Heavenly Father as we gather here this
morning to worship you we proclaim your greatness we proclaim the majesty of
your birth just like the Angels did so many years
ago we praise you and we give you glory for you alone are worthy to receive all
that we have in worship and so Father God this morning I pray that each one of
us who have gathered in this space would set aside anything that would keep us
from focusing completely on you, that we would be able to go hard after you in
this hour and we would know that we were in your presence and we worshiped you in
spirit and in truth. We give this hour to you now we ask this in Jesus name Amen.
Before you sit down would you please turn and greet someone who you are
worshiping with this morning? And if you are worshiping with us online
this weekend welcome we’re delighted that you joined us. God bless you today
in your worship and in the week ahead. Morning everyone, I have some good news
for you today and the good news is that the GPI the Global Peace Index shows
that in 2019 the average country score for peace improved by 0.09 percent so
that’s good news that the average country is getting a little bit better,
though it’s kind of minuscule but you know when you have good news you always have bad news as well right? and the bad news is that in the last 10 years peace
has declined. it has declined at a 3.78 percent rate so even
though we’ve had a minuscule improvement in 2019 the reality is that peace
continues to erode away quickly especially over the last ten years. Now
in case you’re wondering where we fit as a country, as a nation in that whole GPI
there are 163 countries that are measured and we’re
number 128 which is kind of surprising think about it. I thought we were more
peaceful than that. We actually fit in between South Africa and Saudi Arabia
and you wonder to yourself, why is that? well the last ten years we’ve had an
increase in homicides and violent crimes and political instability and so we get
such a low ranking. Now if you want to move to the most peaceful country on
earth because there is a number one then all you have to your bags and your parka
and go to Iceland because routinely Iceland finishes at the top, and there’s
probably a reason why and I’ll let you think about that, but here’s the reality–
there is no truly lasting peace on earth. that’s just the way it is.
There hasn’t been and there never will be until the Lord returns and rules this
earth and brings his peace. But until then we struggle to have peace on earth.
We a struggle to have peace in our lives and our relationships don’t we? If we were to be honest with each other we would say it’s hard to always have lasting peace, even
in your marriage. Do you and your spouse ever not get along? like this morning?
it’s always, it’s hard to keep peace in our families, with our children, it’s hard
to have peace sometimes in the neighbourhood with our neighbours or
with our coworkers. It’s even hard sometimes to have peace at church. Do you believe that we struggle with it? We struggle with it even personally. We
don’t always have a peaceful mind, our emotions sometimes lack peace and even
spiritually we struggle at times to have a lasting sense of peace in our lives.
You say well pastor are you telling me then that peace is impossible in this
lifetime? Yes that’s what I’m saying, if–there it is–if we’re gonna come at it from a
human perspective, that is. If we’re gonna try to initiate peace, it’s not going to
happen. It doesn’t matter how much education, it doesn’t matter how many how much
politicking, it doesn’t matter how much therapy, it doesn’t matter how much money we spend, I mean we’ve had tens of thousands of years of trying to get it straight
and with all that we have accomplished and achieved the 21st century we are no
closer to peace, if not further from peace. So humanly speaking it cannot be
done. But with God all things are possible and with God yes, we can know
peace. We can know peace in our lives and we have the potential of knowing even
peace in our relationships, in our church and even beyond if it’s oriented and
sourced from the Spirit of God himself. But in order
for that to happen we have to overcome a problem that really I think is the big
obstacle to peace in our lives and peace in our relationships and peace in our in
our world. And I would like to say that as a follower of Christ we don’t
struggle with this problem but the truth is we do and that is our propensity to
believe that the cause for lack of peace is always somebody else’s fault– it’s the
other person, it’s him or her or them. If they would change then we would have
peace, then I would have peace, I mean if your spouse changed a little bit would
you have more peace? if your kids adjusted a bit would there be more peace in your family? if your boss got his act or her act together there’d be more peace at
work. if your coworkers change their ways there’d be more peace. if the Republicans would shape up we’d have more peace. if that Democrats would shape up we’d have more peace. If the Muslims would behave themselves we’d have more
peace. if the Christians or Jews would behave themselves we have more peace.
it’s the gays, it’s the straight, it’s a certain race or ethnicity, it’s the immigrants. Wee how we always project out? it’s them if they change I’d
have more peace. in fact I came across an article yesterday and it said that in
our nation 9 out of 10 drivers believe that driving in the snow and all the
issues that go with it are other people’s fault. They’re the ones that caused the
accidents, there are the ones that caused us to go off the roads it’s somebody
else’s fault and as long as we keep pointing fingers we will never know
peace in our lives. something has to change. let me introduce you to a
principle I want to jot it down if you can. otherwise we’ll put it on the blog so
you catch it later but the principle is simply this: I (so you have to personalize it)
I need to recognize that only I can be responsible for peace in my life It
doesn’t depend on others or on my circumstances. Remember last weekend we talked about hope? we said you can’t put your hope in circumstances because
circumstances are circumstantial. They change. I can’t depend on you, I can’t
depend on my wife, my kids or anybody else for peace in my life, that’s my
responsibility, that’s a choice I have to make with God and if I wait for you to
create peace for me it’s just never gonna happen. So I’ve got to take
ownership of that. I’ve got to take responsibility for it myself which
raises an interesting question since we’re talking about peace. What is peace?
What is peace? well the Hebrew word for peace is Shalom so let’s all say that
together: Shalom. and the Greek equivalent is eirḗnē, let’s say that together one two
three: eirḗnē. See, you’ve learned some Hebrew and Greek right? Shalom eirḗnē.
what does Shalom and eirḗnē mean? well Shalom and eirḗnē mean basically the
same thing. it means to complete or to make whole. To complete or to make
something whole again. So when we talk about having peace in our lives or peace
in our relationships, our family or even peace in our church, what we’re talking
about is what we’re talking about becoming whole or becoming complete. but I thought I’d give you a visual picture of it instead of just talking about
it and so what I have here is a thousand-piece puzzle jigsaw puzzle. If
you enjoy doing puzzles wow man all right I just don’t have the
patience for puzzles and a thousand piece takes a long time but look at this
beautiful picture it’s a very serene picture. looks like a glacial kind of
Lake and there’s mountains, they are snow-capped and it just looks very very
peaceful but when you open the puzzle up when you take the the lid off of it what
you uncover inside is what what I would call chaos. all
right? a thousand pieces that make that beautiful picture and you know the only
way to get that picture is you gotta put these pieces out on the table. You gotta
make sure you turn them the right way up and this one’s blue on both sides, it’s
hard for me to figure out which is the right way except one shinier than the
other and then you gotta fit them together and it takes time to find the
right piece to fit the other right piece because if you put the wrong pieces
together, you try to jam them together, anybody ever been guilty of that? you end
up with a picture that’s kind of ugly. it just does not look right. my grandson
Harrison, my oldest grandson Harrison taught me a lot about this. A couple
years ago Marcia and I bought him a Lego set the Millennial Falcon spaceship and
he’s good at Legos like he is so good that ever since he’s been a little guy
he can do lego sets that are way beyond his age and what it says in the Box
should be his capacity so he’s got an engineering kind of mind. well we don’t
see them often and so we’ve got him this millennial Falcon. We took it all the way
over to Austria and I thought to myself, I’m going to kind of get down on the floor with him and we’re gonna do this
together. Now they call me Papa so it’s gonna be Papa and grandson working on
this thing together and so we’re on the floor he opens it up. he’s got all the
pieces arranged in the right places and he’s working on some things and I get my
hands in there and I decided to help him out a little bit but I’m not, I don’t
have very good engineering mind and I’m I try to put these pieces together and I
could tell I was annoying him because every once in a while he kind of looked over like “what are you doing?” but he was kind and
he kind of let it go and and I was, you know, I’m still struggling to make it fit
and finally He goes “Papa stop it.” I said “what?” he goes “you’re forcing those
together, cuz you’re gonna break it. can you just stop and watch?” (laughter)
I took my fingers out, I was kind of resting on my left elbow and I
watched and he kind of did one of those (deep sigh). I don’t know where he learned that from but anyway and then I watched and within a couple of hours he completed it. I
gotta show off a picture of him here holding that thing. I mean it
was complicated and he did a great job but the lesson I learned is I need to keep
my hands out of it. I need to let him do what he is so good at and the same thing
is true when it comes to our relationship with God. We need to let God
put the pieces together and keep our fingers out of it. if you think about it
for a moment when God created this world it was like
a beautiful puzzle then he put together he created all the pieces and then he
joined those pieces and fitted them together and created a beautiful world
and he created us in and we were so beautiful it was all good and God said
to Adam and Eve “now I want you just to be in the puzzle. I want you to enjoy
what I’ve created around you and for you and be who I’ve created you to be.
don’t mess with the puzzle.” and then the evil one showed up in the garden, didn’t
he? the evil one said “you know what? you can create your own picture, why do you
want to fit into God’s picture? just take the puzzle apart and you create the
picture. you be God, you do it.” and of course we know what our original parents
did, they took it apart and they rearranged it and what did they create? a
grotesque picture that is our world today, where there’s no peace and where
this fracturing and where things don’t fit together because when I try to do
life my way it doesn’t fit. it doesn’t work, and we’ve been living with history
as evidence that it doesn’t work when we try to do it our way. we’ve got to keep
out of the picture, we’ve got to leave peace to God which sounds good you know when I say that. it sounds good to say what we need to do is we just need to
trust God as the only source perfect peace. but the problem is I don’t
know if you noticed or not but sometimes when we try to do that it feels like
God’s got the wrong pieces he’s trying to put together. it’s like, God I’m not sure
you got the right pieces because I can’t imagine why you would allow cancer, I
can’t imagine why you’d allow me to experience grief and loss, I can’t
imagine why you’d allow me to have these difficulties at work or in my
relationships or in our family and we want to get in there and help God out.
but to know peace means to let it along and trust that God knows what he’s doing,
and sometimes it’s hard to do when it feels like our lives are in a bit of a
hurricane. so let’s go the Word of God because we need the word to help us then
understand peace. and I want to take you to Isaiah. though peace is spoken of
throughout the scriptures I’m going to take you in particular to a chapter and a
couple verses in Isaiah chapter 26. Isaiah chapter 26. you may know these
verses I’m going to put it on the screen for you. Isaiah 26:3-4 says “You
(meaning God) will keep (me) in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose
thoughts are fixed on you. Trust in the Lord always for the Lord God is the
eternal rock.” Now when you look at that verse by the way I added “me” in there but
you know you will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you when you look at
that verse. what does that verse seem to be all
about? well I read that it sounds to me like it’s it’s all about trust and then
you’ll have peace, but that’s not what the verse is all about. If you look at
the verse carefully alright you’ll see that there’s an awful lot of references
to God. You will keep me in perfect peace all who trust in you he says, all whose
thoughts are fixed on you, he says trust in the Lord always for the Lord God is
the eternal rock. That’s a lot of referencing to God so who’s that verse
all about? talk to me. it’s all about God. It’s all about God.
that’s the first primary thing we see in the verse God is the source. It’s all
about God. my responsibility is to take my trust (right?) and to fix it on (who am I
to fix it on?) the Lord. I have to fix it on God. That’s what Isaiah is telling me, that’s my responsibility. He’s in control all
right. and I am being called by him to fix
focus my trust. And God says the result is going to be peace, which introduces us
to a principle, another principle. We experience peace in our lives to the
degree that we trust God with our lives. So I experience peace in my life to the
extent that I’m willing to trust God with my life. Remember when you were parents, if you were a parent and are a parent, remember the first time you took your
firstborn child and gave him or her to your parents or to a friend or to a
babysitter? remember how awkward, it was kind of
scary wasn’t it? that first child and you kind of hand them over? you are trusting
them with your child. God says you’ll know peace in your life
when you trust me with your life. When you place, when you place yourself in my
hands and let go, which is hard to do because we always want to kind of keep
our hands involved in a situation. But you know, well it’s easy to make that
statement as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to practice that when when it feels
like God isn’t being very careful with our baby. God isn’t being very careful
with our lives. Can I really trust God? the answer is yes you can trust God. Let
me give you a couple reasons why you can trust God. Because God is unchanging
right? He’s not he’s that fickle, he’s not gonna, he’s not gonna go halfway down the
road and change again. There’s a bunch of scriptures, see I don’t have time to go
through them but for instance God cannot lie. Isn’t that good news? well I think it is.
it’s that good news? yes. secondly he is always faithful. thirdly his promises are
trustworthy. fourthly he works all things out for his purposes. so knowing that
about God, knowing that God is indeed unchanging, that he keeps his word, he’s
going to do something with my life even though I may not understand it, I can
have peace. but let’s press this a little bit further let’s go back to text again
in verse 4 says “Trust the Lord, for the Lord God is the (what?) he is the eternal rock.”
well what does that mean that God is the eternal rock? well it means he’s forever,
without beginning and without end, a rock and what does it mean when it says that
he is a rock? well the best way to understand that is actually an illustration
of it is one of the most loved hymns, Rock of Ages.
you know the chorus is “Rock of Ages cleft for me let me hide myself in thee.”
now the person that wrote that was a guy by name of Augustus Toplady,
he was from England and he happened to be walking along the cheddar
gorge which is this kind of dangerous area of England, gotta be careful where
you step and all of a sudden just sheets of rain started coming down, like rain
that kind of cut you, was just hard, was pouring down he was the young man, he
sought shelter and he ended up finding shelter underneath the overhang of a
large rock and he hid inside of that and watched the rain going on
around him. he wrote those words “Rock of Ages
eternal Rock of Ages cleft for me let me hide myself in thee.” I will no peace in
my life when I hide myself when I and fold myself within God when I take my
place within God himself.
I said this before but what I mean is when I get to that place in my life
where I believe that if I have God I have more than enough that’s when I have
peace, not my circumstances, not money, not things, not relationships, but
if all I have is God I have enough. if I believe that with all my heart and my
mind then I have peace and I suggest as something you have to work out every day
at least I do, It doesn’t come naturally, it doesn’t come
easily because the world around us tells us we have to have all these other
things to have peace and in a material culture material world that’s hard to do
because the message is constantly coming you need this, you need her, you need him,
you need that in order to have peace. it’s funny watching the commercials
right now on television for Christmas isn’t it? and all the things you need to
buy to make him or her them happy. no if I have God I have enough and I can
have and and I can know and I can experience peace. well God is
unchanging but I also want you to know something else about God because I want
you to really trust him. God is also unfailing. God is unshakeable. he doesn’t
fail, he cannot fail, isn’t that good news? so here’s a principle: We experience
peace in our lives when we realize how entirely redeemed we are. you say, what do you mean by redeemed? I mean how entirely put back together we
are. see when God looks at you and me now, he sees us in his son. he sees us as though we’re Jesus. so I’m not Jesus, I know you’re not,
but he lives in you and the rest of your life until you get to glory is him
putting you into the image that he already sees. it’s kind of like the
puzzle box, the images are, whoops, the image is already there and we see what it
looks like. sanctification, that big word that we use
describes how God is putting us together until eventually we actually look like that
when we stand before him, and it happens in different ways. let me show you how it
happens. look at Romans chapter 5 verse 1 with me. Paul says, “therefore since we
have been made right (well who made us right? God made us right) in God’s sight
by faith we have (oh there’s that word) we have peace with God.” you know you cannot have the peace of God until you have peace with God, and Christ makes it possible
for us. that peace with God, he says we have peace with God because of what
Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. what did he do for us? he died our death
so we can live his life. he made us right with his Abba, so we can cry out he’s my Abba – he’s your Abba – do you believe that you
believe God is your Abba? do you think of him that way? do you talk to him that way?
you can because Christ has made you right so I had peace with God but but watch what
happens, not only do I have peace with God but now Christ in me ministers peace
to my life. look at Philippians chapter 4 verse 6 says “don’t worry about anything
instead (he says) pray about everything. tell god what you need and thank him for
all he has done. then you’re going to experience God’s peace which exceeds
anything we can understand.” he says “his peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live (finish it with me) in Christ Jesus.” so as you live in Christ Jesus, so it is
is Christ who is the source of this peace. and I pray to access that so to
speak as I bring my mind and heart before the Lord as I lay every
turbulence in my life before him and I hide in him he ministers peace to me
through his presence and through His grace living in you and
me. Paul says in Romans 8 that the Spirit of God lives in us. now watch this Ephesians 2:14 it says “for he himself (there it is) he himself is our peace who has made us
both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” so
what is peace? Christ is peace. and if I have Christ I have peace. you see how that
goes against the current of material culture? I hope we (me I include
myself) hope we can get our minds around that peace is Christ, it’s nothing else
that’s why I said humanly speaking we’ll never have peace because peace is Christ.
it is Christ in our lives and as Christ our lives in the midst of difficulty. the
first time I flew into Israel back in the 90s you had to fly in you got off
the tarmac you got escorted into the airport and you would be greeted
oftentimes there be guards standing there with machine guns in their hands and
as you watch across the tarmac they would say “Shalom” to you which I always
thought was kind of odd to have somebody holding a gun saying “peace.” well what
they understand is peace is not something on the outside pieces on the
inside so Shalom means it is the peace or it is the presence of Christ living
in and through our lives. and then I just had one more verse. when you look at
Psalm 37 and verse 37 he says “Look at those who are honest and good
for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.” well ultimate.y who is peace? it is Christ. A wonderful future awaits those who love Christ and loves the peace of
Christ, and the future is we’re going to be glorified someday. Someday the whole
puzzle will be put together, someday we will see him face to face and we’ll finally
know peace completed in our lives. But I want to introduce you to a concept that maybe you’ve never thought about before that brings this all home
so that we can know peace in our lives. now let’s go back to Isaiah chapter 26. Isaiah says “You’ll keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts
are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, the Lord God is eternal rock.” And
I want you to look at this word “thoughts.” in other versions of the Bible it is
“mind,” whose mind is stayed on you. I did a word study on that word that Hebrew word
for thoughts or mind, it’s very interesting, it literally means
imagination. it means creative imagination in the original Hebrew so
what he’s saying is God will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you — all
whose creative imaginations are fixed on you, God. Oh by the way I have forgot an
announcement I don’t know why these things happen now but you know the
weather’s gotten really cold. I don’t know if you noticed but it feels like January
in December. It’s going to get really cold next week and what that’s done is
we’ve had a little problem here because all the critters have decided to come
inside to get warm and and we have had an infestation of spiders show up. And
the funny thing they’ve been showing up in this Worship Center so if you feel
something kind of crawling up your leg don’t worry about it all right? or up
your neck or something like that they’re they’re harmless. there are no tarantulas
in the building but you may feel something right now kind of making its
way up your leg. I just don’t don’t want you get upset
about that. that’s not true. so what did you do that for? because the imagination
is a powerful, powerful tool. I’ve studied this I’ve done a little bit of work
in this area and what we what we know of is this. That if you imagine it you will actually experience it. Even
though it’s not happening. So when I said to there spiders some of you, you won’t
be honest about it but some of you started to feel something on your leg. You
suddenly reached down and went — in case right? why is that? because the minute I
mention it and you start to imagine that you actually strike the feeling. well who
created the imagination? you ever thought about that? who created your imagination?
God gave you an imagination. why did God give you an imagination? so that you
could understand him better, so you could conceive in your mind who God is and
what God is like. see there are two sides of us. There’s the intellectual side of us
which is so important I mean the intellect in us is what reads what
understands, what sees what knows and we have a habit of divorcing it from the
imagination. You can’t divorce that they belong together. The intellect uses the
imagination to understand and know who God is. God wants you informed by the
truth to use your imagination. Do you look at the Bible carefully? Revelation,
it’s just filled with the imagination. Every time Jesus told a parable he was
asking us to use our imagination. How’s a camel go through the eye of a
needle? Jesus was always invoking the imagination to try to understand
spiritual truth and in this case he’s saying use your imagination to
understand peace. imagine peace. imagine the Peace of Christ and you’ll
experience the Peace of Christ living in you and living through you.
it is one of the best gifts that God gives to us, this gift of peace
is beautiful. do you know that gift? is that gift in you? are you living in the peace of Christ? no matter what the world is like outside,
doesn’t matter what might be going on outside of you, it doesn’t matter what
may be happening to you nothing can touch the peace the peace that God gives
you in me how appropriate it is then that Isaiah wrote in Isaiah chapter 9 he
said to us “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, then what? Prince of Peace. Now the greatness of his government and peace some day on earth there will be no
end Augustus Topady wrote that song Rock
of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee. It’s printed in 1776, interesting
year, but in 1778 he died, a young man about 38 years old.
he died of tuberculosis. You wonder how somebody who wrote that song must have
felt on their dying bed struck down in the prime of their life, and I want you
to listen to the words that he wrote before he died. he says, “my heart beats
every day stronger and stronger for glory. Sickness is no affliction, pain no
cause. Death itself no disillusion. My Prayers are now all converted to praise.”
that’s a man that knows peace. do you? Let’s pray.
Father in heaven, we humble ourselves before you today. we’ve been
showered and blessed with the truth about peace and we thank you that we
were able to come today and hear about this because Father we live in a world
that lacks peace. And every human promise of peace, Father doesn’t produce it. It
may be temporary Lord but it quickly evaporates. What we long for is lasting
and eternal peace and we thank you for that reminder again today that peace is
found in Jesus Christ your son. And when we are unfolded in him when he is the
cleft that we hide in oh God then we certainly know peace and we
certainly know tranquility in our lives. And so father we would ask you for this
gift today which has been given to us in Christ that we might know it that we
might realize it and that we might experience an ongoing basis in Jesus
name, Amen.