Fear Not

FEAR NOT PIC

I’ve often written about fear, but it seems to be on the Lord’s mind this morning so here we go again. If a lesson can be repeated over and over in the Bible, I guess it’s not redundant if I do the same.

As anyone who has paid attention to the news lately will know, fear is rampant throughout the world. The latest international incident motivating fear was the attacks against women that occurred in Germany and throughout a number of other European countries on New Years Eve. Nationally, it’s the story of a police officer in Philadelphia whose assailant walked right up to the window of the patrol car and blasted away, critically wounding him. As I watched a news program last night, I lost count of the number of times someone said, “I’m afraid,” “Should we be afraid?” or “You/we should be afraid.” But I’m here to say, NO, we shouldn’t.

Fear is NOT God’s plan for His people, as He made clear to me once again this morning. Currently, I’m reading in Genesis, Isaiah, and Matthew, which obviously covers a pretty broad span of time, yet God’s message never changes, so just from my devotional time this morning without considering the hundreds of other biblical references to ‘fear’ or ‘afraid’ (do a word search, and you’ll be reading for hours!):

And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” Genesis 26:24

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Isaiah 8:11-13

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced. Isaiah 54:4a

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Jesus is the antidote for our hopelessness and fears, whether they are phony or based on very real threats, such as the terrorism that is rampant throughout our world. Fear not, for I am with you says the Lord!

A Good Listener

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust…But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.  Psalm 103:13-14 & 17a

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It’s so easy to complain about things—other people, the way I look, the way I feel, the weather, my job—whatever. But you know what? Sheba doesn’t care. For one thing, she’s now deaf; but even when she could hear clearly it never mattered. She’s always loved me unconditionally, even when she was the one I complained about.

I think God listens much like Sheba used to listen—she’d sit and stare into my eyes while I talked to her—for that matter, she still does even though she can’t hear a word I say. God sits and stares into my heart and soul as I pour out my complaints—he compassionately cares for me anyway. Even if he’s the target of my grumbling and complaining heart, his love never wavers, and there’s nothing I can say that will sway his love and attention away from me. But perhaps sometimes he simply allows some of my complaints to fall on “deaf ears” simply because they’re so empty and meaningless—always hearing me certainly, but ignoring my pettiness because he knows my weaknesses and continuing to love me unconditionally.

Hungry

I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. Luke 11:8

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When Sheba is hungry she will not leave me alone.  She follows on my heels, rubs her little body up against my feet or legs over and over (like a cat), and becomes such a pest that I finally give in and feed her, whether it’s time for dinner or not.

Shouldn’t I be like that with God?  Such a pest—so hungry for his truth and his love that I just won’t leave him alone—constantly pursuing him in prayer for more of his truth to be revealed to me—to be always hungry and thirsty for his righteousness.

Just as I’m committed to feeding Sheba, God has promised to satisfy my desire for him; I will not go hungry. Jesus himself promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Is All Hope Gone?

IMG_1526He’s up well before dawn, already glued to his display of computer monitors.  Hour after hour after hour, he watches; analyzing every dip or gain on his screens; debating with himself the best course of action; celebrating or mourning his bottom line.  His whole life depends on how well he can play the game—the new home, the Lexus in the driveway, the kids’ private schools—all potentially gone in an instant.  He recalls the stories his dad told him of Black Tuesday, that terrible day in 1929 when the stock market crashed and people were literally jumping out of windows to their death.  What if it happens again?  What if he loses everything?

She stares intently into the mirror.  Is that little line a new wrinkle?  Better make an appointment for some more Botox.  Sure is a good thing she’s got great hair—oh, but wait; is that a strand of gray?  Breakfast is on the run with the latest high nutrition/low-calorie energy drink in hand, and she’s off to the gym to run and climb and lift and push and pull.  By the time she’s finished, every muscle in her body will have had a workout, and every ounce of fat will have been burned away.  Her career depends on looking great, no matter how hard the advancing years are pressing in; and she so stressed out by it all that somewhere in the week she really must make some time to see her therapist.

And so goes life for many people; perhaps in ways not as obvious as the illustrations above, but still jam-packed with worry and stress about jobs, family, education, health, the economy, world affairs.  Gone are the legendary ‘good old days’ when life was beautiful all the time.  Hope has disappeared, and the future looks bleak.  Just turn on the news if you think otherwise.  Right?

Wrong!!!

Hopelessness, discouragement, depression, fear; all of them are nothing less than smokescreens designed to keep mankind from seeing the truth that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  God’s light, and His words of love prove it better than anything I could ever say…

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. Psalm 20:7-8

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”   Lamentations 3:22-24

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. Psalm 16:8-9

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46:1-3

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5

Ultimate Worth

IMG_1422Out of curiosity, I googled self esteem, and in 0.38 seconds had 46,000,000 results. More articles, books, conferences, classes, and multi-media presentations advising us how to build positive esteem in ourselves and our children than one person could ever digest. I skimmed through the offerings of the first 10 pages of hits, and not one of them was biblically based, so I’d like to recommend an alternative and recommend the best book I’ve ever read about building self esteem from God’s perspective, Ultimate Worth, by my friend Russ Llewellyn, an amazing Christian who is also a clinical psychologist. In his words…

“God allows but one path to permanent worth: love through humility. We build our self-esteem only on the things which God values. We recognize that apart from God, any esteem we give ourselves will crumble and scatter like dust swept away by the winds of time.

Our ultimate worth, our self-esteem, comes through humility. In humility, we learn to receive all of our personal worth from God. We learn to love and worship God, as well as love and respect ourselves and others the way God does.

God made you out of spirit, the same essence as He is. He made you for a noble purpose, to be and live on earth as sons and daughters of the Most High. You have a birthright, a kingly inheritance from God alone—ultimate worth.”

Russ can be contacted for further information and/or to place an order at DrRussLlewellyn@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

He Is My Destiny

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Waiting to meet a friend for lunch, I enjoyed a blast from the past; all the way back to about 1960, as Vince Gill’s voice crooned throughout the restaurant, “I’ve been cheated, been mistreated.  When will I be loved?  I’ve been put down, I’ve been pushed ’round.  When will I be loved?”

In those days I was just a child, glued to a black and white TV screen as the Everly Brothers performed their big hit on American Bandstand.  How could I know the sad truth that echoes behind those lyrics?  The sad truth that has probably been one reason the song has endured over the years; recorded and/or performed not only by Vince Gill, but also by Linda Ronstadt and a host of other artists.  The sad truth that life is hard had not yet become a reality to me.  Little did I know that I would soon grow to understand all too well the feeling of being cheated or mistreated; a feeling with which almost everyone can relate.  How could I know that the burning question in the broken hearts of mankind is indeed, “When will I be loved?”

King David certainly understood such pain. In Psalm 55 he moaned…

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me…

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; 
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him.

But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.

Pondering the significance of the song while driving home from lunch, I was talking to the Lord about how we usually handle such things.  Immediately I heard the lyrics of another familiar song in my spirit; “You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”  Another sad truth!  Books could be written—and have been, I’m sure—chronicling the mistakes people have made while searching for a love to fill the void of hurt and despair that was left behind by violations of trust and broken confidences.

Once again, we can look to King David…

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved…You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.
 Are they not in your book?Then my enemies will turn back
 in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise,in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can man do to me…For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  Psalm 55:22, 56:8-11, 57:10

When we encounter the love of God, the same love that David experienced, we too will praise Him, and we can then sing another enduring song from the 60s…

I will follow him, follow him wherever he may go

There isn’t an ocean too deep

A mountain so high it can keep me away

I must follow him

Ever since he touched my hand I knew

That near him I always must be

And nothing can keep him from me

He is my destiny

 

I Had a Dream of the Triumphant Church

 

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Echoing in my mind as I awoke a few days ago were the words made famous by Martin Luther King, “I had a dream;” and for the night that had just transpired, that was one of the biggest understatements imaginable. It had been an amazing experience as one dream segment flowed into another, and then another—waking often for a brief moment, only to quickly fall back to sleep for a continuation of the sequence. When morning finally arrived I knew I needed to write as much of it down as possible, but already the scenes were quickly fading.

In a dream, in a vision of the night, When deep sleep falls upon men, While slumbering on their beds, Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction. Job 33:15-16

Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. Psalm 73:20

What remained was the sure and certain knowledge that I had just witnessed the glory of the LORD being released among His people in a way that we perhaps have never seen since the first Pentecost; since that day when Jesus’ followers who had obediently waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit finally received Him.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4

Failing to recall all of the specifics, yet still reeling from the weighty presence of God throughout the night, I wrote the little that I could recall in my journal; and yet I knew that in one of my waking moments a familiar song had been resounding in my spirit, a song I knew I wouldn’t forget; but I did. So I asked the LORD to remind me if it was important and, to be quite honest, I didn’t really expect Him to do it. But i immediately remembered the Gaither’s incredible song, The Church Triumphant. Please, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtCV_ysZC04 to listen and be blessed by the song, and join with me to rejoice that God’s Church is indeed alive and well.

In recent times, many of us have focused much attention on terrible circumstances—the terrible state of the world, the terrible state of the economy, the terrible state of our families or relationships, the terrible state of the modern-day church that has so compromised itself with the world. And indeed, the terrible truth of Romans 2:18-34 is everywhere we look.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

I would now contend that it’s time for the Church to change its focus. The evil all around us is only going to increase until the Day of the Lord, but we needn’t allow that to distract us from our triumphant Jesus. As a picture is blurred when the focus is off, so is the vision of the Church; and all we need is a simple adjustment to turn our gaze upon the One who has already overcome all evil at the cross. Romans 1:16-17 remains just as relevant today as the succeeding verses that were just quoted…

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Remember those faithful disciples who went into that upper room and waited for the coming of the Spirit? Many of us have much in common with them! We have been waiting for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit for years and years and years. We have waited and waited, standing in faith on the promises of God. What if our wait is just about over? I absolutely believe it is!  I’ve have held onto that promise for such a long time it seems; but now, after that night of glory-filled dreams in which the church was exploding for righteousness at every turn, I’m certain that the Church, God’s Church, is very definitely alive and well; and the triumphant power of Jesus through the presence of the Holy Spirit is even now being poured out upon the world.

Let this day of Pentecost be a day that history will look back at as the turning point, as the day when the Holy Spirit began to blow anew throughout creation to revolutionize the Bride of Christ as she prepares for the arrival of her Bridegroom.