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The Order of Peace

By Chris Baxter

What brings peace? Where does it originate? Where can I find it?

Over the last month or so, I've asked these questions in order to put together a curriculum that I'm currently working on. I've gathered a large number of peace related bible verses and they've accumulated like a mass of puzzle pieces (or should I say, peaces), waiting to be put in a specific spot in order to create a meaningful picture. This may not be new news, but what I found in my organization process, is that each verse fell into three different places. Soon, the order of peace was clear:

  1. Peace WITH God. This is where true peace originates. It's the "vertical" relationship between God and man. We cannot experience true peace within our own hearts or peace with others without first experiencing the gift of God's peace with Him. God sent His Son to the world to take away our sin so that we can have a One-on-one relationship with Him. When that happens, peace enters and we gain...
  2. Peace WITHIN. When we accept Christ as our Savior, then the Prince of Peace enters into our hearts. His Spirit settles us, transforms us, helps us, and then moves us to pursue...
  3. Peace WITH others. We cannot have peace with others until we have peace WITHIN our own hearts first. We cannot give away what we do not posses. We so often do this peace-thing backwards, don't we? We try to gain peace with others first, when truly, our own hearts are restless and misguided. Could that be what is happening today? It seems that chaos is winning. We need Christ!

First things first, peace with God, a magnificent and ETERNAL gift offered at the cross--nowhere else. All your mess will be wiped away by the only One who can do it, Jesus. Next, let His peace flood and flow within. Allow the Lord to calm you, teach you, and redirect you. Then, and only then, go and give God's peace to others. Brothers and sisters, the world needs this order of peace.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. Ephesians 2:13-14

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Habit of Casting

By Chris Baxter

Are you carrying an unwanted burden at the moment? Maybe you have an armful, or I should say, a heart full of worries that are weighing you down.

Because I tend to hold onto anxious thoughts, a bible verse that I revisit over and over again is this one:

...casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.   (I Peter 5:7)

And this one:

Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you... (Psalm 55:22)

The word "cast" means to throw forcefully in a specified direction. In these two verses, we are given the simple instruction to throw all of our anxieties and burdens off of ourselves, into the direction of the Lord, who will then take them upon Himself for our benefit. I wish this straightforward instruction was as simple to obey. Why do I hold onto things I cannot control? Why do I think I am stronger or wiser or more able than the God who made me, knows me, and loves me?

Casting is a choice, and it takes practice. And just like everything else in life, the more you do something the better you get at it.

Let's you and I choose to develop and strengthen the healthy habit of casting. Let's name each worry that we naturally accumulate, and then hurl it in the direction of the One who can not only catch it (He never misses), but also can do something about it (He's always productive). Decide today to hurl with hope. Throw your worries faithfully and fervently into the direction of your Savior. In His hands, each troublesome pebble has the opportunity to become a precious stone.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. (Psalm 68:19)

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Three Words to Live By

By Chris Baxter

I was talking with a friend who had questions about what a daily walk with the Lord looks like. I know each faith walk varies person to person, and even season to season, but in a broad way, here are three words to live by: seek, pray, trust.

Seek. Seek God in His word, every day. Daily is key. Don't we live life every day? Then, let's seek Him every day! His word is truly the lamp to our feet, and the light to our path (Psalm 119:105). God's word teaches us truths about who He is, and His great love for us. His word also gives us guidance for the smallest and biggest decisions we make, or the vast range of emotions we feel. He promises if we seek Him, we will find Him, if we seek Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Pray. Where seeking is God talking to us, praying is us talking to God. God tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). When we talk to God all the time in our heart, it leaves little room for other negative or self-defeating thoughts. In prayer, we can turn anxiety to peace. We can release anger or bitterness. We can actually help others by simply talking to God! The more we pray, the stronger our relationship with the Lord becomes.

Trust. Trusting God is crucial. If we seek Him daily, and pray to Him all the time, but we don't trust Him, and then choose to go our own way because we think it's better, then our faith walk is really "all for naught." Why seek and pray when we don't really trust? However, if we fully believe God hears our prayers, then our souls can rest, knowing He is at work, doing things we could never do in and of our own power. And if we trust Him in His word, we will confidently follow Him down His paths, believing His way is the best route, even if it's not fully revealed. A simple example: when driving into an unknown destination, we type the address into Google Maps or Waze. Isn't the next logical step to follow its directions? Trusting God is obeying God. It is faith-in-Him winning over the feelings-in-you. I've lived long enough to know that feelings are NOT trustworthy. So friend, every day, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Seek. Pray. Trust. A habitual, yet divinely exhilarating way to live.

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Three Wedding Photos and Three Wedding Thoughts

By Chris Baxter

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words". Well, I have chosen to share three pictures from my daughter Emmy's wedding this past weekend. She was privileged to marry her "best friend Kyle." I could have picked several dozen different pictures, but these three are the ones I hope will speak to your heart in a deeper way.

THE CELEBRATION. Due to planning a wedding during a pandemic, the guest list fluctuated week to week to week. To say the least, the drama involved around the wedding date was incredibly weighty. It saddened us that due to a virus, many people were unable to attend. Often I thought of the deeper reality of a better day ahead of us: In the end of time, the true Bridegroom is coming to claim his bride once and for all. At THIS wedding feast our Lord promises there will be "no more death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain" (see Revelation 21:1-6). The Bridegroom, Jesus, Savior of all mankind, is inviting YOU to be present with HIm, forever. My friend, it's going to be ETERNALLY GREAT, like no other wedding feast on this planet. Don't miss it! The question is, will you come?

Until that day...we grow as a FAMILY. I now have two more sons in the mix! And... how could I leave my precious granddaughter out of this post?! If I can give anything to this growing family, it would be the same thing I've given all along: prayer. I pray for many things, one main thing being that the love of Christ would be present within each heart and that this love would then pour out to the people around them, including each other. As you well know, being unified is not a "given", it's a choice. Differences can divide us if we allow it. My daily prayer is that we would recognize that we are all uniquely created and that each God-designed-person is worth celebrating, together. "And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:14).

ABUNDANT JOY. When Emmy got engaged, I asked her what word I could pray over her and Kyle's wedding day. She quickly responded, "JOY!" Let me emphatically say that God delivered in abundance! Joy resonated within the wedding party as well as throughout the entire celebration, all the way to the bubbly night time exit of the bride and groom. In saying this, my deeper heart's desire for you is to look at this particular picture of Emmy and Kyle and believe with all your heart that Jesus is just as EXCITED AND DELIGHTED with you as Kyle is with Emmy. IT'S TRUE (and even more so!). If we really lived with assurance that Christ LOVES AND CHERISHES US, I think we would be a more confident people of God, spreading the good news with excited fervor.With the last picture in mind I will close with these two complimentary verses. Believe in and walk (or skip) in these truths today:As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and a sound of a melody. Isaiah 51:3

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Prayer-Full Persistence

By Chris Baxter

Does our persistence in prayer, our ongoing requests, bother God? I think not. Jesus tells us a parable in scripture (Luke 18:1-8) that actually speaks of just the opposite. The main point He wants to make in this story is stated clearly:

"...(we) ought to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1).

Jesus' parable calls attention to the attitude of a widow who continuously asks for justice from a godless judge; and finally, because of her persistence, she receives it. She is one of those people who "knocks and keeps knocking." The good news unfolds as the parable continues, and it ends with this truth: our prayers are met by a righteous God who is not bothered by us; on the contrary, He is pleased with our persistence and answers us with a willing heart.

Let's continue to pray. God promises to answer us! He hears our cries. He sees our hearts. He knows our needs. He wants us to talk to Him! In the holy conversations with our Savior, we grow in both our intimacy with Him and dependency on Him, which are two reasons that Jesus WANTS us to pray! As we give Him our requests, we must trust that every answer we receive is wrapped in the confines of His steadfast love and faithfulness.

This past week, I have been in a place of fervent prayer much like the persistent widow in the parable. I have begged and cried and bowed and laid prostrate and claimed God's living word on behalf of my long-time-soul-to-soul friend Sharon Suiter Reyes and her husband Fred who is in the hospital on a ventilator due to the coronavirus. Their family invades my thoughts and takes over my emotions, but I must not stop there. I must run to the God of Mercy, and I must persistently plead. All my worrying and all my weeping must be turned into fervent prayer on their behalf. My tearful eyes of faith are focused on the mighty God who heals. I must believe that my persistence pleases the Lord, and that my faith "fuels" His power. Why else would He call us to pray?

God will be faithful to do His part in providing His best answer for your prayers, and for mine. What He wants us to do is to be faithful in our part, which is to "pray and not lose heart."Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name, "Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know...Jeremiah 33:2-3 

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Equipped to Do the Call

By Chris Baxter

Did you know that if you are a follower of Christ you are equipped with the power of God? Does this mean that you can part the Red Sea like Moses or call fire from heaven like Elijah? Uh, probably not; but what it DOES mean is this: you are fully equipped to do every good work that God has called YOU to do.

So, what is God asking you to do today?  Don't make this question too difficult. Just think about today. You don't have to figure out what your life-long mission is by the end of this post. God will accomplish the "big stuff" in you as you obey Him one faithful step at a time. He will give you what you need to obey Him today. Also, do not believe the lie that doing something "great for God" only means reaching the masses, or possessing a incredible gift or talent, or leading a huge ministry. Some people are appointed to do these things for sure; but, these acts are no less powerful than knocking on your neighbor's door while carrying Jesus' love inside of you, or sitting with a hurting friend and pouring His compassion out to her, or listening to a struggling young believer and immediately lifting up quiet prayers on his behalf.

Again, what is God asking you to do today? Hear Him call your name, choose to obey His voice, and believe He will equip you with His powerful Spirit to do a great thing in what may seem like an ordinary task. Today, I'm going to respond to the Spirit's prompting and walk next door to re-meet my new neighbor. I am not going over there alone. As I socially distance on her front porch, I'm asking God's Spirit to sweetly pour out of me and then touch her with His love. A mighty God in the midst of a one-on-one conversation is no small thing!

Let's both remember, when we choose to walk forward in faith-filled obedience, there is no doubt that both great things and God-things will unfold in our not-so-ordinary life.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Daily Prayer

God of Those Who Wait

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord. - Psalm 27:14

Dear Lord, help me to remember that as I am waiting patiently You are working perfectly. Build my trust in You. Yes, in the waiting, I will praise You. In the waiting, I will obey You. In the waiting, I will declare Your name to the world.