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Follow Your Prince of Peace

I wonder what longings surfaced in you as the calendar advanced to 2014.

Perhaps like me, hope fills your heart when you contemplate the potential of the year ahead. But if you are like me, the uncertainty looming in its future may have reined in your expectation to cautious optimism. After all, we can’t allow ourselves to expect too much. Experience has left us a little gun shy.

Maybe we need to see what scripture says about that.

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5, NIV 1984

When Jesus remains the source of our hope, we can always expect greatness. If you and I will stick with Him through the fulfillment of His plan, we’ll never end up disappointed. Let’s look to the Lord of Glory with unguarded expectation and allow Him to surpass our wildest dreams!

We have reached the final week of our series exploring the four names given to Jesus in His prophetic birth announcement from Isaiah 9:6. Let’s revisit the entire verse and view it in context with verse 7.

“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 increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Did you notice that the first thing scripture tells us about this child given to us is that government will be on His shoulders? Guess what that means. Our ability to experience Jesus by every one of these names will link directly to whether or not we allow Him to lead.

Does He govern you, dear one?

Jesus came to lead His people to glory. The moment we put our faith in Him—repenting of our sin, believing in the power of His sacrifice, and committing our lives to follow Him—He seals us as His own by giving us the Holy Spirit. We receive the Wonderful Counselor, the power of Mighty God comes to rest within us, and we become eternal sons and daughters of glory, belonging forever to the Everlasting Father.  As if that weren’t enough . . .

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2

Jesus becomes our Prince of Peace as our broken relationship with Holy God is restored, our sins are forgiven, and we enter into divine fellowship with our Creator. Unbelievably, He offers more! As we allow the Prince of Peace to rule and reign within our hearts, wonderful fruit will begin to emerge in our lives. Romans 15:13 names a few of them:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Trusting Jesus to lead allows God to fill us with joy, peace, and hope!

Whether you realize it or not, dear one, peace is what your heart seeks. Have you ever noticed how elusive contentment can be? We set our hearts on one thing after another, assuring ourselves that this “one thing” will finally set our hearts at rest, only we soon discover that restlessness remains. It simply sets its sights on something else, and we find ourselves plagued once again with longing.

Can you relate? I can.

The absence of peace can even rob us of our ability to find joy in what we have. The sin nature that has governed us for so long will always crave more and send us in pursuit of something else. And sometimes that search for more ends up costing us the blessings we already have.

But Jesus . . .

In Christ, our souls have the ability to finally find rest and end our destructive cycles. Jesus said in John 14:27,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

You and I now have the ability to find that elusive rest. Jesus has given us His peace. So, how do we claim it? Isaiah 9:7 holds the key.

The increase of His peace accompanies the increase of His government.

The more we yield to the authority and leadership of the Holy Spirit, the more peace will abound. And as peace abounds, so will the life that springs from it.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body.” Proverbs 14:30

As we trust Jesus through our obedience, allowing Him to take His rightful place on the throne of our lives, joy, peace, and hope will flood our hearts and filter into our circumstances.

Let’s invite Jesus to take His seat on the throne today, beloved. After all, God placed government upon His shoulders, not ours. And Jesus desires to lead you to abundant life. Will you trust Him?

“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” Job 22:21

Cancer – A Paradigm Shift

This week’s Word comes from a friend of mine who has spent the last three years battling colon cancer. Today Wendy Stauffer, founder of Ultimate Wellness (www.UltimateWellness.jigsy.com), shares her thoughts on her journey so far.

Recently, God changed her view of her situation. Her words stirred my soul as I thought of the many times I have found myself in a battle. I have worked and fought for a particular outcome—and I have wearied myself with all the working. After reading her words, I can’t help but consider: How many hours have I spent fighting the “enemy,” when in fact I was actually fighting against God?

Think about it for a moment. Nothing passes into our lives that God didn’t either ordain or allow. Whether we like the idea or not, Satan must have permission from Jesus to attack and “sift” His disciples (Luke 22:31-32).

When things come into our lives we wouldn’t choose, we tirelessly battle against them, determined to change our circumstances to match our will. But if God has allowed our circumstances, wouldn’t that mean that we are actually fighting Him?

No wonder we get tired. You and I don’t have the strength to win that battle.

Perhaps God’s blessing for you in your trial looks different than the one you’ve been fighting for. And just maybe, dear one, you’re missing what He wants to give because you’re fighting so hard for it.

What if the secret to your great victory lies in rest, beloved? What if surrendering to God’s choice for you and allowing Him to shape your heart through it becomes the catalyst to experiencing Exodus 14:14?

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

 

Cancer –  A Paradigm Shift

by Wendy Stauffer

People are constantly saying things like, “You are a fighter, Wendy.  You’re gonna beat cancer!” “You just keep fighting.  You are so strong.” My dearest family and friends often put out prayer requests that read, “Pray for Wendy in her battle against cancer.”  We’ve all been well programmed on how to view cancer.  I see organizations crusading in the fight against cancer with billboards and slogans properly worded for defeating or beating this horrible foe.

As I’ve had time to ponder just how this battle is going, Dr. Phil’s haunting question keeps coming to mind. “How’s it working for ya?”  Well, I need to be totally honest. It isn’t working!  I have been so consumed these past three years being afraid of cancer, being angry at having cancer, being on a crusade to wipe out cancer, (which I think is a curse from the pit of hell), trying to figure out how to avoid cancer, feeling defeated by cancer, saddened by new reports of loved ones getting cancer, being consumed trying to rid my body of cancer, being overcome with grief and tears over cancer, that I’ve wasted so much precious time and energy on it, and it is still winning! Not only is it winning; it has gotten worse!

All of my efforts to conquer and overcome cancer have sent my cortisol levels sky high, allowing cancer deeper access to me, blocking my immune system from getting rid of it naturally.   Something needs to change.  To continue to do the same thing and expect different outcomes is called insanity.

I believe it’s time for a paradigm shift. What would happen if I actually stopped fighting, stopped being angry, stopped crying, stopped trying or striving to conquer or overcome cancer?  One thing is certain.  My stress levels would go down!  What if I turned the tables on the Enemy’s strategy to engage me in this fight?  What if I accept cancer? Learn to enjoy every moment of every day – cancer and all? What if I stop fretting about having it and make peace with it? That doesn’t necessarily mean I give up HOPE and don’t do anything positive.  It doesn’t mean giving up and dying from it, but truly making peace with the situation I’m in, thanking God every day for allowing me to experience this and learn from this, viewing it as a way He is preparing me for future ways to bless others.  

You know what I think might happen? The Enemy won’t get any more evil pleasure from tormenting me because I refuse to be tormented.  Maybe he’ll just give up and move on. My cortisol levels will drop because my body won’t be constantly in a “fight or flight” mode and my immune system might actually kick in like it’s supposed to and kill the cancer cells.  It will no longer be sidetracked dealing with removing cortisol.  I will be honoring God and praising Him more, being grateful for each day, living life to the fullest as I tenderly care for my body, rather than declare war on cancer.  As I get my mind off the cancer, I get my mind on whose I am, God’s beloved daughter, treasured, worthy of health, a royal princess.  Instead of constantly being in battle-mode, I’d experience all the good things He wants me to have like peace, contentment, abundant life.  I’d let go of regret and embrace all I’ve learned through this season of life, excited for how He plans to work all things out for my good according to His good purpose. 

Cancer is not the enemy.  I believe it is being used BY the Enemy to destroy God’s precious children.  God is not our enemy either just because He allows people to experience cancer.  Cancer is something that can send you into the loving arms of God to learn life lessons, like it has me.

You’ve heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  Just like everything else we go through, this too shall pass one day, but not until I’ve been able to squeeze every drop of lemonade from it. So I don’t plan to fight anymore.  I plan to put up a lemonade stand so that all who come into my life can have a delicious, refreshing, alkalizing, life-giving drink of God’s goodness from my lemons. 

Anyone care for a cup of lemonade? (without the white sugar, of course!)

A Gift of Grace

Today’s Word on Wednesday comes from my dear friend and partner in ministry, Juliet Sharrow. You may have read some of her testimony in recent months about God’s pursuing love. Now she shares how His gift of grace empowered her to finally respond to Him. After reading her words, you may be blessed to know she just had the privilege of watching this beloved son walk the stage to receive his high school diploma. Whatever you may be going through, know this, dear one. There is ALWAYS hope in Jesus.

A Gift of Grace by Juliet Sharrow

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

I had spent my life running from God. Desperate for love and caught in an abusive relationship, I made one destructive choice after another. Then God did something I didn’t expect. He chose to bless me with a child.

I was so excited when I found out I was pregnant.  I would love my child in all the ways I hadn’t been loved.  I would somehow make it all right.

Then I got the worst news an expectant mother could hear.  The doctor called to tell me that something was wrong with my unborn child.  The routine blood tests they had done showed that my child would have Down’s Syndrome and possibly Spina Bifida as well.  I felt like my world came crashing down.  Then the doctor said something I could scarcely believe.  They were recommending that I have an abortion.

I sunk down on my knees, horrified at what I was hearing!  How could this be? My baby was alive; I could hear the heartbeat and I could feel the kicking.  How could I destroy this precious gift I’d been given?  I did not understand what I was getting into, but I knew one thing: I couldn’t end this child’s life.  He was my hope! I told the doctor in no uncertain terms that I would never choose that for me or my child.

The next several weeks were a blur as medical personnel escorted me into private rooms to watch videos about children with these conditions, “so I would know what I was getting myself into.”  I met with doctors who tried to explain that a woman in my situation— unmarried and with no support network—could certainly not handle a child with issues of this magnitude.  They assured me I did not understand how impossible things would be. But I never wavered.  Somehow I knew that God had blessed me with this child, and I would have this baby no matter what they said.

So a month after I heard the devastating news, I underwent a sonogram to see if the doctor could see the abnormalities that are usually present with these conditions.  What happened next can only be described as a miracle.  There were NO abnormalities.  The baby was perfect in every way!

The doctor insisted there must be some mistake.  And so she checked and rechecked, and decided that the baby was too small for me to be as far along as they originally thought.  Her new measurements said I was one month behind where I should have been and so they changed my due date to one month later.  They retook the blood tests and assured me that everything had come back normal this time!  I cried as I left the doctor’s office that day.

I know now the enemy had tried to convince me to give up on my child, to destroy his precious life.  But somehow God had given me the strength to hold on. Just like He promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13,

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

I believe that Satan tempted me with an easy way out.  My life was not good at the time, and bringing a child into that world was what some would call crazy!  But, I know that God provided a way out for me.  He helped me to stand up under it.  He filled me with love for my unborn child. He gave me strength to endure, and His peace soothed my soul.

A few months later my son was born. The doctors said he was 4 weeks premature.  It was 4 days after the original due date they had given me.  And he was perfect, not premature in any way, a healthy 6lb 4oz baby boy!  He was my gift from God.

Psalm 127:3 says, “See children are a gift from the Lord.  The children born to us are our special reward.” (NLV)

At that time in my life I did not deserve any special reward.  I had run from God and turned my back on Him more times than I could count!  But God in His infinite wisdom knew that what I needed was grace.  He gave me this gift instead of what I deserved.

I needed that child because I was in a pit. A pit of self-loathing and self-despair, a pit of oppression.  I was so low I could not find a way out. In fact, I did not WANT out.  I felt like I deserved everything that was happening to me.  God knew what I needed to give me the strength to get out of that pit.  I needed someone else to live for, someone else to love.  I did not love myself enough, but He knew I would love my child enough to claw my way out of that pit.  That through the love of my child, I would finally turn to Him, finally seek Him instead of running from Him. I learned that when I resist temptation and do what I know is right, God will provide the strength I need to endure.  And I would learn the greatest lesson of my life: that God’s grace isn’t based on what I’ve done. It’s about God giving me what He knows I need, even when I don’t deserve it.