A Different Kind of Peace

by Karina Whisnant

ImageIt’s hard to walk into a store these days without seeing the peace sign emblazoned on something—cups, clothes, shoes, notebooks—you get the idea!  Peace is a word that is common place to our eyes and ears, but has lost any significant meaning.  We hope for a world that is not at war and experiences “peace.”  We strive to be “at peace” with those around us. We beg for “just a minute of peace” when the chaos of life surrounds us and we can’t breathe.  But, are we really experiencing peace in our daily lives? 

Webster defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.  That definition seems to indicate that peace is the absence of something, but is that the only way someone can experience peace? Do you see that definition of peace ever being attainable in your present season of life?  I know in my life as I strive to manage a family, a part-time job and a ministry, “freedom from disturbance” does not seem to be in my future.

Even as obsessed as the world seems to be in displaying symbols of peace, I believe there is hope for peace that the world doesn’t understand and can’t help me find. 

As I turn my attention to God’s Word to learn what He tells me about peace, I am hopeful for a deeper meaning.  Are you ready for a real answer?  Are you ready to experience quiet and tranquility that is not dependent on your circumstances?  True peace, as I believe the world seeks after, can truly only be found in a person.  Without knowing God as a personal Savior, true peace is not attainable. 

Let’s follow the trail God gives us in his Word when he talks about peace. 

We have to start first with the gift he extends to us in His Son, who bore our sins on the cross so that, as Romans 15:1 tells us, “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.”   Accepting God’s gift to us gives us peace with Him.   He then gives us the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power through Him to experience peace. 

What great news for us to know that peace on this earth is not going to come through circumstances—having to wait for things to fall perfectly in line would seem hopeless!

As we abide in Christ, he gives us His peace that transcends a momentary quiet in our world.  God shares in Phil. 4:7 that His peace does not make sense in this world, And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your    

As we experience all that this world brings us, those things that thrill our hearts as well as those that bring sorrow, we have confidence in God’s final promise of life with Him. 

There is reason to rejoice when Jesus tells us in John 16:33, These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

ImageKarina Whisnant loves to “do life” alongside other women. She has been privileged to do that for many years as part of the women’s ministry at Fellowship Greenville. Karina is leading a breakout session entitled “Peace in the Chaos” at Take Heart 2014. In that session, she will encourage women to look at the “who” of the peace in their lives instead of the “what.”

For information about the Take Heart conference, or to register: www.TakeHeartTogether.com/conference.

 

Peace sign image courtesy of digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net

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Identity Insurance

I feel violated.  Again.  This time, someone used my name to send emails to my Facebook friends.  Maybe “violated” is too harsh a word.  My friends are smart enough to know the links to info about sex enhancement drugs or random job opportunities are not really from me.

But these kind of things are at the very least a nuisance (like the time someone tried to use our credit card number and we had to manage without a credit card for several days), and at their worst, they’re classified as identity theft.

hacker

Identity theft is a big concern in this computer age.  We’re told that someone who knows what they’re doing can really mess with our lives, our reputation, and, they say, our identity.  Dave Ramsey even suggests we buy “identity theft insurance” so that if our identities are stolen, someone will do all the work for us to get our information put to rights. It’s probably a good idea.

But identity theft isn’t really a new thing.  I think back to the 6th grade, when a group of girls decided to spread lies about me.  I felt as if my identity were being stolen right under my nose. As adults, the repercussions can be even more serious. Misunderstandings and false accusations can make even our closest friends wonder who we are.

As I changed passwords and security settings this morning—in hopes of retrieving my “identity”—I was reminded that, though people may tarnish or steal my reputation, as a Christian, my identity is secure.  I already have identity insurance because of Christ’s sacrifice for me.  That insurance policy says things like:

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine!” (Isaiah 43:1b)

“Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

And my personal favorite:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

I pray that I never have earthly identity problems more serious than a hacked email account or suspicious credit card use. But if I do, I am ever thankful that my identity—that each of our identities—in Christ is eternally secure!

By Sandy MacMillan

AN ENCORE EDITION of the Women at the Well weekly devotional– from September 2012

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For Me Too?

Have you ever read a scripture and said to yourself, “Maybe that applies to you but it isn’t true for me” ?

Our Take Heart Ministry verse, John 16:33, comes to mind:

“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.”

You may be thinking that the having trouble part applies to your life because of a divorce, past abuse, an illness, or messy life circumstances.  But the rest of the scripture may not seem to fit for you, and you may question “how can I ever have peace?” or “how can I TAKE HEART when my heart feels torn into a million pieces?”.

Let me assure you Dear One, this Scripture—all of it—is for you. God’s Word (the Bible and Jesus) are for your healing (Ps 107:20). His Word can encourage you, give you strength to persevere one more day, enable you to hold onto hope, and empower you to believe Him more (Mark 9:24).  When our hearts are broken, Jesus lovingly says “TAKE HEART from Me. I know you are broken and struggling. That is why I am offering you the gifts from my heart—salvation, courage, peace, and hope. Look to Me to provide everything you are lacking as I have already accomplished overcoming the world of troubles you are facing right now!” (my paraphrase)

If you are still having a hard time believing all of this Scripture is for you, may I suggest that the very discouragement of your situation and/or the cruel bondage that situation has brought into your life may be keeping you from really knowing that this truth is for you too. The people of Israel struggled with this and refused to hear God’s message to them from Moses for this very reason (Exodus 6:9).

Could it be that you have allowed your circumstances to rewrite your theology, or maybe your didn’t have a belief system to cling to when the difficulty came crashing down on you?  If so, please know that you can TAKE HEART.  There is a Savior who longs for you to turn your face away from your difficulties and see that He is waiting with outstretched arms. He is waiting to exchange His peace for your broken pieces, your hopelessness for His hope.

If you have questions about applying the Scriptures to your own life, I or another member of the Take Heart Ministry team would consider it a honor to talk with you.

Nell Norton is a member of the Restoration Realities team at Taylors First Baptist church, and speaks on topics related to abuse education and dealing with brokenness as a Christian. Nell will be co-leading the breakout session entitled “Home Should Be a Safe Place” at Take Heart 2014: Embrace Grace!  For more information or to register: www.TakeHeartTogether.come/conference

In Daddy’s Lap

By Dee Hopkins

One morning not too long ago, I was on my face before the Lord. I often begin my day that way. There is something about being on my face that closes me in with my Father. It is a way of humbling myself before Him. I almost always say to Him that I am there because I know who He is … and who I am.

ImageAs I lay there, a picture came to me of a little girl in her daddy’s lap, and I thought, “What is the difference between the servant on her face before the throne and the little girl in her Daddy’s lap?” The answer came to me quickly. “Intimacy.” The servant is humble and honors the Lord and awaits His instruction, but the daughter sits near her Father’s heart, listens to His voice, and hears Him whisper in her ear. She holds His face in her hands, and He holds hers. She looks in His eyes and He looks in hers. She sees Him smile. She feels His heartbeat.

I knew that was where I wanted to be – and I knew that was where Father God wanted me, too. I am not saying I (we) should not be on our faces before Him. There is a time and place for that. It is a necessary place – but it is not the only place. Our Father longs for intimacy with us. He wants us to want to be with Him – to enjoy His Presence. After all, “in His Presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).

Have you ever thought about the many ways God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) relates to us, reveals Himself to us? He is Father, Brother, Friend, Husband, Lover, Teacher, Guide, Comforter, Counselor, Commander … the list could go on because He is everything to us; but, without intimacy in any of them, we miss the point. Without intimacy, all relationships are superficial. Without intimacy, we go through motions and run the risk of becoming like the people in Isaiah 29:13 who, God said, honored Him with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. He said their worship of Him was made up only of rules taught by men – and it grieved Him.

ImagePsalm 42:7 says, “Deep calls to deep…” I believe this speaks of intimacy – that the deepest part of God would reach to the deepest part of us … and connect. This requires being honest … and vulnerable. What better place to be honest and vulnerable than in His lap? That morning, when the picture of that little girl in her daddy’s lap came to me, I told my Father that my body was on its face on the floor … but my heart was in His lap.

I hope you’ll join me there. He has a big lap. He will make you feel as if you are the only one there. Come to Him. Get really close. Take the risk to be honest with Him – to be vulnerable. There is healing in His Presence … and joy. Be His little girl for a while. He waits for you.

ImageDee Hopkins has a heart for prayer and worship—as an active member of Taylors First Baptist Church, she also serves on the City Church Prayer Team and has spoken on the topics of worship and fasting.  Dee will be leading a breakout session entitled Broken Hearts on Bended Knees for Take Heart 2014. For more information about the conference, go to http://www.TakeHeartTogether.com/conference.

Perfection

by Sandy MacMillan

Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14

Perfection.

Isn’t that what we all want? Whether it’s perfect skin, a perfectly sized waistline, or a perfect family?

Yet my reality seems eons from this kind of perfect.

A friend and I recently shared the trials we had been experiencing: we talked about how hard it is to walk the Christian life and how battered and broken we often feel.

Not any closer to perfect than the last time we met.

At least in the world’s eyes.

When I left my friend, I thought of how godly she is, how brilliantly Christ’s love shines through her.  I always feel loved and encouraged by our times together, no matter how messy either of our lives are. I thought, “I’ll take that over the world’s idea of perfect.”

ImageAs I was thinking, an image came to mind of the crucified Christ. Bloodied, bruised, broken. Far from our usual image of perfect.

And I heard the Spirit of God whisper, “This is what perfect looks like to me.”

Perfect looks very different to God than it does to the world. And as today’s Scripture reminds us, our own perfection rests not in the things we do, but in what Christ’s perfect sacrifice did. His sacrifice made us perfect, and His Spirit continues to make us holy.

Our lives may be messy.  Sometimes folks may turn their backs on our brokenness; they may look askance at our bruises.

But what if God is using our trials, our bruises, and our brokenness to make us more like Christ, to make us holy?  What if our trials make us more compassionate, our bruises make us more wise, and our brokenness allows Christ’s light to shine through our cracks—like it does through my friend?

What if it’s through our messy lives, as we identify with Christ’s suffering, that God makes us perfect?

Sandy MacMillan is the director of Take Heart, a ministry that connects hurting women with sources of help and encouragement in Christ. For more information: www.TakeHeartTogether.com

The photo of Michelangelo’s Pieta is by Stanislav Traykov; it is a Wikipedia Commons photo. Permission was granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.