

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12/15 Slow to anger and abounding in Love

The world needs more patience. The world doesn’t need to learn to BE more patient (though it’s not a bad idea). The world needs US to be more patient toward it. People need us to be more patient toward them. Your spouse needs you to be more patient. Your kids need you to be more patient. Your neighbors, your co-workers, your extended family and friends all need you to be more patient.

Remember that everyone is broken. Everyone is starting with a disadvantage of some kind that keeps them from being perfect. Everyone is living proof that original sin exists. No one is perfect, and everyone needs to be given a break. They all need you to be a bit more patient with them.

The world needs you to be more patient with them. The world needs you to be a bit more like God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. That’s how the Psalms describes God: slow to anger and abounding in never ending love. In a word: patient. God is not quick to judge, to explode in anger, to yell and scream, and keep lists of wrongs. God is patient.

Paul said it as well in First Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind. The world is filled with sinful people who need that kind of love. Give it a try this week. See how being patient can make a huge difference in the lives of others. See how living out the Fruit of the Spirit will allow your family and friends to know a little bit of God’s grace through you. And while you’re learning to be patient with them, be patient with yourself too!

Dear Jesus, you are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Help me to be slow to anger and full of love too. Amen.

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12/14 Watching and Waiting

I just spent about 20 min waiting to see a Meteor. My neck was craned in the direction of Castor and Pollux, the twins from whom the name of the meteor shower is coined, The Geminids. The sky was clear and the googled information led me to believe that we would be in for quite a show tonight. About 100 meteors per hour is the max tonight if the sky cooperates and you’ve got little light pollution.

Even knowing what was coming I wasn’t quite sure when my oldest said, “There’s one!” I missed it because I was texting my friends to see if they’ve seen any yet. Obviously my patience was waning. I was getting antsy, and my neck was sore. When would the shower begin? When would I see the beauty of a piece of space rock burning through our atmosphere and leaving a fleeting trail before my eyes?

There! Or, was it? Did my eyes play a trick on me? Or, was there really a meteor there?   When you’re looking for something so intently, and waiting for it to arrive sometimes your eyes will play tricks on you. Sometimes you lose patience and just go inside giving up because the wait was too long or the pain too much to endure holding still staring into the night sky. My neck really hurts.

God’s people had been waiting for 400 years from the time of the last prophetic words to the days the angels came to speak words of promise and hope to Joseph and Mary. They had been waiting so intently, looking to the sky for some kind of sign. Now that it was here, would they believe their eyes, or chalk it up to their imagination? Would their patient waiting work out, or would they give up and lose hope for good?

The Christmas account is one of patience. Four hundred years of waiting for Israel. 9 months of waiting for Mary. A lifetime of waiting for Anna and Simeon.   Nervous waiting for Herod. Watching and waiting for Joseph. All that waiting, and it was all worth it! The Messiah was born! Right in front of their eyes they were seeing God in the flesh. His promises were being fulfilled right before their eyes.

Tonight as I gazed into the East I couldn’t help but think of the Wise Men who saw the star in the East and went to worship Jesus. I only had to wait 20 minutes to see my meteor, and it was worth it. Someday I’m also going to see Jesus, face to face, and worship Him. I can’t wait!

O Lord, your put the stars in the heavens and count off days and nights by the sun and moon. You control all things including the perfect timing of your gifts. Give us patience as we await His coming. Amen.

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12/13 Making a difference

Kindness is needed in our world today. Spend 15 minutes watching the news, or reading any news media online and you’ll see that people are generally quite UNkind to each other. Kindness is such a novelty in our world.

The Fruit of the Spirit are gifts that God can give to the world through His Church. And, they’re all needed in abundance. Imagine how different the world would be if kindness was the norm. Workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and homes can be transformed by kindness. Instead of people looking out for their own good, how would the world be if people looked out for others first? Kindness can go a long way.

Go out of your way to be kind today. We’re in a hectic time of year. A little kindness would be a blessing to anyone who receives it. Put a smile on your face, a kind word on your lips, and a difference in your wake. Be kind to the cashiers who are working extra long hours. Be kind to the waiters who are busy bussing tables. Be kind to your neighbors by sharing some of your Christmas cookies.   Don’t forget to be kind to your family while you’re at it! You’ll make a difference by sharing those great gifts of God.

Dear Lord, you give gifts to the world through us. Help me to be kind, and help that kindness make a difference in the lives of the people I meet. Amen.

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12/12: Kindness

One of the Scripture Readings assigned for Christmas Day comes from Titus 3:3-6

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

I highlighted a key word for you: Kindness. The same word used by Paul in the list of the Fruit of the Spirit. Here he gives us an excellent idea of what exactly kindness is. It’s doing something for someone else even when they don’t deserve it. God showed kindness by loving us, by appearing to us, by saving us. All this he did, not because of our goodness, but because of His mercy. God is kind. He gives generously to us even though we don’t deserve it.

Luther said a similar thing in his explanation to the First Article of the Apostle’s Creed: “All this (providing for our needs) He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”

God is kind. He gives, and gives, and gives without waiting for you to deserve it. God’s kindness is most clearly seen on Christmas when he sent Jesus, not because of our worth, but because he is kind!

Our Heavenly Father, you are kind. You provide for our earthly needs and give generously for our eternity. Thank you for your kindness to me. Amen.

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