“That day when evening came, He said to His disciples. ‘Let us go to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along just as He was, in the boat. There were other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the waves died down and it was completely calm. He then said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:35-40)

There are at least two ways Jesus miraculously brings peace. In this story, He stood, rebuked the wind and said: “Peace! Be still!” The surrounding nature obeyed Him… bringing astonishment to the frightened disciples. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:41)

God has ability to say: “Peace! Be still!” to any of our storms… tragedy, sickness, conflict, loss… I imagine we have all experienced God’s power to change circumstances and bring His ‘shalom.’ Like the disciples, we marvel and say: “Who is this with such authority? Thank You for Your mercy! Thank You for bringing peace!”

But there is another miracle Jesus often chooses. “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) Perhaps their lack of faith was a factor, but Jesus could have performed a different miracle on the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus had been sleeping during the storm. His heart was not troubled and He was not afraid when His friends woke Him. If God had willed, Jesus could have spoken to His disciples instead of the storm: “Here – receive My ‘shalom.’ Now, don’t let your hearts be troubled… and quit being afraid. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow… why don’t you lie down and get some sleep?”

I probably pray most for exterior peace… but Jesus also has authority over the interior. I would rather the storm calm and problems go away while Jesus knows His inner peace is more than sufficient to help me endure and conquer any chaos.

If Jesus gives me His peace, I need to obey His words: “Don’t let your heart be troubled and don’t be afraid.” Someone might say: “That is impossible!” True, by ourselves… but we’re talking about the supernatural. Jesus’ peace is not like the world’s… and it does not come from us. Jesus simply wants us to know He possesses this power. He wants us to receive His gift and live accordingly. With child-like faith and with His grace, we can do it.

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

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I often pray for many with cancer. In recent years or months, some well-known people from quite diverse backgrounds have been diagnosed: Tom Brokaw, Alex Trabek, John Lewis, Rush Limbaugh… I also know many friends, young and old, who are dealing with the disease. With frequent trips to Emory, I have met dozens of people from all races, ages, and religions who have recently received bad news. I know what they are going through and feel I can pray with insight… and occasionally I get to pass on a word of encouragement.

People sometimes ask what is happening with me, so here is a little update. I was one of two groups of twelve people on a CAR T-cell trial at Emory to fight multiple myeloma. Doctors continue using the treatment, but it did not turn out to be the cure some predicted. Of the twenty-four, I am the only one still cancer-free nineteen months out from the procedure.

I’ve gotten platelet infusions each week for the past year and a half and blood infusions at least once a month. My doctor knows there are drawbacks to such a pattern, so last week he sent me to a doctor who specializes in non-cancer, blood-related challenges. I’ve been placed on a steroid that accompanied most of the chemotherapies I’ve had in the past to try to jump-start blood cell production in my bone marrow, or to give my caregivers a hint of other measures to take.

Susan and I are so thankful for all who have prayed for us these many years. We are also thankful for the doctors, assistants, and nurses who have helped us. We have become quite good friends with many. God works in mysterious ways and I have tried to learn to keep my hands open, simply remaining in His love, knowing He is in control. He is a faithful Father who gives us His comforting Spirit, as we live in the Body of our Lord Jesus — who understands perfectly what we encounter on this earth.

By the end of the school year, I’ll try to give another update… though you know this is not my favorite writing topic. Jesus gives us everything we need for life and godliness. God hears our prayers and allows us to fulfill His purposes in us as we trust Him. Thanks for being a part of our lives.

“Therefore, since we have a Great High Priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” II Peter 1:3

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This coming weekend, seven groups of students accompanied by Greater Atlanta Christian School teachers will leave our country to visit and serve Christian brothers and sisters in Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Athens, Greece. Please pray for protection and for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.

Over twenty years ago, Matt Elliot and Melaney Cost went to then President David Fincher with a dream of taking high school students to serve the Lord during a spring break. These three courageously embraced a vision without knowing how many kids would be interested.

From one spring trip in 1997, hundreds of students and dozens of teachers have chosen service over other options during school breaks. A team for a new destination has been formed to serve in Thailand this summer where one of our teachers lived while growing up. Most trips begin with a connection someone has with a missionary or ministry in a distant location.

In addition to the ones listed above, these countries have been visited: Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Brazil, Haiti, Puerto Rico, China, Namibia, Kenya, Rwanda, Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, and Russia. There have also been over a dozen different places in the United States where teams have served.

Several teachers have led trips to the same location many consecutive years, building long-term relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. Kristy Shelton is leading her 15th group to Honduras. Tim Ball has led ten teams to Atlanta’s inner city to serve the homeless during Thanksgiving week and spring break. It is not unusual for several GAC graduates to join him as God has given them His heart for the poor.

I can think of at least a dozen alumni or former teachers who are presently serving God as full time missionaries or leaders of ministries. Of course, God gets all the glory for anything good His children do. He enjoys inviting us to participate with Him in revealing His love to others… and as we go, He always lets us see our weakness and His strength.

God’s vision goes far beyond ours. He knows one day the nations will worship Him. When Jesus commissioned His apostles to go into all the world, He commanded them to make “disciples of all nations.” How do we do that? Surely, we are to take one step at a time remembering He is with us and that “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

“Great and marvelous are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear You, Lord, and bring glory to Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4

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Our dear friend Amanda, who now lives in Kentucky, occasionally calls to chat and catch up. Usually she brings up a challenging question. This past weekend, she asked something on the minds of many Americans: “Dana, what is happening in our government?”

We agreed we all need to repent and Christians should remember to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” The conversation concluded with Amanda deciding she would run for President. I assured her that she would have my vote.

Our church has recently had some interesting revelations from God’s Word. The Sunday before Christmas, after reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth, our brother Sean raised his hand and said: “I need to share something very strange. We drove home from your house last Sunday and my sister pointed out a piece of crumpled up paper stuck in the grill of the front of our car. I pulled it out and it was a page from a Bible. Is anyone missing Isaiah 8 and 9?”

I didn’t really see how this fit into the morning lesson until Sean mentioned Isaiah 8 and 9… as that was the next passage I had planned to read. What are the odds that this very Scripture had been stuck in the grill of Sean’s car the previous weekend? Later in the week, I contacted my friend and asked if he still had the page from the Bible. He promised to bring it the next Sunday.

The translation was from the New King James Version, and no one we knew was missing that page from the book of Isaiah. I pondered this rather bizarre story for a couple of weeks, and finally held up the crinkled paper one recent Sunday and asked if any brother or sister would like to propose a meaning. Different theories were shared, but finally God spoke. Actually, it was our brother Joe, who from memory quoted the Lord’s words. He began, “I think the message for us is what the page says…”

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. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

God knows the answer to Amanda’s question! His Son will carry the government on His shoulders and He will eventually bring peace. We know ‘shalom’ is the Hebrew word translated ‘peace’, but ‘shalom’ means something far deeper than simply a lack of disagreement. ‘Shalom’ points to God’s perfect order. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who will bring the chaos of our world under the sovereign will of the Heavenly Father.

Let our eyes be lifted to the One who brings ‘shalom.’ And let us be instruments of His peace as we point to our Father who is perfect in all His ways.

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

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God loves seventh grade boys… and He respects their questions. He wants to reveal to them (and everyone) His truth and bring all into a relationship with Himself through His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our Helper.

If one believes and obeys the truth of the Gospel and understands he is chosen and blessed with everything he needs for ‘life and godliness,’ what next? I think this third question is about commitment. Seventh grade boys are very observant and notice huge differences in the lives of those who say they follow Jesus. Not every Christian seems to be truly seeking first the kingdom of heaven. So… “If I do follow Jesus with all of my heart, will it be worth it?”

The mature might say such a question reflects self-centeredness rather than Christ-centeredness. Jesus has created us, purchased us with His blood, and made the way for us to live with Him forever… who are we to ask: “Lord, do I really need to be totally devoted to You in order to be Your disciple? And if I give my all… will it be worth it?”

As independent-minded Americans, Jesus’ rhetorical questions may not register: “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So, you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:7-10)

All of us should say: “I owe everything to You so I will surrender all to You. My life is for Your glory… not my own. You loved me first and gave Your life to take away my sins. I am Yours!” But even the apostles asked questions. As Jesus explained the difficulty the rich would have following Him, one spoke up:

“Peter answered Him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or children or fields for Me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in the present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’” (see Mark 10:28-31 and Matthew 19:27-30)

As usual, looking to Christ helps answer our questions. He is the only begotten Son, blessed by His Father in heaven. Knowing who He was, Jesus chose to surrender His own will and yield completely to His Father. “He learned obedience from what He suffered,” (Hebrews 5:8) which must mean even the Son of God grew and progressed on this earth. His life was not taken from Him; He laid it down. ( John 10:18) I think Jesus would tell seventh grade boys (and each of us): “It was worth it to follow My Father’s plan.”

Now He invites us to follow in His steps. And as we make mistakes and struggle with understanding, He patiently teaches us and gives us: infinite love, purpose for living, peace that passes all understanding, joy unspeakable, undeserved mercy, Living Water (which is the Holy Spirit), Bread of Life (which is Himself), fellowship with His Body (which is the Church), forgiveness of sins, abundant grace, the promise of an inheritance from the Father, and eternal life. Following Jesus is more than worth it.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: ‘Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature a of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’” Philippians 2:5-11

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