Finding Peace: Week Four of Advent

I think I may have missed my calling to be a beauty pageant contestant—because I sincerely desire world peace.

But is world peace even possible?

Our society feeds on conflict. Whether it’s 24 hours of almost entirely negative news, inflammatory political rants from talk-radio hosts, or the latest firestorm on social media about the actions of a celebrity. It is all just noise that spoons conflict into our lives. We eat it up. And we can’t get enough of it.

Then we complain about it. We love to complain about it. We love to tell anybody who will listen, and many people who don’t want to listen, what in the world (or at least our world) is messed up.

And this of course breeds stress, anxiety, and anger, in our lives and the lives of others. With the result, that each day our world becomes a little less peaceful.

But we say it’s not our fault:

If only those people over there would stop doing….then there would be peace.

If only that leader would start doing…then there would be peace.

If only this or that person would change…then, the world, our families, and our lives would be peaceful.

But God’s Word tells us something different.

Peace is not dependent on the actions of others. Peace comes to us when we enter into the presence of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Perspective

The Apostle Paul shows us what this looks like. While confined to house arrest in Rome, he wrote the following encouragement to a suffering church in Philippi:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)

Did you catch Paul’s recipe for peace?

Peace comes through joyful worship of Jesus (4)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Peace comes through prayerful reliance on God through Jesus (6-7)

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.

Peace comes through the enjoyment of the things of God (8-9)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things...And the God of peace will be with you.

The point is, despite our circumstances, peace is available to us now.

It is true that this is not the same kind of peace we will have in heaven. Now, our peace is fleeting. In heaven it will be continual. But the peace we experience in heaven will come from doing the same kind of things we are now able to do on earth. That is, the continual worship, reliance, and enjoyment of Jesus Christ.

What Paul knew is that, as long as we have access to Jesus, we have access to peace- the peace of God, that transcends all understanding.

So if you, like me, sincerely desire peace, then join me this week and come into the presence of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

Let’s turn off our 24-hour news channels. Let’s change the station on our political talking heads. And lets take a breather from our social media outrage.

And instead, lets spend time praising Jesus, relying on Jesus, and enjoying the gifts of Jesus–then we might just taste the beginnings of world peace.

 

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.

(Isaiah 9:6-7)

 

 

Advent… A Different Kind of Waiting (Week 3)

It’s week three of Advent.  A week to focus on joy. The joy  that comes from anticipating the arrival of Christ’s birth.

But ironically finding joy in Christ during the Christmas season, is often hard. Especially when there is so much competition for our affections.

So how do we find our joy in Christ,  even in the midst of our market-driven society?

Here’ s three steps that I think can help:

1. WE START BY FORGETTING ABOUT OURSELVES

John Piper writes,

“The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.”

2.  THEN WE TRUST THAT JESUS IS THE BETTER JOY

St. Augustine, speaking of Jesus, wrote in his Confessions,

“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure.”

 3.  FINALLY WE WORSHIP

As Bishop N.T. Wright put it,

“When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship him. Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven’t yet really understood who he is or what he’s done.”

So this Christmas season don’t let the commercials, and the stress of buying stuff, steal your joy. Instead give yourself permission to lose yourself in the person of Jesus Christ, thinking about who he is and all  he has done. Allow Jesus to take away your affections for lesser pleasures, and begin to fill your heart with deeper affections for himself. Then worship. Wherever you are, even if you must begin with whispers, praise him for everything you can think of.

Then you will find joy.

 

________________________________________________________________________________

Further resources:

Advent: A Different Kind of Waiting (Week 2)

Pop quiz.

What is one of the best antidotes to holiday stress?

Answer? Waiting.

No, really. The answer is waiting.

I think one of the reasons you and I get so overwhelmed during the Christmas season is because we are terrible at waiting, and we hate it when we are forced to practice it.

But being forced to wait is often God’s preferred method to help us keep our sanity. How is it that, when I have so much to do, waiting helps me keep my sanity?

That’s the subject of this week’s Advent: A Different Kind of Waiting post, where I share some of the best Advent posts from around the Web.

In a thought-provoking post, Wheaton College Professor Dr. Marc Cortez reminds us that waiting can change the way we view our time. He provides us with five great ways being forced to wait can be a blessing. I particularly like his fourth point:

4. Waiting reminds us that the present matters.

Sometimes I think waiting frustrates us because we’re too future-oriented, always focused on what comes next. But what about now? Next is in God’s hands. Now is what we have. Done well, being forced to wait can be like watching a particularly spectacular movie scene in slow motion. You know the movie will continue playing at regular speed soon, but for now you’re just enjoying what’s on the screen.

I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that just about every day.

The rest of the post is just as good. So click below and enjoy this timely, hidden gem of a devotional by Dr. Cortez. Let it change the way you view your time this Advent  season. Then come back and share with us which of Marc’s points resonated most with you.

Blessings!

Forced to Wait: An Advent Reflection

by Marc Cortez December 17, 2012

 

Advent… A Different Kind of Waiting

Once, as a Boy Scout traveling to a campground many hours away, I purchased a bucket of Coke at a pit stop (66 ounces to be exact) and drank it all in the following thirty minutes. At which point all 66 ounces of soda decided that they wanted to come out—the only problem was we were still two hours away from our destination and our driver was not going to stop. And so I waited. And waited. And waited.  I waited as we drove up thousands of feet on mountain roads. I waited as my friends enjoyed watching me squirm as they told jokes about waterfalls. And I waited as I literally felt my insides expand to their breaking point.  It was the first time I thought my bladder was actually going to burst, and truthfully, in that moment, if it had happened I would have been happy.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we came to a stop in front of a rustic, public restroom. I jumped out of the van, ran/waddled, to the door of beckoning freedom. With each step I fumbled with my my scout belt, trying to get it off before I entered the stall. Then terror ensued. My scout belt was stuck.

The belt was not your typical belt. It was the kind that had a square box with a metal pin in it to keep the belt cord from moving. And that two-inch pin was stuck—jammed sideways and not moving. I started to panic, my legs went numb, and my mind raced for a solution, as all the while I tugged for dear life on that little metal pin that stood between me and ethereal relief.

I stared at the white porcelain seat that had once been my hope and refuge, but now only seemed to mock me in my plight. So close, yet so far away. The pressure mounted, my hand started to shake, and sweat like dew covered my flushed face. I thought, it’s over. I began to resign myself to the inevitable end that I was going to have to let all 66 ounces out into my pine green scout shorts and onto the grey wood floor. But then it happened. By sheer miracle, that little brass pin moved and my scout belt flung open. And there, in a wooden shelter of a bathroom, I stood in victory… for at least ten minutes.

The season of Advent is about waiting, but thankfully it is a different kind of waiting.

In God’s kingdom, waiting isn’t meant to be an excruciating, painful, no-end-in-sight delayed experience, like a liquid-filled Boy Scout waiting for relief. Rather, waiting, for God’s children, is meant to be something entirely different, something of a blessing.

How can that be? Over the next four Mondays I’ll share what I consider to be some of the best Advent post from around the Web, all addressing the blessing of waiting.  My hope is that it will change the way you and I think about waiting and about the season of Advent.

First up, a fantastic article by Rob Bell.  Now, I definitely do not agree with everything Rob Bell has written in recent years. But back before he kissed evangelical theology goodbye, he wrote a very good article about Advent and the Church Calendar. It is Rob Bell at his best, and, for every Christian, an article worth reading.  So click on the link below and read the article, then come back and share your thoughts in the comment section. Enjoy!

 

Why Should We Care About Advent? By Rob Bell November 29, 2010

 

 

 

Next week, a post from  Marc Cortez (Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College)

________________________________________________________________________________

For those looking for some good Advent resources, here are a couple of inexpensive, but helpful books:

(Download this one for free at www.desiringgod.org)