Christmas Peace

In my church’s Christmas concert this year, we sang, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

‘Tis a common theme of songs and stories and Scripture quotations at Christmas. After all, the angels sang to the shepherds: “…on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (see Luke 2:14)

Yet Jesus said something very interesting, almost startling, to His disciples.

“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.

“For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two and two against three.

-Luke 12:51-52 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Matthew 10:34 says, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

At first glance, it doesn’t seem to fit with the Jesus who died to save lives and is not willing that any should perish. But seem is the operative word here.

Jesus didn’t come to set the world at war. Division is an unavoidable side effect of His mission.

He came to redeem people. To free them from sin, Satan, and death. If everyone accepted that redemption, then peace would reign on earth.

But someone has far too much to lose if everyone chooses redemption. Satan would completely lose his power over humans. Oh, sure, he’d still be able to tempt them. But they would be equipped to resist his lures. They’d be armed to withstand him as never before. They would no longer be his slaves.

And he will stop at nothing to prevent his captives from slipping away.

So Satan convinces people that Jesus is the problem. That all who follow Jesus are a threat. To freedom, to pleasure, to life. Anything to get souls frightened and furious at the very thing which could save them.

Clever distraction tactic, is it not?

Unfortunately, this distraction tactic tends to ensnare Jesus’ followers, too. We see all these people attacking us, and we think we have to attack back. (Best defense and all that.) We fall into bickering and bitterness, cruel words and worse. But we miss the real enemy. We think it’s the people charging against us. It’s really the devil who has deceived these people.

It’s such a brilliant plan. It keeps the slaves safely bound, and keeps the redeemed ones wasting their energy on the wrong enemy.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

-Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

That’s why God commands us:

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

-Romans 12:18 NKJV

Christians are not supposed to be quarrelsome, contentious, argumentative, rude, disrespectful, unkind, or violent. We may be hated and despised because we follow Jesus, but we shouldn’t retaliate. In fact, we don’t need to retaliate; it doesn’t do any good. Our job is to live peaceably as much as possible.

But guess what? Sometimes it’s not possible. We may do everything in our power to have amicable relationships with others. We may bend over backwards until our heads touch our heels (figuratively), and still be unable to appease those in our lives who just cannot stand us.

That’s okay. That’s when we step back and pray because the enemy is not the person in front of us. The enemy is the “spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Until Satan’s defeat, begun on the cross, reaches its culmination, there will always be conflict on earth.

See, Jesus didn’t come to give peace. He came to be peace.

The angels’ message was true in the most literal sense possible. Peace had come to earth—because Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace and He had come to physically dwell on earth. Peace was truly on the earth for the first time.

Now those who believe in Him have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within them. We have peace. Mind-blowing peace, if we choose to embrace it. (see Philippians 4:6-7)

So as we sing this Christmas of peace on earth beginning with us, it is a worthy goal. We should strive to let the peace of God dwell in us and spill over into our relationships with every person who crosses our paths.

And when people dislike you, despise you, or hate you for no apparent reason, take heart. Division is just part of life in this world.

One day, Jesus will come to this earth again. And at His second coming, He will finally establish peace on this earth.

-Miss Darcy

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A Complete Fall

Funny thing about being a Christian—life tends to knock you down just as often as anyone else. Perhaps more so. Jesus did promise us tribulation, after all. (see John 16:33)

I think there might be two different kind of falls. First, the circumstances we can’t avoid. Life tries us or people attack us, and there’s not a thing we can do about it. Second, the things we fall into because we weren’t staying close to Jesus. Sinful traps of this world and the devil that we could have avoided.

Either way, we fall, and sometimes we end up crawling because we think there’s no way we’re getting back to our feet.

But that’s not true.

In the Bible, the number seven represents perfection or completion. Take at look at this verse:

For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again,
But the wicked shall fall by calamity.

-Proverbs 24:16 NKJV

“A righteous man may fall seven times.” In other words, flat on the ground. He’s down. Completely. Perfectly. Hopelessly.

Well, not quite hopelessly.

Because a righteous man may rise again.

In fact, Proverbs seems to indicate it’s pretty likely he will. Look at verse fifteen:

Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous;
Do not plunder his resting place;
For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again…

-Proverbs 24:15-16a NKJV

Proverbs warns the wicked not to tangle with the righteous because, although the wicked may get the upper hand for a while, the righteous will rise again. And again. And again.

As Christians, we know we’re not really fighting people. (At least we should know that.) No, we’re at war with something far bigger. Something we can’t see.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

-Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

And, unfortunately, our enemies will probably take us down from time to time.

But take heart. We will rise again.

Of course, there’s an interesting qualifier in this verse. Only “righteous” people can expect to have this power to rise again, over and over. If you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll probably guess what I’m about to say.

Jesus alone makes us righteous.

All the good deeds in the world can’t wipe the sin off of us. Only Jesus’ blood can do that. He washes us clean and leads us to the paths of righteousness that we could never find on our own. Nor be qualified to walk in if we had found them.

But sometimes we start wandering and dabbling in the same stuff that left us filthy in the first place. (Very stupid of us, I might add.) Then we wonder why we fall and can’t seem to rise again.

Sometimes when we fall and can’t rise, we need to take a good hard look in the mirror. Make sure we’re walking in paths of righteousness Jesus brought us to.

Sometimes we get slammed down even when we’re walking in the paths of righteousness. And sometimes it takes a while before God raises us to our feet again.

But never lose heart, brothers and sisters. When God’s time is right, we will rise again.

-Miss Darcy

The Funeral Verse That Isn’t

If you haven’t yet heard this Bible verse read at a funeral, that probably means you just haven’t attended enough funerals. (Which is good because it means you haven’t lost many people who are dear to you.)

Seems like whenever a serious discussion of heaven arises, whether at a funeral or in general conversation among Christians, the conversation is eventually going to include a quotation of this verse.

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

-1 Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)

I’m not sure who first applied this verse to life after death. It’s true that we can’t really imagine what is waiting for Christians in heaven. But the context of this verse has nothing to do with heaven at all.

As 1 Corinthians chapter 2 begins, Paul writes that when he preached the gospel to the Corinthians, he did not use “persuasive words of human wisdom.” Instead, Paul preached only “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Paul didn’t want people relying on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (see verses 2-5)

Then he goes on to say,

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,

which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

-1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NKJV (emphasis mine)

In other words, once a Christian starts maturing in his faith, he’s ready to dive into the wisdom of God. The hidden wisdom. The mystery which God ordained before the ages.

That’s what Paul refers to in verse 9 when he quotes, “Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

It is this awesome wisdom of God which we could never have imagined.

No one, not even the Jewish scholars of the Law, knew this wisdom. Otherwise, they would never have crucified Jesus.

Interestingly, verse 10 of this chapter is never read at funerals (in my experience), nor is it often quoted.

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

-1 Corinthians 2:10 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Did you catch it? “But God has revealed them…”

The things we could never have hoped to conceive of on our own? God’s Spirit reveals them to us as we mature.

They’re not a secret any longer.

Now that Christ has come, we can plumb the depths of God’s mysteries. Not through our own wisdom, but through the the Spirit of God.

“No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” But now we have received that Holy Spirit, “that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (see verses 11 and 12)

Oh, we’ll never fully comprehend the mystery of God’s wisdom. But isn’t it awesome that we can dive in and explore? The followers of God who lived before Christ had no chance of studying the depths of wisdom we can.

Because Christ IS the wisdom of God.

but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,

but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

-1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NKJV (emphasis mine)

We could never have fathomed the plan of Christ our Substitute, Savior, and Friend.

But God has revealed Him to us.

So I think we need to find a new verse to be our go-to verse when speaking of heaven. A new “funeral verse.” Got any suggestions?

-Miss Darcy

The Antichrist and Constrictor Snakes

The book of Daniel is categorized as a book of prophecy, but it’s partly history as well. Second Thessalonians is categorized as an epistle, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed it’s almost half prophecy. Today I read chapter 2, and the prophetic part captured me, which is perhaps unusual because I tend to look for practical, everyday things in the Bible.

Paul writes about the coming of the “lawless one,” whom Christians often refer to as the Antichrist. Paul calls him “the man of sin, the son of perdition.”

who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

-2 Thessalonians 2:4 (NKJV)

Obviously, the lawless one has not come yet because no one has yet been able to exalt himself above all that is worshiped. People around this globe are still busy worshiping all manner of things. But lawlessness is already at work in this world. If you haven’t noticed, just check the news.

But one day, God will take away all restraints (see 2 Thess. 2:7). And when the Lord GOD stops restraining wickedness, then…

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,

and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,

that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

-2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 (NKJV)

The Lord will remove restraints and Satan will raise up the lawless one. The Antichrist, as we call him, will promise peace and prosperity. Satan will empower him to work amazing signs, perform miracles (maybe even miracles that look “good”), destroy his enemies, and appear to be a mighty man with an incredible unseen force at his disposal.

Think of it: destructive power, maybe healing power, and magical mind-blowing powers, all in one smooth-talking, charismatic man.

Talk about a wow-factor.

This guy will look impressive. But he will also be wicked. No code of ethics. No rudimentary morality. No magnanimity. He’ll promote sin and call it good.

A “man of sin” working “all unrighteous deception.”

People will flock to him. They won’t see the wickedness. Or the danger.

Check out verse 8: “whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and with the brightness of His coming.”

There’s a wow-factor for you. This invincible lawless one will be unable to withstand the Lord’s very breath and the awesome brightness that surrounds the Lord.

The lawless one will be utterly destroyed.

And what of those who followed him? They perish with their leader.

The lawless one’s followers will take pleasure in unrighteousness. They’ll reject the truth because it would hamper their lifestyles.

They will not love the truth that could have saved them. They will prefer the lie.

And God will say, “If the lie is what you want, that’s what I’ll give you.”

This lawless one will bring with him strong delusion, the Scripture says.

Delusion. When someone holds to a belief in spite of evidence that invalidates that belief. It can be associated with mental disorders. It implies a harmful deception.

But this lawless one’s delusion is so strong human reasoning will not be able to see it. Without God Himself helping them, people will be incapable of seeing past this strong delusion.

Those who had the opportunity to receive the truth and instead chose to pretend a lie was true–those people will be helpless.

They won’t even realize it. That’s part of delusion.

You know, I’d hate to drown or burn to death. But you know what creeps me out worse?

The coils of a giant constrictor snake. It strikes without warning. It coils around its victim in a matter of seconds. First the feeling of terror and helplessness. You can’t breath as these dry, cool, unfeeling scales wrap around you. Circulation is cut off. Your organs are dying for oxygen and nourishment. Blood pressure explodes. Your heart arrests, and you die. It takes only a short time, but what a horrifying short time.

That is how I picture the lawless one’s strong delusion.

The victim doesn’t see it coming. Long ago they rejected the truth, so they can’t hope to recognize the lie. It wraps them, squeezes them, keeps squeezing until they die.

There’s one difference between them and the constrictor’s victim. The victims of the delusion don’t even know they need help.

Brothers and sisters, can you fathom the horror? Billions of people deceived by this lawless one, and nothing can save them from impending destruction. Only God could help, but eventually He will leave them to their own devices. And they will be destroyed.

Today, the devil already has thousands of delusions wreaking havoc. But today, God is still working and has not yet withdrawn all restraints.

Oh, should we not pray with tears that God will break down lies? That there may be fewer who reject the truth, fewer who die not knowing they need help?

Friend, if you read this and do not believe in Jesus, will you take an honest look at who He is? Will you dare to read the Bible? Will you dare to ask God to reveal Himself to you? (Perhaps you don’t even believe He exists, but I know from personal experience He will not hide from you if you seek Him honestly.)

Will you dare to look at everything you believe and evaluate it ruthlessly to see if there are gaps in the logic, questions left unanswered, feelings left unresolved? This may be a surprise, but Jesus can satisfy all of that. No logical person wants to be deceived. So take a good, long, hard look. It can’t hurt.

And it might just turn your world upside down. In the best possible way.

-Miss Darcy

Strength for What?

There is nothing weak about God. His love is strong. His wrath is strong. His justice, His light, His grace, everything about Him is so mighty we can’t fathom it.

And God is more than willing to empower us with His strength.

But not so we can spend that strength getting whatever we want. In fact, He may want us to use that strength in a rather surprising way.

[We pray that you will be] strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

-Colossian 1:11 NKJV

In this passage, Paul describes how he is praying for the Colossian church. (And there are so many wonderful things he prays for them, but I’m trying to keep this concise today.)

He prays that God would strengthen them with all might, according to God’s own glorious power. Does that not sound wonderful?

Then he goes on to say how that power will be used:

To have joy when we’ve been suffering for a long time.

Not just to patiently and miserably endure suffering. But to endure with joy.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I will definitely need God’s own power to succeed in that.

It might not look grand and glorious to the world. It’s not showy strength. Not the kind of strength that features in an action movie.

But it’s a steady, indomitable strength that allows us to rejoice even when we’ve been stuck in a painful situation for so long we hardly remember life before.

That’s God’s strength.

-Miss Darcy

Though He Does Not Know It

I used to love to read Leviticus when I was younger. I remember a pastor saying, “If you can’t get to sleep, just read Leviticus.” And we all laughed, but I privately disagreed. I thought all the details of the laws and sacrifices were vastly interesting. (If you want to read yourself to sleep, try the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles. They take a huge amount of concentration to be interesting.) 🙂

But it’s been a while since I visited Leviticus, so in March I went back to see if I still find it fascinating. I do. Almost every chapter, some tiny thing jumps out at me that I hadn’t really thought of before.

Here’s one:

“If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity.

“And he shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish … as a trespass offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him.

“It is a trespass offering; he has certainly trespassed against the LORD.”

-Leviticus 5:17-19 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Even if a person didn’t mean to sin–if they sinned without even realizing it–they were still guilty. God still required a sacrifice to atone for their sinning in ignorance.

Jesus was our ultimate Sacrifice. The final Lamb who died for the sins of mankind.

Including the sins I don’t even realize I’ve committed.

My sinful nature is so much a part of me that sometimes I won’t even realize I’ve sinned. (Maybe I’ll see it later; maybe I won’t.) And think of all the times I know I should do something good and don’t do it–that’s sin, too. (see James 4:17)

Jesus died for those sins.

For all the times my folly and pride and callous sinful nature keep me from seeing my sin, Jesus shed His blood.

All these sins I may never specifically seek forgiveness for because I don’t even know I’ve done it–Jesus forgives those.

Somehow that truth hadn’t hit me hard until I read Leviticus. I’d never thought to thank Jesus for bleeding on behalf of all my sins of ignorance.

Don’t we have a wonderful, merciful Savior?

-Miss Darcy

A Wise Man’s Face

I make no secret that Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Last time I read it, I ran across a verse I hadn’t given much thought to:

Who is like a wise man?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
And the sternness of his face is changed.

-Ecclesiastes 8:1 (NKJV)

The second half of the verse stuck out to me.

“A man’s wisdom makes his face shine…”

When we say a person’s face shines, we might say it shines with joy. Or gladness. Or peace.

We never say a person’s face shines with sorrow or pain or misery.

“And the sternness of his face is changed.”

I picked up a thesaurus to look at stern. It can mean “grim; implacable; unrelenting.”

Possible antonyms are “lenient; soft.”

I think we tend to think of wisdom as something that makes you stuffy. Judgmental. Rigid.

Maybe you’ve heard the joke about two boys walking down a country road one day, fishing poles in hand. They passed by a field where a mule looked over the fence at them. And one boy said, “That mule must have my grandfather’s religion.”

Can you picture that grandfather? Long-faced. Disapproving. Never smiling. Never merciful. Oh, he was probably a Bible-reading, God-fearing, prayer-praying, maybe even Jesus-preaching man. Yet was he truly wise?

Maybe as we get wiser, we smile more. We show more grace. We have more joy.

I’m not saying wisdom means you have no strong principles to guide you. No, wisdom has very strong principles. But true wisdom will change you inside so that your face shines.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

-James 3:17 (NKJV)

So the next time someone gives you advice, study their face. And study their attitudes. If they’re negative and hopeless, scowling and severe, you might need more than a few grains of salt to go with that advice.

Because true wisdom makes its owner’s face shine.

-Miss Darcy