Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fear--It's In You

Our group was in a physically threatening situation when one individual panicked. She had no sense of fear for the actual threat but thrashed and screamed in response to an everyday occurrence. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" she apologized. "I can't help it. I'm just feeling very paranoid."

The truth, for each of us, is that our fear was not (is not) "out there." It was, and is, "in here." Fear concerns a future event, something that has not happened. Fear focuses on something I can't control but wish I could. It invades my thoughts, drives my behavior, and results in overwhelming emotions about something that isn't real or factual.

We fear recurrence of a painful past event. We fear change, uncharted territory, failure, success. We avoid people, places and things that hint of danger. All the while, the sneaky, pervasive truth is that what I fear has become my god.

I worship what I fear. "No way!" you say? Take a step back. How deep is the thought-groove of fear in relation to the thought-groove of faith? How often do you make choices based on avoiding or confronting the object of your fear?Do you find yourself stained by sin as you manage fear? Or do you turn first to the God who knows you and made you?

What we think about, what drives our behavior, and what we are willing to sin to  get (or avoid) has replaced the God of the universe in our hearts. It rules us. It enslaves, drives and controls us. We are "under the influence" of unseen/unknown situations when we could be "under the influence" of the Holy Spirit in obedience and trust.

So what did we do in the face of danger and unreasonable fear? We sang. We sang loudly. We changed our focus from the unknown to the God who designs and directs all--with shaky voices and a tear squeaking out here and there, we sang lustily:

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! - who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.*

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

*See more at:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Priceless Anonymity

I read an article this morning on the topic of pride and how insidious it is--from struggles in marriage to depression, eating disorders to anger and everything in between.

As I thought of its opposite--humility--and the conversation D.L Moody had with revivalist Henry Varley. At one point Varley said, "Moody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him" and Moody sensed God's call to be that man. 

The more I've thought about the contrast and what humility looks like, the more I think that true Christianity lend itself to anonymity. There will always be the Billy Grahams, Moodys, and Mother Theresas. We are people with names and our world continues to grow smaller, but often, more often, we will never see that man or woman fully consecrated to God because God, in His greatness, guards His own in humility. In local churches around the world, needs are met and individuals are served  in droves. But there is no name, no individual, no agenda apart from Jesus--Jesus working through individuals, moved by compassion as His hands, feet, minds, mouths and hearts. 

Biblically, we cannot, nor will ever, be wholly consecrated apart from the working of the Holy Spirit.
But I have seen the result of consecration--and I have learned this:  The one who is wholly consecrated to God seeks no praise of His own, but only that of His Father. He serves diligently, with or without recognition, blessed with peace, joy, and contentment: gifts that fill the giver before they are given (Gal. 5:22-23). Through His people, God is glorified. He is honored. His reputation is supreme. He is seen and reflected in all that is said and done. And, someday, I hope to be one of those people who has no desire to be seen or recognized or applauded for my own sake, but only for His.

Where some would count success in numbers and products, the consecrated individual can simply say, "I am blessed."  Ministry continues not because the world is dark, but because there is Light.  And as the Light penetrates darkness, it is not lessened or enlarged because of the darkness. It is. God uses His people to extend Himself to a lost world and His essence is not affected by their acceptance or rejection.  He shines through these humble, cracked vessels because He is.  And because He is, we are... blessed... praying... depending... available... working... living.

In that day “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the Lord of hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them. (Zechariah 14:20-21)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:19-21)

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 10:31)

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3-4)

Monday, June 1, 2015

And God Said....

One of the most challenging things about being a Christian is getting my mind and heart in line with what the Bible says. I once heard a lady say, "I didn't like that word so I just blacked it out. Is that okay?"

One way to avoid that problem is to avoid my Bible. If I don't see it in black and white, I can pretend it says what I want it to say.

Oooh, but if I go to church regularly (one that reads and teaches directly from the Bible), I see it. I read things I don't like or agree with. There are things in the Bible that conflict with my experience, perspective, opinions or political view. What then? I can try to explain it away, "God didn't mean it that way," or "Doesn't it say something different somewhere else?" Or I can rationalize the fact that I'm better than most people I know (or at least some of them).

Worst of all, I can imagine my life is what the Bible says. I think I'm kind, good, and yeah, Jesus's got my back.

This week I've been reading "Respectable Sins" by Jerry Bridges and, ooh, ouch--I'm more and more aware that when I make a transparency of my life and lay it over the pages of Scripture, they don't match. I've been studying Isaiah and have been reminded that God's Word says, first and foremost, what it said to its original hearers/readers. I must be careful not to make it say what God never intended. And I've been reading material from the background of someone who preaches the Bible (and other spiritual books) but left out the most important of all--Jesus.

That said, I will never live up to God's standard. Ever. I will never completely understand who God is and how He works. But I can know Jesus. I can surrender to God through the penalty Jesus paid in my place. I can stand before God in Jesus' righteousness. I can pray directly to the Father because of Jesus. I can learn about Him, ask Him to help me understand His Word and live in a way that pleases Him. But without Jesus, there's no gospel. No good news. And the Bible is meaningless. Oh, yeah. I read Ecclesiastes this week, too--and guess what? It's a joke. It's meaningless. Life really is hopeless without Jesus.

With the assurance of God's love and forgiveness in Christ, I can lay my life over the Word of God and experience peace, joy, satisfaction and motivation to change. I have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to make friends, to help others, to go to church, to love my husband and children.... All because God said...and sent the Word: Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:1-18 NASB)