Friday, December 15, 2017

“The Gift of Peace”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)

I fidgeted as I waited for the receptionist to acknowledge me. She hung up the phone and smiled. “Are you here to see Kurt for a radio interview?” 

I nodded and shuffled my feet a bit more.

“Just have a seat on the couch. He’ll be with you in a minute.”

I sat on the couch. The tension in my body made me straight and prim.  I thumbed through my notes and glanced around the radio studio. Then, out of the corner of my eye, a rapid movement drew my attention. A spider—a huge spider—pranced along the arm of the sofa. I caught my breath and scooted away. A different type of tenseness surged through me.

The startled receptionist looked up, questioning. I pointed to the object of my fear. Her eyes widened, and then with the bravery of a heroine she lunged toward it with a rolled newspaper in her hand. She stopped and said, “I can’t do it. It’s too big.”

Just then Kurt, the radio host, appeared. He spotted our crisis. However, unlike the two of us, he strode to the sofa, grabbed the cushion, carried it to the door and flicked the spider to a new outdoor home. “Man, that was a big one! Welcome! Let’s do the interview.”

Later, I pondered my morning’s fear. I considered my nervousness about the interview. I relived my terror of the spider. In reality, neither was worthy of my anxiety. Neither could have caused me bodily harm. (That is, unless I had passed out and cracked my head open.) Fear is a God-given emotion, yet often my fears are unwarranted or irrational. I allow ordinary circumstances rob me of my peace. I forget the promise of Jesus, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV). 

Christ came to earth to redeem us and grant us peace. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1NIV). My tendency is to fear scary bugs, failure and the unknown future. But, I shouldn’t. Jesus offers me the gift of peace—I just need to remember to claim it for my own each day.  His peace has my name on the gift tag.

His gift of peace has your name on it, too. 

Dear Lord, teach me to remember each day that Your peace is my peace. I thank you that You came to earth to redeem me and that I have no need to fear. Help me claim Your peace each morning before I begin the day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps: 
Read the Power Verses below.  Commit to memory one or more of the verses that speak peace to your heart.

What do I fear?

Why do I fear?

How can I replace my fear with the gift of Jesus’ peace?

Power verses:
Isaiah 9:6, “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, Prince of Peace.” (NIV) 

Numbers 6:26, “The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (NIV) 

2 Corinthians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV) 

© 2007 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The White Elephant

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
 “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.” (1 John 3:18-19 NIV)
‘Tis the season for parties. The invitation reads, “Bring a white elephant gift.” A white elephant gift doesn’t require much thought or money. It can be an inexpensive trinket, a used household item or a gag gift. These white elephant get-togethers create laughter and light-hearted camaraderie.

However, there exists another kind of “white elephant” social gathering—the type where everyone knows there is a relational conflict that exists within the group, but no one acknowledges it. This pachyderm problem might occur within families, between co-workers, or in a neighborhood. The more everyone pretends the white elephant issue isn’t there, the bigger the unseen problem grows. The denial compares to feeding peanuts to a live elephant—it grows larger and larger.

Do you anticipate this type of white elephant intruding on one of your upcoming festivities? Do you dread being in the same room with a particular person? To my own distress, I usually attend at least one event where the unwanted guest arrives, blowing its silent trumpet and begging for peanuts. However, God does not intend for us to ignore the problem. He desires wants us to seek His wisdom and guidance. The Lord wants us to pray and consider carefully how we might apply the following scriptural principles to help prevent or dissolve the uninvited intruder from our personal relationships.   
  • Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18 NIV)
  • Pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:19 NASB) 
  • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18  NIV)

Let’s decide beforehand how God would have us handle any uncomfortable situation that might steal away the joy and peace of a Christmas festivity. If the white elephant isn’t gift-wrapped, it doesn’t belong at the party. So don’t pack any invisible peanuts in your holiday attire, but love as Jesus loves—with action and truth.

Dear Lord, I anticipate at least one party where a “white elephant” sits in the room. I ask that You teach me how to handle any situation like this with love, truth and action. Reveal to me if I contribute to the issue in any way. Lord, help me to reach out to everyone in Your love and compassion. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps: 
Consider your upcoming holiday events. Identify any potential “white elephant” that might be present. Pray over the event and ask the Holy Spirit to direct your words and actions. Ask God evaporate the “elephant” and to resolve the relational conflict that might be residing in your heart.

Does the same “white elephant” return every year?

How do I play a part in feeding it and allowing it to grow larger?

Is it possible that I could be the white elephant?

Power verses:
Psalm 40:10, “I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” (NIV)

3 John 1:3-4, “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (NIV) 

© 2007 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ring Those Bells

By Susanne Scheppmann
Key Verse:
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalms 28:7 NIV)    
Handbell choirs mesmerize me. The month of December draws out the talented musicians who have the ability to play the shiny golden bells. The Christmas carols they create are clear and bright, lifting the listeners’ spirits as the notes ascend toward heaven.

Handbells originated in the late 1600s. They first appeared in churches which had bell towers. Their first purpose was to help the bell ringers learn and perfect the art of handling the massive church bells which tolled to announce special decrees, community events, and public warnings. Over time, the handbells were designed to produce superior musical tones. Each bell began making a distinctive musical note. So instead of being just a bell used for practice, they became a musical instrument. Eventually the bells were used to play for congregations who soon became enraptured by the beauty of the recognizable hymns. 

To me the ringing of the bells seems like a giant puzzle. I shake my head in wonder and then ponder, “How do they chime in such perfect rhythm and harmony?” This synchronized ringing of various bells involves a musical skill that is far beyond my capability. Yet, with their clear distinctive tones, they inspire me to recognize the glory of God. They signal me to praise God in my own unique style.

Although I cannot play the handbells, my heart sings with joy at what God has done in my life. My heart is an instrument of faith—our hearts are instruments of faith. Author Abraham Herschel described faith and our hearts as, “Faith is not the clinging to a shrine. But an endless pilgrimage of the heart, audacious longing, burning songs, daring thoughts, impulse overwhelming the heart, usurping toward these are all a drive to love the one who rings our heart like a bell.”
This month our hearts are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The remembrance of this divine event should drive us to “love the one who rings our heart like a bell.” Our key verse states, “My heart leaps with joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” As a sisterhood of believers, let’s celebrate with a joyful song in our hearts for the blessed Incarnation of our Lord Jesus. 
For the remaining days of December, let’s agree to unite our hearts in a choir of praise to God. Let’s allow our families, coworkers and communities to see the joy that rings true and bright in a cold, thoughtless world.  
Let those heart bells ring!
Dear Lord, I praise You today. Thank you for giving us music. Thank you for allowing our hearts to overflow with the acknowledgement of Your goodness. Help us to sing your praises during this month of celebration for the birth of Jesus. Allow our hearts to become a hymn of praise. Let our hearts become songs of faith in Your Hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps: 
Read Psalm 28:6-9. Write in a journal the ways that God has shown mercy in your life. Note how He is your strength and shield. Write down how He helps you daily. Consider how He acts as your Shepherd and how He carries you through difficulties.

Does my heart leap for joy? (Psalm 28:7)

Do I sing God’s praises? (Psalm 28:7)

How can I share my joy-filled heart during the Christmas season?

Power verses:
Isaiah 49:13. “Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.” (NIV)
Ephesians 3:16-17, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (NIV)
Deuteronomy 16:14, “Be joyful at your Feast--you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.