No-Margin Misery

Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. (Exodus 23:12 ESV)

When you look at a printed page, you immediately notice that the space around the edges is white and without printed copy. This is known as the margin. If the words went all the way to the edges of the page, there would be no margin. For many of us, our lives are so completely filled with one activity after another that there is no margin . . . no room for down time, leisure, recreation, or rest. At this level of living, we are trapped in “No-Margin Misery.” But this is not for you! Read on and be encouraged.

In our passage today, we see what God thinks about margin, for He installed it into the weekly cycle of life. Notice that the Lord did not say, “Seven days shall you work.” Notice also that He did not say, “One day you shall work and rest the other six.” Our God who formed us in the womb knows exactly what we need, and He has installed margin around the borders on the pages of our lives.

And yet, in spite of God’s gracious provision, many people live marginless lives. Many people wear this marginless life as a kind of badge, because our culture exalts busyness and overextension. I know this from personal experience, because this I once wore this badge with pride. If you are way too busy and incredibly overextended, you assume that you are in a position of great importance and influence; you assure yourself that you are “indispensable.”

This fiction that feeds our ego, but in reality, when we maintain this marginless existence long enough, our lives begin to break down. We break down physically; we break down emotionally; we break down mentally; we break down spiritually. Worse still, everyone around us, especially those who mean the most to us, suffer . . . often in sorrowful silence. If you ask my wife, Kim, I’m sure she would frankly tell you that I carried this marginless mindset into my early years as a pastor, to the detriment of our family. Kim might wryly refer to my existence as “No-Margin Ministry.”

So what is the solution to No-Margin Misery? We must believe and trust that God’s plan for our lives is better than our plan. Remember, it is God who created us and it is God who knows best what we need. And we all need margin in our lives. As busy as Jesus was in His ministry to so many, He lived with the perfect amount of margin in His life. He often retreated to solitary places to pray. He took time for meals with others and attended wedding celebrations. On at least one occasion, He even took a nap! (Matthew 8:24).

Do you remember the instruction Jesus gave to Martha about margin? Both Martha and her sister Mary were busy preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples, but Mary knew when to shut down and sit at the feet of her Master. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen “what is better” — resting from her work to sit quietly in the presence of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). May this be the confession of all our lives.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Offense and Defense

Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

When was the last time you considered the power of prayer? I want to encourage you today with prayer’s power from two perspectives: both offense and defense.

The idea of prayer as both an offensive and defensive weapon is not my own. When the apostle Paul described “the full armor of God” that allows us to take our stand against all Satan’s onslaughts, the final piece of the believer’s armor he described was prayer. Paul wrote: “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). We can and should use prayer both to go on the attack against the devil and to defend against the insistent, insidious attacks of the evil one.

The ninth chapter of Mark’s gospel tells us that while Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, a man brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples, who were unable to heal the boy. When Jesus returned from the mountain, the man came to Him, and Jesus promptly cast out the demon. Later, when the disciples were alone with Jesus, they asked Him why they could not cast the demon out; Jesus responded, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29).

Jesus was telling the disciples that they were not doing enough “offensive” praying – that is, praying in advance to be used by God. I believe it’s likely the disciples had prayed over the boy, but Jesus was warning them that their prayer life was insufficient. Without persistent prayer, we will not mount the necessary offense against the spiritual battles which will inevitably be part of life on this earth.

As for using the power of prayer to maintain an effective defense, recall what Jesus said to his disciples as He entered the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).

The apostle Paul gave a very similar exhortation to Christian believers in Colossians 4:2, saying, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” The editors of the outstanding ESV Study Bible offer this commentary on that command: “Thanksgiving leavens prayer, so that it does not become merely a selfish pleading to have one’s desires fulfilled.” Defensive prayer prepares us to stand firm the ongoing assualts launched against us by the world, flesh, and the devil.

When you put both of these postures together — praying on offense and on defense –they show us how we are to fulfill the mandate of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “Pray continually.” The Christian life is to be marked by prayer and continual communion with our God.

Let’s close out today’s mesage by returning Mark’s account of the healing the demon-possessed boy. Mark 9:25 tells us that Jesus commanded the demon to come out of the boy, and the demon immediately obeyed. There was no prayer involved. Why? Because Jesus was in constant communion and prayer with His Father in heaven. There were times He spent all night in prayer. Our Lord lived in the posture of prayer, and this is how we are to live as His disciples: praying on offense and on defense, which gives us strength to stand firm in the power of the Spirit of God.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Undoing of Living Unreflectively

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. (Psalm 119:67)

When the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is brightly shining, you and I have a tendency to live unreflectively. When things are going well, we have a natural tendency to settle into unreflective ruts of routine. But God wants us to live reflectively, and often He will send a seasonal storm to recenter our attention on what matters most in life. Read on, and I hope you will be greatly encouraged this day!

Storms come in all sizes. Some are quick and mild, while others rage on and on and on. From losing a sale to losing a job to losing a loved one, storms are promised to come our way. Some of the storms are terrible, like what Paul and Timothy suffered, and their despair was almost palpable.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so we despaired even of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8)

We are not given any inspired insight into what the hardships Paul and Timothy suffered actually were, but they were enough to drive them to despair even of life itself. But Paul did not stay mired in the “Slough of Despond.” He immediately provided us with the necessary instruction to help us get through any storm we are facing today.

Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

The storms Paul and Timothy faced were ultimately for God’s glory and their good, and those storms caused these two men of God to rely more and more upon their God and to fix their thoughts on Him. It never ceases to amaze me just how much more reflectively I live my life when the storm winds begin to blow. They have a tendency to set my priorities straight. Storms show us what matters most, and they are designed to lead us back into the shadow of the cross to reflect upon all that God in Christ has done and is doing for us.

In short, storms are the undoing of living unreflectively. But we need not wait for storms winds to redirect our attention; we can decide in advance that we will set our hope not on what is seen, but what is unseen. Remember, Christian, regardless of the trials we face in the here and now, there is a “city that is to come whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10), a divine dwelling where all storm winds we be stilled and despair will be as far from us as the east is from the west.

So . . . what should you be reflecting upon today?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Certified Strong

I will strengthen you and help you. (Isaiah 41:10)

Today’s word from the God who so loves us is a wonderful guarantee that is designed to both comfort and challenge every one of His children. Let’s take a look.

First, notice who has given us this promise of strengthening . . . it is none other than God Himself. Omnipotence has promised us strength; who would dare doubt such a guarantee? The Lord God Omnipotent possesses an endless stream of strength that is not diminished in any way when He gives us a portion of it. 

Next, notice that God does not specify in which season we will be strengthened. Therefore, we are to take this promise to mean all seasons. God has promised to strengthen us in our seasons of serene, successful service and He has promised to strengthen us in our seasons of stormy, sorrowful service. Regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, at all times we have this guarantee from God: I will strengthen you!

Clearly, this guarantee from God should be a source of unimaginable comfort, but the living and active Word of God does not stop there; it goes on to challenge us to rise above any obstacle that stands in our way. And we can rise because our strength does not come from within, but from above. Human weakness is no impediment to divine strength. In fact, Paul tells us that when we are weak, our God is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). We can trust Him to strengthen us when we have no strengh of our own.  

  • The fearful are given courage.
  • The doubting are given conviction.
  • The lonely are given company.
  • The weak are given confidence.
  • The broken are given compassion.

These seasons of fear, doubt, lonliness, weakness, and brokenness are just a few of the obstacles we face in this life; in these and all others God has promised to give us the strength we need to see them through.

So let me ask you a very important question right now: What strength are you in short supply of today? Fear not! Go to your Savior and ask Him, “Strengthen me supernaturally according to your Word!” His mercies are new every morning; His faithfulness knows no boundaries (Lamentations 3:22-23). Ask, and you will receive His strength and His help.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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How To Forsake Fretting

Trust . . . Delight . . . Commit . . . Be Still . . . (Psalm 37:3, 4, 5, 7)

Psalm 37 is filled with words of inspired instruction, teaching us how we can rise above our natural tendency to fret.

There are many ways to define the word fret: to worry; to eat away at; to gnaw at. Fretfulness is something that plagues every one of us from time to time, and the results can be devastating in the life of the Christian believer — emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Fretting starts as an infection and winds up a disease if we do not heed the exhortation set before us in Psalm 37.

The first command is to trust. To trust is to simply place your problem in the hands of your Savior. Give it all over to your Lord . . . all of it — your problems, your worries, your sorrows, and your fears. You might well express this trust with a prayer which leads you to cast your cares upon the Lord because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

The second inspired instruction is to delight. To delight is to enjoy the Lord — not because of what He has done for you, but simply because He is God. True delight is to focus on the Giver of every good and perfect gift, not the gift itself. Gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and delight in Him!

The third instruction is to commit. To commit to the Lord is to be “all in” with God in every aspect of your life. Do not withhold anything from Him as you surrender yourself to His wisdom, will, and way. We know that God holds our very breath in His hand and owns all our ways (Daniel 5:18 NKJV). Why would we not willingly and delightedly commit all that we have and all that we are to Him?

Finally, the fourth instruction is to be still. To be still is to center your heart on home. By home I mean the eternal dwelling that God has prepared for you in the light of His presence and His love — and remember who is in charge of everything. God is on the throne of your life every moment of every day. He is in complete control of the entire universe, and that includes whatever it is you are currently experiencing.

Many have been blessed over the years by following these inspired instructions. What about you? Are you ready to forsake fretting? Regardless of what it is you are facing, are you ready to trust, delight, commit, and be still, knowing that He is not just God, but your God? He has promised to bring you safely through any storm you are facing . . . now or in the future.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Forward . . . March!

Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

In Wednesday’s article, I suggested that you take a “Backward Glance” to ponder the wonders of all that God has done in your life throughout 2020. Today I’d like to encourage you to consider how you will “forward march” as we launch out into 2021.

I’m sure that in recent days many of the people you came in contact with have greeted you with, “Happy New Year!” However, if that was all we had as believers to begin a new year, it would be a scant portion indeed. But thanks be to God, Christians have a great deal more than a mere “hopeful greeting” given to us by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Today’s verse records the promise given to Joshua by God: I will be with you wherever you go.

You probably remember that Joshua was preparing to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land after Moses had completed his ministry of service to God. Joshua knew quite well the challenges he would inevitably face in leading God’s people. He had learned from Moses just how difficult the task would be. But he also knew, just as Moses had, that he would not be alone in the work God had called him to. And the same is true for you and me today as we begin our forward march into the new year.

To be sure, the new year brings with it both questions and concerns . . . doubts and fears . . . obstacles and opportunities. Will we hear a less than positive report on our health from the doctor? Will we find ourselves facing professional challenges? Will our marriage of many years march on for many more? Will we suffer the loss of a loved one? Will life ever return to normal after the onslaught of the coronavirus?

The list of uncertainties is long indeed. Yet we can hold on to something far greater than a hope for a “Happy New Year.” Why? Because we have God’s sure and certain promise that wherever we go, He goes with us. “Surely I am with you always,” Jesus says to His followers, “to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). “I will strengthen you and help you,” our Lord has promised us; “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”: (Isaiah 41:10).

In that promise, I want you to remember something. “Going with God” is not a going by chance. It is not a random roll of the dice. God is guiding, governing, and directing your every step. He is in sovereign control of everything; nothing is left to chance or whim. So do not be discouraged! His promise to us — and it is impossible for God to go back on a promise (Romans 11:29) — empowers us to set aside every fear as we “forward march” into God perfect plan and purpose for our lives.

One final point: as we took a backward glance at the year of 2020, I made mention of the fact that it was a very difficult year, an unprecedented year in many ways. And for some of you reading these words, it may well have been the most awful year you can remember. You may have been battered by the loss of your job and resulting financial hardship; you may have lost a loved one. Your heart may still be aching from 2020, and the “march” forward I speak of here may feel like little more than a dismal “trudge.” I know this is true for some; I’ve spoken to some of you and prayed with you.

Just know that your loving Lord has not turned away from you, and He never will. Scripture tells us that, during His time on earth, Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). We know too from Scripture that He was “tempted in every way” (Hebrews 4:15), which means that he was tempted to give in to discouragement and despair, just as you may be tempted to do this day.

But our Lord is not disinterested in your plight! “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). He is ready, willing, and more than able to lift you up when you feel that your strength is at an end. In fact, He wants you to live in His strength, not yours, because His supernatural strength is infinitely and eternally greater than our own puny, human strength.

“Let us go over to the other side,” He said to His disciples (Luke 8:22), knowing that they would encounter a terrible storm on the way. But He also knew He would take them through that storm and past it. He stands ready to do the same for you.

“Forward . . . March!” Christian. Your Master is at your side!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Backward Glance

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. (Psalm 105:4-5)

Today and Friday we will close out yet another year of Grace for the Race articles. I want to encourage you today to take a backward glance at this year that is coming to an end to remember and reflect on the many and multiplied wonders God has done in your life. On Friday we will stand at the starting line of another new year and discuss how to begin from a spiritually strong foundation . . . and, Lord willing, cross the finish line even stronger than when we started.

Someone wisely said, “It is difficult to climb to the summit of the mountain when you are always looking over your shoulder.” True indeed, and yet a backward glance is beneficial for believers so that we can be reminded of all that God has done on our behalf. To be sure, a “glance,” by definition, is brief, and it must be so if we are to make forward progress throughout 2021. But make no mistake, taking a backward glance is the best way to close out another year of blessings that God has bestowed upon us. 

Please understand that a backward glance is not the same as walking backward. We cannot go back, nor should we want to. God is moving us forward into His perfect plan and purpose for our lives, inasmuch as we live it out that plan imperfectly. It is vitally important to remember that we must always treat the past as a school; I often tell our congregation that we are to learn the lessons from our past but not live in our past. Far too many live in the past, dwelling on past triumphs or tragedies, which prohibits any measurable forward progress. But this is not for you!

Take some time during the next few days to reflect on the past year, and make sure that backward glance includes recalling both your successes and your storms. There is much to glean from both life experiences, because God has delivered both to us in order to conform us into the image and likeness of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Let your “backward glance” bring to mind our Lord’s . . .

  • Faithfulness and Friendship
  • Discipline and Devotion
  • Mercy and Ministry
  • Love and Leading

I will be the first to acknowledge that the year 2020, with COVID-19, all the bitter political turmoil, and even violence in our cities, has been deeply distressing and discouraging. But know that the God of grace is still in complete, sovereign control of all things; not a bird falls to the ground apart from His perfect will (Matthew 10:29). We are not to be afraid, but trust in Him with all our hearts and ackowledge Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6). If you take your brief “backward glance” from that vantage point of faith, you will be encouraged and strengthened to launch out into 2021 with Jesus sitting upon the throne of your life, guiding you and growing you through every twist and turn, every up and down, and always walking by your side every step of the way.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Almighty Affirmation

 Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:42)                        

What a word of encouragement we have before us today! Jesus is so unlike us. Here in today’s verse, He gave Simon son of John His Almighty Affirmation – affirming not what Simon was that day, but what He would one day become: Peter, the Rock.

The name Simon meant “reed,” something that would easily be blown and tossed about by whatever wind was blowing at the time. By changing Simon’s name to Peter, Jesus was affirming him ahead of time and telling Simon what He was going to make him, by grace through faith: a rock, which is a symbol of stability.

It is very important to notice that Jesus did not withhold this name from Simon until he had gone about doing good works and proving himself. Jesus was not waiting for Simon to do more and try harder; no, Jesus simply declared that Simon’s new name would be Peter; in time, he would grow into his new name. Jesus does not merely see people exactly as we are at present (as he saw the Samaritan woman in John 4:18, for example); He also sees what we will become by trusting in Him and looking to Him for the strength to live out life.

How do you see others? Do you see their potential and their possibilities? Do you affirm them as the Almighty affirmed Peter . . . and as He affirms you? Remember, when you trusted in Christ alone for your salvation and Jesus raised you from death to life, your name was changed to Christian, which means Christ-follower. None of us will ever follow Christ perfectly on this side of the grave; Peter certainly did not, and neither will you and I. But in receiving the name Christian, we receive the promise that one day, when we cross the Jordan, we shall actually be perfect followers of Christ. May that Almighty Affirmation both comfort and challenge you this day.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Merry Christmas!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 KJV)

Today is Christmas day, and one of the most oft-asked questions on this day is, “What did you get?” What would your answer be? Never forget that the most important gift you can ever receive is Christ the Lord. So my question to you is this: Has this Savior been born to you? If He has, you are born again and have eternal life. If He has not, let’s take care of that right now. You need only to place your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. He died on a cruel cross and endured God’s righteous wrath to pay the penalty for your sins, and He rose from the dead on that first Easter morning, providing proof positive that His perfect, sinless sacrifice on your behalf was acceptable to God the Father.

You can pray a simple prayer, such as the one that was uttered by the tax collector who simply cried out to God, “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Confess that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and ackowledge that you cannot save yourself. Repent of your sins and surrender control of your life to Jesus this day. If that prayer reflects the desire of your heart, salvation is yours!

Now, here is a question I want to ask all of you who already have, by grace through faith, placed your trust in the Babe in a manger for eternal life: Do you look upon that Babe with astonishment? There are so many reasons that we should “stand in awe” of the Lord Jesus Christ, as as pastor and songwriter Mark Altrogge wrote in the 1980s. We shake our heads in wonder as we consider how He holds all things together by the power of His word (Hebrews 1:3). We might raise our hands in worship as we meditate on the truth that in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), and we rejoice that He is the Author and the Perfecter of the faith that equips us to accept that truth (Hebrews 12:2). We could struggle to comprehend the compassion and love of a Savior who hung on a cruel cross, no doubt shuddering in agony every time He had to push up on the spikes driven through His feet to draw each tortured breath of air, yet looked down on those who had nailed Him there and prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

I could fill several months’ worth of blog posts with reasons why we should behold Jesus Christ with wonder and adoration and awe. But on this Christmas day, let us look at the words of one who was given a vision of the splendor and glory of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, in all His heavenly glory:

I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:11-14)

Angels and other supernatural beings stand before Jesus and offer their praise and adoration. In his great High Priestly Prayer to His Father, Jesus made mention of “the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5). Consider this, Christian, if our finite minds can even begin to wrap around this truth: From all eternity, Jesus Christ has existed in inexpressible and unimaginable glory and splendor in heaven. You sometimes hear it said that a particular person “has it all.” That worldly phrase speaks to possessions and creature comforts. But Jesus Christ really did have it all! He had perfect fellowship within the Godhead — perfect love, perfect wisdom, perfect glory, perfect peace.

And that is why you and I should stand in awe of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day: He didn’t have to leave that. He was and is “in very nature God” (Philippians 2:6); He was and is all-sustaining, all-powerful, all-sufficient, and in need of absolutely nothing. He certainly doesn’t need you or me or anyone else to make Him happier or more fulfilled. But He wanted us to be with Him! He loves you and me that much!!

Is it stunning and remarkable that this great, heavenly King left the splendor of heaven to be born in the filth of a stable? Yes, it certainlly is! But there is something that I find even more incomprehensible than the King of Glory lying in a stable. It is the fact that Jesus Christ chose to take up residence in a place more dreadfully dark and filthy than any stable; He has chosen to live in my heart. And in yours.

And so I join with Mark Altrogge this Christmas morning and sing to the precious Christ child:

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom?
Who can fathom the depth of Your love?
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty, enthroned above.

I stand, I stand in awe of You
Holy God, to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of You.

From the Boland family to yours: May this day be filled with the joy and wonder and the glorious promise of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!

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Four Names of the Cosmic Christ Child: “Prince of Peace” Part 3

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. (Isaiah 9:6)

Today we will close out our month-long study on the four names given by the prophet Isaiah to this child who was to be born, this son who was given to us.

Prince of Peace – I have been saying throught this series that the four names given to the Cosmic Christ Child were intended to describe his rule, his reign, and the scope of his kingdom, but this fourth and final name bestowed on the coming King perhaps best sums up the person and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. In a world filled with confusion and chaos, we are first to recognize Jesus as the Prince of Peace, not chaos, regardless of what we see going on in the world around us. Jesus is still on His throne, and He is in complete, sovereign, purposeful control of all things.

God is not a God of disorder but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

The very next thing we are to recognize in Jesus as the Prince of Peace is that, apart from Him, there is absolutely no peace available to us through anything else in this world.

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. (John 14:27)

Only with the Prince of Peace can we have the confident assurance that, no matter what circumstances we are facing, Jesus is with us to get us through them. With the Prince of Peace by our side, we need not fear today or tomorrow, for greater is the power that is in us than any power will ever come against us. Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and the final enemy, death, which means that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us (Romans 8:37).

In looking back at the words Isaiah penned for our Prince of Peace (The original Hebrew for the name is Sar Shalom) at the deepest level, we are to see our Lord Jesus as the one who will sustain us through every peace-disturbing circumstance we face in this life. So now, like Peter, we are to step out of our own little boat, regardless of the storm winds that may be howling around us, and walk upon the water with confident assurance that our Prince of Peace has called us to do so. But we also must remember to keep our eyes fixed on the Prize, so as not to be overwhelmed by the winds and the waves. If we shift our focus away from Christ and look anxiously around at our circumstances, we will sink, just as Peter did (Matthew 14:22-33).

But don’t forget the rest of the story! When Peter began to sink below the waves, he cried out to Jesus, who immediately reached out His hand and lifted Peter back to safety. Even when we look away from our Prince of Peace, He will never look away from us. Now, that is a peace worth living for, wouldn’t you agree?

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I’m going to do something a little unusual this week and post a fourlth message here for you, one that I hope will help you prepare your heart to joyfully celebrate the birth of the Child who was born, the Son of God who was given to us and for us. He truly is our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. May we lay aside the cares of this life on Christmas Day, no matter how serious and pressing they may be, and give thanks and praise to God for His indescribable gift!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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