And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Have you ever endured a storm? Growing up in Illinois, tornadoes were a common threat. Thankfully, we were never hit by a tornado. And now, living in Florida, we have hurricane season each June to November. A few times, we evacuated to avoid a hurricane, but thankfully, we have never experienced the full effect of a hurricane. These are natural storms. However, some of us, probably ALL of us have survived personal storms.
In 2001, I faced a very dark and scary storm that about destroyed me. A storm which I didn’t see coming and one I don’t talk much about. After 13 years of marriage, I became a single mom of 3 precious children, ages 5, 8 and 11; unemployed, uncertain of the future and over a hundred miles from family. This was the most difficult storm that I have ever encountered.
In the midst of this storm, God truly became the husband to the husbandless and father to the fatherless. The Lord was my strength and refuge, an ever-present help in times of trouble. To survive, I cried out to Him day and night and experienced His faithfulness and nearness. He surrounded me with a supportive family and an amazing group of friends.
One particular day, I was reading Mark 4:35-41. Jesus had been teaching to a crowd all day near the sea of Galilee. When evening came, Jesus told the disciples that they should take the boat to the other side of the sea. Several of the disciples were fishermen. When they set sail, they left all the people on the shoreline. As they were crossing the lake, a great windstorm, fierce gale of wind or violent squall quickly arose and their boat began filling with water as the waves began crashing down upon them. The disciples were afraid! They had never experienced the fierceness of this kind of storm and they knew they were going to perish (Luke 8:23). Jesus was in the boat….but….He was asleep!
The disciples woke Him by saying, “‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm….” (Mark 4:38, 39).
Wow! Peace, be still! When I read this, I felt such comfort as I realized that Jesus knew I was in the storm. He knew that I was being challenged and He knew that I was afraid! And because He was in my boat, I could go to Him; I could cry out to Him and ask if He cared that I was perishing and He would offer peace - even in the midst of the fierce storm that was trying to capsize me. That was and is such a comfort to me - and hopefully to you, as well. Whatever we face - we can cry out to Him! He may calm the storm immediately or the storm may continue raging around us and He will calm us. We can continue seeking Him in the midst of every storm!
Since then, I’ve realized that when I don’t have peace, I need to examine myself - maybe I am in the wrong boat, or maybe I have pushed Jesus out of the boat and am trying to navigate my life all by myself. Jesus is the source of peace. Years ago, I read this bumper sticker, “Know Jesus. Know Peace. No Jesus, No Peace.”
Last night, the father of one of my closest friends “went to sleep.” Earlier in the day, I visited with them in her home and read a verse that she had written on the wall: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). My friend and her family are definitely grieving; however, they will experience a “great peace” because Jesus is in their boat, they are calling out to Him and they have loved His truths. “Great peace have those who love Your law. And nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:165). Whatever storm we are facing, we can…and will experience peace when we seek Jesus.
So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Years ago, I had a elderly friend who lived across the street. Ann loved to play Bingo and one day she asked me if I would like to go with her. I liked spending time with her and I thought it would be fun so I said, “Yes.” I soon discovered that the Bingo Ann played was not the Bingo I remember playing in elementary school.
This was a serious game. To increase their chances of winning, these bingo players played with multiple cards instead of only using one. Since I was new to the game, Ann suggested that I start with just a few cards until I got use to it.
We were a few rounds in when to my surprise I covered five numbers in a row and yelled out “Bingo”! The whole room collectively groaned as the caller came over to check my card. He immediately said without looking at my numbers, “You don’t have Bingo.” What I didn’t realize was that each round had a different pattern that determined the winner; it might be cover the four corners, or make a box and I clearly did not have the pattern they were playing.
I could tell Ann was a little embarrassed as she explained the hybrid game to me. We continued to play and a couple rounds later my covered numbers were in the correct pattern so I called out “Bingo”. The caller came over to check my numbers, glanced at my card and again said, “ You don’t have Bingo”.
The game had changed patterns and I was following the wrong pattern. Ann, with an apologetic look on her face to the friends around her, explained to me the game pattern changed each round. I wish I could say that was the last time I called a false “Bingo,” but I did it one more time. I don’t think I have ever had so many elderly people mad at me at one time. Understandably, Ann never invited me to play Bingo again.
I didn’t want to call false “Bingo”, embarrass my friend and make everyone angry at me, but I did. In Romans 7 Paul expresses his struggle with doing what he does not want to do. “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” (Romans 7:18-19 NLT)
What an incredibly accurate description of how a follower of Christ struggles with sin. When we are walking closely with the Lord we will not want to intentionally sin because of our love for the Lord. Our desire is to live holy lives that reflect who Jesus is. The problem is, although we are a new creation in Christ, we still have a sinful nature that remains until we step into eternity.
As believers, sin does not cause us to lose our salvation, but it does affect intimacy with the Lord. It grieves the Holy Spirit, it weighs us down, hurts our witness and steals our joy. Paul expresses the sorrow sin brings when he exclaims in Romans 7:24, “ Oh what a miserable person I am.”
Lovingly, the Holy Spirit will convict us so that we will confess our sin and turn from it. 1 John 1:9 and Psalms 103:12 tell us that confessed sin is forgiven and forgotten by the Lord. The trouble is we don’t forget the terrible things we have done. This will cause us to believe the enemy’s lie, that because of our past sin we are worthless and unusable by the Lord.
But we must fight that lie with the truth of God’s Word. After Paul lets us see his struggle with sin and shame he boldly proclaims in Romans 8:1, “ So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The enemy wants to paralyze us with shame so we will not fulfill the calling the Lord has placed on our lives. We must fight this attack by allowing this truth to flood our minds, penetrate our hearts and then boldly proclaim, “IN CHRIST THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION”.
“For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope"
There have been occasions in my life when I felt I was living a bad dream…a nightmare that I wished would disappear. There have also been occasions when life seemed so incredible that it was like a fantastic dream that I didn’t want to end. I have lived through one occasion that was both.
Many years ago, our third child became sick. We had travelled to visit family for Thanksgiving and our young son developed a cough. His cough grew worse until we decided to shorten our trip and return home.
As we drove home, our son grew pale and refused to eat or drink. We arrived home late on Friday afternoon. I stayed with our other two children while my husband drove our son to the hospital. We thought that he was dehydrated and would be back to normal after receiving IV fluids. That wasn’t the case.
Our baby was severely dehydrated. He had pneumonia in both lungs, and his oxygen levels were very low. He received care immediately at the emergency room. He was very ill. I called family members asking them to pray.
A short time later, my husband arrived home…without our son. Our son was so sick that he was being airlifted to a nearby hospital with a pediatric ICU. My husband wasn’t allowed to accompany him on the flight. The doctors weren’t sure our son would live through the night.
My husband and I got on our knees and prayed for God’s mercy, realizing we had to accept whatever the outcome. My husband drove to the hospital; I remained home with our other children.
I prayed through the night. I was pregnant with our fourth child and as the long night hours passed, I could feel the strong kicks of our unborn child. With each kick, the Lord seemed to whisper, “I am the God of life.” God reminded me that He was with us.
The next morning, I hurried to the hospital. Our son had lived through the night! I sat in his intensive care room, holding his little hand and listening as the beeping monitors marked each beat of his heart.
When our son was moved to a regular patient room, I watched as he played in the hospital crib. Repeatedly, I gave thanks to God for sparing our son’s life.
When we left the hospital with our son in our arms, it seemed like a dream too good to be true. The nightmare had passed. The good dream was our reality.
When God’s people, the Israelites were taken captive by the Babylonians it was a nightmare come true. Because of their idol worship, God disciplined His people. But God never left them or forgot them. He promised them that after a time of captivity, He would deliver them. He told them through the prophet Jeremiah,
"For I know the plans I have for you...Plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope"(Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)
Psalm 126 was probably written when the exiles of Israel returned to their homeland some 70 years later. Verses 1-2 reads:
“When the LORD restored His exiles to Jerusalem.
It was like a dream!
We were filled with laughter,
And we sang for joy….”
Sometimes our living nightmares change our reality, but God remains faithful. He may not answer all of our questions about why or what if, but He remains with us, just as He remained with His people when they were in a far-away land and when He brought them home again.
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.
When a friend asks, “Where would you like to meet for lunch?”, are you quick to respond with a suggestion? I admit that I’m one of those people who can be very indecisive. I don’t like to make the decision.
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.