“What do you think about peace?” my friend asked as we ate lunch together. “Peace?” I said, puzzled. “I’m not sure—why do you ask?” He answered, “Well, as you jiggled your foot during the church service I wondered if you’re agitated about something. Have you considered the peace God gives to those who love Him?”
That day some years ago, I was a bit hurt by my friend’s question, but it started me on a journey. I began exploring the Bible to see how God’s people embraced this gift of well-being, of peace, even in the midst of hardship. As I read Paul’s letter to the Colossians, I chewed over the apostle’s command to let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts (Colossians 3:15).
Paul was writing to a church he’d never visited but had heard about from his friend Epaphras. He was concerned that as they encountered false teaching, they were losing the peace of Christ. But instead of admonishing them, Paul encouraged them to trust Jesus, who would give them assurance and hope (v. 15).
We all will encounter times when we can choose to embrace or refuse the rule of Christ’s peace in our hearts. As we turn to Him, asking Jesus to dwell in us, He will gently release us from the anxiety and cares that weigh us down. As we seek His peace, we trust that He will meet us with His love.
A Christian organization works to promote the healing nature of forgiveness. One of their activities involves a skit in which a person who has been wronged is strapped back to back with a rope to the wrongdoer. Only the one sinned against can untie the rope. No matter what she does, she’s got someone on her back. Without forgiveness—without untying the rope—she cannot escape.
Offering forgiveness to someone who comes to us in sorrow for their wrongdoing begins the process of releasing us and them from the bitterness and pain that can cling to us over wrongs we’ve suffered. In Genesis, we see two brothers separated for twenty years after Jacob stole Esau’s birthright. After this long time, God told Jacob to return to his homeland (Genesis 31:3). He obeyed, but nervously, sending ahead to Esau gifts of herds of animals (32:13–15). When the brothers met, Jacob bowed at Esau’s feet seven times in humility (33:3). Imagine his surprise when Esau ran and embraced him, both of them weeping over their reconciliation (33:4). No longer was Jacob held by the sin he committed against his brother.
Do you feel imprisoned by unforgiveness, saddled with anger, fear, or shame? Know that God through His Son and Spirit can release you when you seek His help. He will enable you to begin the process of untying any ropes and setting you free.
When Aaron (not his real name) was 15, he began praying to Satan: “I felt like he and I had a partnership.” Aaron started to lie, steal, and manipulate his family and friends. He also experienced nightmares: “I woke up one morning and saw the devil at the end of the bed. He told me that I was going to pass my exams and then die.” Yet when he finished his exams, he lived. Aaron reflected, “It was clear to me that he was a liar.”
Hoping to meet girls, Aaron went to a Christian festival, where a man offered to pray for him. “While he was praying, I felt a sense of peace flood my body.” He felt something “more powerful, and more liberating,” than what he felt from Satan. The man who prayed told Aaron God had a plan and Satan was a liar. This man echoed what Jesus said of Satan when He responded to some who opposed him: “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Aaron turned to Christ from Satanism and now “belongs to God” (v. 47). He ministers in an urban community, sharing the difference following Jesus makes. He is a living testament of God’s saving power: “I can say with confidence that God saved my life.”
God is the source of all that is good, holy, and true. We can turn to Him to find truth.
Hae Woo (not her real name) was imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp for crossing the border into China. The days and nights were torture, she said, with brutal guards, backbreaking work, and little sleep on an ice-cold floor with rats and lice. But God helped her daily, including showing her which prisoners to befriend and share her faith with.
After she was released from the camp and living in South Korea, Woo reflected on her time of imprisonment, saying that Psalm 23 summed up her experience. Although she had been trapped in a dark valley, Jesus was her shepherd who gave her peace: “Even though it felt as if I was literally in a valley full of the shadow of death, I wasn’t afraid of anything. God comforted me every day.” She experienced God’s goodness and love as He reassured her that she was His beloved daughter. “I was in a terrible place, but I knew . . . I would experience God’s goodness and love.” And she knew she’d stay in the Lord’s presence forever.
We can find encouragement in Woo’s story. Despite her dire circumstances, she felt God’s love and leading; and He sustained her and took away her fear. If we follow Jesus, He will lead us gently through our times of trouble. We need not fear, for “[we] will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (23:6).
A rare super moon appeared in November 2016—the moon in its orbit reached its closest point to the earth in over sixty years and so appeared bigger and brighter than at other times. But for me that day the skies were shrouded in gray. Although I saw photos of this wonder from friends in other places, as I gazed upwards I had to trust that the super moon was lurking behind the clouds.
The apostle Paul urged the church at Corinth, in the face of their hardships, to believe what is unseen but will last forever. He said how their “momentary troubles” achieve “an eternal glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Thus they could fix their eyes “not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,” because what is unseen is eternal (v. 18). Paul yearned that the faith of those in Corinth would grow, and although they suffered, that they would trust in God. They might not be able to see Him, but they could believe that He was renewing them day by day (v. 16).
I thought about how God is unseen but eternal when I gazed at the clouds that day, knowing that the super moon was hidden but there. And I hoped the next time I was tempted to believe that God was far from me, I would fix my eyes on what is unseen.
When my friends lived in Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, they were overwhelmed by the welcome they received there, especially from other Christians. Once they took some clothes and provisions to a couple from their church who were very poor, yet who were fostering several children. The couple treated my friends like honored guests, giving them sweet tea and, despite their protests, something to eat. As my friends left with gifts of watermelons and other fruits and vegetables, they marveled at the hospitality they experienced.
These Christians embody the welcome that God commanded His people, the Israelites, to exhibit. He instructed them “to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the
Our circumstances might differ from the Moldovans or the Israelites, but we too can live out our love for God through our welcome to others. Whether through opening our homes or smiling a greeting to those we meet, we can extend God’s care and hospitality in a lonely, hurting world.
My great aunt had an exciting job in advertising, and traveled between Chicago and New York City. But she chose to give up that career out of love for her parents. They lived in Minnesota and needed to be cared for. Both of her brothers had died young in tragic circumstances and she was her mom and dad’s only remaining child. For her, serving her parents was an expression of her faith.
The apostle Paul’s writing to the church at Rome urged Christian believers to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). He hoped they would extend Christ’s sacrificial love to each other. And he asked them not to think of themselves more highly than they should (v. 3). When they fell into disagreements and division, he called them to lay down their pride, because “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (v. 5). He yearned that they would show each other sacrificial love.
Each day we have the opportunity to serve others. For instance, we might let someone go ahead of us in a line or we might, like my great aunt, care for someone who is ill. Or maybe we share from our experience as we give another advice and direction. When we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, we honor God.
During a church service I attended with my parents, according to the usual practice we held hands while saying the Lord’s Prayer together. As I stood with one hand clasped to my mother’s and the other to my father’s, I was struck by the thought that I will always be their daughter. Although I’m firmly in my middle age, I can still be called “the child of Leo and Phyllis.” I reflected that not only am I their daughter but I will also always be a child of God.
The apostle Paul wanted the people in the church at Rome to understand that their identity was based on being adopted members of God’s family (Romans 8:15). Because they had been born of the Spirit (v. 14), no longer did they need to be enslaved to things that didn’t really matter. Rather, through the gift of the Spirit, they were “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (v. 17).
To those who follow Christ, what difference does this make? Quite simply, everything! Our identity as children of God provides our foundation and shapes how we see ourselves and the world. For instance, knowing that we are part of God’s family helps us to step out of our comfort zone as we follow Him. We can also be free from seeking the approval of others.
Today, why not ponder what it means to be God’s child?
“I have a message for you!” A woman working at the conference I was attending handed me a piece of paper, and I wondered if I should be nervous or excited. But when I read, “You have a nephew!” I knew I could rejoice.
Messages can bring good news, bad news, or words that challenge. In the Old Testament, God used His prophets to communicate messages of hope or judgment. But when we look closely, we see that even His words of judgment were intended to lead to repentance, healing, and restoration.
Both types of messages appear in Malachi 3 when the Lord promised to send a messenger who would prepare the way for Him. John the Baptist announced the coming of the true Messenger, Jesus (see Matthew 3:11)—the “the messenger of the covenant” (Malachi 3:1) who will fulfill God’s promises. But He will act “like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap” (v. 2), for He will purify those who believe in His word. The Lord sent His words to cleanse His people because of His loving concern for their well-being.
God’s message is one of love, hope, and freedom. He sent His Son to be a messenger who speaks our language—sometimes with messages of correction, but always those of hope. We can trust His message.