Tag Archives: fear

Worship Wednesday – No Longer Slaves – Voices of Lee

Photo Credit: A Christian Pilgrim

In the dark and confusing times of my life, I have clung to these words in 2 Timothy 1:7 and taken comfort. The Apostle Paul wrote them to his young friend and son in the faith Timothy. Paul had experienced all the persecution of that day and was in what he knew would be his last imprisonment before being executed. His words to Timothy were deeply personal and rang with faith and hope…even in the face of suffering.

We are but frail humanity…very like this one, Paul. He was chained and isolated in his imprisonment, yet his spirit was free because of what he knew to be true. He was no longer a slave to a religion or a political entity. His current situation was brought on by tenacious obedience to the call of Christ. Therefore, he took confidence in the unseen – the presence of God Himself in that darkness, the work of God in his life, and the continued Gospel influence he had, even from prison. His identity was in Christ…he was a secured child of God.

That truth helped him endure the cold dungeon, the isolation from those closest to him, and the storm of his own thoughts.

Whatever our situation today, we have the same provision of God as did Paul years before us. As did the children of Israel, when they stepped onto the dry bed of the Red Sea, parted by almighty God.

Fear presses in on us and speaks lies. Fear tells us our situation is hopeless. Fear mocks the work of God in our lives. Fear takes what is seen and magnifies it over the magnificent work going on in the unseen of our lives.

The very good news is that fear will not prevail. It does not displace truth. It does not cancel faith. It may waylay us for a time, or sideline us for a moment, but God in His great goodness draws us to Himself and speaks love to our wearied hearts and minds.

[Sidebar: I find women more than men talk of the struggle with fear. My husband concurred that men think about fear as having to do with physical danger…If physical danger isn’t a present cause for fear, then men wrestle more with their private battles…alone. God knows our hearts…that fear of failure, or fear of being stuck somehow…the mental struggle that takes away our joy. He wants to restore that joy…and the peace that comes in remembering His love and provision.]

The songwriters of Bethel Music have given us a great anthem to God’s truth as demonstrated in His deliverance from fear. We are His children, and He is a father like no other.

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 118:6

Worship with me (link to lyric video) to No Longer Slaves, performed by the Voices of Lee. [A HD version of the song is here, with lyrics below.]

[Verse 1]
You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

[Chorus]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

[Verse 2]
From my mother’s womb, You have chosen me
Your love has called my name
I’ve been born again into Your family
Your blood flows through my veins

[Chorus]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

[Bridge]
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I can stand and sing
I am a child of God
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(You split the sea so I could walk right through it)
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(My fears were drowned in perfect love)
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(You rescued me so I can stand and sing)
To break every chain, to break every chain
To break every chain
(I am a child of God)
To break every chain, to break every chain
To break every chain
He breaks every chain, He breaks every chain
He breaks every chain
We’re no longer slaves, we’re no longer slaves
We’re no longer slaves
He broke every chain
We’re no longer slaves
We’re children of God

[Chorus]
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love (perfect love)
You rescued me so I can stand and sing
I am a child of God (hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
I am a child of God (hallelu-hallelu-hallelujah)
(We’re no longer slaves!)
I am a child of God*

In the official lyric video**, the song plays against a visual background of a well-trodden path on the edge of a mountain. To the right, as the viewer moves along the path, there is a sharp decline which seems to fall down to the deep valley. For someone with a fear of heights, my eyes are drawn away from the path down that steep cliff. This is the struggle for those of us who fear. That’s why God calls us to keep our eyes on Him, and on the path He has provided for us…and to remember the truth. “Stay on target!” is an adage (from Star Wars) that our family uses to remind ourselves. Stay on target!

*Lyrics to No Longer Slaves as Performed by Voices of Lee – written by Brian Johnson, Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case (Bethel Music)

YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves – Voices of Lee – Lyrics

**YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves –  Official Lyric Video – Jonathan David & Melissa Helser – We Will Not Be Shaken

YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves (Song Story) – Jonathan & Melissa Helser – We Will Not Be Shaken

Worship Wednesday – Anxiety, Holding On, & Reclaiming Perspective – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Anxiety, Holding On, & Reclaiming Perspective

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

Throughout my career in nursing, I have cared for people in pain and crisis. That care was guided by an undergirding definition of pain as “whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever and wherever the person say it does” [Margo McCaffery]

The same can be said about anxiety…except that anxiety can spiral wildly out of control away from what may be true at the moment to the worst possible expression of that thought or reality. This makes the pain of anxiety both poignant and problematic for the one experiencing it and for those who care for that person.

[I’ve written about anxiety previously here.]

For any of us, anxiety can present as a dull dread or a fearful fret that robs us of sleep and solace. When unchecked (and even when we try to rein it in), anxiety can expand to full-on panic. We struggle to think clearly, bereft of our normal control. We can’t get our breath back…or our mind.

Then with the comfort of a friend drawing near, speaking truth into our jumbled thoughts, or just being there with us, praying…light punctures the darkness and the fog lifts. If not altogether, some better. At times, especially in the night, God himself wraps His own arms around us and helps us recall what is true in the noise of what is not.Anxiety, Fear, PanicPhoto Credit: Azzah B. A., Sketchport

Sometimes anxiety requires clinical intervention for a season (either counseling or medication). I know what helps me, but I wouldn’t presume that what I can advise is what you need right this minute.

Dave Radford‘s piece What Would God Say to Your Anxiety? did strike a chord for me this morning. He reminds of the importance of perspective. That said, I know how hard reclaiming perspective in the midst of panic requires incredible resolve and clarity. Hard in panic. Still, if you can, reading his counsel might prove helpful.

[One caution: He seemed to be preaching to himself when he used the expression “navel-gazing”. I have not seen much navel-gazing in loved ones in the grip of anxiety or panic. Fixation on trying to get your breath or warring against destroying thoughts is NOT navel-gazing. So except for that…wise counsel:]

  • Look Behind You

When it comes to hope in the midst of struggle, God calls us to be a remembering people. If you spend even fifteen seconds gazing into your own past, it will begin to sparkle with ten thousand mercies reflecting off the waves of those memories (Lamentations 3:22). The sea of past grace dwells here, and welcomes us to come and drink, and remember as often as we need to.Photo Credit: Kate Nasser, Twitter

  • Look Before You

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). Though we can only see it “in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), our future is, to put it very mildly, mind-blowing. We may not have every detail, but we have more than enough here from which to draw joy and confidence for today.

  • Look Back Down to Your Life Now

Look back to your life now. See your current set of troubles through past and future lenses, and add these other promises to the mix. This is what Scripture says is true of you now. Inside of you is “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in your being (Ephesians 1:19–20). You have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). You cannot lose your standing with God. You are an adopted son or daughter of the King (Galatians 4:5–6). God’s lavish grace has been measured out for you according to God’s infinite wisdom, in just the right proportion and scheduled perfectly to meet your exact needs, whatever they may be (Matthew 6:33–34). God is weaving all things together for your greatest good, and equipping you with all that you need to accomplish his will (Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:19).*

*Dave RadfordWhat Would God Say to Your Anxiety?

Anciety, Perspective, Sacha ChuaPhoto Credit: Sacha Chua, Flickr

Worship with me, if you can, to a song written by Dave Radford.

If I took all that I got
And spread it out on this table
It might not seem like a lot
A once glimmering joy
Slowly fading from view
All the change in my pockets, not enough
And this picture of you
Still I’ve heard all that I have
In the moment is hardly a sign
Of everything coming my way
I believe when I need it, it will be mine

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got this far
And I’ll be alright

I’m not asking for mountains of riches
No silver or gold
Don’t need fame or fancier things
I can’t take when I go
I’m just asking for grace
Grace to carry on
Grace to take joy at my place at the table
And the rock that it’s standing on
Still I’ve heard all that I have
In a moment is hardly a sign
Of everything coming my way
I believe when I need it, it will be mine

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got this far
And I’ll be alright

And even when I’m broke down
Even when what I’ve got now
Is falling faster down beneath the cracks
And I don’t know when it’s coming back around
Even then I’ll be calling out louder
Loud enough to wake ’em up
Believing I believe I will see it done
I believe what I will hold
What I hold will be enough
Will be enough

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got, got this far
And I’ll be alright
It’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright**

Praying peace and joy for those struggling with anxiety today…knowing it’s not a simple thing.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

[Postscript: If any of you care to comment below on what your experiences are and what helps/doesn’t help, we who read them will learn and be grateful.]

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

**Lyrics to Take This Slowly – The Gray Havens

YouTube Video – Take This Slowly w/ Lyrics

The Gray Havens

 

 

 

Worship Wednesday – In Disappointment, Peace…and Finally, Joy – a Playlist

Photo Credit: Pixabay

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  Psalm 69:13

Yesterday morning, the doorbell rang. I saw the delivery truck in the driveway and moved quickly to retrieve what I thought was a package from a rain-drenched stoop.

It was an express letter to my mom’s estate. This was either very good news…or very bad. I have been the executor of Mom’s estate all these…16 years. Part of my responsibilities was the sale of land she owned in North Georgia. All of the properties have been sold except one. This property is a beautiful wooded piece of land in a county that is rapidly growing. This property has languished for sale all these years as the economy did the same. It would be well-suited for a 55+ community for which is currently zoned. Under contract three times, and under contract again…until yesterday.

When Mom asked me to be the executor of her estate, she held my hand and her eyes were full of pain because she knew it would be a mammoth job. Knowing me and my strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else did, she knew it would be hard for me to deal with all the intricacies of managing such a complicated affair – needing cooperation of extended family (that’s for another day).

Yesterday, the most recent buyers (a very successful development company) notified me, as executor, that they are terminating the contract. Why? They have determined “the property” does not comply with their investment criteria. These buyers had studied the land and knew all the particulars well (thanks to our wise realtor who didn’t want us to have to go through another almost-sale). Their reasoning for terminating the sale is unclear, but the condition of their hearts was. For whatever reasons, they walked away. Without apology.

[I’m still working on forgiving them. It will come.]

Sorry for all the details. The anger and disappointment about this needs to be qualified. This wasn’t a cancer diagnosis, a job loss or terrible (fill-in-the-blank) news about someone we loved.

It was about property not selling this time around. Our realtor tells us that he has already had two inquiries, while the land was under contract, and he will pursue those interested now.

For us…we deal with this disappointment in ways that will heal. We had prayed for that sale. Everything that we could see about the buyers gave us confidence that they were the ones…the ones God had sent in answer to our prayers. It would not be so.

As I read Psalm 69 this morning, verse 13 leapt off the page:

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  Psalm 69:13

Our circumstances have changed…really, rather have not changed – we still have land that I must sell according to Mom’s will. Our circumstances have not changed after praying for years for them to change. Most importantly, God has not changed.

After being tossed a bit by anger and disappointment, I have hope again and peace…that God will show Himself mighty in this as He does in all things:

  • at an acceptable time.
  • In the abundance of His steadfast love.
  • In His saving faithfulness.

Photo Credit: Faith Spilling Over, Betsy de Cruz

On Worship Wednesdays, I usually invite you to sing with me…or worship with me, as you choose. Today I put together a playlist, sort of, on trusting (gleaned from some of the songs highlighted on past blogs). These songs have brought me joy as I hope they will you.

[If you have “trusting God” songs that calm your heart and restore joy on hard days, would you place them in the Comments below?]

Trusting Playlist

Unfinished – Mandisa

Even If – MercyMe

We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

In the Eye of the Storm – Ryan Stevenson

My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Shoulders – For King & Country

It is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod

Through It All – It is Well With My Soul – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

Thanks for letting me process a bit…and give vent to how faithful God is in His comfort and joy. Also, if you want to pray the property sells, that would be awesome. It is the last big part of my responsibility toward Mom’s estate, and I want to steward it well to the end…because of her.

When God Closes a Door – Betsy de Cruz

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Photo Credit: Flickr

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

In my late teens and 20s, my mom endured a hard and painful-to-watch season. A few of my other friends’ moms went through what then was called “a nervous breakdown”. Somehow, my mom pushed through. She felt tremendous responsibility to get her four children grown and established in our adult lives. She worked hard at her job and served well in her church and community. Mom was unshakeable in her love for God and for us.

Yet the demons were real. I will never forget sitting beside her as she lay weeping on her bed. Deep, shaking, inconsolable cries. She was never able to say what the tormentors were – regret? worry? There were times she described how it felt like something was in her throat (that proverbial “lump”) that she couldn’t get down – literally like she couldn’t swallow (or stomach) whatever was going on.

In those days, holding my mama who I loved most in the world, I promised myself I would never let that level of misery happen in my life…I would figure out how not to be taken down by fear or the threat of the future…especially such that my children would not have to see me in such pain.

It was sometime in my 20s that my own tears dried up. After watching my mom cry so much, I just didn’t have any tears…maybe I didn’t want to go to that hard place…

Praise God there is always more to the story. My mom survived those years and lived more joyfully and peacefully after that, right through the day she went Home to be with the Lord. Thanks to my mom, I did learn how to cope with the stressors of life…not always well, but I know how.

Mom and I both learned through our lives how to cast our cares on God. There may have been times in Mom’s later years that she wrestled with anxiety just between God and her. There are times, as well, that I wrestle, especially in the night hours, before sleep.

Right now, anxiety seems to be gripping the hearts and lives of some dear friends of mine. I’m not sure how to counsel but am absolutely sure how to pray.

Anxiety is not the same as fear. It is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil…It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat. It is a distinction between future and present dangers which divides anxiety and fear. Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalized and unfocused. It is the mental state that results from a difficult challenge for which the subject has insufficient coping skills.

Photo Credit: SketchPort

God never meant for us to live in anxiety.

For clinical helps on dealing with anxiety, Debbie Hampton has written a concise and practical piece (linked below) entitled Four Steps to Take Control of Your Mind and Change Your Brain. She takes it from the book You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Golding. The 4 steps are written from more of a Buddhist mindfulness orientation, but they actually easily translate to Biblical wisdom.

For today, I just want to express my profound gratefulness for the God who meets us in the dark nights of the soul and reminds us of what is true and restores our joy and peace. He is faithful, and His Word never fails.

Worship with me through the song My Anchor by Christy Nockels and Jason Ingram.

You’re the Lord Almighty
Your every word is sure
And in Your love unfailing
I’m safe when oceans roar
Yes, I’m safe when oceans roar
My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on
Here within the struggle
And every crashing wave
You are more than able
Your hand is strong to save

Yes, I know Your hand is strong to save

My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on

I hold on to You
And You hold on to me
Jesus, I hold on to You
And You hold on to me*

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

By the way, I seem to have gotten my tears back, for which I’m grateful. Also, for those of you, like me, who struggle with anxiety, it’s a battle. We must be gentle with ourselves but, at the same time, disciplined in dealing with the lies with which our mind hammers us. For you who love us “sometimes anxious ones”, thank you…especially when you don’t default to anxiety…thank you for trying to understand, and for loving, and for guiding us gently to the truth, and for praying. You are the face of Jesus to us.

*Lyrics to My Anchor – Songwriters: Christy Nockels & Jason Ingram

Story Behind the Song My Anchor by Christy Nockels – Kevin Davis

How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? – Interview with John Piper

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Worship Wednesday – Listening to His Voice Through the Noise

12 Christian Songs to Ease An Anxious Mind – Victoria Rondinelli

7 Christian Songs That Help With Feelings of Depression – Crystal McDowell

Four Steps to Take Control of Your Mind and Change Your Brain – Debbie Hampton

Four Steps – Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz’s Four Steps – Hope 4 OCD – Dr. Ada Gorbis

You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Golding

Prescriptions Without Pills – For Relief From Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More – Dr. Susan Heitler

Addition – from my friend Blythe – You Are My Peace – Housefires – YouTube Video

Worship Wednesday – All I Have Is Christ – Sovereign Grace

Photo Credit: YouTube

The LORD appeared to him from far away. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.”Jeremiah 33:3

How do we stand against the mean-spiritedness of this world? How do we pull ourselves out of the cycle of shaming, blaming and blame-shifting? How do we still the voices in our own heads and hearts… voices that tell us we don’t deserve love or honor? Or maybe it’s someone else who we have decided doesn’t deserve our love or honor?

We turn our eyes off of those we think betray us and off our own betraying hearts, and we look to Jesus.

To set the foundation here, I am deep in the book Befriend by Scott Sauls. Its byline is Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Sauls writes about real friendship and spends twenty-one chapters unwrapping the beautiful possibilities of going deep with others. This book came at the perfect juncture in life for me as I shake off a sense of judgment (whether it’s true or not, it feels true) and the isolation that comes with it.

We get crossed-up in life by either the expressed opinions of others or our self-shaming sense of others’ take on our lives, our choices, and our preferences. My default is to go straight to fear…fear of losing place in the lives of those who differ with me. For some reading this, it may seem nonsensical. After reading Sauls’ chapter “Befriend the Shamed and Ashamed”, I am convinced we all deal with shame. It may be covered well by pride, (un)righteous indignation, or self-justification. Still…it is as present with us as in the original garden when Adam blamed Eve (and even God) for his sin, and she blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13).

We want to self-protect. The pain of our own failings, and sin outright, is too much for us so we blame others…we shame others.

God knows us, through and through, and loves us. Full-stop. Not in a pitying way but in the purest, life-giving way of a faithful parent. A Heavenly Father…who came down and came close to show us how much He loved us…through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

We lose sight of that sometimes. Lost in our own self-imposed dark thinking, we forget He loved us first (1 John 4:19). We forget that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39). We can’t earn and don’t deserve His love. His love is ours, always and forever, for the taking. The God of that kind of far-reaching love transforms us…our thoughts, our actions toward others, our understanding of who God is and who we are in Him.

We see more clearly that those who judge and isolate others are just like us. We are reminded of our own capacity to do the same. Hurt people hurt people. As we see what is true through the eyes of a God who loves, we can humble ourselves and love in return. In fact, we can love first, as God loves us, and stay on ready to do so. What glorious peace is in that possibility!

“The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.” (Billy Graham and others).

Jordan Kauflin wrote the song All I Have Is Christ (Sovereign Grace Music), with input from his dad, Bob. We sang this at Movement Church this past Sunday, and God touched my heart, all over again, with the stripped-down truth of His love for us. Gospel Truth. Good news that can change a world – a heart and household at a time. Because of His love for us…there is no more shame. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life*

Story Behind the Song All I Have Is Christ – Interview with Bob and Jordan Kauflin

*Lyrics to All I Have Is Christ – © 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Explore God – Questions About God, Jesus, Christianity, and More

Worship Wednesday – Fear Not – A Lesson From the Shepherds and Charlie Brown’s Friend Linus

blog-fear-not-charlie-brown-christmas-patrickmurfinPhoto Credit: Patrick Murfin

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Fear can rip our hearts out…paralyze us from action…drive a wedge between us and the truth. It drives us to focus on what we see (much of which is only in our mind’s eye) as our dreaded reality, hitting repeat over and over. Fear fixes blinders on our faces such that we must fight to remember that there is more to life…so much more…than what we are facing in this moment…whether it’s real or more imagined. The Apostle Paul speaks of this, from experience, in his letter to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5).

In preparing our hearts for the birth of Christ, the shepherds come to mind. Tending sheep in the dark fields outside of Bethlehem, they gathered by a fire, telling stories…maybe even sharing some of their own fears with each other. Or guarding them in their hearts…even more afraid of being exposed. Whether they feared attacking wolves in the darkness or whether they could adequately provide for their families….or something even deeper and harder to express.

When the angel of God appeared to them to announce the birth of the Messiah, he assured them to “Fear not!” Was it just because of his fearsome and surprising appearance? Or could it also have been a word to us from God, repeated throughout Scripture…to not be afraid? A word from God to His beloved creation so long without a word from Him. “Fear not!”blog-fear-freebibleimages-fear-notPhoto Credit: Free Bible Images

In the family film A Charlie Brown Christmas, there’s a small detail that could go unnoticed… Linus responds to the anguish of his friend, Charlie Brown, when he questioned what Christmas is all about. If you haven’t ever seen this short film, Linus carried a blue security blanket with him everywhere he goes…everywhere.

Linus explains Christmas here…watch his blue blanket.

Linus Christmas Monologue

As Linus explains Christmas to Charlie Brown (with the help of Luke 2:8-14), he declares the angel’s words to the shepherds, “Fear not!” Then he drops his blanket!

Jason Soroski notes this in his piece about A Charlie Brown Christmas:

The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead. 

What happened to those shepherds, visited by an angel on that night that has marked all of history since? Some of them had to be changed forever. I’m sure there were those who followed the life of Jesus…heard his teaching, saw the miracles, were even present at his crucifixion. From that group of shepherds, there must have been those who believed that, indeed, there was nothing to fear.New Testament 3 Production Still Photography

When Linus finished his monologue, he picked up that blanket. Isn’t that true for all of us? Our temptation, in the frailty of being human in this large human experience, is to pick up the fear, as Linus did his blanket. The truth is, for God’s children, there is nothing to fear. God wraps His arms around us and sometimes even pulls the curtain back to show us what He is doing even in this fearsome moment…to care for us, protect us, and reveal His glory in and through our lives. Even when God keeps the why, or the reason, or the purpose, veiled…as we walk with Him, and experience His love through the fears, we can trust Him.

Fear not!  The announcement of the angel…the message of Christmas…is good news…not bad. Good news that can annihilate our fear, as sure as light extinguishes darkness. Let’s live in this truth today.

Worship with me to Hillsong‘s None But Jesus:

In the quiet, in the stillness
I know that you are God
In the secret of your presence
I know there I am restored
When you call I won’t refuse
Each new day, again I’ll choose
There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise
In the chaos, in confusion
I know you’re sovereign still
In the moment of my weakness
You give me grace to do your will
When you call I won’t delay
This my song through all my days

 

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

I am yours and you are mine…

All my delight is in you Lord
All of my hope
All of my strength
All my delight is in you Lord
Forevermore*

blog-fear-scripture

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind,
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind."
"To you, in David's town this day,
Is born of David's line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord."

Worship Wednesday – Forever He Is Glorified – Kari Jobe

blog-fix-our-eyes-on-godPhoto Credit: GodsWordImages

Last night, I watched all 90 minutes of the vice-presidential debate. If these two public servants were running for president instead of being the vice-president candidates, my voting choice for this Fall’s election would be much simpler. Watching them actually gave me another window to see into the convoluted soul of politics. As is their job on debate night, they sparred relentlessly over issues and, both of them, successfully  continued to expose the weaknesses of the other’s running mate. Nothing new there.blog-election-vicepresident-debatePhoto Credit: ABC News

What was different last night was the obvious discomfort each had with some of the issues that, because of the nature of their jobs, they had to legally support even when, in doing so, required them to go against their faith. The death penalty, for one, and partial-birth abortion for the other. I couldn’t imagine. Something else that stood out was their respect and regard for each other which had to be put aside for the sake of the required rancor of the evening’s spectacle. They both hammered away at the other’s presidential running mate…knowing the attacks had to be personal to them as well. Such is the nature of political debate.

Both the presidential and vice-presidential debates zoomed in on some of the terrible brokenness of our nation and the world. The racial and cultural divides in our country. Syria. Political unrest around the world. Corruption. National debt. Syria. Abortion. Displaced and marginalized peoples. Syria. Nuclear armament. Wars. Poverty. Energy. Immigration. Syria. Our Supreme Court.

Like those who chose not to watch the debate or turned it off early to use their time differently, I can’t bear to watch too much cataloging of the world’s woes when it “seems” there is so little we can do. My tendency is to go to fear…for our nation and for all nations.

Then I’m reminded:

God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7blog-worship-wednesday-spirit-of-fear-achristianpilgrimPhoto Credit: AChristianPilgrim

In watching the whole debate, I saw two men, not just posturing politically…they were two men of faith trying to make sense of brokenness and with the hope that a political party in power can make a difference against it.

That, however, is not what I take hope in…especially this year.

Will there ever be an American President for all the peoples anymore? If there ever was. However, there is a God who sees and who loves us all…every single one of us. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (in image at top of page) comes into focus for me.

Fixing our eyes on God doesn’t mean we close our eyes to the realities around us. The mandate is to do whatever we can to apply a counter-pressure against the warp of sin in this world. The Scripture is clear.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. – Isaiah 61:1

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – JesusMatthew 25:34-40

This election year, more than any other, I cling to a God who is not finished with us yet. A God who from forever has set a course to be in relationship with as many of us as will turn to him. A God, who through Jesus, came after us….and continues to do so. Today, I don’t cling to a political party or a world power to right the wrongs…I cling to the cross of Christ.

Fixed on Him (moment by moment, sometimes, wrestling myself out of the grip of fear), I am confident that whatever happens in this election, God will be forever glorified…as we see His story (history) completed and our lives redeemed.

Worship with me. Also if you would take the time, watch the YouTube video linked below of Kari Jobe singing the song Forever with a short spoken word message by Isaac Wimberley. Powerful.

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon Him

One final breath He gave
As Heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeatedblog-empty-tomb-lionlambbowmanvillePhoto Credit: LionLamb-Bowmanville

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive

We Sing Hallelujah
We Sing Hallelujah
We Sing Hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive*

*Lyrics to Forever written by Kari Jobe, Brian Johnson, Jennifer Johnson, Gabriel Wilson, Joel Taylor, and Christa Black Gifford

YouTube Video -Kari Jobe Forever (Live) – with spoken word by Isaac Wimberley

Explore God – Is Christianity Too Narrow? – Podcast, Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

Worship Wednesday – Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard – Jason Gray

Blog - Perfect Love Casts Out Fear - best of picturePhoto Credit: BestOfPicture

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. – 1 John 4:18

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Fear and love. Over the last two weeks, we’ve heard a lot about these two states of heart and mind. Well, if we’ve followed the conventions of the two major political parties in the US…. Whether we’ve watched on TV or not, the messages of both conventions have blasted our newsfeeds. What does one believe about any of it?

One convention (and political party and candidate) is purportedly all about fear. The other is all about love. One sees the solution to fear comes with building walls. The other sees the solution to our nation’s problems is love. Big fear = Big walls, guns, bluster. Big love = Big government, inclusion (unless maybe you look and think like me). Gone are the days, in both conventions, when God is mentioned in light of how we are meant to do government and treat our neighbors (both near and far).

Sidebar: Regarding fear, John Piper does talk about the importance of a certain type of temporary fear. “The painful fear, the guilty fear, the craven fear, the humiliating fear — all such fear will one day be taken way. But only in the way God intends. And in his time. We should not be done with it in the wrong way, or too soon.

Here is the way C. S. Lewis puts it:

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear [1 John 4:18]. But so do several other things — ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.

It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear. (“The World’s Last Night” in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, 51)” – John Piper

I wasn’t revved by the one convention’s soberness, nor was I wooed by the other convention’s frivolity. The jokes just weren’t funny, but everyone there was laughing.

Until the reality seemed to sink in for the supporters of a minority candidate, that it might be over…and the tears flowed.Blog - Fear and Love - PoliticsBlog - Fear and Love - Politics - tearsPhoto Credit: FoxNews, PressDemocrat

I actually felt some of their pain.

What is a follower of Christ to do?

Scripture makes it very clear that we are not to give into worldly fear. Scripture also convicts us that love is the solution – not the love of government, or a political party, or like for like. For us as Christ followers, we are called to love…even those who don’t agree with us, even our enemies. This kind of love is extremely costly – it’s the kind of love Jesus taught us through his life…and through his death.

We’re not meant to give into a fear that builds walls, nor are we to clamor for a love that costs us nothing…a love that comes out of government and not out of our own skin.

During a season in this country, when we’re being hammered with media messages that divide us, may we as the followers of Christ unite – not by political party or by our own offended or soothed sensibilities. May we unite in keeping our eyes on God when we fear, and apply our lives to truly loving – not just people like us but all peoples. Not just looking to an outside agency to “show the love”, but to extend ourselves to that loving…as we’ve experienced in the God of love.

Worship with me with this song from Jason Gray‘s album A Way to See in the Dark

Turn on the T.V. for the evening news
They got plenty to fear and nothing to do
Another somebody who’s gone too far
Makes you want to put up your guard
Fear is easy, love is hard
So we draw up another dividing line
We label each other and we choose a side
Peace could come at quite a cost
So we won’t build a bridge across
Fear is easy, but love is hard
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid
I’m sorry baby is what he should’ve said
But she wouldn’t listen even if he did
They’ll die without forgiveness soon
But no one wants to make a move
When fear is easy and love is hard
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid
It’s hard to bring your heart to a world that can break it
To offer love to those you’re afraid will forsake it
But a well-defended heart is always looking for a fight
In a lonely war against an endless night
But love can bring a light
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid
It comes down to a simple choice
Shouting devils or a still small voice
One is spreading fear and dread
Oh but love has always said
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid.*

Blog - Fear and Love - GrowinginHisGracePhoto Credit: Growing In His Grace

I love the truth in Paul’s writing to Timothy. God doesn’t mean for us to fear what surrounds us, what seems to loom ahead, or what has happened in the past. He means for us to gather ourselves, as His children, to act with the power He’s given us, to love with the example He’s shown us, and to think, (and reason together), with sound minds. Sound minds. We can think through and manage this election year if we keep our wits and guard our hearts, with faith unblemished in a God “whose arm is not too short to save!” (Isaiah 59:1)

*Lyrics to Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard

Fear or Love? Responding to Terrorism Like Jesus – Nicole Simpson – Christ & Pop Culture

Responding to the Tragedy in This World – Growing In His Grace

YouTube – Chris Tomlin – Whom Shall I Fear? [God of Angel Armies] – Lyrics

BLog - Fear and Love - Nothing is too hard for God - facebook - Mariah KingPhoto Credit: Facebook

One More Sleep Until Surgery – Staying On This Side of the Bridge

Blog - staying on this side of the bridge - harry w. nice memorial bridge - alpsroadsPhoto Credit: AlpsRoads

Tomorrow I have surgery…a biopsy. One more sleep, and then finally (hopefully) I will know what it is that we’ve been following for six months now. Your thoughts can go all sorts of places during a time of waiting. My dear friend, Kathy, who has now been in cancer nursing longer than I comforted me with this wisdom:

“For right now, you need to stay on this side of the bridge.”

She is so right. Bridges… As helpful and beautiful as they are, bridges stir up my fears of heights and deep water. There’s this one bridge we cross going to and from visits with our family in Delaware. Located  on Hwy. 301 in Maryland, it’s named the Governor Harry Nice Memorial Bridge. The bridge itself is not so nice if you struggle with bridges. It’s steep and narrow. As you ascend, you can’t see really where it’s going.

If your imagination runs wild, you could envision cars ahead of you (and you eventually) drop right off the top into the Potomac River… Of course, once at the pinnacle of the bridge, you see, with great relief, what seems an easy downward slope of the bridge and the other side of the river…and all will be (was always going to be) well.

It’s best to stay in the moment on the ascending side of the bridge, because the “unknown” other side of the bridge wreaks havoc in our thoughts. Experience helps, of course, because the presumed “unknown” is no longer, and you can rest, knowing, you’ve been here before, and it works out fine.

For several weeks now, I have had to discipline myself to stay on this side of the bridge. Knowing God as I do, and seeing Him at work in the lives of loved ones who’ve known their own bridges, this journey is not supposed to be scary. It’s meant to be from beautiful to beautiful. God even redeems suffering…and I know that…but my thoughts betray my struggle.

How gentle God is with His children! Just hours ago, I walked out to a sun-drenched morning, and stood with my coffee looking out the kitchen window. There’s this small dedicated space over the sink which reminds me, even doing dishes, of the grander more beautiful life experience that is ours. The shamrocks Mom Julia gave me are flourishing in the sun this morning. The Blessings plaque from friend Kay reminds me to count mine. The little pile of stones are my Ebenezer – ”I raise my Ebenezer” (from 1 Samuel 7:12) – my stones of remembrance that say to my heart, “thus far the Lord has helped us.” IMG_6106

Then in my quiet time, in the reading for today, the Prophet Samuel speaks to a sinful but repentant people of God. He reminds them of the great faithfulness of God and how he will not forsake His people (1 Samuel 12), nor will Samuel stop praying for them.Blog - Samuel's blessing - surgery

How grateful I am for a faithful, faithful God…and for all those followers of His, faithful to pray. No wonder Samuel tells the people not to be afraid.

Whatever comes tomorrow, I know, from God’s Word and experience, that He will be with me…and with all those dearest to me. Whatever the outcome, we have nothing to fear. Nothing.

As this day unfolds, one sleep from surgery, my fear is dissipating, and peace is restored. I’m not saying there won’t be bumps in that experience over the next hours…but the most rock-solid object of my faith remains immovable. God has our lives in His hands, and “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Full stop.

Like Kathy advises, clearing my thoughts regularly, I “stay on this side of the bridge.” Tomorrow, I will wake up after surgery and hopefully will find out that it is “either nothing or early”. Whatever the outcome, God’s grace will be there for me…for us.

Blog - staying on this side of the bridgePhoto Credit: ParentingThatHeals

For now, I will trust God, rest in His care and the love of family and friends, and…just breathe.

*This song comes up all the time on the radio right now…probably not just for me, but it feels sweetly personal.

My prayer for you and for me today is that whatever the situation, we stay in the place where He has us, and by His grace, and the love of those He’s placed in our way, we will get to the other side…it its time.IMG_6107Postscript – that early morning coffee came with banana bread and prayer from my friend Harriet. So many graces in life.

Worship Wednesday – Fixing My Eyes on You, God – For King and Country

Blog - Fix My EyesPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3

I wonder at the commercial value of media’s generating fear among us. A strangling fear can choke out love and awareness of those real people behind the news commentators – people who desperately need hope and a future. For us, as Christians, as we watch the news of a world seemingly gone mad, what is our response?

Our action and reaction must always be to fix our eyes on God – to act in accordance with His love and character. To be driven by news media or public opinion is not an option for us as Christ-followers. We have a different path set before us, but we do not walk it alone.

Praise God that He has surrounded us with His own love and with “a great cloud of witnesses”. We are spurred on by the lives of those who have gone before us – who chose faithfulness over fear, peace over prosperity, security in Heaven over safety here. We are also emboldened to live such a life because of Jesus who lived such a life – without sin, in obedience to the Father, for our sakes.

I heard someone being interviewed on the radio yesterday saying her opinion about the current world crisis was set because of her concern for her own children. She would do whatever she could to “circle the wagons” around them. I understand her concerns but not her conclusions. We all want a world where our children can thrive and discover what God meant for them in this life.

Focusing on our own children will not create that world. Focusing on God’s purposes for us in this current world, the only one we have, is our greatest hope for our children’s future.

Joel and Luke Smallbone, of the band For King and Country, sing a rousing anthem entitled Fix My Eyes. I previously wrote about it here. The song relates to looking back with regret to decisions made earlier in life and points to how we might live today.

I want to live such a life today.

Worship with me:

Hit rewind, click delete
Stand face to face with the younger me
All of the mistakes
All of the heartbreak
Here’s what I’d do differently, I’d

(Chorus)
Love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
On You

I learned the lines and talked the talk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows it)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
To walk the walk I’m supposed to walk, and

(Chorus)

The things of earth are dimming
In the light of Your glory and grace
I’ll set my sights upon Heaven
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes

(Chorus)

I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You
I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You

“That hope is why we do what we do to carry that into any situation, any environment, that we’re allowed to, to offer people not just a temporary fix but, God willing, offer them a changed eternity.” – Joel Smallbone

“A changed eternity”. What are you seeing about you and what are you doing to move our world, person by person, toward a changed eternity? Please comment below…and thank you.