Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Prince of Peace

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

I am thankful for my friends. You constantly amaze me with the grace and fortitude you exude in the midst of some horrific life experiences. How do you do it?

My faith tells me there is only one answer—“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Romans 5:1 (italics mine)

We have peace. Present tense. Reality. Really? How do I access that reality in the midst of my life?

Isaiah 54:13 is the scripture God led me to pray for our second child while he was still in my womb. “All your sons will be taught by the Lord; and great shall be your children’s peace”. NIV   For over 30 years this scripture has led my prayers for our son Jeff. The word peace is sometimes translated prosperity—great shall be your children’s prosperity. That embarrassed me as I tend to think of prosperity as material goods. But that is not a correct interpretation here. Prosperity is used because of all the blessings none is more desirable than peace. A person at peace is a prosperous person indeed.

God is faithful. In the midst of some difficult life challenges, Jeff is a prosperous man—a man of peace. I’ve noticed three qualities in Jeff’s life that allow peace to describe him.

  • Jeff walks with God. He trusts the truth that God is sovereign and rests in that. Isaiah 32:17 says, “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness quietness and trust forever”.
  • “The Lord is near. 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 4:5, 6, and 7. Jeff is a pray-er. More importantly, The Lord is near! I think it’s the combination of those two realities that allows peace to characterize Jeff’s life.
  • Peace is a choice. I can rebel against my circumstances or I can greet them with thanksgiving and as a gift from the heart of my good Shepherd, the Prince of Peace. “give thanks IN all circumstances,” I Thessalonians 5:18.
As I pondered this post the story of Horatio Spafford came to mind. He is the one who penned the words of the familiar hymn It is well with my soul. You might want to watch this short video here.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you”
Isaiah 26:3

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Everlasting Father

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

Often I hear the words my earthly father informs my concept of my heavenly Father. To some degree that is true for me. However, instinctively my soul knows that something is amuck with that picture.

Sadly stories of abusive fathers or absentee fathers abound. Thankfully there are also stories of good fathers. But no earthly father truly and completely reflects our heavenly Father—our everlasting Father. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:23.

To know my real Father, my everlasting Father I must go the source—the Bible and allow that to introduce me and inform my soul. And that is overwhelming! The character of God—my everlasting Father far exceeds my comprehension.

God is omniscient—He knows. God knows the aspects of His character, His everlasting Fatherhood that I most need to experience. He doesn’t dump the truck. Two qualities of my everlasting Father are very special to me—they speak to my particular needs.

My everlasting Father knows my love language, love manifesting purpose. His love for me is filled with purpose. Growing up many times my purposes were thwarted. Those purposes were what communicated significance to me. Thinking backwards, when I didn’t experience significance because my purposes were thwarted, I didn’t feel loved—YUCK! Knowing this about me (after all He created me), throughout the years, my everlasting Father has communicated His purpose for me in the same sentence He declares His love for me. I hear that kind of love.

My first memory of Him speaking love with purpose to me is with the words of Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you …”; a few years later my everlasting Father whispered these words to me from Ephesians 2:10, “… created in Christ Jesus for good works…” More recently Ephesians 1:5 has encouraged me, “In love, He predestined us for adoption …according to the purpose of His will.” I know there will be more reminders, I tend to forget.

Another quality of my everlasting Father that I need to experience is His shepherding. A good shepherd anticipates the needs of His sheep and prepares them—even before they realize their needs. I appreciate this quality. It gives perspective when everything around me hurts. My everlasting Father has often done this for me through the words of the great hymn writers. He brings a hymn to mind in a certain situation. Sometimes I don’t even remember all the words but when I open my hymnal something like scales fall from my heart and I realize I have experienced my everlasting Father anticipating my needs.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:13,14

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mighty God

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”
Here's my GRAND-son, Jack, singing,
My God is so good,
So strong and so mighty,
There is nothing my God cannot do.
I love singing this song and doing the hand motions with him. Above he is demonstrating the second line, so strong and so mighty. I love the way songs speak truth to children. That’s who I am—a child of God.

Earlier this month I was pondering Genesis 3 and Eve’s conversation with the serpent. Eve accurately communicated to the serpent what God had communicated to her. Genesis 3:3 echoes Genesis 2:17. Eve knew the truth. Apparently she didn’t trust the truth and so she did not experience it. Her Mighty God could have rescued her from the serpent.

Jesus also encountered the devil personally when he fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. He also quoted scripture to ward off the devil. He knew truth and He trusted truth. He is the Son of God and our Mighty God.

The word mighty communicates additional emphasis. Our Mighty God is an extraordinary God. Like for Eve, my enemies are too powerful for me. I need a friendship with a mighty extraordinary God when I am faced with my temptations.

Eve enjoyed a home that provided everything she needed. Why was she susceptible to that grave temptation? An apple—in the midst of all the other wonderful fruit options—seems pretty insignificant.

That’s what is so scary! In the midst of how well my Mighty God has provided for me, I look around and am dissatisfied. My desire does not match God’s desires for me. And desires are strong things.

God is stronger. My Mighty God is able to protect; He is able to save; He is able to show Himself strong on my behalf. I know truth—am I trusting truth, even in the seemingly insignificant areas of my life—only then will I experience an extraordinary Mighty God at work on my behalf.  (Hmmm, I know what God is whispering to me as I type).

Martin Luther’s words communicate well:
A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

“In that day the remnant of Israel … will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return … to the Mighty God”.
Isaiah 10:20,21

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wonderful Counselor

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”
Those words from the prophet Isaiah and popularized by Handel’s Messiah, are the heading on our Christmas card this year and the words I’ve been pondering this Advent Season. Each is a title for Jesus and shows who he is on our behalf.

Bill and I had the privilege of meeting with a wonderful counselor in 2000. I went in to the experience fairly nervous and in a very defensive posture. Although I’d heard stories, I had never personally met with a counselor before. Milt both lived up to everything I’d heard (please, tell me your story) and totally debunked my impression of counselors.

Milt was a phenomenal affirmer. He saw through the issues to the person God created us to be and often voiced that to us.
Milt was a great listener. He led with questions. He trusted us to hear from God.
Milt was a humble man. He knew the source of his giftedness and used it to benefit us.
Milt was an instrument God used to make a right turn in our journeys. We will forever be thankful for the two weeks we spent with him.

In many ways Milt was a reflection of Jesus, THE Wonderful Counselor. Jesus, our true, everyday, always available counselor, embodies all those qualities infused with his supernatural nature. He has inconceivable methods of assisting.

Yet often I don’t experience Jesus’ counsel. Why? I don’t take time to listen for it—I’m in a hurry. My faith slips back into my religion—instead of experiencing my friendship with God. I have my quiet time—I’m not enjoying breakfast with Jesus. I make sure I get through all my list of requests—I’m not asking what is on His heart. It’s all about me.

Three spiritual practices help me fight these tendencies:

Sit and Stare. This little phrase describes how I start my time with God. With coffee in hand, I sit quietly and enjoy God’s creation for a bit. It quiets my heart. It readies me to meet with my wonderful counselor.

Selah, the Hebrew word seen throughout the Psalms means pause and reflect. Don’t just read these words, Sue, think about them. What do they mean for today?

My Journal, the record of God’s words to me, often does not make sense on the day I write the entry. When I review the past months, I’m amazed that I didn’t see the fingerprints of God’s counsel.

“This also comes from the Lord of hosts;
He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom”.
Isaiah 28:29

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I remember being pursued four times in my life (there are probably more).

The third time was summer 1969. I was excited about being pursued by a school district for a teaching position. They needed me; school started in two months and a third grade classroom stood devoid of a teacher.

The fourth time I was pursued was fall 1988 – when I signed on as a Longaberger consultant. Several were pursuing. In direct sales it makes a difference with whom you sign up; income is involved. I felt very wanted.

Backing up, the second time I was pursued started in the fall 1967 by Bill – my husband. He desired to date me; he desired to marry me. I reveled in this relationship. Yes, he needed me; I completed him; yes, he wanted me; a good feeling; but his desire for me communicated something very special – more important, a deeper bond than need or want.

Needed, wanted, desired – all positive experiences; all communicate worth and something I gladly respond to. But none compare to being pursued by God.

Theologically, God’s pursuit me commenced before He created me; “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I consecrated you”. Jeremiah 1:5. I believe those words are for me as well as the prophet Jeremiah. It was during my junior high years when church, youth group (the spiritual part of me) started to be important. I could not have articulated the why of that importance; I just knew it was important.

I remember Mom’s last words to me before she, Dad, and my two-year-old sister pulled away from the curb to start their long journey back to New Jersey from Michigan where they dropped me off at college, Sue, don’t get too religious. Why did Mom say that? I think she recognized a desire in me that I still could not put into words. God was relentlessly pursuing. I tucked that counsel away.

It was over a year later when I acknowledged God’s pursuit and responded. I remember the place; I remember the time; it was life changing. It was about relationship not religion. It undergirded my response to Bill; my response to the teaching invitation; my response to the invitation from Longaberger; and many responses since.

What would it look like for me to trust you today, God? This prayer-question arises almost every morning as I consider the day before me. Our relationship is growing; God and I pursuing each other.

Joseph pursuing Mary pictures God’s pursuit of me. History, culture, and the Bible relate their story well. Joseph spoke for Mary; he asked for her to be his wife. Their community acknowledged it; they knew Mary belonged to Joseph; she would take his name; she would come to his home; she was not afraid.

The Bible picks up the story as God intervenes in their plans. His messenger – the angel  Gabriel – comes to Mary and Joseph separately with an amazing announcement; Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit and is going to give birth to the Son of God. Although there were fears, Mary and Joseph both listen well and respond in faith to Gabriel’s words. (Matthew 1 and Luke 1).

How like God. God waits for the perfect time; the time He knows we’ll be able to respond. God works in unlikely ways; a virgin giving birth – a college student who thinks she’s attending college to train for teaching and to meet a mate. God speaks his invitation to take his name; he knows who will respond to his pursuit.

“You did not choose me; I chose you”.
John 15:16