[Nov 22]—A Recipe For Peace

            For the longest time, people have been longing for peace between nations. Of course, the urgency of this desire stepped up a few notches back in 1945, when we gained the power to disintegrate a city and kill millions with a single bomb, and for the first time in history it was actually feasible for mankind to destroy itself with one fell swoop. But even today, when the nuclear threat is not what it once was during the Cold War, people still don’t like to see people killing each other. No one wants to see that, but it’s like the weather in the old joke: Everybody complains, but nobody does anything about it.
            But, like with every other major issue of our time, the Bible has a radical solution: Peace between nations has to start with peace on the individual level. It all starts with peace in our relationship with God. We have that through Jesus Christ: Through faith in him, we’ve been reconciled with God, and not only are we no longer at war with him, but we’re now his heirs and co-heirs with Christ. Once we overcome that hurdle, he starts to change us from the inside-out so that we can live peacefully with our neighbors.
            That brings us to today’s passage. Normally I don’t advise you to do this, but I’d like you to look at these verses and skip ahead to the end and work your way backwards.  He says “. . . and the peace of God. . . will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” That’s why I had you start here. If you want the peace of God to guard your heart and mind, if you don’t want anxieties and fears to invade your heart and head, then vss. 4-6 give you some instructions on how to get it:
·         Rejoice in the Lord always. Remember, in the original language there wasn’t punctuation as we know it. Therefore, one of the main ways to emphasize something (instead of italics or bold or underlining or with a “!”) was through repetition. And Paul told us twice in one verse to rejoice in our Lord. Guys, this is a command from the apostle. It’s not a feeling that comes upon you like a cold or a meteor. It’s a decision that you make to focus your thoughts on the Lord’s goodness and blessings and character and to praise him and thank him. If you’ve ever read The Four Spiritual Laws, they have a really helpful illustration.
     The engine determines where the train goes, it provides the power, and without the engine the train goes nowhere. The caboose is nice, but the train will run with or without it. If you put your faith in God’s truth and don’t let your feelings be your guide, then eventually the feelings will follow. Just like love, rejoicing in the Lord is a choice that you make rather than a feeling that happens to you.
·         Choose to display a Christ-like gentleness wherever you go. When it comes to God’s truth and eternal issues, we need to fight with all the strength he gives us (using his weapons, of course). But when it comes to our own personal interests and ego and “rights,” we need to follow our Savior’s example.
·         Choose the eternal perspective. “The Lord is near.” His return, no matter how much longer he takes, will set everything right, and whatever strife or trouble we’re undergoing now isn’t even worth comparing to the Glory we have ahead of us.  
·         Choose not to be anxious about anything. Again, you have to choose what your thoughts will focus on and won’t focus on.
·         Instead, take it to your Father’s Throne. In the spiritual realm just like in the physical one, nature abhors a vacuum. You can’t just empty your mind of what’s mentally tormenting you. You have to take your worries, concerns, and fears to him.
·         But start out with thanksgiving. I try to make it a habit to spend time praising my Father and thanking him before I ever get around to asking him for anything. That really gets me in the proper mindset and preps me before I make any type of request. But even while making your request, you can find a reason to thank him.
            Let me make a side-note here. People sometimes like to downplay what we call “petitions” in relation to praise and thanksgiving. Even if they acknowledge that petition has its place, they denigrate petitions for oneself as opposed to for others, as if this is less noble. I understand their sentiments, and I sympathize with them: I certainly feel a lot more comfortable praising and thanking my Savior God and praying for others more than praying for myself. But Paul here tells us to pray for ourselves. If you have a concern or fear or even a desire, present it to the Lord. Of course, any request we make is (or should be) under the canopy of “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”
            Paul promises that if we do these things, asking for his strength to make the right choices in our thought-life, then “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
            Is that what you want?
Yes, Lord Jesus, that’s what I want. Please fill me with your peace. Fill me with you.

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