Perfect Peace in a Perfect Storm

October 7

A Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Day 1: Last Friday’s devotional was on Romans 8:28-29. Read it one more time. Here is an excerpt from Friday, “God is working for our good toward a purpose. All things contribute to us being formed to the likeness of His Son. It is a call to remember, like communion, that God is with us, in us, knows us, and loves us. Even in a storm, we can be assured. We are not forgotten or misplaced.” Where in your life can you trust that God is working for good? Declare it. Write your response or share it with a friend, spouse or a parent. Here’s a third option. Say it aloud in a prayer to God. Does this affirm your trust in Him? This is moving away from worry into worship.  

 

Day 2: Read Genesis 15:1-6. Two realities are at work here. Abram (same as Abraham) recognized and even verbalized to God, “You have given me no children…” He was old. Decades had come and gone. Many other men and women in his tribe had children maybe even grandchildren. Yet the conversation (actually a vision) with the Lord goes on. Abram was having a defining moment, and God was real. As Abram is looking up at the stars, a second reality sinks in. He believes that God is going to give him descendants – many of them! What situation at school, work or at home are you faced with two realities? Have you simply decided on a logical, rational path or outcome? How about entertaining an alternate perspective? Have you heard from God on the subject through prayer, some scripture passage or through a conversation with a Christ follower? It may or may not address a specific outcome, God may simply give clarity about an attitude or behavior to possess in the middle of your storm. Can you find contentment and trust in what He has given you?  

 

Day 3: Pick up from yesterday’s reading. God gives Abram a vision and tells him that he is going to have many descendants. Immediately he makes a sacrifice to God. Abram acts on this new hope and belief, he steps onto its path. Yet years go by and no child. Read Genesis 16:1-4. Sarai and Abram decide on how he can have many descendants. Sarai offers him her servant to have a child. They took God’s promise into their own hands after years of thinking and worry. Believing they were doing right, they veered away from faith. At the time, it seemed like a great idea but probably not one they ran passed God. They acted out of their worry and assumed. When was the last time you stepped forward, made a decision, spoke up and realized that it wasn’t helpful, maybe even hurtful to someone or yourself? What did you learn from that situation? Did you learn it, or simply feel bad for it?  

 

Day 4: Do you know the Old Testament story of King Jehoshaphat? Before we get to that, do you think this guy had a nickname? As king maybe not, but growing up I’d guess some neighbor kids wanted to shorten that one. I digress. Several nations are plotting to attack Jehoshaphat’s people. Serious trouble is on the horizon. Read II Chronicles 20:5-12. Like the day two’s devotional there are two realities; The enemy is upon them, and God is powerful and mighty to overcome any army. The king chose to believe and trust that God was going to work for good and he acted on it. Recall and read I Peter 5:6-7. Whatever threatens your peace, what brings you peace? Offer your current worry to God in prayer. And if you find no relief, ask a friend to pray for and with you. There are times when the worry is so loud that you need support from others (trusted friend, small group member, a pastor, a counselor) to believe that peace can come to you even if you can’t believe it for yourself.   

 

Day 5: This week we’ve been considering the what if circumstances of life, verses the love and care of God. This is Faith 101. I’m not saying that we should all have graduated from this course, but that this idea is at the core of our following of Jesus. We will continue to journey on this road. How can we engage in life with a perspective of faith? Philippians 4:4 says for us to rejoice in the Lord. Open to this passage in the Bible. Having a perspective of faith can look like verses 4-9. If you’re like me, you’d love to live this way but often drift in and out of it. Keep reading verses 10-12 more help will be revealed. Again, this would be an amazing way to live, above the circumstances. Wow, how can one achieve this kind of life? It’s in verse 13!! Did you catch it? Yes, trust in who and how God is. We don’t have to live this life on our own trying to achieve any of this. We start by trusting Him! Write “Trust Him – Phil. 4:13” on your dashboard, mirror or hand. Let’s just do that today and we will have a chance at living out the first 12 verses of that chapter. In addition to this response, consider coming to the night of worship on Sunday at 6:00pm to declare your trust in the one who is trustworthy.   

 

September 30

A Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Fix Your Thoughts

Day 1: Read Philippians 4:4-9 two or three times. What phrases stick out to you? Reflect on what is real in your life that leads those phrases to be more prominent to you at this time. Present a request to God. As you read the verses, hear them spoken to you, over you, for you. What is the tone and tenor of the voice speaking these words to you? Is that voice pulling for you, wanting something for you, revealing mercy and love for you? Or do you hear anger, condemnation, and failure spoken at you? What has most formed in you the character of the voice you hear? A parent, teacher, pastor, or some other figure in your life, or the voice of the Spirit pointing you to Jesus’ life and words? Present a request to God, the Word of Life, to speak words of life to you.  

Day 2: Reread Philippians 4:4-9. Paul seems clear on who he is and who he is following. His identity is set, not shaken by imprisonment. He seems convinced God is good, present with him, and in him. Paul’s confidence is not misplaced for he has released trying to control circumstances and is accepting of what has come his way. He is choosing to trust. He has recognized that he has been given peace. He is calling the Philippians to a peaceful way to live and be. He is becoming peace to others. God gives us peace and calls us to live in a peaceful way. What is a practical step you can take to live on a more peaceful path or bring peace to a relationship? 

Day 3: Paul is in prison writing about God’s presence, nearness, peace, and trustworthiness. What do we know of Paul’s experiences that formed him to this level of trust in God? What practices could have helped convince or deepen his conviction of God’s goodness, presence, forgiveness, and his identity in Christ? Flip through Acts chapters 8-28 to begin to discover or rediscover this imperfect person’s faith. Paul had trusted during some difficult times, and it built trust into him. He can say God is present and good because Paul had found God to be present and good in the past. These experiences helped shape how he sees current and future trials. Because of his past, he now knows God is trustworthy. What experiences have helped build trust in God in your life? When were you reminded of His presence to give you sufficient confidence that it is right to depend on Him now?  

Day 4: On Sunday Cory asked us a couple of important questions; “Think about what you think about.”, and “Think about how you think about how you think.” What kind of lens does your thinking create? How might that lens affect not only how you see an issue or event, but how you might respond to it as well? Paul tells us to “fix our thoughts on…” How could this simple call help us identify the lens we tend to look through? This isn’t a simple “thought replacement” exercise he is calling us to. It is a call to remember, to realign our perspective to who Jesus is, what He has said, what is real and of value in His Kingdom. It is a call to help move us from how we view an event to what is ultimately real about the event. What do you spend most of your day thinking about? How does that affect your words and behaviors? Consider a past experience where your lens saw one thing, and yet God acted in another way. Read Romans 8:28-29.  

Day 5: Yesterday we ended with reading Romans 8:28-29. Reread it again today. If it is familiar to you, be slow to allow it to speak to you. These verses aren’t meant to talk us into thinking different, rather they are meant to show us something meaningful about God, His care and love for us even in a storm. God is working for our good toward a purpose. All things contribute to us being formed to the likeness of His Son. It is a call to remember, like communion, that God is with us, in us, knows us, and loves us. Even in a storm, we can be assured. We are not forgotten or misplaced. Some of us can get lost on asking questions like did God cause or allow this storm or did I do something wrong that led to this storm. These questions are God’s business not ours, and we may miss the reality that God is with us at a time when we most need Him and His assurance. Pray. Allow God the privilege of defining what is “for our good”. Ask God to shape you to be more like His Son and to see good that He is working out in you and those around you.      

 

September 23

Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Anxiety Over Our People

Day 1: Read Genesis 21:9-20. What a mess. This passage in Genesis plays out like a modern-day soap opera or episode of Downton Abbey. Ishmael, the only son and heir to Abraham, saw all of his hopes for an inheritance shattered with the birth of Isaac. Sarah clearly felt threatened by the presence of this mocking boy who was a bitter reminder of her infertility and a competitor for her son’s inheritance. Abraham was upset because Sarah had told him to drive Ishmael and his mother out into the desert possibly to die alone. But God stepped in and promised hope. God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed…” God had a plan. He was doing something important. For Hagar, alone in the wilderness without water, the situation seemed bleak and dismal as she set her baby down to die. But God stepped in and provided everything that Hagar and Ishmael needed. Everyone in this story was worried, fearful, and anxious. But God is good, and He is faithful. Is there a character in this story you can relate to? What fears, worries, and anxieties are you struggling with? Get under His mighty hand. In due time, He will lift you up. He always cares for you.  

Day2: Read 1 Kings 17:7-16. It’s hard for me as a modern Mid-Westerner to understand what it must be like to be afraid of starving to death. To be perfectly honest, I get pretty grumpy just missing a meal, and I don’t miss many of those. I can’t imagine coming to my last morsel of bread and then having some strange man ask me for it. What would my family eat? I suspect I would not respond as politely as this widow did. Stories like this one in the Old Testament can seem strange, distant, and even far-fetched. It’s hard for us to reconcile our understanding of a kind and loving God. How can God let women and children starve? Yet, God had a plan, and He provided for this widow and her child. Suffering happens in this broken world. There is plenty in this life for us to be worried about, yet our God is good. Is there someone or something more worthy of putting our trust in? Take a moment and consider this: every time you take a breath, it is a gift from God. Every time you take a sip of water, God is providing for you. God is in charge, He is sovereign, He is good, and He has a plan. We can worry about our relationships, our careers, our children, and our futures, but in the end, we are dependent on God for everything. Take a walk or pull up a chair in front of a window. Reread, pray and listen. If you have children, how might you pray for them today? How can your love and presence be a reminder to them of God’s love and faithfulness?  

 

Day 3: Read Matthew 6:25-34. What does worrying accomplish? Can all of our worries add a single moment to our lives? Why do we have so little faith? Ok, I get it: believe more, try harder, trust more, and worry less. Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and stop worrying. But it’s impossible. Who wouldn’t like to be less anxious? It’s not as easy as just trying harder, and for some, struggling with depression and anxiety has been a life-long battle and medical condition. So how do we trust God and believe more? Verse 33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Maybe it’s not just about worrying less. Maybe it’s about changing our focus. Often, we worry when we’re focused on ourselves. What does God want us to focus on instead? Try this: take out a piece of paper and make two columns. On one side, write down a list of things you are fearful, worried, or anxious about. On the other, list out the things you believe God might want you to be focused on instead. If you are having trouble, ask a small group member or trusted friend. Keep this list and refer back to it today.  

 

Day 4: Read Psalm 23. God is our shepherd, and we are His sheep. (Remember our Psalm 23 Series?) As our Good Shepherd, we can trust God, and He will take care of us. He is our provider. Even in the darkest valleys, we need not fear because God is with us. Would you consider memorizing this Psalm? When you find yourself struggling with anxiety, pray Psalm 23 back to God. Acknowledge Him as your Good Shepherd in your life and in the lives of your family and friends.  

 

Day 5: Read Philippians 4:6-7. Prayer is a powerful weapon to combat anxiety. As believers, God calls us His children. (John 1:12) Just as a child can come to their parent to ask for help, so we too can come to God our loving father. Matthew 7:9-11 says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone… how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Author C.S. Lewis said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” When we approach God in prayer, it is not God’s mind which we are seeking to change, but rather our own hearts. If you struggle with worry and anxiety, consider building prayer into your daily routine. Find three times today to set aside 3 minutes to pray or set an alarm on your phone or create an appointment with God. For parents, instead of praying for certain outcomes in your children’s lives, pray for God to grow you in loving and walking alongside them.  

 

September 16, 2018

Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Day 1Read 1 Kings 19:1-3 Elijah was afraid, and he ran. We might look at the story and think he had every reason to run since someone wanted to kill him. Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It alerts us of danger and can motivate us to respond appropriately. Elijah was warned and he responded by fleeing to safety; so far, so good. But what happens next? Read the verses again, but this time, continue through verse 4. That escalated quickly! Instead of allowing fear to do the work of warning and motivating, Elijah let his fear completely redefine and shape his perspective. He moved from running to protect his life to wanting to give up his life. Notice he even begins believing a false narrative, “I am no better than my ancestors, I can’t go on.” Fear moved from a healthy place of warning and motivating movement, to controlling, re-framing, and manipulating the truth. Can you relate? When have you allowed fear or worry to grip you and change not only your perspective but your inner narrative and beliefs? In verses 3-5 we see that Elijah left his servant and journeyed on alone. Are you alone in your stuff? Or are you journeying with others? Who helps you maintain a perspective of truth? 

Day 2Read 1 Kings 19-5-7 and Psalms 102:1-7 “Forgive me for what I said when I was hangry.” When we are weary and overwhelmed, when we feel that we can’t go on, we may want to hide, isolate, and draw everything inward. In doing so, we may end up neglecting simple self-care activities and routines. Sometimes the most spiritual and wisest action we can take is to eat and rest. Even when we don’t necessarily feel like it, a walk can help. Acts of self-care are inherently good for us. Are there areas of self-care you are neglecting? Physical needs that aren’t being attended to? Medical needs that you are postponing? What step can you take today toward better self-care? You may not feel like doing them. Do them anyway. Continue to engage with family and friends. Is there someone who can help you? Ask a friend to go on a walk or meet for lunch. Or, perhaps there is someone you could reach out to and encourage. 

Day 3: As a pilot, your eyes are your primary sensory input while in the air. Looking outside, you see the ground below and the vast sky all around you. But all of that falls apart when you're in the clouds. The way to overcome flying in the clouds is to trust your instruments. When a pilot follows the instruments, nothing circumstantially changes. The cloud coverage and the illusion of which way is up are still there. Even though you look out the window, it may not feel right but when you engage back into your instruments you are reassured. What happens when we find ourselves in a cloud of worry, despair, or even hopelessness? Where does our minds lead us when the false narratives try to convince us our hope is lost, that we are alone, and God has abandoned us? How can you trust God’s truth, even when it doesn’t feel like truth?  Read John 14:18-20. What practices do you have or know about that help you reflect and take on God’s perspective? Is worship, community, serving, prayer, stillness, and reading and reflecting on God’s word a part of your life rhythm? 

Day 4: Read Psalm 88. As we read this Psalm, we are, in a sense, reading a private journal. Here we see David pouring out his innermost emotions, fears, anger, confusion, and questions. He doesn’t hide or shy away from God but is real with Him. We know much of what David is saying wasn’t a completely accurate picture.  David was not cut off from God’s care. God had not rejected him, nor covered him in wrath. It felt like that to David, yet he knew he could be honest with God about it. There are times, or there will be times, when we are angry, frustrated, overwhelmed and may even feel that God is against us. During these times, we may want to withdraw from God, hide or even pretend away our emotions and feelings. Have you ever laid your heart and emotions bare before God like this? If you are at a place of confusion, worry, doubt, anger or frustration, consider writing out a prayer or journal to God. Although it may feel scary to express these emotions, there is power in writing them out. Try it. If you need more encouragement today, listen to the song “To the Table” by Zach Williams. Hear the words and bring your fear, sorrow, and worries to Him.  

Day 5: Read Psalm 139. As you read pay attention to David’s perspective. He is frustrated and angry. He is calling out for the death of his enemies. We can relate. Then we come to verses 23 and 24 and something changes. David intentionally steps into his practices of seeking and allowing God to bring him back to a new perspective, into a “way everlasting.” There is no fix to the reality he currently faces, but a change of perspective back to the reality of who God is and how He says things really are. What step do you need to take today to align your perspective? Are there practices you need to incorporate into your routine? Are there areas of self-care you need to attend to? Are you consistently and intentionally engaging with others in community?  

September 9, 2018

Perfect Peace in a Perfect Storm

*Note for this week’s devotional: In light of this message series, we recognize that there are real forms of clinical anxiety and depression. Prayer, meditation and reading Scripture are powerful tools to help us deal with real issues of life. However, there are situations where professional help and even medication are right and necessary. As a devotional team, we pray these words bring hope and inspiration, not shame and isolation. Anxiety and depression are real, and know that you are not alone.  

Day 1: On Sunday, Cory explained that humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand is an important step to experiencing peace. We are so easily “big” in our own eyes. It is easy to think we know best, make our own decisions, take control of our life, and chase our own pursuits. But then, we worry because our knowledge to make decisions and our ability to control is limited. When you find yourself worrying this week notice it. Journal, talk to a friend, or take a quiet 5-10 minutes to think about the source of the worry. After noticing your worry, remember that God is big, far bigger than what we worry about. He cares about us, loves us deeply, knows all, is in control, and ultimately, he himself can fulfill us. Here is something to try. When you identify worry, think of a corresponding truth about God. For example, if you worry because a situation is out of your control, find a verse about God being in control. Whatever worry comes up, humble yourself and acknowledge that God is stronger, more in control, and more good than whatever fear, circumstance, or struggle you face. Let your worry remind you how big God is.   

Day 2: The absolute starting point for any kind of peace is humbling ourselves to accept the peace with God that we have in Jesus. Sometimes we are so big in our eyes that we try to accomplish peace with God or think that there is some way to peace with God other than God’s way - Jesus’ death and resurrection. Trying to make peace with God by any other way results in inner turmoil, fear, or self-denial. Read Romans 10:1-13. Why did the Israelites not submit to God’s righteousness?  What can we do to be saved? Accepting and believing these truths is the first humbling step that puts us under God’s mighty and caring hand. It is also a lifelong pursuit to absorb the fullness of the peace with God that we have in Christ. Read Romans 5:1-11 and meditate on the effects of the peace of God that has been accomplished in Christ.  

Day 3: Humbling ourselves is a process of acknowledging God is who he says he is, laying down our own thoughts and opinions to believe what God says is true, and adjusting our lives to live in a way that is consistent with God. If I am doing things my own way, don’t I rightly worry? In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus says to focus our energy and attention on his kingdom and his righteousness, and God will provide for our needs. Evaluate your life. What is your focus? Is there any way you can be more in line with God’s priorities? Will you humble yourself to pursue God’s priorities, or will you continue to do what you want? Make it public and tell a friend how you want to realign your life. Ask for their support.  

 Day 4: One of the biggest challenges and temptations is to worry about our circumstances. We can easily think that if we do everything right, then we shouldn’t have trouble and everything should go well. But is that true?  

  • Jesus promised in this world we will have trouble. John 16:33  

  • Paul asked if trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or violence (which Paul experienced) means we are separated from the love of God. Romans 8:35-36  

  • James said to count it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds. James 1:2  

  • Peter said that for a little while we suffer grief in all kinds of trials so that our genuine faith results in glory. 1 Peter 1:6-7  

If Jesus and his disciples experienced suffering, can we trust God, lean on him and strive ahead knowing that God works for the good of all who love God and are called by him? Instead of worrying about what bad things might happen, think about God who is with you through those things and will bring about good. Consider Peter, James, and Jesus as you read Paul’s words in Romans 8:18-39. 

Day 5: Read Daniel 3:8-30. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did right by not bowing down to an idol. They left the outcome in God’s hands and were thrown into a fire. But in the midst of the fire and most likely their own death, they proceeded. For them, they’ve found peace through faith in their God in spite of terrifying circumstances facing them. And as you read, a fourth person is seen in the fire. God was with them and in this case, he miraculously rescued them from the fire. What stands out to you as you read this account? Spend time in prayer to God. What can you apply to your current circumstances or view of God?