You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2017.

The Apostle Paul wrote 13 letters that are in the Bible. In his introductorygrace peace remarks at the beginning of each letter he includes this salutation, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the concluding remarks of his epistles he writes, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

Peter wrote two letters. He begins his letters with the phrase, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” He ends his first letter with these words, “Peace to all who are in Christ.” The second letter ends with “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

I think grace and peace are the most important possessions we can have to be truly happy people. We need the grace and peace that comes from God to enjoy God in His happy kingdom.

Think of Paul before his close encounter with Christ. He claims that as for righteousness based on the law he was faultless, and as for zeal he persecuted the church (Philippians 3:6). He thought he could do it all spiritually speaking. He certainly tried, but apart from the grace of God he had no peace. Imagine the peace that flooded his soul when he encountered the grace that come from trusting Jesus and living in right relationship with God.

Think of Peter, living and learning from Jesus for three years. Boasting that he would never deny the Lord, willing to die for him if necessary. Hours later Peter claimed vehemently that he never knew Jesus. Jesus looked at Peter as Peter made his last denial while the rooster was crowing. He fled in tears. Not a lot of peace there. But later, he received abundant grace and forgiveness and was able to live and ultimately die, crucified upside down, in great peace.

It’s no wonder Paul and Peter begin and end their letters with reminders to their readers of grace and peace that are only found in Jesus Christ. It defined their lives. Those qualities of grace and peace were the foundation of everything they believed and did.

What did they have in mind when they used the words grace and peace.

With grace they meant the free gift of God that comes through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. This gift, totally undeserved by humans, transforms mere existence into Life, survival into thriving and flourishing.

Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but a deep and abiding sense that in the turmoil, confusion, pain and loss that we experience living in this broken world, there is Someone who is ultimately in control; a Savior who not only keeps us from going crazy, but who imbues us with a feeling of contentment. A God who loves us and wants us to be happy.

I live in Mexico and cooperate with God at a home for needy children. In the last two weeks we have experienced two really big earthquakes – an 8.2 and a 7.1 that caused incredible damage and took the lives of almost 400 people. Fortunately, by the grace of God, there was no physical damage to any of the buildings here at the mission, but many of the children, including my own two daughters, are constantly aware of what could possible happen and are reminded almost daily with the aftershocks. We felt four yesterday. To some extent we all waver between nervousness about whether or not there will be another earthquake, to outright fear. My daughters talk about earthquakes many times a day and sleep with us at night for fear of more of them.

I don’t understand much about God and natural disasters and suffering and loss. I can’t figure out exactly why God does what he does. I am perplexed at many turns on lifes long road. But I am grateful to God for that Peace that brings wholeness and well-being. That peace of God that makes me secure on the inside, even though things appear miserable on the outside. That peace of mind that comes from the God of peace. The peace of God which transcends all understanding and guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. The peace I have when I trust in the LORD with all my heart, and lean not on my own reasoning.

Peter and Paul begin and end their letters with Grace and Peace. May we begin each day by meditating and contemplating the incredible grace we have through Christ, and end each day thanking God for peace in our lives.

grace peace 2

Advertisements

Thursday night, before midnight, my wife, two daughters and myself were rudelyMexico Earthquake awakened when our apartment complex started shaking.  I’m no stranger to earthquakes since I have lived many years in earthquake prone California and Southern Mexico.  I told my wife that we were having an earthquake.  We have small ones every month or two an it has never been a big deal.  This one was a big deal!  It kept getting stronger and rocking our house more and more.  My daughters, Sally and Kelly, were afraid, especially Sally who sleeps on the top bunk.  She made it out of her bed and we all huddled in what I thought was the safest part of the house while tea cups rattled and my wife’s art work tumbled from a shelf onto the floor.  Finally, after about a minute it was over.  The house stopped shaking, but we were all shaking from the shock of what turned out to be an 8.4 earthquake.

Our house is an apartment that is part of a complex  located in Oaxaca, Mexico, where Nutty Naturedozens of people died as a result of the earthquake.  After the temblor I walked around our building  to look for damage.  There was none.  We live at a mission that cares for needy children and are grateful to God that nobody was hurt and there was no damage to the buildings to speak of.  Unfortunately, other parts of Mexico suffered much damage as the photos show.

I am the gardener here at the FFHM mission.  It is a rather large property and I am constantly battling weeds.  I use two lawnmowers, a weed-whacker and a lawn tractor in my struggle against unwanted plants.  There are tons of thorns here that puncture tires, especially the lawn tractor tires.  Fortunately there is a product that I spray into the tires that seals the punctures.  The directions say that the can must be shaken thoroughly for the product to work properly.

Sometimes I think that I need to be shaken thoroughly for me to function properly.  TheMEXICO-QUAKE-OAXACA earthquake did a good job of that.  The Bible talks about the importance of being thankful:

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

 

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.                         1 Thessalonians 5:18

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6,7

In life we tend to get complacent, apathetic and take a lot of things for granted.  Sometimes God has to shake us up in one way or another to remind us of all the good things we have, and to express our thanks to Him and to others who bless our lives.  We can always find things to complain about or dream about how much better things could be.  God wants our vision focused on Him.  He wants us think about how much He loves us and wants us to be happy, and all the good things He has given us toward that end.

Instead of complaining about what I don’t have, I am full of gratitude for what I do have – citizenship in God’s Happy Kingdom, a loving wife and two super daughters, and fabulous parents who are always there for us.  I try to have an attitude of gratitude, but sometimes I need to get all shook up to really appreciate what I have.

Suzy loves chocolate chip cookies.  They make her happy.  She asks her mom for one. happy y evil Her mom tells her she may have one after dinner.  Suzy sneaks some before dinner and eats them.  They make her happy, but she has done an evil thing.  Romans 1:29-32 says she should die.

Adolf Hitler hated Jews.  It made him happy to have them killed.  He had millions of them put to death.  He was an evil man.

All people desire to be happy.  No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I hope I have a terrible bad day and end up sad and miserable.”  No, people hope to have a good day where everything goes as planned, and perhaps some great unexpected things happen and they end the day with a big smile on their face.

There is some part of the brain that is constantly making decisions about what will make me the happiest or what will cause me the least amount of pain or discomfort, be it emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually.  Everything I plan, every decision I make is ultimately based on what I perceive will make me happiest.

God made us and knows what will make us ultimately happy.  That is why he gave us the Bible, to tell us what kind of choices we should make to be happy and avoid pain.  This life on earth is short compared to eternity.  Ultimate happiness is going to heaven and living in God’s immediate presence.  Ultimate pain is hell.  Got it?  Heaven good.  Hell bad.  Heaven joy.  Hell pain.

So it is in our best interest to make decisions that will make us happy both in this life and in the life to come.  Reading the Bible and listening to people who know the Bible will go a long way toward this end.  It will help us make decisions that lead to long term happiness and goodness, rather than short term happiness and long term evil and pain.

devil and wishes

C.S. Lewis quote