Peace

About 700 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah spoke of the peace that Jesus came to bring into our world. See Isaiah 9:6-7. Luke, in his Gospel of the Life of Christ, writes about the night that Jesus was born which included a special message from angelic messengers. See Luke 2:4-14.
 
“Peace” means harmonious relations and freedom from disputes; a state of well-being, completeness, and wholeness.
 

Peace with God.

 
The first step toward peace with God is to recognize that there is enmity between man and God. Acknowledge there is a broken relationship between you and God. The second step toward peace with God is to acknowledge that God has provided a solution to our broken relationship through His Son, Jesus. See Romans 5:1-2. Jesus came as the messenger of peace with God and the means to peace with God. See Ephesians 2:17-18.
 
The third step to peace with God is to accept Christ as our only Savior and Lord. See Colossians 1:19-20. The proclamation of Christmas is “God and sinners, reconciled.” Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and man and has come to restore peace with God.
 

Peace with God does not come from what you do. Peace with God comes from what Jesus has done for you.

 

Peace with each other.

 
There is no peace on earth because there is no peace with God. The further we are from God, the greater our relational strife. But once you have made peace with God, you can and will make peace with others. See Ephesians 2:14-16; Romans 14:19.
 

If you are not able to make peace with others, it will affect your peace with God.

 

Peace within our broken world.

 
Jesus came to bring peace unlike anything this world can offer. See John 14:27.
Jesus came to bring peace that is personal. See Ephesians 2:14; John 16:33.
Jesus came to bring peace that guards your heart and mind. See Philippians 4:6-7.
Jesus came to bring peace within amidst the chaos without. See Isaiah 26:3.
 

Peace on earth is not found within what this world has to offer. It is only found within a relationship with Christ, the Prince of Peace.

 
See Romans 15:13.
 

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Hope

The hope of a coming Savior was a golden thread woven throughout the 4,000 years between the birth of our sin and the birth of our Savior. These glimpses of hope were like vistas or viewpoints throughout the long journey of the Advent of Christ. Likewise, on your journey of life, pause to take in the viewpoints of hope along the way.
 
Viewpoint #1: Adam & Eve. Adam and Eve had just sinned against God. In the midst of dispensing the consequence of sin, God surprises us with hope. See Genesis 3:15. He speaks of a Savior — One who will crush the head of Satan and yet in the process suffer for our sin. Even in this darkest moment of man’s sin, God speaks hope.
 

In the darkest moments of your sin hope shines on a Savior who forgives.

 
See Colossians 1:13-14.
 
Viewpoint #2: Abraham and Sarah. See Genesis 12:2-3. Abraham and Sarah would not see this hope fulfilled for over 25 years. But even through the long waiting, God kept His promise and Abraham and Sarah. The Apostle Paul wrote about the hope we have that God will keep his promises. See Romans 4:18-21. The promise given to Abraham would find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus (2,o00 years later).
 

In your longest periods of waiting, hope endures in the faithfulness of God.

 
See also Galatians 4:4-5.
 
Viewpoint #3: Kingdoms of Israel & Judah. The love and commitment of the people of God had grown cold. They would continue to compromise their beliefs and yield to the influence of surrounding cultures. God speaks a promise through the Prophet Isaiah even in the midst of chaos and compromise. See Isaiah 7:14; 9:2; 9:6-7.
 

In times of cultural upheaval and compromise, hope focuses on God’s power and authority.

 
Viewpoint #4: When God Seems Silent. The Lord confronts the post-exilic Jews through the prophet Malachi. But embedded in his prophetic warnings, there is a message of hope. See Malachi 3:1. After Malachi’s prophecies, the Lord goes silent (400 years). But God is still at work even in the silence.
 

In times when God seems silent and distant, hope assures us of His presence.

 
This period of silence ends with the most remarkable assurance of His presence — the birth of Christ, God in the flesh. See Luke 1:26-33.
 

The Advent of Christ teaches us that we can live with expectations of divine hope even in the darkest of times.

 
See Romans 15:13; Hebrews 10:23.
 

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Suffering

Suffering is the product of the universal sin of mankind. See Genesis 3:14-19.
 
Suffering may be the result of your life choices. See Galatians 6:7-8.
 
Suffering is not necessarily judgement for personal sin. Job 1:1; 2 Kings 13:14.
 
Suffering is not a permanent problem, it will end. See Revelation 21:3-4.
 
Suffering may be allowed to test your faith. See Job 1:8-12; 2:3; 1 Peter 1:6-7.
 
Suffering may be allowed to bring glory to God. See John 9:1-3. Your response to suffering to those that are watching may also serve as a testimony of God’s grace and help in your life which would cause others to trust in God.
 
Suffering can lead us to spiritual growth. See James 1:2-4; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; Genesis 41:52. The only way we can grow and bear fruit through suffering is in properly responding to our suffering — not reacting to it. Responding requires intention. This means that you approach suffering from God’s perspective on it. Rather than reacting to our suffering through anger or losing heart, we fix our eyes on Jesus. See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
 
Suffering reminds us that we serve a God who suffered with us and for us. See Isaiah 53:3-5.
 
Suffering prepares and equips us to comfort others who are suffering. See 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
 
Suffering does not mean God is withholding His love from us. See Romans 8:35-39.
 
Why does Jesus still bear the scars on his resurrected body? To remind us that God is not only aware of our suffering, He was willing to submit to it to allow us to overcome it.
 

God never wastes your suffering. He redeems it for a greater purpose.

 

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Faith

See Hebrews 11:6. So what is faith? Perhaps a great way to narrow down the true Biblical definition of faith is to begin by stating what faith is not. Faith is not a force, a formula, a form of religion, a feeling or a fortune.
 
The Bible actually gives us a very specific definition of faith and then some examples of what it looks like in real life. See Hebrews 10:38–39; Hebrews 11:1.
 

Faith: Confidence God is and will do what He promised to do.

 
We don’t believe in God or His promises because of faith. We believe God is and that he keeps his promises because of evidence. The writer of Hebrews gives us the evidence…from creation, from the ancients, from those who are being persecuted because of their faith.
 
See Hebrews 11:2. I want to zoom in on one of the ancients, one of the heroes of the faith — Abraham. See Hebrews 11:8–12.
Why did Abraham do these things? Because God made him a promise. See Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:26-29.
 
God keeps His promises. They are evidence that He is faithful. The promise all the ancients looked toward was Jesus. The greatest promise that we now look back to and, at the same time, forward to is Jesus. The writer of Hebrews tells us the crucial role that Jesus plays in the faith of His followers. See Hebrews 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:19-20.
 

Faith is confidence God is and will do what He promised to do through Jesus Christ.

 
Jesus is all the evidence we need. In the early church, the Apostles always connected faith to the evidence of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-20
 
The death, resurrection, ascension of Christ is the foundation of my faith in God and His promises for me. Your faith is not anchored in some mythical, “once upon a time in a land far, far away” kind of story. Your faith is anchored in the person, Jesus Christ. Example of faith in Jesus (Matthew 8:1-3).
 
Faith is not based on you, it is based on Christ. True faith leaves the Lord in control. Faith isn’t a force that we use to manipulate God. Faith is a firm confidence in the goodness, the wisdom, and the purposes of God.
 

The validity of your faith is not based on the results from God, it’s based on your resolve in God.

 
Some have “lost faith” in God because they had faith, they prayed, and God didn’t answer the way they thought he should. Is that actually faith? See Hebrews 11:39. How could the be commended for their faith if they did receive what had been promised? Because their faith was not in getting from God, their faith was trusting in God — His plans and purposes; His grace and His goodness.
 
Faith is confidence God is and will do what He promised to do through Jesus Christ. What is the greatest promise you can and will receive through faith? Your salvation. See Romans 5:1-2.
 
Faith in God is best demonstrated through obedience to God.
 

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Contentment

See Psalm 119:130; Romans 12:2. We don’t base our beliefs on what our culture tells us; we base our beliefs on what the Bible teaches.
 
What sabotaged Adam and Eve’s contentment in the Garden of Eden? Satan lured Adam and Eve by tempting them to take their eyes off of what God had given them and to focus on what He hadn’t. That’s the root of discontentment. You stop focusing on what God has done and start looking at what He hasn’t done.
 
“When I have _________________, then I will be content.” For you, what have you tried, are you currently trying, or planning to try in the future to fill-the-blank in your contentment?
 
If you had the opportunity to talk with the richest man in the world about contentment, would you listen to what he had to say? One of the world’s wealthiest men wrote his thoughts out for us to read. Solomon wrote what he learned about life, pleasure, wealth, and wisdom. Read Ecclesiastes 5:10-12; 4:7-8; 2:4-11; 4:4-6.
 

Trying to find contentment in pursuing material wealth and pleasure is like chasing after the wind.

 
“That’s just chasing after the wind.” Use this statement when you find envy or desire for more trying to hijack your contentment.
 
Read Ecclesiastes 2:24–25; 5:18–20.
 

Contentment is living at peace within the means and the moments that God has given you.

 
Read Philippians 4:10-13. The word Paul used is best translated contained. It carries the idea of self-sufficiency. Paul is saying I don’t depend on things on the outside, because I carry my own sufficiency on the inside. This of course is Christ’s power and strength at work within him.
 

Contentment can never be bought at a store, it must be learned from the Lord.

Paul said, twice, that he learned contentment. Learning implies that this is not something we come by naturally. Learning also requires practice. Practice turns something that is not natural into something that feels normal.

 

Contentment is not discovered in the next moment it is found in the current moment.

Contentment is never in the next season if we can’t cultivate it in the present one. See Hebrews 13:5.

 

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Forgiveness

In this series we will learn how the Bible reveals to us God’s plan, purpose, and will concerning common issues so that we can reframe our beliefs and behaviors about these issues. That is how we develop a Biblical world-view.
 
Frame: to form or make, as by fitting and uniting parts together; construct. So in our lives, we take the various influences and experiences and beliefs and form those together or fit those together to construct what we choose to believe about any specific item.
 
Reframe: to frame again and often in a different way. The essential idea behind reframing is that a person’s point-of-view depends on the frame it is viewed in. That frame has been developed, right or wrong, through various influences and experiences. When the frame is shifted, the meaning changes and thinking, belief, and behavior often change along with it.
 
As Christians, our primary source of truth that should construct our beliefs is the Bible. See 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
 
We don’t base our beliefs on what our culture tells us; we base our beliefs on what the Bible teaches. That is what it means to have a Christian, or biblical, world-view. And this will affect the way we see everything else in our lives. See Romans 12:2.
 
The first common issue I want us to “Reframe” according to God’s Word is Forgiveness. Forgiveness is essential to our lives. The reason lies in an inescapable fact of human nature: we are bound to hurt others and others are bound to hurt us.
 
Making sense of forgiveness means talking about sin. Sin: “missing the mark” or “straying from the path”. This implies that there is a mark, an ideal, or a path that we are meant to follow in order to have a proper relationship with God and with others. When we miss the mark, fall short of the ideal, or stray from this path it effects others around us and our relationship with God.
 

Forgiveness requires awareness, confession, and repentance.

See Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:8-9; Acts 3:19.
 
Repentance begins with my awareness of the gap I have created between myself and God, or myself and the other person. I acknowledge that I have stepped off the path, hurting people and wounding my relationship with God, and I express the remorse I feel. I confess to the other person and do what I can to make amends, I confess to God and ask for his mercy and forgiveness, and I turn back toward the right. When I do that, God forgives me. It’s not a complicated process. God removes the burden of my sin and I am restored.
 

Forgiveness means that God will never hold that sin against you again.

See Psalm 32:1-2; Psalm 130:3-4.
 

Forgiveness means that God chooses to no longer remember your sin.

See Isaiah 43:25.
 

Forgiveness means that you are not identified by your sin.

See Psalm 103:8-12; Psalm 25:7.
 

Forgiveness means that God destroys the power of that sin to hold you hostage any longer.

See Psalm 51:1-3; Romans 6:6-7.
 

Forgiveness means that I must forgive others as God has forgiven me.

See Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32.
 
Forgiveness is not the same as condoning. Forgiveness means letting go of the right to retribution. We are letting go of the pain in our own lives and refusing to hold that sin against the one who wronged us.
 
There are two dimensions to forgiveness: there is your internal release of bitterness, anger, or desire for revenge, and there is the extension of mercy toward the one who has wronged you.
 

God’s forgiveness of sin is limitless and calls us to forgive without limits.

See Matthew 18:21–35.
 

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I’m Invested

When it comes to the investment of your finances, some see giving to Christ’s mission via tithing to the church and giving to missionaries and organizations as money wasted. Others see it as the wisest investment of their money as stewards to God and His mission one earth. The truth is found in having a proper perspective on the ultimate purpose in life. What really matters in light of eternity? See Matthew 6:33.
 
Invest: to use, give, or devote (money, time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose.
 

Right now, you are investing in something!

 
The problem is that many of us are investing in things that truly make a difference in our lives or the lives of those around us.
 
Jesus speaks about money or our resources a lot. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In one of those parables Jesus talks how we are to steward our resources for him. See Luke 19:12-27. This parable and the principles we find about giving throughout Scripture shows us that: Jesus calls us to pour out not store up. See Matthew 6:19.
 

Jesus calls us to pour out not store up.

 
I understand that most people actually do want to give but feel as though they can’t right now because they just don’t have enough. This is called “When, Then” thinking — “When I have more, then will give more.”
 
Scarcity Cycle: God Supplies…We consume — We lack — We fear. The Scarcity Cycle starts in the mind, not in the wallet. Jesus speaks to the Scarcity Cycle in a one of his parables in Luke 12:15-21. If you view life through the lens of scarcity, we will always be fearful and anxious. Jesus has a much different plan for you.
 
See Luke 12:22-34. Through his teaching, Jesus is trying to shift our mindset from scarcity to abundance. As followers of Christ, we should have an abundance mindset (see 2 Corinthians 9:8).
 
Abundance Cycle: God Supplies…We give — God multiplies — Faith Grows. Tithing breaks the scarcity mindset and nurtures an abundance mindset.
 
90% with God’s blessings goes further than 100% without. What you keep is all you have. But what you invest, God multiplies. See Luke 6:38; Malachi 3:8-12.
 

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I’m Influential

We are created with the capacity to influence and be influenced.

 
We tend to neglect our responsibility to be an influence because we have come to believe that influence requires that we have a position, power or platform. As you look at the people Jesus selected as disciples you would quickly see these were not people of position, power or platform. They were simply people whose lives were greatly influenced by Christ and that influence in their lives made them men and women of incredible influence.
 

A life influenced by Christ should always influence the lives of others.

 
As a verb, influence typically means “to affect or change someone in an indirect but usually important way.”
 
Many of us fail to understand our capacity to influence others in a spiritual manner. We underestimate how deeply our Christian influence can change one person’s life and how many people our influence will affect when it runs its course. Never underestimate how far God can spread the reach of your influence — especially when that influence is empowered by the Holy Spirit at work in and through your life.
 
Jesus challenges us to embrace the power of our Christian influence. See Matthew 5:13-16.
 

Christian influence originates from Christ’s character in us.

Christian character will lead to influence. If the beatitudes describe the essential character of the disciples of Jesus, the salt and light metaphors indicate their influence for good in the world.
 

Christian influence is not an option, it’s a responsibility.

The two metaphors of salt and light indicate the influence for good which Christians will exert in the community if (and only if) they maintain their Christian character as portrayed in the Beatitudes.
 

Christian influence must be in close proximity to those it will affect.

Salt and light are to have a powerful influence on their environment. The salt is to be rubbed into the meat in order to slow decay. The light is to shine into the darkness. Jesus clearly told his disciples that if they wanted to make a difference in the world, they would have to be different from the world yet engaged in the world.
 

Christian influence is best achieved when its potency is properly adjusted.

Salt and light are most effective when their potency is adjusted to help, not hurt, that upon which they act. Christian influence is achieved one conversation, one encouraging word, and one act of love at a time.
 
You have no idea how an encouraging word or an act done in love might influence someone’s life for Christ. See 1 Peter 2:12, 15.
 

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I’m Invaluable

Did you know that you are invaluable to God? See Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:16-18; Luke 12:6-7.
 
If you’re a Christian, what makes you valuable is the name of Jesus written on your heart. See 1 Peter 4:16. You are invaluable to God’s work. You’re also invaluable because you were created by God for a purpose. You were created to make a difference in God’s work…His mission…carried out through the ministry of the Church.
 

You are invaluable to God and His purposes at work through the Body of Christ.

 
You are uniquely prepared with divine gifts, passions, and talents. When God created you, He put you at this moment in history because it’s at this time that you can best glorify God. You are invaluable to God’s work. See Ephesians 2:10.
 
Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. On your own, you’re a disciple. But when you gather together with other Spirit-filled, Word-empowered believers, you take on a new identity. You are the Body of Christ.
 

You are an invaluable part of the Body of Christ!

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:15–17. You own estimation of yourself…your own sense of value…does not amputate or remove you from the body. When you became a follower of Christ…you became part of His body!
 
See Psalm 139:13-15. Aren’t you glad that we are not born piece by piece? God could have said, “Eve, you’re gonna have a baby…but some assembly is required.” No, we were assembled in the womb as God designed. It is the same with the body of Christ. He is knitting together His body to accomplish His purposes on earth.
 

You are an intentional part of the Body of Christ.

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:18–24. God has placed the parts in the body…just as he wanted them to be. You are a part of that body…and every part is important…every part matters to God.
 

We don’t determine the value of our part in the Body, God does.

Because of that, every part matters — even the parts that seem weaker or insignificant. Some of the most important things that happen are actually the parts of the body that are least celebrated or least visible.
 
Read: 1 Corinthians 12:24-27. You might think you chose to be a part of this church. But the truth is that God has put the body together. You are here because God wants you here…you matter to God, you matter to this church. If we believe that God is the designer, then there should be no division within His body. Instead, we all know we are valued, see the value in others, and honor that value which makes the whole body work together.
 

One part has the ability to effect the whole body.

You’re a part of the body of Christ, but if you’re not using the gifts that God has given you, you’re not living out your divine calling, your function, your role, your part, your position. That part of the body is now useless.

You’re an invaluable part. You’ve got something unique to offer that no one else does. If your one part of the body is asleep the rest of the body has to work harder. Others are putting more in because you’re not doing your role.
 
Church is not a building that we go to. It’s not an institution we’re a part of. We’re a living body of Christ. Your part matters to the Body…your part is Invaluable to God.
 
What do you think would be possible if all of us stepped up to do what we were uniquely created by God to do within his Body, the Church?
 
You were uniquely created by God to bring value. The church is the body of Christ. You are an invaluable part of God’s body. You are invaluable to God and His purposes at work through the Body of Christ.
 

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I’m Invited

Your sins do not disqualify you from God’s invitation to experience His love and grace.

 
In fact, God’s love and grace invites you to come to Him to be set free from your sin through His Son, Jesus Christ. God extends grace through his love precisely because of our sin. You could even say that the awareness of your sins is what makes you eligible for God’s grace.
 

The invitation to come to Jesus is universal and unconditional.

 
Read: Luke 19:1-10. This is the only instance in the four Gospels of Jesus inviting Himself to someone’s home. Of all the people in Jericho that Jesus could have spent the day with, why Zacchaeus? Because this is exactly why Jesus came. He came for the sinners.
 
Salvation came to Zacchaeus, not because he did good deeds, but because he truly believed in Jesus and set aside anything that might get in the way of obeying him. This was his appropriate response to choosing to follow Jesus. It was the evidence of a changed life.
 
It was also a wonderful example of Jesus’ mission. In fact, this story of the salvation of Zacchaeus gives us the context for one of Jesus’ declaration of His personal mission statement (Luke 19:10).
 
What is a key qualifier for your salvation? It is being lost and recognizing your lostness, and a desire not to say that way anymore!
 

The invitation to come to Jesus requires a response.

 
Invitations are meant to be acted upon — they generally require a response. In fact, most invitations request an RSVP (répondez s’il vous plaît = please respond). All throughout Jesus ministry he was extending invitations for people to follow him, believe in Him, trust in Him. But the invitation needs a response. See Luke 14:16–24. The invitation doesn’t guarantee your salvation. You must RSVP.
 

The invitation to come to Jesus needs to be shared with others.

 
See Luke 14:23. It has been said that within two years of becoming a Christian, the average person has already lost the significant relationships he once had with people outside the faith. This means that most Christians will tend to have close friends that are also Christian. Which means we need to be more intentional to share this invitation with those who actually need to hear it. See Romans 10:13-15.
 

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