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Posts Tagged ‘Philippians 4:6-7’

Jo 17As an introverted writer, there is nothing I like more than sitting at my desk, typing away in perfect peace and quiet. As I do, I can look out my window at the trees and shrubs and beyond them to the sky. I hear birds chirping and the occasional bark of a dog, yet these sounds are pleasant and somehow reassuring. In these moments, I feel so blessed—and spoilt! I have peace, both inside and out—and I am so grateful for God’s gracious hand on my life.

Yes, sometimes that outer peace of mine disappears when little grandchildren arrive and run around excitedly or when we mind them at their house until mum or dad finish work. Sometimes too, we have visitors for meals or for a longer period. Sometimes I venture out to speak at various events or promote my books, which always involves much relating to others. And each week I attend church and happily mix with the family of God there. I also meet with others one-on-one for coffee and truly value these intimate conversations. Yet afterwards, I scuttle back home to my place of peace, where I sit and process everything—and thank God again for my lovely, quiet space where I can reflect and be refreshed in my spirit.

But sometimes that inner peace of mine can also disappear, which is much more alarming. Sometimes I take my eyes off God and refuse to listen to the Spirit’s voice, urging me to be still, to become aware of God’s presence in me and around me, to remember God knows all about my issues and those facing anyone near and dear to me, as well as those in the world at large. Sometimes I choose to worry so much about this and that, instead of handing it all over to God. Sometimes I fret over situations when it is way beyond my ability to sort it all out for those involved. Sometimes I foolishly ignore that peace God is holding out to me with such love and grace and instead decide to cling onto that deep turmoil within.

How important it is in these times to stop and read again Jesus’ words to his disciples—and to me:

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

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

And how important the Apostle Paul’s words are too:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Whatever is happening in your life right now, may you too be able to turn to God, be still and rest in that peace only God can give.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

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Jo 23Isn’t it wonderful when we meet people who seem to be so at peace with God, with themselves and with the world at large? I can think of a number of folk I have met over the years who could be described in this way. And the reason I have noticed them is, no doubt, that I have longed to be so much more like them.

I grew up with a very caring mum who always did more that she should have for me. She worked hard in every area of her life—but she also worked hard at worrying. I’m sure I often gave her plenty of scope to do just that—yet sometimes it seemed to me she worried about nothing. Sadly, her fears about what might happen robbed her of her enjoyment of many things, often bringing a worried frown to her face and uncertain questions to her lips.

When our children were growing up, one of their favourite ‘Mr Men’ books was Mr Worry. Poor Mr Worry worries about everyone and everything—until he meets a wizard who promises to make sure none of the things Mr Worry is worried about will ever happen. For a whole week, Mr Worry can’t think of a single thing to worry about. But then all that changes. And, on the last page of this little book, we discover that Mr Worry, after seeing the wizard again, goes home ‘to worry about not having anything to worry about!

Now I’d be interested to know how that wizard could ensure none of those things that worried Mr Worry so much would ever happen! It’s a nice thought—but hardly realistic, after all. How much more realistic, in contrast, are the Apostle Paul’s words:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6

This does not mean that those of us who pray and trust God with our future will never encounter difficulties. In John 17:33, we read Jesus’ words to his disciples not long before he is crucified:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This is what it’s about—peace in the midst of whatever is happening around us, knowing our God is with us and is bigger than anything the world can throw at us. Yes, at times God does rescue us out of difficult situations while, at other times, our path seems to lie through them instead. Yet we are not alone. God is with us, strengthening us and watching over us. ‘And the God of peace will be with you’, Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:9.

This is my prayer for myself for 2015—that, whatever happens with my writing and speaking, my family, my friends and the world at large, I will remain in that place of deep peace with God.

May you too find this place of deep, deep peace in God as you face the year ahead.

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Just think about it for a moment. This week, we remember an absolutely mind-boggling, earth-shaking event that will never cease to impact our world. As we sing about the Christ child born in a manger, we are acknowledging the fact that our Almighty God, Creator of the universe, chose to come to earth and be born as one of us. As Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, Jesus ‘did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness’.

How glibly the words of those Christmas carols can roll off our tongues and how easily we take this huge act of love for granted! Without that baby born in Bethlehem, we would all be lost—literally. ‘She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’, the angel told Joseph (Mt 1:21). Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of the world, became Immanuel—God with us (Mt 1:23).

Out of love for us, God chose to send Jesus to reveal himself to us in human form. Jesus showed us what God the Father is like as he walked this earth, preaching the good news of salvation, healing the sick, driving out demons, raising the dead, teaching his disciples in word and deed how to live in the light of the new kingdom he came to establish. And when he died for us, he sent his Holy Spirit to be with us. Immanuel—God with us—forever.

One Christmas many years ago now, I was in a place of great indecision in my life, having taken on an exhausting job that did not fit me so well. I read again the beautiful words of Isaiah 9:6—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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I knew straight away I needed to cry out to God for all the guidance and resources I needed and that I could do that because Jesus had become flesh and understood all my dilemmas. And I knew that Immanuel, God with us, the Prince of Peace, would give me the peace I longed for.

Whether you are in a place of indecision or of peace in your life, may the words of Isaiah 9:6 speak to your heart today too, along with the following poem I wrote at that time:

Wonderful Counsellor, surround me with your wisdom.

My mind is tired, with indecision torn.

Where is the path prepared for me to follow?

I need you, Lord, to watch, to guide, to warn.

Almighty God, defend me with your power.

My weakness wins, my courage ebbs away.

O Holy One, great Lord of all creation,

For strength to stand secure I humbly pray.

Everlasting Father, how you love me!

I am your child, forgiven, forever free!

O hold me fast, transform me to your likeness,

Till men in me your face more clearly see.

Prince of Peace, bestow your calm assurance.

My heart is troubled, turmoil takes control.

O send your soothing Spirit to surround me.

Speak, Lord, till I am still within my soul!

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I have discovered that our granddaughter Olivia is becoming very wise in her old age. After all, she turns five this week! Recently when minding her and her sister Amy at their home, I suggested we tidy things up a little before Mummy came home. This comment was greeted very airily by Olivia, however, who announced with a wave of her hand in a somewhat exasperated tone:  Oh, don’t worry! It doesn’t matter!

I am sure she has heard older family members say this many times – including her grandmother! And yes, she’s probably right that some things don’t matter and aren’t worth ‘worrying’ about. I come from a line of great worriers, actually. My mother, bless her heart, spent a lifetime worrying about so many things that never eventuated. I used to think of her often when reading the final page of the Mr Men book ‘Mr Worry’ to our children. The author declares there that Mr Worry, having got rid of all his worries, is now worried again. And why is that? Because now he no longer has anything to worry about!

Well, I definitely don’t want to be like Mr Worry. Yet sometimes I do find myself tending that way a little – particularly when it comes to decisions about my novels and future directions with my writing. Thankfully, however, God steps in then, reminding me of certain Scripture passages on the topic. This happened in church just last Sunday, when one of our ministers preached from Philippians 2:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In Matthew 6, we find that Jesus also had some things to say on the matter. Why worry all the time about food and clothing? Since we are so valuable to God, these will be provided. And can we add a single hour to our lives through worrying? No, of course not, he implies. I love how Eugene Peterson puts verses 31-33 of this chapter in ‘The Message’:

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? It’s about looking to God first and foremost, then seeing the world and living our lives from that place of deep security in our loving God – from that place of ‘rest’, as I heard last Sunday. Yes, these everyday things are important – but keeping our focus on God and not fussing over this and that or getting lost in it all is how we need to live.

Well, Olivia probably should have helped tidy up when I suggested it – but then again, I suspect the salutary reminder she gave me about not worrying was of much more lasting value! I hope and pray both our granddaughters will go through life functioning from that place of rest in God. And I hope and pray that, whatever concerns you may have right now, you too will know God’s deep peace in your heart in the midst of it all.

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I have often heard the comment that being an author is not for the fainthearted – and I would tend to agree.  There is so much uncertainty in the book world at the moment, with the advent of e-books and the recent economic crisis.  And as an Australian Christian novelist, it is a challenge at times to stay positive when bookstores seem to be ordering fewer Australian novels from Australian publishers, opting instead for the cheaper overseas product.  Yet there is a market here for good Australian novels, I believe – everywhere I speak and offer my books for sale, people seem happy to find something different written by a ‘home-grown’ author.

So how can I and others in similar situations remain positive and hopeful, rather than succumb to gloom and despair and give up?  Well, this week I read some verses in Philippians 4 that challenged me all over again in this regard.  In verses 6-7 we read:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I want to be a person of peace, don’t you?  I want to remain focussed on Jesus, trusting him to use whatever I write for his purposes.  I believe I am doing what he wants me to do, so my role is to write and speak to the best of my ability, but also to surround everything in prayer, constantly bringing my concerns to him rather than allow myself to be consumed with worry and negative thoughts.  And I need to be thankful too for all he has done for me already, not only in regard to my novels, but even more importantly in my whole life. 

There are some ancient words of meditation I often use as I sit at my desk that ground me in God’s peace and remind me of the ‘big picture’ truths about who I am in God.  They go like this:

God is with me now, closer than breathing

And nearer than hands and feet

God has made me for Himself

I come from God

I belong to God

I go to God

God knows me

God loves me

God has a use for me

Now and forever

I can say those words and know they are truth because Jesus came to this world and died for me – and for you.  As I remain in Christ Jesus, God will watch over me and will guard my heart and mind, as Philippians 4:7 says.  Because I belong to a totally wise and loving God, I don’t have to lose heart.  Because God is with me in every way and in everything and has a purpose for my life, I don’t have to live with a mind in turmoil.  God’s peace is there for me to embrace – a peace that defies explanation and is way beyond our understanding.

So I’m going to pray for our Australian Christian publishers and booksellers.  And I will keep on writing my novels and be at peace as I do.  And may the God of peace be with you too, whatever God has called you to do in your life.

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