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The Shadow of Death

19 Feb

Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4  Amp.

I love what the Treasury of David has to say about fearing no evil:  ” The worst evils of life are those which do not exist except in our imagination.  If we had no troubles but real troubles, we should not have a tenth part of our present sorrows.  We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, but the psalmist was cured of the disease of fearing. ”

How true.

It makes me think of when my mom was close to her last breath, and  I said to her, “Jesus is waiting to say, ‘Welcome, good and faithful servant.”  Dad has his arms open for a hug.  Grandma is jumping up and down in excitement, and we’ll all be there in a little while.”  The shadow of death is a valley; it’s a passageway; it’s our path to a better place.

God is in the Waiting

25 Jan

God IS in the waiting.

Not until then did he seek comfort and counself from his wife, who had always been his solace at such times; throwing himself down beside her on the wagon seat, he told her the story of his late discoveries, the absence of the king, the death of his kinsman. For a second the woman’s heart quailed before the fresh difficulties, but she forgot self at the look in her husband’s face. Her quiet reply, “We will wait, for God is in the waiting.” ~ The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric. P. Kelly

Mike has taught me so much about waiting!  I’m the kind of person that wants to make things happen.  I want to fix things.  Many, many times in fearful moments, Mike has spoken to me as the wise wife spoke in the quote above.  Wait, dear.  Let’s see what God will do.

LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. Psalm 48:15

Fear of Change

14 Jan

My great-grandparents close to arriving in New Mexico after crossing the Rocky Mountains in their covered wagon. Don't know where they came up with a photographer!

Why is it that some of us fear change so much and others of us celebrate change?  I just got off the phone with my brother a few minutes ago and he mentioned that it seems like he’s good in one thing for about 5 – 7 years.  I told him about a paper that I’d done about our family when I took a counseling course while working on my Christian Education degree.  The assignment was to go back through your family tree looking for tendencies–everything from health tendencies to emotional and spiritual tendencies.  One of the main things I discovered is that on both sides we’re a family on the move.  Since we came over from England in the 1600s and from Norway in the late 1800s, we’ve been moving.  Not one younger generation has lived in the same place as its parents.  Usually the parents haven’t even stayed in the same place.

Enjoying change in the way I’ve discussed is a natural tendency in me, not supernatural.  It’s certainly nothing to take credit about.  However, going into the unknown like Abraham did, by faith, is another story.

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.  Hebrew 11:8-10

By faith in these verses means belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same.  That goes beyond the natural enjoyment of change, to faith that God will lead us exactly where He wants us to go if we keep our eyes on Him.  We have recently experienced that peace and that faith that comes from knowing that He is guiding you after a period of not being sure.  Recently I accepted a position at a school in Guatemala that was a good provision and a country we were attracted to for ministry, but both of us felt terrible after accepting the job.  We turned it down two days later and since then have experienced such a rest about our uncertain plans due to a renewed confidence that He is guiding.

Fear of . . . Not Getting What We Want

3 Jan

How many of you have had the “Christian Marriage Fight”?  You know, the one where the husband says, “You need to submit to me.”  And where the wife says, “You need to love me sacrificially–the way Christ loves the church.  Or at least as much as you love your own body.”  Mike and I had one the first night we were married.  **Drumroll**  I know you’re waiting to hear something momentous.  **More drumroll** OK.  It was about pyjamas.  And that’s all you need to know about that.

I always talk to young couples about this useless matrimonial infighting, but today I found a name for the husband and wife roles in this battle.  One is “self-serving conformity” and the other was “self-serving assertiveness.”  You see, when it comes down to it we both just wanted to please self.  And we used “Biblical” ammunition to try and get it.  Now, that’s kind of disgusting.

What’s the motive here?  Love, grace, mercy, glorifying God?  Nope.  Selfishness–pure and simple.  Now, a couple of people who’ve commented on my posts about self seem to think I’m promoting some sort of works righteousness or self-improvement program.  Actually, what I’m learning and passing on is that we need to learn to be sensitive to the sin of selfishness, ask forgiveness (because we can’t live an other-centered life without God’s provision), and receive the forgiveness and grace that he has for us.  What do you think?

Photo from http://goo.gl/xI38Q

Fear

28 Nov

“But he’s a master of that art.  It’s his whole life.  I doubt if he himself has any idea what it’s like to be so paralyzed by fear that you feel small and insignificant.  But he knows just how to arouse that fear and spread it, in people’s homes and their beds, in their heads and their hearts.  His men spread fear abroad like the Black Death, they push it under doors and through mailboxes, they paint it on walls and stable doors until it infects everything around it of it’s own accord, silent and stinking like a plague.” ~ Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

We must remember the source of our fears.  It is the enemy who spreads fear and doubt among us.  Last night I was teaching a women’s Bible study at church.  I’m doing a year-long series on family.  Last night the theme was, The Family is a Refuge.  The text I used was Matthew 25:34 – 40, when we serve others–even when we don’t see results–we are serving Christ.  I used the examples given (clothing the naked, visiting the sick, visiting the prisoners, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, and taking in strangers) in both their straightforward and metaphorical senses.  For example, a prisoner can be in the county jail or can be a prisoner to anger, pride, drugs, etc.

What I saw on the faces of the women I taught last night was fear and discouragement.  They had little hope that situations in their families would change.  They did not seem encouraged that even when we don’t see results we are ministering to Jesus.  Their fear is in control.  However,

He has given us the privilege,

74 since we have been rescued

from our enemies’ clutches,

to serve Him without fear

75 in holiness and righteousness

in His presence all our days.  Luke 1: 73b – 75

Night Terrors

25 Nov

“She listened to Elinor’s breathing, and her father’s, and more than anything wished for a candle—and a book to keep the fear away.  It seemed to be everywhere, a malicious, disembodied creature that had just been waiting for the light to go out so it could steal close to her in the darkness and take her in its cold arms.” ~ Inkheart by CorneliaFunke

There are times when fear seems to ooze from the darkness.  Like Meggie, the character quoted above, I’ve always battled that fear with a light and a book.  When I was young I had terrible nightmares which woke me up.  I’d sneak to my windows in the dark, try to close the curtains so there were no cracks, sneak back (all this so the “ax murderer” didn’t hear me), switch on my reading lamp, and read for the rest of the night.  I often went to school with big circles under my eyes.

You see, I have a long history with fear.  I still battle fear with the same two tools:

IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word ( Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.  John 1:1 Ampl.

And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].  John 1:5 Ampl.

There it was–the true Light [was then] coming into the world [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] that illumines every person. John 1:9 Ampl.

Doubt Rusts

22 Nov

“Doubt is like rust which corrodes metal,” the hooded man says.  “It travels from your brain into your body, and eats you away.”

“My head hears you,” Ygerna relies, “but my heart does not.  I wish your words comforted me.”

“Nothing comes of doubt,” says the hooded man, “except inaction and more doubt.” ~ The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland

What truth here in a Young Adult book about Arthurian legends–doubt IS a substance that eats away and corrodes.  What things do we doubt about God?  I think the top three are His goodness, His love, and His power.  And those doubts sniggle their way into our lives without us noticing and begin to corrode our faith.  And because of that, today I confess:

Preserve my life, for I am godly and dedicated; O my God, save Your servant, for I trust in You [leaning and believing on You, committing all and confidently looking to You, without fear or doubt].  Psalm 86:2 AMP.

The “Fearless” Psalm

19 Nov

Rejoice!

If you had to choose a passage in the Bible that best ministers to your fears, what would it be?

For me, it’s Psalm 91.  Let’s look at the first verse today:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the almighty.

The word for dwells, yashab, means to STAY–right now.  Where are we to stay?  In the secret place.  The secret place is the place of shelter and protection that God has for us.  That place is secret because we can go there any time and no one need know.  It is the place where we are covered by Him.  If we do that we will be staying in the place of God’s protection (his shadow–the shadow of His covering).

We have a responsibility here.  These promises are for all of us who choose to remain in close fellowship.  It is our responsibility to take the time to snuggle up under His wing–under His covering.  That’s my goal for today–snuggling up to the Lord God on High.

Peaceful Sleep

5 Nov

Many of us struggle with sleep, for various reasons.  One of those reasons is fear.  Fear of the immediate (What is that noise outside?) or fear that entangles our hearts like barbed wire.

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:8

The Psalmist says “both”.  I will both 1) lie down in peace, and 2) sleep.

Peace, or shalom, means completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace.  Our peace, completeness, soundness, and welfare are all to be found in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  In that peace lies the gift of sleep.  In His safety is the gift of sleep.  Obviously there are factors that can keep us from sleep–pain, noisy neighbors, but  our safety which is a place where we are carefree is found only in Him.

Afeared of Fire?

28 Oct

When we’re afraid of fire we quench it, but the Bible says,   Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit;  Do not spurn the gifts and utterances of the prophets [do not depreciate prophetic revelations nor despise inspired instruction or exhortation or warning]. 1 Thessalonians 5:18-20

Quench is written in the present active imperative.  Right now we are not to quench or suppress the Holy Spirit.

Paul wrote Timothy, “I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up (anazwpurein, kindle up, cause to burn) the gift of God,” 2nd Timothy 1:6.

But we are warned here to not quench the fire, instead to stir it up.  To stir up a fire you need to carefully nourish it–with the Word, with fellowship, with hearing the Word of God preached, with prayer, with worship, and with guarding our hearts.

Sometimes we are frightened by the fire of the Spirit,  We fear being called fanatics–even by other believers.  Our fear is rooted in one of our three enemies:  our flesh, the world, or the devil. God is passionate in His love toward us.  Dare we be less than passionate in response?