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Courage and Fear

January 2nd, 2017

Courage and fear are mutually exclusive

 “Jesus came to them, walking on the water.” Mark 6:48 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about “courage and fear.”

Life involves some frightening moments. A new year may include new uncertainties, challenges you must navigate with faith rather than fear. Or you may carry concerns with you from the year just concluded. A change of calendar does not exempt you from the same or similar concerns. And a new year may introduce problems you do not anticipate. There is good news for either possibility.

Mark records an instance of miracles on either shore of the Sea of Galilee, as well as a harrowing night of panic, fear, and despair of survival between those miracles. Read Mark 6:45-56 NLT. In the first miraculous event, at the end of a day of teaching and ministry Jesus fed a crowd of thousands with just a boy’s small lunch. In the second, Jesus healed many of the sick and suffering who were brought to Him. Between these two exhilarating experiences was a perilous, night time journey across about four miles of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus had sent His disciples ahead of Him while He remained to pray. In the dark of night in the middle of Galilee, the disciples encountered a life-threatening storm – too far to return to where they were safe, yet too far to journey on to where they would be safe. Men, well acquainted with the sea, despaired of survival. Mark described them as, “in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves.” I love the description of Jesus’ arrival, “Jesus came to them walking on the water . . then He climbed into the boat and the wind stopped.” Who walks on water except God? Who commands the wind and sea and they obey?

I observe two things. The wind and waves that threatened and frightened them were exactly the elements that carried Jesus to them. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV. When Jesus comes, the frightening elements are calmed and profound peace displaces fear. You can face any storm with Jesus alongside.

The Psalmist knew the only Source of true peace, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” Psalm 61:2-3/23:4 NKJV. In His presence, you are always safe.

In whatever circumstance, now or in the unforeseen days ahead, you will discover Jesus alongside you. What frightens you today? World events? Health issues? Marriage challenges? Family concerns? Job insecurity? Inadequate finances? Uncertain future? God will come to you, even in the turbulent waters that threaten. Courage and fear are mutually exclusive. Fear will overwhelm you unless faith displaces fear with courage.

Today, I pray for you to discover a new courage in whatever you encounter on your journey.

Christian Communications 2016

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Holy Fear and Reverence

July 7th, 2016

The fear of the Lord is recognizing that you are not God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “holy fear and reverence.”

There are times, things, situations, and people that warrant caution. Healthy fears can be lifesaving; most fears are unhealthy for you. Unhealthy fears are neurotic, destroying peace and stifling joy. Neurotic fear can be debilitating. Fear magnifies your imagination and distorts your perceived reality. Fear misdirects expectations to the lowest possible projection. A baby is born with only two fears: the fear of falling and loud noises. Others are learned along the way, unfortunately. Addressing and overcoming fear in constructive ways are important for emotional and physical well-being.

The Bible has much wisdom to differentiate fears which are either hurtful or helpful. Solomon, whose greatest desire was wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:7-11 NKJV), learned where all wisdom begins. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by [wisdom] your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.” Proverbs 9:10-11 NKJV. The Bible has much to say about “the fear of the Lord.” People wrongly equate it with other fears, which at their base have an inner concern of personal danger or harm. See Proverbs 29:25 NIV. The fear of the Lord is nothing like natural fears, except when misunderstood.

Adam and Eve hid themselves from God then explained to Him, “We heard your voice and were afraid.” Genesis 3:10 NKJV. Their fear was a lack in their own character, not from a lack in God’s character. Gods’ response? He provided covering for their shame and promised them a Savior. How do you not love a God like that?

I think many have a distorted an understanding of Godly fear. Incorrectly, a person who neither understands God’s holy nature and righteous character, nor is committed to the unvarying truth of Scripture’s revelation of God, may live under a false fear of what God may do to them. What you are capable of doing to God should be your fear – ignoring Him, disobeying Him, disbelieving Him, disappointing Him, or misrepresenting Him to others. You are more likely to “hurt God” by how you treat Him than He would ever harm you.

I came upon a quote deserving reflection, “The fear of the Lord is the deeply sane recognition that we are not God.” To that, I would add, “. . and a holy recognition that He is.” Unhealthy fears are often the product of one’s ignorance of God’s existence or stubborn disbelieve in His caring and character. It helps if you understand what the Bible calls fear, as it relates to one’s relationship with God, is “the attitude of respect and reverential awe,” a sublimely positive affection rather than a negative emotion. The practical elements of the fear of the Lord and reverence are: a clear understanding of God’s nature, a pure obedience to God’s Word, and a clean heart in God’s presence.

I love the Bible’s description that “the believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:31 NLT. The Spirit’s comfort seems proportional, if not dependent, upon your devotion to walking in the fear of the Lord. I desire to be one who values the righteous fear of the Lord because I do not want to ever be apart from the Spirit’s comfort. I trust that you examine and determine that you desire the same.

Today, I pray for you to prize a holy reverence for God and His wisdom.

EDL Prov 9.10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2016

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Why Are You Afraid?

April 27th, 2016

You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Matthew 8:26 NIV.

Fear reigns wherever faith is lacking.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “why are you afraid?”

Life is full of questions. And questions without acceptable answers are discomfiting. However, questions can be beneficial, prompting a sincere search for truth and knowledge. Sometimes, finding the right answer depends on asking the right question. As Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, the disciples became frightened by a threatening storm. In fear for their lives, they awakened Jesus and He asked His disciples, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Read Matthew 8:23-27 NIV. Without understanding a question correctly, you can’t answer the question accurately.

As I read those verses, my thoughts were captured by the simplicity and specificity of Jesus’ question. Had He asked them of “what” they were afraid, their answer would have been obvious. The suddenness of the storm, the strength of the winds, the severity of the waves, and the uncertainty of their safety were legitimate cause for alarm. But Jesus asked them “why” they were afraid. They knew what they feared; they did not know why they feared. The disciples had no answer and seemed even more puzzled by Jesus’ subsequent rebuke of the winds and waves, and the immediate, resulting calm. Fear is a wasted emotion.

Rather than ask the obvious and very real origin of their fear, Jesus questioned them about the underlying reason for their fear. They were alarmed by the elements that produced their fear – the storm with its dangerous winds, threatening waves, and imminent danger. Much like you and me, the disciples were caught in circumstances they did not create amid consequences they could not control, and they panicked. Faith or fear? Fear reigns wherever faith is lacking. Fear is a wasted emotion. It changes nothing for the better. See 1 John 4:15-19 NKJV. Fear erodes faith; faith banishes fear.

On this occasion, Jesus accurately defined the disciples as having, “little faith.” Exposing their fear, Jesus addressed their insufficient faith. God does not demand more faith than you have but life will compel all the faith you have.  Disproportionate fear diminishes faith in God’s character and promises; where there is substantial, steadfast faith in God’s care and sufficiency, fears are subdued. Maybe there is a situation in your life right now that engenders difficult questions, troubling thoughts, or fearful emotions. Why are you so afraid? There are more than enough moments when life is confusing, even frightening. Be practical. Refuse your fears. Read Luke 12:22-32 NIV. Declare your faith. “If you have faith as [the smallest of seeds] . . nothing shall be impossible for you.” See Matthew 17:20-21 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to embrace faith tenaciously and lay aside all fear willingly.

Christian Communications 2016

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EDL Backhuysen,_Ludolf_-_Sea_of_Galilee_-_1695 (3) cropped

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Obstacles and Opportunities, Part 1

January 29th, 2016

“This is the day of the Lord’s victory. Let us celebrate.” Psalm 118:24 TEV.

The impossible is what God does best.

My comments today are about “obstacles and opportunities.”

I have observed that life presents both obstacles and opportunities. It is unrealistic to presume you will have either without the other. Every opportunity presents an obstacle; every obstacle presents an opportunity. The bigger the opportunity, the greater the obstacles. The greater the obstacle, the bigger the opportunities will be.

You learn a lot about your own character when you experience obstacles. And in every obstacle, God offers an opportunity to learn about His character as well. “This is the day of the Lord’s victory. Let us be happy. Let us celebrate.” Psalm 118:24 TEV. Any day is a good day when you are offered the opportunity to walk and live in His victory.

Take a few minutes to read Joshua 1:1-10 and Joshua 3:1-17 NIV. Joshua and Israel faced serious obstacles; an uncrossable Jordan and an invulnerable Jericho were both impediments to entering Canaan, the land of God’s promise and plenty. Why would the armies in Jericho neither offer opposition to Israel crossing Jordan nor demonstrate any active resistance as they marched around Jericho seven days? I suggest, with such flooded dimensions and depth of the Jordan, they must have assumed it unimaginably impossible for two million people to navigate such a crossing, just as they believed the capture of their city to be impossible. The impossible is what God does best.

Under the cover of darkness, Joshua sent two men went into Jericho to assess the situation ahead. What they heard was that Jericho was more afraid of them than they were of Jericho. Fear creates battles that God has already fought and won. A Canaanite woman in Jericho said, “I know the Lord has given you the land . . all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea when you came out of Egypt . . our hearts melted . . no courage remained in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God is God in Heaven and in earth.” Read Joshua 2:9-11 NIV. Imagine! Canaan’s current and continuing fear began more than forty years earlier, when God drowned the Egyptian army and divided the Red Sea for Moses to lead newly liberated people across on dry land.

Upon return to Joshua, their report was with assurance and certainty, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Joshua 2:24 NIV. But first they still had to cross the treacherous currents of a flooding Jordan. God always makes a way where there seems to be no way. With divine authority, Jesus said, “The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27 NKJV. But be prepared, God’s way will be what you least expect and never imagined. God said, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV.

Maybe you face an obstacle, feeling uncertain of the path forward. Sometimes the past feels difficult to overcome; sometimes the future seems unsure and concerning. “This is the day of the Lord’s victory. Let us be happy. Let us celebrate.” Psalm 118:24 TEV. Let me remind you that the God Who makes a way where there seems to be no way knows where you are and what you need, and He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 NIV. Today can be your day of victory. Celebrate!

Today, I pray for you that you will believe God for the impossible.

To be continued . .

I spoke last weekend at the Cathedral of Faith in San Jose, CA. They have posted the video of the teaching, “Seize the Day.” My comments today originate from that teaching. I hope you will take the time to listen . . . https://vimeo.com/153012760

ARR and Screen COF 1-24-16

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The Power of Praise

January 8th, 2016

“The High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy.” Isaiah 57:15 NKJV.

When your faith struggles, bolster it with truth.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the power of praise.”

Feelings of distance need not suggest God’s disinterest. There are times when you feel God is distant, somehow apart from you. That is painful to the soul. You may or may not always feel Him near but He will always be there. When God seems distant, it is more likely that you have moved away from Him than that He has moved further from you. Where can you find God when you do not feel Him near? The answer is simple; “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 NKJV.

Difficult situations are rarely as unsettling as the emotions they produce. Emotions such as pain, fear, or anxiety can suggest God is not near. Even worse, painful emotions produce a false belief that God does not care. If God cared, we inaccurately reason, He would be there. Our fear is that God is purposefully distant from us. There will be times and circumstances when such thoughts conflict with truth, when such feelings seem to negate faith. When your faith struggles, bolster it with truth.

In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself by compound names. Among those is, “Jehovah Shammah, the Lord Who is there.” Ezekiel 48:35. Where you are, God is there. God reminded a nation in captivity because of their disobedience, that He would always be, “The Lord who is there.” Even the Lord’s loving reproof is never abandonment.

Again, let me ask; where will you find God when you do not feel Him near? Isaiah described God as, “The High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy.” Isaiah 57:15 NKJV. We live in the confines of time; God fills expansive eternity. That could seem intimidating even foreboding, making God seem unapproachable.

The Bible also tells of another place where the eternal God will always be found. “You are holy, You inhabit the praises of [your people].” Psalm 22:3 KJV. Inhabit describes, “a place of permanence, a place to abide continually.” When you do not feel Him near, praise will bring you into His presence – from where you are to where He always is.

God chooses to dwell amid the joyful praises of those who know and love Him. Praise exalts God and welcomes His presence, redirects your thoughts from self-centeredness, releases your emotions from negative expressions, and reorients your focus on all that is good. See Philippians 4:4-9 NIV. Praise glorifies God as is appropriate in all situations. God seeks the company of grateful hearts.

Praise is the simple act of expressing thanksgiving and gratitude, telling God and others what He has done for you. “You are holy. You are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3 NASV. Sincere praise establishes His authority and invites rulership in every circumstance. “Make His praise glorious . . Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise . . I will praise You with my whole heart.” Psalm 66:2/100:4/138:1 NKJV. Read Hebrews 10:22-23 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to know your God is always gracious and ever present.

EDL pix praise keyboard

Christian Communications 2016

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