• IP addresses are NOT logged in this forum so there's no point asking. Members are encouraged to install GOM or HOLA or TUNNELBEAR for an added layer of protection.

    The SEX forum is HERE so please stop asking.

In step


Swimming Against the Tide

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."1 And as James says about a double-minded person: he is "unstable in all he does."2

Someone has explained how, in the frigid waters around Greenland, "Countless icebergs float around. Some are tiny; others tower skyward. At times the small ones move in one direction while their gigantic counterparts go in another. Why is this? The small ones are pushed around by the winds blowing on the surface of the water, but the huge ice masses are carried along by deep ocean currents."3

In our day there is great pressure to go with the crowd, to be politically correct, to do the convenient thing regardless whether it is right or ethical or not. The reality is, however, unless we have deep roots in God, we too can easily be swayed by the "popular winds of the moment" and be "double-minded and unstable in all we do."

Think of Jesus, he never worried about being politically correct, or pleasing the crowd or the religious leaders of his day, or even King Herod for that matter. His only concern was to do right and please God, his Father. He did right regardless of the consequences. For you and me to make a difference we, too, need to stand for truth and do right regardless of the consequences. Let this be our goal as we begin this new year.

To do this we need backbone. As the saying goes, any dead fish can float down the river but it takes a live fish to swim against the flow. Furthermore, he who stands for nothing will fall for anything.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me in this day and age to stand for truth, the principles of which are found in your Word, the Bible, and to always do right regardless of the consequences. Give me the courage to live only to please you in all that I am and do as did Jesus. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


A Glorious Uprising
For reading & meditation: Acts 13:16-41
"... 'You will not let your Holy One see decay.' " (v. 35)

We spend one more day considering the implications arising from the rolling away of the stone. What did that rolled-away stone reveal? Well, follow the women into the tomb. Its just a large hole hewn in a rock. What do you see? Just "the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:6). All that was left were the graveclothes.

Note that Peter saw "the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head" (John 20:6-7). Some scholars say that the Greek words used to describe the head-cloth signify that it still had an annular shape - that it still indicated the outline of His head. Can you see what this suggests?

He passed through it without it being unwound. This was no laborious unwinding! This was a glorious uprising! There was no possibility that the graveclothes could have looked the way they did without a resurrection. Had the head-cloth been torn apart, the impression gained would have been quite different. It was probably this simple but tremendous fact - the fact that Jesus had clearly passed through the shroud without it being unwound - that convinced the first observers they had witnessed the miracle of resurrection.

Do you think of a tomb as being cold and eerie? That is not our Lord's tomb. No, it is quiet and calm. Our crucified God rested for hours and hours on a cool bed of rock. And to quote the poet Alice Meynell: All alone ... He rose again behind the stone.

O Jesus, You who are not an evader but a confronter of problems. You have faced everything I face including death. And yet You went through it, not around it. You conquered death by going through it, and now because I am in You I shall conquer it also. Amen.


Are You God's Mother?

"But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works with us, we become more and more like him."1

Curtis and Paul Jones wrote how, on a bitterly cold day in a western city, a small boy stood shivering on a steel grate in the sidewalk. He was very poorly dressed and obviously a child of the street. A well-dressed woman passerby noticed the lad and began to talk to him. Sensing his need, she took him to a clothing store and had him completely outfitted suitable for the weather—including cap, scarf, and gloves.

The lad was so grateful he couldn't thank her enough. As they parted he turned back to ask, "Are you God's mother?"

Surprised, the woman replied, "Oh, no! I'm just a child of God."

Whereupon the smiling lad remarked, "I knew you were related."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to reflect your love so that the beauty of Jesus will be seen in me—always in all ways. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Changing pleasures
Hebrews 13
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (v.8)

We said yesterday that pleasure and Christian joy cannot be equated because pleasure depends on circumstances -- Christian joy does not. Another difference is this -- pleasures come and go. Look back over your life for a moment and think of the changing things that have given you pleasure over the years. Perhaps, when you were a child, it was a bicycle that brought you pleasure.

Or a football. Or a doll. Then when you entered your teens, it was something else. A relationship, perhaps -- or a sport. In later years, the things that gave you pleasure changed again. The theatre, books, an armchair ... the things that give us pleasure change with changing years. But the joy of God is constant.

Yet another difference between pleasure and joy is this -- pleasure satiates. It is easy to have too much. And when the point of satiety is passed, a sense of revulsion sets in. The things for which we crave become repulsive to us. Joy, however, never satiates. A Christian says: "We have enough, yet not too much to long for more."

A final difference between pleasure and joy is that pleasure always remains superficial. It is like a Christmas party in a home where there is no true understanding of Christmas -- a party, but a party without purpose; a coronation, but no monarch. Joy, however, is deep. It bubbles beneath the personality, no matter what the circumstances. Joy, supernatural joy, is true bliss.

Gracious Father, fill me with this joy as I go out to face the world today. For the world is sad and I must not add to its gloom. Help me to radiate Your joy wherever I go. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.


You Can't Run on Empty

"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'"1

An amusing thing happened on one occasion in the renowned Rose Parade in Pasadena in Southern California. One beautifully decorated float suddenly came to a standstill. It ran out of fuel!

The irony was that this float was entered by and represented the Standard Oil Company—one of the large fuel companies of North America. With all their vast oil and gasoline (petrol) resources, they failed to make sure their own vehicle was running on full.

I wonder how often we as Christians, with all the vast resources of God and heaven at our disposal, run on an empty love, joy, and peace tank when, if we truly trusted God and followed his instructions for getting these needs met, we could be certain to keep "topped up."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to know the peace that only you can give and grant that my love cup will be filled to overflowing and splash over onto every life I touch. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Enjoy yourself?

Psalms 105:26-45
"He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy." (v.43)

A minister tells of standing outside his church one Sunday evening, shaking hands with the worshippers as they dispersed. It had been a joyous evening when God had come very close to His people and the awesome hush of His presence was upon them as they made their way home. A crowded motor coach, returning with revellers from the seaside and held up by the traffic, stopped outside the church.

Some of the occupants, flushed with drink, put their heads out of the windows and shouted to those who were leaving the church: "Why don't you learn to enjoy yourself?" The preacher said: "Two ways of life met there for an instant. The coach moved on with the question hanging in the air: 'Why don't you enjoy yourself?'

"Little did the men who shouted that question realize that it is those who think they are artists in enjoying themselves who signally fail. The Christian has more joy to the square inch than others have to the square mile. And it is pure, unalloyed joy without a kick-back in it. No Christian who has spent time in the presence of God in a church or among his fellow Christians the night before ever gets up in the morning and says: "Oh dear, I wish I hadn't been a Christian last night.

My head is aching from the effects of spending time in the presence of God and among my fellow Christians. Why ever did I do it?" Christian joy is the kind that gives enjoyment without a hangover. It is a kick without a kick-back. Bliss, perfect bliss is the prerogative only of the people of God.

Father, I sense that Your joy is a joy that will outlast all earthly joys. I will still be singing when the sounds and pleasures of earth are silent and gone. Thank You, dear Father. Amen.


Slow Me Down, Lord

"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he [Jesus] said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'"1

Or as someone else has said, "Come apart and rest a while before you come apart!"

I remember years ago having the following saying on a card on my desk, "Beware of the barrenness of a busy life!" I think in our day and age so many of us struggle with being too busy. I certainly do. It is a constant battle.

Today's suggested prayer is in the words of Orin L. Crain:

Slow me down, Lord.
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace.
Give me, amidst the day's confusion
the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tension of my nerves and muscles
with the soothing music of singing streams
that live in my memory.

Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations….
slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend,
to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me
of the fable of the hare and the tortoise;
that the race is not always to the swift;
that there is more to life than measuring its speed.
Let me look up at the branches of the towering oak
and know that … it grew slowly … and well.

Inspire me
to send my own roots down deep…
into the soil of life's endearing values…

That I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.

Slow me down, Lord.

Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Limp in -- leap out

Nehemiah 8
"... the joy of the Lord is your strength." (v.10)

Joy is part of a Christian's armor. Jealousy, for example, can quickly find a lodging place in a heart which is unsatisfied. The joy of Jesus banishes all that. This particular fruit of the Spirit secures us from the sins which can so easily beset us. Brimming joy, for example, helps to cancel out any envy that may arise within us. Instead, our souls long to share the treasures that we ourselves have found.

Joy keeps us alert and alive spiritually. Disease germs, we are told, penetrate most easily into a body debilitated by despondency. So do the termites of the spirit. They enter without ceremony and eat away the health of the soul. Joy gives them no room. It immunizes the spirit against attack. Joy is not just the bloom of health; it is its protection also. Remember, you are made for joy and if there is not joy in your life, then there is something wrong: joy is being blocked. Clear away the blocks and joy comes automatically.

If you are conscious that you lack this deep abiding joy, then look within. Ask yourself: how close am I to God? What steps do I need to take to deepen my relationship with Him? Give yourself to Him fully. If He is to transfer to you His total joy, then He must have the total you. A garage has a sign: "Limp in -- leap out." That's what will happen to you when you surrender yourself fully to Him. You will limp in and leap out. God is not withholding Himself and you must not withhold yourself. Where the two meet, joy is inevitable.

Prayer: O Father, forgive me that I go bumping through life on the broken springs of pleasure when I ought to be cruising in joy. I submit my life to You today for spiritual repairs. I limp in -- help me to leap out. Amen.


To the Ends of the Earth

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."1

Ravi Zacharias shared how "during the Cold War, a Christian from the U.S. was visiting Romania. It was a gray, cold day, and all the faces around him reflected that gray, cold atmosphere. But in the midst of the gloom, the Christian man heard someone whistling a tune. It was an old hymn, 'The Great Physician now is here, the sympathizing Jesus.'

"The Christian man spotted the whistler and began walking alongside him. Because Christians were persecuted by the government, he took care not to publicly identify his allegiance. He simply began whistling the same tune. The Romanian man stopped, a big smile spreading over his face. He pointed to heaven. So did the American man. He pointed to his heart. The American did too. Then he reached out and grabbed the American in a big bear hug. Neither man could speak the other's language, but they knew instantly that they were brothers in the faith.

"How did these two men from opposite ends of the world, from different cultures and different languages, come to worship a Jewish carpenter? Because someone told the story of Jesus to someone else, who told it to someone else, who told it to someone else, until it reached Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria and all the ends of the earth."2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please use me today in some way to communicate your love, and in so doing, be a powerful witness to your saving grace in my life. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


What peace is not
2 Thessalonians 3
"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way ..." (v.16)

It will be easier to bring out the true character of peace if we seek to show how it differs from other states of mind with which it has a superficial resemblance.

Firstly, peace is not passivity. Some people are abnormally unreactive by temperament. Their natures are bovine -- slow like an ox. They just seem to let the world wash by and take no resolute attitude to life at all. It is possible to look at someone with a temperament like this and conclude that they are manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. But passivity is as far removed from peace as chalk is from cheese. One is natural, the other supernatural.

Again, peace is not mental gymnastics. Today's world is full of "mind-healers" who promise that if you attend their seminars or enroll in their courses, they will give you the poise and integration you always wanted. An advertisement says: "Let us show you how to achieve peace of mind." The phrase "peace of mind" in itself reveals the shallowness of the approach.

You cannot have peace of mind until you have something deeper than peace of mind. When you have peace at the depths of your spirit, then peace of mind is the result of that deeper peace. You cannot have peace of mind if there is conflict in the spirit. Peace, which is the fruit of the Spirit, includes peace of mind, but it goes deeper than the mind and reaches to the center of the spirit. When peace flows there, then and only then can a person experience peace of mind. To tinker with the mind and let the depths be untouched is just to tinker.

Prayer: O Father, breathe into my spirit right now the deep serenity and peace that characterize Your own nature, so that all who come close to me shall feel Your peace. Amen.


Want More Persevere(ability)?
Your adversary the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour—1 Peter 5:8

The ability to persevere—to remain strong and steadfast in the face of difficulties and delays and distractions—is a fundamental skill, necessary for any man choosing to devote himself to our King, Jesus Christ. He showed us how in the wilderness and against the temptations that followed (Matthew 4:1-11). Like him, we too must bear up against the pressures of the world, and not only for a while, but until the very end of our days. Though any one trial or temptation may be short lived, there’s alwayssomething out there capable of our destruction.

Preparedness is paramount. You see, when we’re unprepared and troublecomes (at work, in our relationships, our finances, our health) it takes us down: into anxiety, anger, bitterness, despondency, depression, isolation. When we’re unprepared and temptations come (material, carnal, moral) they too take us down: away from God and into sin. Compounding our lack of preparedness, the enemy is always quick with interference and misinformation.

“You won’t make it.”

“This’ll be long and difficult . . . too long, too difficult for you.”

“You’re alone, forgotten.”

“You won’t have strength enough to persevere.”

“You should just give-up/give-in now, and avoid the grief of waiting, just to give later.”

Perseverance isn’t innate; it’s learned. All of us can do it if we train. So, brother, manufacture some pressure and train yourself. Push your limits, physically, mentally, spiritually: climb a tough summit; tackle a hike of many miles; fast for a period of days; turn devices off and embrace quiet and solitude and prayer for an uncomfortable period. Remember, God designed you for perseverance. So, by training, you’ll simply learn what you’re made of (plus you’ll expose the lies of the enemy). It doesn’t take much to learn a whole lot about yourself.


The best possible peace...
Mark 4:35-41
"... the waves broke over the boat ... Jesus was in the stern, sleeping ..." (vv.37-38)

We continue examining the essential differences between supernatural peace and certain other states of mind. Peace is not withdrawal. At recurring intervals in the life of the Christian Church, various forms of withdrawal have been practiced with a view to discovering inner peace. Early Methodism was almost wrecked by a form of it known as "stillness." The idea was to withdraw from all activity and remain "still" before the Lord. This kind of "stillness" is not to be confused with the supernatural peace which the Spirit brings to the hearts of God's people. "Stillness" is something achieved; peace is something given.

Someone has said: "He only is advancing in life whose heart is getting softer, whose blood warmer, whose brain quicker, whose spirit is entering into living peace." Note the words: "whose spirit is entering into living peace." Peace, to be peace, must be a living peace -- not a dead peace of retreat out of responsibility, or an encasement into insensibility.

Supernatural peace is, like joy -- entirely independent of circumstances. This truth is brought out most clearly in today's passage. As the wind whips up the waves, the Son of God remains asleep in the stern of the boat. Why the emphasis on the "stern"? I am told that this is the worst place to be when a boat is being tossed about by a storm. Yet in the worst possible place, Jesus enjoyed the best possible peace -- sleep. The peace of God does not require a mold of easy circumstances in which to operate. Nothing can push it under and nothing can push it over.

O Master, how I long for the same inner calmness and tranquility that pervaded Your life when You were here on earth. But I know the secret -- I must let You live Your life more fully in me. Help me to do that -- today and every day. Amen.


A word with a great history
Philippians 4:1-9
"... the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds ..." (v.7)

We pass now from considering love and joy to the third fruit of the Spirit -- peace. The order is an inspired one: first, love -- love is preeminent; then joy -- joy comes as a result of love; and then peace -- peace is joy grown quiet and assured. A preacher once drew a comparison between joy and peace: "Joy is peace with its hat thrown high in the air and peace is joy with its arms folded in serene assurance."

How beautiful!William Barclay says that the word "peace" (Greek: eiriene) came into the New Testament with a great history. It is a translation of the Hebrew word shalom, meaning peace. In classical Greek, "peace" was mainly negative, implying freedom from war or hostilities, but in the New Testament, the word gathers up positive elements such as are seen in shalom.

The central meaning is serenity and harmony. "Peace" occurs eighty-eight times in the New Testament, and it appears in every book. This makes the New Testament a book of peace.
The peace of which we are speaking here is not something that can be manufactured.

We cannot make it -- any more than we can make the other fruit of the Spirit. It is divinely and supernaturally given -- a glorious consequence of God's presence in the soul. Jesus knew this kind of peace and He offers the same serenity to every one of His disciples: "My peace I give to you ... Let not your hearts be disquieted or timid" (John 14:27, Moffatt). Remember this -- when you remain in Him, you have access to a peace that not only passes understanding -- but all misunderstanding also.

Prayer: Father, I am conscious that the peace You desire to give me is a peace that reaches down to the depths of my being. Help me to open up those depths to You today. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


The Will to Get Well

"One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'"1

It may be hard to understand, but according to statistics that I have read from both a Christian and a secular standpoint, many people who have either a physical or emotional problem actually don't want to get well!

"That's absurd," I can almost hear some readers saying. "How could a sick person not want to get well?"

Of all those who go to see a physician or a counselor with a problem, approximately 25 percent don't want to get well. They want people's sympathy, they want to be taken care of, and some even want to die.

Another 50 percent want the counselor or doctor to fix or heal them. As one doctor said, "Half of my patients would rather I operate on their body than they operate on their lifestyle!"

And only one in four actually accepts responsibility for his/her well-being and does everything he/she can to follow the doctor or counselor's guidance. These are the ones who are committed to getting well. They are the ones who want to get well—and are most likely to do so!

Perhaps this is why Jesus said words like, "Do you want to get well?" "Do you want to be made whole?" "What do you want me to do for you?"

God will bend the heavens to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. That's why he sent Jesus to die for our sins. But he won't do anything for us that we can and need to do for ourselves—otherwise he would be keeping us over-dependent and immature. But as long as we want what is right for us, God will always do his part when we do our part.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me the want to be made whole, the want to get well, the want to be what you want me to be, and the want to do what you want me to do. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name. Amen."

P.S. What do you "want" Jesus to do for you?


Lost and Found

"When the Son of Man [Jesus Christ] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King [Jesus] will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father [God]; take your inheritance, the kingdom [of Heaven] prepared for you since the creation of the world.'"1

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"2

Years ago, soon after my first son was born, my mother came to help with the new baby. On one occasion I left her to "baby-sit" with him in a beautiful downtown park in Adelaide, South Australia (where we were living at the time), while I did some shopping.

When I returned, mother and baby were missing. I panicked! My heart pounded. Minutes seemed like hours. I asked strangers passing by if they had seen an older woman with a baby. I searched for a policeman. I prayed furiously.

Imagine the relief when I found them. Actually, the problem was mine. I went back to the wrong part of the park!

I've read about others, too, who lost a child and how they panicked, and never rested until their child was found. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for parents whose child is lost—and never found. It would be unthinkable—a never-ending nightmare.

Would to God that we Christians were just as concerned about people who don't know the Savior and are lost without hope for all eternity.

As Jesus said in today's Bible passage, he is coming again and will be taking his true followers to be with him forever in Heaven. What a wonderful hope for his true followers. But think of the tragedy of those who are still lost and don't know that their Heavenly Father is looking for them.

Here in ACTS International we are totally committed to telling people all around the world about Jesus' message of salvation—people who without Christ will be lost for all eternity. Will you please help us to do this? You can do so athttp://actscom.com and by becoming a People Power for Jesus Partner. For more information go to: www.actsweb.org/people_power/about_people_power.php

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to be as concerned about people who are spiritually lost as I would be if my own child were lost. I'm available and ask that you use me to be 'as Christ' to every life I touch today, and please use me to help bring the lost to you. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


How peace continues...
Isaiah 26
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you ..." (v.3, NKJV)

We ended yesterday by saying that our Lord enjoyed the best possible peace -- sleep -- in the worst possible place -- the stern of the boat. We see another demonstration of this deep serenity our Lord enjoyed when, as the ugly arms of the Cross stretched out to take Him, He said: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you" (John 14:27, NKJV).

Galilee in storm and Calvary in darkness both set it off. The issue we must now face is this -- although peace is something given rather than something achieved, its continuance is guaranteed only as we fulfill certain conditions. If, for example, we decide to go on an immoral spree, we will soon find that peace will elude us. Scripture says: "There is no peace ... for the wicked" (Isa. 57:21, NKJV). Why? Because peace is conditional on obedience to morality -- biblical morality.

Our text for today gives us another condition on which continuing peace depends: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you." Note the words -- "stayed on you." This shows that in order to enjoy continuous peace, there must be a conscious centering on God. He must not be the place of occasional reference but of continuous reference. Furthermore, He must be the center of our trust: "because he trusts in you." W. B. Yeats tells in these gripping lines the results of a lack of trust in God:Things fall apart, the center cannot hold,Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world ...

Things really do fall apart when the center does not hold -- and no center will hold if the center is not fixed on God.

O God, I see that unless I am held at the center of my being, then I am just not held. Hold me at my center, dear Lord -- today and every day. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.


Where’s Home?
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest—Matthew 11:28

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:2-3). How does God restore your soul, brother? Where do you find rest? How are you most able to forget, even for a few moments, the pressures of this life? Where do you get reset and realigned? How do you connect with God most easily? Where are you most able to hear his voice or feel his guidance?

Is it in praying at your breakfast table in the early morning, before anyone else wakes? Or in reading Scripture on the treadmill or in your car over the lunch hour? Is it in a few minutes of stillness and solitude in the evening? Or in boisterous community around a table, with brothers or with family? Is it in walking or running or biking through streets or through hills? Is it in listening to music? Or in making your own music, singing in church perhaps? Or in something else entirely?

Recognize that God designed you, uniquely, to have ways—even amid the busyness—to find him, to find rest and restoration through him. You were designed to, every so often, just come home. So open your eyes. Search your heart. He has, no doubt, already shown you how.

Think back on times when you most felt God’s peace, most felt his presence. That you have experienced him in particular ways, in particular places, in particular activities, means he has spoken . . . right to you. He’s given you permission to do those things, whatever they are. He’s told you he wants you to do those things—that you’ve got to do those things. Now, you simply must choose to do them, consistently and often.


Three attitudes to God's will
Acts 22
"... The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will ..." (v.14)

Another condition of continuing peace in the heart of a Christian is this -- joyful abandonment to the Father's will. There are three main attitudes to the will of God found among believers. Some resign themselves to God's will, some rebel against God's will and some rejoice in God's will.

Those who resign themselves to it are the people who, having been caught up in some trouble or difficulty, fail to see that divine love and wisdom are at work, redeeming every situation and turning it to good -- hence their hearts are filled with irritation and resentment. Eventually they get over it and by grace resign themselves to the will of God. They are not happy at what God has allowed, but they resign themselves to "putting up with the inevitable." One hears them say in half-hearted and grudging tones: "Well, I'm resigned to it now." But resignation is not a full Christian grace; beneath it lies an unconquered and unsubmissive spirit.

Others, as we said, rebel against the will of God. These are the people who don't just "put up with the inevitable" but take up arms against God and let Him know that they do not believe He is working in their best interests. Over the years I have met many Christians like this. They do not bring out the rebellion they feel toward God in their conversations with other Christians or even in their public prayers, but it is quietly suppressed and can break out at any time. Such people never enjoy the peace of God because, quite simply, they have never truly believed that divine love and wisdom can turn all things to good.

Prayer: O Father, Your Word is plowing deep into my life today. Help me to face up to what Your Spirit is saying to me. I don't just want my attitudes to be challenged; I want them to be changed. Change me, dear Lord -- into Your image. Amen.


Utter abandonment
Luke 1:26-38
"... Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word ..." (v.38, NKJV)

Those who know peace are those who know how to rejoice in the divine will. It is the attitude of Mary who, in our text today, says: "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."One great writer, Francis de Sales, puts it this way: "To rejoice in God's will suggests mobility -- the mobility of a voyager who moves with the motion of the vessel on which he has embarked.

It suggests also the abandonment of a servant in attendance on his lord, going only where his master goes. It is the attitude of a child leaving to his mother the care of willing, choosing and acting for him, content to be in her safe and tender keeping."

The biographer of Sadhu Sundar Singh, the great Indian Christian, says: "Realize that, to the Sadhu as to Paul, partnership with Christ was a passion and a privilege that transformed hardship, labor and loss from something which was to be accepted negatively as an unfortunate necessity into something positively welcomed for His sake -- and you will understand a little of the secret of the Sadhu's peace."Our Lord, of course, is once again the supreme example of this.

As Robert Nicoll puts it: "He did not merely accept the will of God when it was brought to Him and laid upon Him. Rather, He went out to meet that loving will and fell upon its neck and kissed it." Saints down the ages have illustrated through their lives the quality of this ripened peace. Oh, that we, His present-day saints, might show it too.

O Father, teach me the art of utter abandonment to Your will. Help me to be like Mary -- not just willing, but enthusiastically willing. I ask this for Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.


The Elusive Search for Happiness

The Apostle Paul wrote, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."1

Michael Josephson of Character Counts says, "Ask people [including] young people why they get high on drugs or alcohol or seek sex without intimacy or commitment, and they're likely to tell you it's fun and they just want to be happy. It's tempting to envy the life of fun-loving 'party animals,' 'playboys' and 'good-time girls' until one thinks about how they feel about themselves and their lives when they are alone without the hyped-up stimulation they seem to thrive on.

"It doesn't take a psychologist to realize that if happiness is the destination, these folks are on the wrong road. The problem is that the intense sensation of fun or feelings of pleasure experienced by a substance-induced buzz or an exciting sexual encounter are quickly replaced with a consuming sense of emptiness that drives a need to start all over to fill the vessel again. So each time drinkers, drug users or sex addicts discover that getting what they wanted isn't making them happy, they fall into the despondency conveyed in the famous Peggy Lee song: 'Is That All There Is?'

"People who make pleasure seeking the focus of their lives are like drug addicts who need continually stronger and more dangerous doses to get high.

"Happiness is different from fun and pleasure. It's a less intense but more durable feeling of well-being. It's not a continuous state. A good life is usually seasoned with moments of joy and despair, play and work, success and failure. Happiness is a kind of emotional resting place of quiet satisfaction with one's life. The art of living a happy life lies not in having more of what you want, but in getting better at enjoying what you have."2

To this wise advice from Michael I would add that perhaps a better word than "happiness" is "contentment," which comes from having peace within one's self. This comes from resolving past conflicts, forgiving all who have hurt us, maintaining peaceful relationships; from living in harmony with God's will and his moral laws, and above all, in finding peace with God, knowing that all our sins are forgiven and that we have God's gift of eternal life, which gives one a reason and purpose for living that is bigger than one's self.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to live in harmony with your will and your moral laws; with eternal values in mind; and with a God-given purpose. Help me to forgive all who have ever hurt me and never harbor bitterness or grudges towards anyone. And help me to keep growing in faith, love, and every grace so that my life will have meaning, purpose, and value for time and eternity. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."