Don’t live afraid.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” – Isaiah 26:3

There is so much to be afraid of these days. On a personal level, we’re afraid of traffic accidents, sickness – especially the life-threatening kind, criminal activity, storms, environmental contamination, and even the future.

And those are just the physical issues. We also have emotional fears of things like rejection, job loss, criticism, finances, and broken relationships. The problem is that living in fear overshadows our walk with God.

Safety and security are fundamental human needs. When we feel unsafe, we cannot be the productive, happy, fulfilled people God intends for us to be. So, he, as our all-powerful heavenly Father, offers to protect us, to shield from attack, and to make sure we have a safe place in which to know and serve him.

We just have to believe that and stay close to God, described in Scripture as our Rock, our Fortress, our Protector. If we rest in his presence, we might hear him whisper something like this:

“I am with you on every mountain trail and on every city street. I am with you on every drive in the car or flight on an airplane. Nothing can happen to you that is not my will unless you run away from me. Stay close and you won’t live afraid!”

Do you hear that? Don’t live afraid anymore! Believe God is with you and thank him. Talk to him all the time in every circumstance. Tell him you trust him and let him lead. Then, you can be free. You don’t have to live afraid anymore!

“I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton

Ups! and Downs

“The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” – Proverbs 19:23

Do you ever feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster? Happy, then sad, hopeful, then despairing? You’re not alone. In fact, in the first 11 verses of Luke 5, we find Peter going through several emotions in a very short time.

Peter discouraged

He was ready to give up! He had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing. Can’t feed the family with empty nets.

Peter elated

Jesus comes along, tells Peter to throw his nets in again and, amazingly, they were full to overflowing. Now, Peter is happy to be in the fishing business!

Peter afraid

Then he realizes the power and authority of Jesus and falls at his feet in fear. A man who can bring fish to the net like this must be special in a way that was simply scary. Peter knows he is not worthy to be in the presence of such a man.

Peter redirected

Being a successful fisherman was nothing compared to the plans Jesus had for Peter. He first tells Peter not to be afraid, then he calls him to leave his boats and his nets and become a fisher of men – bringing people to awareness of who Jesus is and his desire to rescue them from pain and sorrow to joy and eternal life.

We can follow Jesus closely and still have emotional ups and downs, but when we are on the path with him, he gives us perspective, hope, and abilities to accomplish what he has planned for us to do, no matter how we feel.

“True spiritual life depends not on probing our feelings and thoughts from dawn to dusk but on ‘looking off’ to the Savior!” – Martin Luther

Me, too.

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“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. Show the wonder of your great love”. – Psalm 17:6-7a

The bleeding woman was healed. She came to Jesus in desperation. She came secretly, pushing through the crowds, bending low to touch the edge of His robe, hoping beyond hope His power would flow through to her and stop the bleeding she had experienced for twelve long, expensive, lonely, and frightening years.

She was immediately and completely healed and, amazed, turned to leave. But Jesus did not let her go unnoticed. Instead He called her to face Him in front of the pressing crowd and He lovingly pronounced her clean saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Does anyone else want that? Do you have something in your life from which you want to be released or healed? An old wound? A destructive habit? An illness or condition? A pain-filled relationship? A spiritual frustration?

Me, too, Lord.

Heal me of my past, my pain, all that causes me to bleed.

Free me from my suffering.

May I, too, go in peace.

Me, too, Lord. 

I want to be whole, usable, intimate with You.

“God’s gift was – and is – a visible reminder that He is interested in restoring the lives of those who have been broken, battered, and desperate.” – Jo Kadlecek

 

Is He Still There?

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me . . . Do not forsake the work of Your hands." - Psalm 138:8

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me . . . Do not forsake the work of Your hands.” – Psalm 138:8

I know a potter who sits at his wheel forming earthy pots, bowls, mugs, and vases.

But, before his creations can be useful, they must be “fired”. The potter sets hundreds of pots in his brick kiln, then turns up the heat until it reaches more than 2,000 degrees. He knows his pots, so lovingly formed, must be crying out for him to rescue them and take them out of their dark place. But he doesn’t respond. Then the pots begin to wonder if he’s there at all. Why has he left them in this horrible situation?

The potter has not left them. He is always there, just outside the kiln, removing a brick now and then to peek in, checking temperature to make sure it is just right, waiting for the exact time to turn down the heat and remove the precious works of his hands.

Have you ever wondered where God is during the dark times in your life? The times when the heat is turned up and you are closed in and afraid? You cry out and He does not respond. Is He even there?

In reality, God is there –  checking on you, waiting for just the right time to turn down the heat and pull you out of your dark place. And when He does, you will be amazed at the result. You will be changed: tougher, more beautiful, and prepared for the job He had in mind when He designed you in the first place. Hang on! Trust Him even in the fire.

” . . . out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.” – Elisabeth Elliot

If you want to see a more complete story of The Potter, (Dave Blakeslee of Salida, Colorado) go to http://dod.org/programs/the-potter-reflections-of-a-master-artisan/

Frightened by Faith

 

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“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” – Galatians 3:3

When I was growing up, we measured spirituality by the things a “good Christian” did not do. At some point along the way, I discovered grace: God’s acceptance of me no matter how I was doing with “the list”. God’s forgiveness of anything I have ever done or will do that dishonors Him. I like grace a lot better than rules, don’t you?

So, then why do I sometimes revert to measuring my relationship with God by how “good” I am being? If I am kind and loving during the day, I feel somehow worthy to go into his presence. If I have been irritable or have made a bad decision, I just want to avoid God all together until I can get my act together.

Then I heard something that gave me great insight: People return to the rules when they are frightened by faith. Frightened by faith? Yup. I realized, then, that there is perceived safety in those old rules. I know when I measure up and when I don’t. I can set self-improvement goals so I can feel good about myself.

Walking by faith is not that easy. It is about relationship, about learning to know what pleases God, about getting into His Word to know His will, to listen for His voice before running to the next thing. It’s about living with mystery when we long for clarity. That can be scary, but the better we know Him, the less afraid we are. There’s no better way to live.

“The reason why we so readily accept his (Satan’s) accusations is that we are still hoping to have some righteousness of our own.” – Watchman Nee

Just What I Needed to Hear

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“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24

God is always ready to talk to us. Sometimes He just has to wait until we slow down enough to listen. Then He whispers to our hearts words especially suited for whatever situation we face. I have found that, most often, His messages are variations of one of these:

• I love you.
• I will never leave you.
• Don’t be afraid.

Which do you need today? To know how much He loves you? To be secure in His faithfulness? Or to experience the peace that comes by trusting Him?

You can start the conversation by praying with honesty and sincerity about your need. You could even ask Him to awaken your heart to be ready to hear what He wants to say in response. Then just wait in quietness. His message will be perfect to meet what the ancients called your “pressing necessity”. He always knows just what we need to hear. Sh-h-h. Listen.

“He hath never failed thee yet.
Never will His love forget.
O fret not thyself nor let
Thy heart be troubled,
Neither let it be afraid.” 

 – Amy Carmichael

 

 

 

Pray or Bail?

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For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8

When the storm came and Jesus was asleep, the disciples woke Him up, almost accusing Him of slacking (Mark 4:35-41). After all, He was snoozing while they were frantically trying to save their boat and their lives. As they roused Him, what do you think they expected Him to do? I imagine they handed Him a bucket and yelled, “Help us bail!”

He had a better idea. He simply ordered the storm to cease. It seems that Jesus was operating under a different paradigm than His disciples were. He still is.

We tend to tackle our problems in ways that seems so logical, so appropriate given our circumstances. If we just work more frantically, try harder, or grit our teeth, we can manage somehow.

But Jesus has a better way. His ways of approaching the troubles of our lives are beyond our ability to imagine. That’s why there are times when we should stop bailing long enough to go find Jesus and ask Him to work on our behalf or to show us His better way of handling the mess we are in.

If we believe God will respond to our needs only in ways we can imagine, we will doubt. If we simply let God be God, we will have faith. Doubt is condemned. Faith is rewarded. We get to choose. Do we turn to Him? Do we trust Him?

“God is hanging on to you. He’s not waiting for you to save yourself and mature into someone who no longer needs Him. He will not let you go, come what may.” – Tullian Tchividjian