You Are Free to Choose–God’s Gift to You

I live near Rome, Georgia, home of the Rome Braves professional baseball team. The Rome Braves are the 1-A farm team for the major league Atlanta Braves. If you wanted to see the Rome Braves play you have choices of days of the week, choices of ticket prices, choices of where you wish to sit, and your choice of special promotions like Fireworks Night, Jersey Giveaway Night, Ladies Night, and more. Oh, the choices!

Yet, every day you and I make choices—lots of them. No one coerces our choices. No one has predetermined our choices. We get to choose. And this freedom to make our choices is, in my opinion, one of God’s best gifts to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, theologians refer to this freedom to choose as human free will. I need to say some things about that before I help you see how special it is to have God-given freedom to choose.

1. Free will means you have the freedom to make choices that determine your destiny.
2. Free will does not mean you can choose to do anything you want. For example, you can’t choose to fly over the Grand Canyon because God did not make humans with the ability to flap wings and fly.
3. You are accountable for the choices you make. If you make good choices that honor God you will be blessed (see Deuteronomy 30:15-20 in the Bible). If you make bad choices that go against God’s standards you will suffer the consequences (see Galatians 6:7-8 in the Bible).
4. Because all humans have a nature inclined toward sin (disobedience to God), the only way we make good choices that honor God are through His grace and power. Otherwise, we never would choose God’s way.
5. Your freedom to choose overrides a view of life called fatalism. Have you ever heard someone say, “Whatever will be, will be?” Or, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen”? Those ideas come from fatalism, the view that future events have already been predetermined by God or another all-powerful force, such as “Fate.”
6. Your freedom to choose also counters determinism, the view that all events of life have already been determined. No, they haven’t. Your choices almost always determine your future destiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, here’s what I want you to see. God gave you the freedom to choose. And that freedom is one of His best gifts to you. Now, how does the freedom to choose actually impact your life? Consider statements like the ones that follow.

• “I’m not happy.” You have a choice. Choose to be happy.
• “I never have enough money at the end of the month.” You have a choice. Choose to be a better personal money manager.
• “Nothing good ever happens to me. I never can catch a break.” You have a choice. Quit talking like a victim. Take steps to make things happen for your benefit.
• “I don’t have the job I really want.” You have a choice. Get a different job.
• “I don’t know much about the Bible.” You have a choice. Read the Bible. Purchase Bible study helps that improve your Bible knowledge.
• “I’ll never be able financially to retire.” You have a choice. Start saving for retirement.
• “I’ll never get out of debt.” You have a choice. Build a budget. Live within your means. Pay off your debts. Resolve never to go in debt again.
• “I have no friends.” You have a choice. Be a friend to someone.
• “I’ll never get over this.” You have a choice. Pick yourself up, and with God’s help move forward.
• “I don’t know for sure if I will go to heaven when I die.” You have a choice. Choose to give your life to Jesus. Trust His death on the cross to provide forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. You have a choice.

Know Who You Are and You Will Have Hope

When I was a kid my dad’s side of the family celebrated annual family reunions. At each reunion, some adult would come up to me and ask, “Now, who are you?” I gave the same answer each year. “I am Leon Hardin’s son.”

Do you know who you are? Not from some distant relative’s standpoint, rather, do you know who you are from God’s viewpoint? Knowing who you are in God’s eyes is the key to self-confidence, healthy self-esteem, and hope. Since God gave us the Holy Scriptures, we should ask, What does the Bible say about human beings?

You Have Been Made in God’s Image
Genesis 1:26 states, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” When I was younger I often heard people say, “You are the spitting image of your mother.” (Those words were a Southern way of saying, You look like your mother.). To have been made in God’s image does not mean we look like God

In simplest terms, this awesome statement means God has built God-like qualities into us. For example, God is a creator. Humans can create things. God loves. Humans can love. God shows compassion. Humans show compassion. You get the idea.

The concept of being made in God’s image sets humans apart from all of God’s other creation. Never does the Bible say that dogs, trees, fish, bears, or any other of God’s creation have been made in His image. Only humans. This uniqueness gives us a special place in God’s created order. You and I really are the crowing act of God’s creation. This truth means we humans really are special to God.

You Have Been Given Free Will
Free will means the freedom to make your choices. God placed the first humans in the Garden of Eden with these words: “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden, except one. If you eat from any fruit of that tree you will die” (Genesis 2:17).

God never made you a robot. Instead, God created you as a rational, thinking person. Each day you get to make choices about almost everything. That free will to make your own choices is a gift from God.

However, if your choices are not good ones you will suffer the consequences of your poor choices. The Bible calls our choices to go against God’s design “sin.” Those first humans made the choice to eat fruit from the forbidden tree. They were cast from the garden as a consequence of their disobedience toward God.

You Are a Sacred Person
“For you formed me in my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” says Psalm 139:13. In fact, all human life is sacred (revered, highly-esteemed, valuable) because God created humans. This great truth means your life has value to God. You are not a cog in a machine. You aren’t a primordial blob of something. God values you. He has purpose for your life. Your life really does have meaning.

Here’s another application of the sacredness of human life. Every person (regardless of race, ethnicity, or country of origin) has great value in God’s eyes. Here is one reason for celebrating diversity. God is so awesome that He made people from all over the world. And He loves them all deeply.

You Were Made to Have a Personal Relationship With God
Someone might ask, Why did God make me? The short answer is that God made you for His pleasure. Being created for God’s pleasure does not mean you were made to entertain God or provide Him with amusement. God is a creative Being, and it gives Him pleasure to create. God is a personal Being, and it gives Him pleasure to have other beings He can have a genuine relationship with.

How do you have a personal relationship with God? Remember that Bible word sin? Our sin creates a barrier between us and God. He is absolutely holy, and we are not. God made provision to remove the human barrier of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross. On that cross, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment we sinful humans deserve. Jesus made that sacrifice because He loves us so much. When you ask God to forgive your sins, and you trust what Jesus did for you on that cross, you experience what Christians call “salvation.” You have begun the joyful journey of a personal relationship with God.

Have you made the decision to turn from your sin and to trust Jesus for your salvation? Because God loves you, He began a rescue mission with one goal—that of saving human life from the awful consequences of sin. This venture, in which He has made an inestimable investment, seeks to restore what sin has destroyed.

This is the good news Christians call “the gospel.” And when you live for Jesus’ agenda, instead of live for sins’ agenda, you live with hope.

Acting or Reacting

You might not know James Shaw, Jr., but you probably recognize what he did recently at a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, Tennessee. Shaw and a friend stopped at the Waffle House for an early morning breakfast. That’s when Travis Reinking entered the restaurant with an assault rifle, and began shooting, killing 4 persons, and wounding 4 others.

Patrons, along with Shaw’s breakfast companion, Brandon McMurray, urged Shaw to hide in a bathroom. Instead, Shaw hid behind a door in the restaurant, and when Reinking went to reload his weapon, Shaw sprang into action. He grabbed the barrel of the gun and wrested it away from Reinking, throwing the rifle over a counter and forcing Reinking outside.

Shaw suffered a severe burn on his right hand when he grabbed the smoking hot barrel of Reinking’s rifle. But the painful burn did not prevent Shaw from going to Vanderbilt Hospital later that day to visit some of the shooting victims.

I would say that James Shaw, Jr., knew the difference between reacting and acting.

All of us face situations every day in which we feel we need to make some kind of response. In those moments we can “act” or we can “react.” What’s the difference?

Kristen Jensen has said, “Reacting typically occurs with little thought. Reacting does not stop to consider potential consequences that come from using a reactive approach. Reacting is almost always based on how we feel. Acting, on the other hand, requires thought and consideration. Acting is based on knowledge, skill, and self-control.”

Ultra-marathoner, Dragos Roua, has written, “Whenever you act, you perform a conscious choice, you decide you’re going to do that thing. You become responsible. But when you react, you’re responding to an external stimulus. You’re not responsible anymore, you leave the responsibility to the stimulus. When you act, you’re the puppeteer, when you react, you’re the puppet.”

You can apply the react or act principle in your marriage. When your spouse says something that doesn’t sit well with you, do you react (yell, become angry, stew and simmer, say something in the heat of the moment that you regret)? Or do you act by saying, “Honey, help me understand what you are saying.” Or, “I’m not sure I agree with you, but let’s keep talking so I can understand your point of view.”

You can apply the react or act principle in your personal money management. Do you sometimes make impulsive, unwise purchases (react) or do you live by a spending plan, and mentally evaluate your purchases (act)?

You can apply the react or act principle to your emotions. You can act by taking control of your feelings, or you can react by responding emotionally to other people’s actions. By reacting, our emotions control us and cloud our judgments and decisions. But by acting we gain control over our feelings and use them for positive purposes.

I’m thinking Jesus knew the difference in acting and reacting. While hanging on the cross, enduring horrible pain and suffering, He looked down on those who had crucified Him. Instead of reacting (cursing those people, or name-calling them), Jesus acted. He prayed to God, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus set an example for us. In the heat of the moment we can react, or we can act. Acting is always the more hopeful response.

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Learn from Bible characters who learned to “act” rather than “react.” Check out my newest book: Wow Words from God: What I Want God to Say About Me. Order from Amazon (Print Edition). Order from Amazon (Kindle Edition). Order from Barnes and Noble (Print Edition).

 

You also may order the Wow Words from God Personal Study Guide containing 30 personal devotions-Bible studies that correspond with the 30 Bible characters in the Wow Words book. Order from Amazon. Order from Barnes and Noble.

3 Things to Do When Life Knocks the Wind Out of You

Lenka, an Australian singer, belts a song titled, “Roll with the Punch.” A line in the song says, “When life tries to knock all the wind out of you, you’ve got to roll, roll, roll with the punches.”

When last did life seem to knock the wind out of you? The death of someone you loved? You lost your job? You lost your home to financial mismanagement? Your spouse walked out of your marriage? One of your children made a life-damaging decision? The doctor diagnosed you with cancer? You faced temptation and made a bad decision?

And when life knocks the wind out of you is all you can do “roll, roll, roll with the punches”? Is there not more you can do? Do you just lay down and roll over?

We can learn from a Bible character named Elijah. His story is told in the Old Testament section of the Bible in 1 Kings 19. Elijah served as a preacher of the Lord. A wicked queen, Jezebel, hated Elijah (remember, we don’t name our girls Jezebel). She sent a message to Elijah: “By this time tomorrow, I will kill you.” I would say that was some kind of threat, wouldn’t you?

What did Elijah do? Trust God? Stand courageous? No, he ran, found a cave, and hid in it. Worse, in that cave Elijah prayed, “Lord, just take my life. I’ve had enough.” Elijah, gripped by fear and despair, sat in that cave, and sulked, enjoying his pity party.

God spoke to Elijah. “What are you doing here?” God’s preacher-prophet shouldn’t be hiding in a cave, fearful of a queen. Yes, life had knocked the wind out of Elijah. What should you do when life knocks the wind out of you?

Stop Looking at Your Problems, and Start Looking to God.
What happened to Elijah here often happens to us. He shifted his focus from God to the problems and circumstances he was in. He couldn’t see how much God loved him. He didn’t seek God’s solution for this issue. All Elijah could see was his problem; and his problem looked bigger than God.

All of us need bifocal vision. That is, we see the problems at hand, but we also see the hand of God at work in our situation. You can’t soar in life when your whole focus is on your problems.

Stop Talking to God, and Start Waiting for God to Speak.
God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Elijah never gave God an honest answer. Instead, Elijah blabbered: “O, Lord, your people are so unfaithful. They have disobeyed you. I’m the only good guy You have left. And now they are trying to kill me.”

God taught Elijah a powerful lesson. He said, “Elijah, go stand on the mountain and I will pass by.” A powerful wind came. It tore apart the mountains. An earthquake shook the ground. Fire came. The Bible says, “But God wasn’t in the wind . . . the earthquake . . . nor the fire” (1 Kings 19:11).

Next came a gentle whisper. God was in that gentle whisper. Nothing spectacular, but real nevertheless. How do you and I hear God’s “gentle whisper”? We sense God speaking to us when we read and study His Word, the Holy Bible. And when life knocks the wind out of you, you can’t do better than to be in God’s Word. He will speak to you through Bible verses.

Stop Moping, and Start Moving.
God had work for Elijah to do. He told him to anoint for ministry 3 different persons. Why did God ask Elijah to do this? To help Elijah crawl out of his self-pity.

One cure for despair and moping is to get busy. And when we start moving we discover all kinds of exciting new opportunities and adventures. If life has knocked the wind out of you, then take some helpful steps to improve your situation. You will find the results amazingly positive.

Might God ask you today, “What are you doing here? What are you doing moping in self-pity? Look to Me! I am your strength. I have solutions to your problems. I will supply your needs.” Every time we look to God instead of looking at our problems He helps us. And, that’s hopeful!.

Valentine’s Day 2018, and Our Hope

Our hearts were broken on Valentine’s Day 2018 when Nikolas Cruz opened fire on Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 teachers and students.

Any tragedy such as this one causes people to ask, “If there is a good and powerful God, then why is there so much evil and suffering in our world?” How should we respond to this difficult question?

God Created Humans with Free Will

When God created the first humans, and placed them in the Garden of Eden, He said to them, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

Adam and Eve, the first humans, were given a choice—eat of the forbidden tree and die, or do not eat from it, and live. God did not force them to make their decision. God created humans as free agents, that is, free to decide whether to choose wisely or to choose poorly.

Much of the evil and suffering in our world is due to the disobedient, unwise, and poor choices of people.

We Aren’t Robots

Think about it! If God created us as robots, then there would be no freedom to choose. We could not choose to educate ourselves, improve ourselves, beautify ourselves, nor pursue our goals and dreams. Thus, our lives would have no significance. We would be no more than programmed machines.

Sadly, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, and they did eat from the forbidden tree. What they did the Bible calls “sin.” Did God know in advance they would make this poor choice? Yes! God is omniscient meaning he sees and knows everything.

But here is the good news. God in His omniscience saw ahead of time and knew that all of us would fail and fall and need Him. He wanted us to be able to choose Him and His ways. He gave us a free will so that we could choose to be in relationship with Him and to do what pleases Him.

God Has a Plan

Best of all, God provided the way that this could happen. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to become a human being who endured all the temptations, suffering, pain, discomfort, agony, and trials that every human being goes through. The difference? Jesus never sinned. That is, He never made a bad choice.

This fact qualified Jesus to be our Savior. On the cross, Jesus died for us. On that cross He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin that we deserve. We can be forgiven for all the times we did not choose God’s way. Isn’t that good news?

How? By trusting (placing our faith in) what Jesus did on that cross. Out of deep appreciation for what Jesus did for us on the cross, we live with Him at the center of our lives. We want Jesus to guide and direct every happening and choice of our lives.

The Blessing of Time

One day, says the Bible, God will wipe away all tears from our eyes (see Revelation 21:4). All evil and suffering will be removed. Until then, even the best of God’s people wail, “How long, O Lord” (Revelation 6:10). We lament.

When we read and hear of horrific events like the one at Stoneman Douglas High School, we cry, we feel sad, and we express our grief and shock. We express what we are feeling deep within our souls by lamenting to God, “Lord, how long?” “Lord, why?” “Lord, when?” And as we lament, we trust that God cares, and  that the day is coming when there will be no more evil and suffering. And, that’s hopeful!

How to Be a “Bounce Back” Person

J. K. Rowling didn’t magically become successful overnight. Penniless, recently divorced, and raising a child on her own, she wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter. Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript! A year later she was given the green light by Bloomsbury Publishing, who agreed to publish the book but insisted Rowling get a day job because no money could be made in children’s books.

J.K. Rowling showed resilience, persistence, and her perseverance paid off. I believe resilient people are “bounce back” people, that is, they have the ability to bounce back when they have been knocked down. Think about that old-style toy clown punching bag. When you knocked it down, it bounced right back up.

Resilience builds hope into your life. Yes, it really does. “Why?” you might ask. Here are 8 good reasons.

 

Resilient People Are Flexible
They understand that no person’s life rocks along without some bumps in the road, so when troubles do come, they are able to adjust and find ways to adapt.

Resilient People Aren’t Resistant to Change
Whereas some people are crushed by change, resilient people embrace change. They see change as an opportunity to try new things, to branch out in different directions, and to experience something fresh.

Resilient People Are Optimistic
An important strength of resilient people is that they remain optimistic during dark times in their lives, those occasions when life pulls the rug from underneath you. Resilient people don’t deny the difficulties, but they remain hopeful amid those adversties.

Resilient People Are Goal Setters
Goal setting usually grows out of a sense of purpose which allows resilient people to analyze their current circumstances, assess reality, and then plot their next move. They do this through ongoing goal setting.

Resilient People Are Great Time Managers
They don’t get distracted by disruptions, but are able to stay focused on the task at hand, and to envision what’s next. This approach to life requires excellent time management skills, which the typical resilient person has.

Resilient People Don’t Even Think About Quitting
They aren’t delusional, but it’s just that boatloads of perseverance have been built into resilient people. Resilient people keep on going in the face of their challenges and obstacles. Precious few things can stop them.

Resilient People Take Initiative
I know too many people who wait for life to happen to them. Resilient people take the opposite approach. They make life happen for them. They take charge of problems and circumstances. They do whatever is needed to get back on course.

Resilient People Have a Moral Compass
Think about it. You can’t do the right thing unless you know what the right thing is. This is where your sense of personal morality comes into play. Resilient people refuse to take moral shortcuts. As a Christian, I believe God shows us what is right, and what is wrong, in the pages of the Bible

So, How Can I Become More Resilient?
Recently I attended one of our local high school basketball games. I sat several rows up and behind the scoring table. The person who operated the play clock wore a T-shirt with these words across the back: “. . . so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
The promises God makes to us in the pages of Holy Scripture encourage us to keep on going, to be more resilient, and to be that “bounce back” person. That’s hopeful!

Persevere, and You’ll Find Hope

“You learn to endure by having your faith tested” (James 1:3).

My wife, Linda, answered the phone last night. A sweet, quiet voice on the other end said, “It’s Girl Scout cookie time!” The voice belonged to our granddaughter, Rhyan. She and her sister, Megan, are in the Girl Scouts. Of course, they wanted Mimi and Paw Paw to buy some cookies.

When it comes to selling Girl Scout cookies, Markita Andrews, age 13, from New York City, is the champ. For the past several years, Markita has sold near 3,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies each year. For her success last year, Markita was awarded an expenses-paid trip for 2 around the world. Her secret? Ask. That is, simply ask people to invest in the Girl Scouts by buying some cookies. I would say that Markita understands perseverance.

I know that’s a big word. It just means steady persistence in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. You persist. You don’t give up.

We live in a society that desires comfort. We wear “comfortable” clothing. We cook “comfort” food. We want “comfortable” sermons at church. We want to ride in a “comfortable” car. But, perseverance, endurance, you see, runs against comfort.

Yet, perseverance might be the greatest character quality you can develop. Do you have perseverance? Your answers to the following questions might reveal the degree of perseverance in your life.
. . . When things get difficult do you tend to give up, quit, or bail out?
. . . Do you easily talk yourself out of difficult tasks?
. . . When difficult situations come your way, do you look for the easy way?

So why do you need more perseverance?

Perseverance Helps You Become a More Positive Person
When you don’t run from your problems, you eliminate negative thoughts like, I’ll never be able to do this. The result? Your perseverance builds optimism. Learned optimism equips us to drive toward success.

Perseverance Makes You Refuse to Give Up
Quitting allows difficulties and hard situations to define you. But perseverance builds stick ability in the face of obstacles.

Perseverance Helps You Embrace Failure
Thomas Edison performed hundreds of failed attempts before he invented the light bulb. But those failures were actually his motivation. Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Perseverance Builds Character
It really does! When you persist, you master your difficulties instead of your difficulties mastering you. The result? You develop strength of character. Nothing can stop you.

Perseverance Will Keep You Focused
Whether it be the goal of being a great spouse, becoming a better parent, learning a new computer program, tackling a foreign language, or attempting to change the oil in your own car, you won’t accomplish those goals without persistance. Perseverance helps you stay goal-focused, rather than problem-focused.

Perseverance Builds Hope
Here are 3 terrific Bible verses, Romans 5:3-5: “But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.”

Do you see the progression? Troubles and difficulties come. But we endure, we exercise perseverance. And that endurance builds character, stick ability. And best, of all, the result is great hope.

The Best 2018 Resolution You Can Make

“I deeply love your law! I think about it all day” (Psalm 119:97).

When Mary Horomanski from Erie. Pennsylvania, recently opened her electric bill, her husband and son noticed she had a funny look on her face. Why? The electric bill displayed a balance of more than $284 billion! Mary said her heart started beating, she broke out in a sweat, and was asking herself, What on earth just happened? After contacting the electric company Mary discovered her actual bill was for $284.
That’s a story about an alarming discovery.

But I want to show you another discovery, actually an amazing one. It’s a discovery you will experience when you make the most important New Year resolution of all—making a commitment to study the Bible this year. Here’s why.

Bible Study Makes You Wise
Verse 98 of Psalm 119 states, “Your laws (God’s Word, the Bible) make me . . . wiser.” The idea is that personal Bible study helps you become a wiser, more skillful, more prudent person, one who is wise in practical matters.

How is this possible? Because God has promised to do this. Hence, Psalm 32:8: “I will make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you.” When Bible verses are in your heart and mind your life goes in positive, helpful directions. You make better choices.

Bible Study Gives You Understanding
Verse 99 of Psalm 119 continue this theme: “Thinking about your teachings gives me better understanding.” When you gain “understanding” from your Bible reading you will gain insights that help you become the person God wants you to be. You will order your life in better directions.You will know God will for you.

Bible Study Prevents You from Getting Into Trouble
Yes, it really will! Verse 101 of Psalm 119 says, “I obey your word instead of following a way that leads to trouble.” How many times have you landed in hot water, or made a bad decision, or found yourself in trouble because of a faulty decision you made? This verse make a terrific promise to you: If you will study the Bible, trouble will not be your constant companion.

Bible Study Allows God to Teach You
Verse 102 states, “You have been my teacher, and I won’t reject your instructions.” I’ve had some great teachers in my lifetime: Mrs. Waite, Mr. Foshee, Dr. Fasol, and more. But I’m thinking no earthly teacher can stack up with the teaching that comes from the Heavenly Father. Multiple times Psalm 119 makes the statement, “Teach me.” We never outgrow our need to be taught great truths and needed lessons, and God is the best teacher you’ll ever have.,

Bible Study Is Enjoyable
Verses 103 of Psalm 119 makes an incredible statement: “Your teachings are sweeter than honey.” The writer of that verse is showing us that “being in the Word,” actually is an enjoyable experience. When you do personal Bible study you learn God’s ways, His plans for your life, His promises, and more. At the end of each day’s time of Bible reading you will say, “God spoke to me.” Now, that’s exciting!

I know what you are thinking. You are telling yourself you don’t have enough time, or you don’t know enough about the Bible, or Bible study will be boring. Battle these pressures! Buy yourself a Bible in a modern translation that reads like you talk. Carve out just 10 to 15 minutes each day to read the Bible. Start with one of the Gospels in the New Testament. In fact the Gospel of Mark is a quick read.

Your time of Bible reading won’t be boring. If you like mystery, adventure, romance, history, biography, drama, poetry, and war stories, you’ll find all of that and much more in the Bible. Purchase a Bible dictionary that will help you know the people, places, and events of the Bible.

So, make the New Year resolution/commitment to do personal Bible study in 2018. This resolution is guaranteed to bring hope to your life.

‘Tis the Season to Be Peaceful

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors” (Luke 2:14)

A woman went to see her doctor. She complained that she was feeling run down. The physician said, “You’re not run down. You’re too wound up.” Those words might describe you during this busy Christmas season.

Did you know God has a special gift for run down, wound up, stressed out people? Jesus told us about this gift when He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27).

Christmas is not the season to be anxious, but to be peaceful. God is never beset with anxieties. He never is at the mercy of circumstances beyond His control. The glory of Christmas is the gift of God’s peace.

Do you have peace of mind today? Are you at peace in all your relationships? Do you have peace at work? Do you enjoy peace in your personal finances? God never intended that your life be full of aggravations and frustrations.

The Bible verse at the top of this post, Luke 2:14, shows us 3 truths about God’s gift of peace.

Peace Is God’s Work
In the Bible whenever God does something wonderful, people are encouraged to give glory to God. So, when Jesus was born, angels announced to the shepherds, “Glory to God.”

When God blesses you with His gift of peace it is a sense of well-being that is beyond human comprehension. Our enjoyment of God’s gift of peace really is God at His best.

Peace Is Well-Being
The angels announced, “peace on earth.” What exactly does this word peace mean? The word actually carries the idea of “wholeness” or “well-being.” I think the word harmony is a good word to explain God’s gift of peace.

When God blesses you with His gift of peace you are at peace with others. You are at peace with yourself. And you are at peace with the circumstances of your life.

One wise person has said, “Every tomorrow has 2 handles. We can take hold of tomorrow by the handle of anxiety and worry, or we can take hold of tomorrow by the handle of faith. When you pick up the handle of faith God blesses your life with the gift of His peace.

Peace Is a Person
The angels sang out, “to all whom God favors.” What’s that about? This word favor is a terrific Bible word that means a grace that God does for people. “Favor” describes the tens of thousands of blessings God showers you with over your lifetime. You have been favored by God. Did you know that?

When Jesus died on that Roman cross, He shouted, “It is finished!” All that needed to be done to bring God’s peace into your life was accomplished. That is why I say, Peace is a person. Isaiah 9:6 speaks of Jesus as “the prince of peace.”

When God gave the gift of peace, He didn’t send a booklet of complicated instructions for us to figure out. He sent His Son. And peace enters your heart when you, by faith, take Jesus into your life, and you commit yourself to live with Jesus at the center of all you are and all you do.

‘Tis the season to be peaceful. The glory of Christmas is the gift of God’s peace. And that’s hopeful!

What to Do With Fear

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

I have served in ministry work for more than 40 years. Never in my wildest imagination would I have ever thought part of my ministry duties would be the safety of my church members. That is where I find myself today. Seems the recent church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, has churches across America forming church security teams, and taking increased measures to protect those who attend church.

Of course, fear motivates these actions–fear of an active shooter, robber, or intruder inside the church building. Related to this fear, gun sales, as well as the number of background checks have surged in recent years.

We should distinguish 2 types of fear. One type of fear is warranted. Like the fear of touching a hot stove top, or fearing a nearby rattlesnake. And the Bible even admonishes us to fear the Lord (Psalm 89:7).

But a different type of fear we might call “a spirit of fear.” The first type of fear I just mentioned is normal and proper. But what happens when our fearful feeling is something more, when it is an emotion we feel simply getting into our car, leaving our house, being in a crowd, or attending a church service? Are these feelings of fear normal? The answer is a resounding no!

How, then, should we respond to the spirit of fear that someone might harm us? What should we do with these unnatural feelings of fear?

Understand That God Does Not Give Us a Spirit of Fear
2 Timothy 1:7 from the Bible (printed at the beginning of this post) states that God has not given us a spirit of fear. So, if God has not given us a spirit of fear, then someone has. Who is that person who gives us fear? That is the enemy of God, and we call him Satan. He plants thoughts of fear in our minds. Satan attempts to convince us that God can’t be trusted to protect us. All of Satan’s actions are designed to eliminate faith. Here’s the point. If a spirit of fear dominates you, that fear did not come from God. I’m speaking of God’s character here.

Know That God Is Greater Than the Spirit of Fear
You don’t have to look far to find someone who’s only too willing to inform you about all the things you should fear, whether it’s being shot in a church service, financial collapse, food shortages, killer diseases, or some sinister government secret. Always remember that God is greater than any fear that torments you. God’s presence is with us daily as we confront our fears. Nothing we might fear can overtake God, nor does it catch Him off guard.

Surrender Your Fears to God
Until you trust God fully, you will never get complete freedom from your fears. Begin by asking a simple question: “What am I afraid of?” Being attacked? Facing an intruder in your house? If something terrible happened to you, God would still be in control. He would still love you. He would still help you. He would still get you through that awful thing. He really can be trusted. So, trust Him with your fears.

So the next time a spirit of fear rears its tormenting head, you should say out loud: “God did not give me a spirit of fear. I will not be afraid. God loves me, and I will trust Him.” Believe me, these words of affirmation are hopeful.