No More Running From Fear

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message.

Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be afraid.

Case in point. I was a tween with pimples; long, lanky limbs; and an attitude the summer our family went to Ohio to visit friends of my parents who lived on a farm. I didn’t much care if these people were nice. I didn’t much care what we would eat for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner. It wasn’t the beach, and I wasn’t overly thrilled to be in Ohio for a vacation. (No offense, Ohio people.) But I had heard they had horses, and that calmed my grump a good bit because, truth be told, I was giddy to ride one.

I just knew I was born to ride! My cousin Beth had horses, but up to that point, she hadn’t had the chance to teach me the ropes. Finally I would have my chance.

The sun danced with a summer breeze the morning we journeyed past the barn out into the pasture for our horse adventure. It was beautiful. A perfect day for an eager girl to do something new and exciting.

I got a quick bit of instructions, and then I mounted the saddled creature, grabbed the reins, and ventured out into the grassy fields. All by my big-tween-girl self.

Freedom met me in the tall grass as Butterscotch and I became fast friends.

We walked. We cantered. We even galloped! I was so good at this!

And then I turned him around, back toward his owner and the barn, and Butterscotch got his run on in a fierce way.

Scared. Me. To. Death.

I didn’t know what to do. I screamed, dropped the reins, and held on to the horn of the saddle for dear life. The owner was waving her hands trying to tell me what to do, but she sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and the moment was blurry mayhem.

Then when I was sure we would crash into the barn, causing me to meet Jesus way too young, Butterscotch came to a halt.

And I went inside to change my pants. (Joking.)

I was so scared that I collapsed into an ugly cry. Couldn’t even control my emotions. And on that day, one thing became crystal clear to me: I do not like to be afraid.

Seriously.

If I see a snake, a mouse, or a spider (generally anything with more or fewer legs than I have), chances are I’m going to run the other way screaming louder than a middle-school girl at a Taylor Swift concert. Why? Because those creatures freak me out. It’s an unsettling kind of fear. And remember? I don’t like to be afraid.

Yet the Bible says we are to fear the Lord. Come again? How does this make sense?

I’ve come to understand that the fear of the Lord is a good kind of fear; it’s a righteous fear. The best kind. When God says we are to fear Him, He’s saying we are to be in awe of Him, to revere Him as the One who dwells in unapproachable light. To recognize Him as the eternal eminence who sits on the throne of grace and lovingly welcomes us to encounter Him intimately as we worship.

I fear God when I reflect on His greatness, when I whisper, “Good job on that flower, God!” when I trace the jawline of my sleeping, whiskered man-child and give thanks to the loving Creator who created him.

I fear God by giving Him the honor, esteem, and adoration due Him. In good times and bad.

I fear God by recognizing that He is God and I am not.

I fear God by understanding that all of the power in heaven and on earth is His. And in doing so, I’m ushered into a fresh beginning. To the greatest resource of power. To a starting gate that opens wide to knowledge, wisdom, and instruction—all of which are worth far more than any understanding this world offers.

Straight up: The world is a faction of fools who laugh at godly wisdom. It whispers venom to our souls …

“You don’t have to pay attention to God.”

“Do things your way.”

“More! You need more!”

“It’s okay to watch that raunchy movie or read that trashy novel.”

Blah. Blah. Blah…

No thank you, world. I’ve got a mad crush on my God, and I don’t need your misguided direction. The fear of the Lord leads me to wisdom in a beautifully sacred way. And that’s a fear worth running toward full force.

Have a blessed day!

Grace for the Imperfect

Thank you Kelly Balarie for today’s message

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many – Hebrews 12:15, NIV

It wasn’t a major thing she did to upset me. It was many minor things over many days. For instance, I shared a joy I was thrilled about, but she changed the subject. I sent her texts of love from the bottom of my heart, and she was either slow to respond, or didn’t respond at all. I showed love, but she didn’t invite me to things other friends were invited to.

Inside, I was ready to write her off.

I’ve invested so much, butI am done with her.

Consciously and decisively, I created distance when we were together: talking to her less, giving her short answers, avoiding eye contact, and paying attention to others more.

But at home, I felt convicted. What is true love if it is dependent on another woman’s response?

I’d looked to her response to define my worth. But in reality, my love isn’t unto her – it is unto Christ. I’d lost perspective.

Worst of all, I’d allowed something horrible to grow within me.

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:15, NIV).

A bitter root was forming.

Do you have a bitter root forming within? Toward a co-worker? A husband? A friend? A child?

There are 3 ways to pull out bad roots:

1. Forgive.

Christ forgave us when we were still sinners. Likewise, we forgive others while they are still imperfect. This doesn’t negate or defend bad actions, but it frees us from carrying the weight of them.

2. Extend grace.

We can extend to others the very grace we could only hope to receive on our worst day.

No one is perfect. We all are growing. We hit busy seasons. Tough seasons. Rough seasons. Pain. Trials. Tribulations. Huge mistakes.

Christ-like love bears each other’s weaknesses, so as to carry the other person’s cross, even if only for a bit. This kind of love changes relationships, brings back marriages and restores what has been lost. It resurrects.

3. Receive grace.

Undoubtedly, I had eyes for myself in this situation. There was more to this woman’s responses. I could either beat myself up for what I’d done wrong or receive the grace Jesus paid for. The first option would keep me stuck in perpetual self-harm, but the other would set me free.

You too can let yourself off the hook, because Christ is not condemning you. The second you confess, you are blessed by His grace.

Have a blessed day!

How’s Your Foundation?

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message…

One of the first things I noticed was the diversity of the homes built right on the beach. Some were large and ostentatious while others were small and quaint – and some were either partially or totally destroyed. We had a friend in the church who built a lot of houses in that area, so I asked him why some houses seemed to withstand the storms while others didn’t. His explanation really hit home!

Some people wanted a house built quickly, so they simply built a house on the sand. They often used inferior materials and made little preparation, but they did see quick results. Others wanted a house built right. That not only takes superior materials, but a lot more time. The sand has to be cleared away, scraped down to the coral bed of rock. Holes are then drilled in the coral and pilings are attached. Finally, a cement foundation is poured, and the actual building of the house begins. The houses built on the sand could not withstand the storms of South Florida. The houses built on the coral rock could.

The same is true in our lives.

The foundation upon which a life is built will determine the strength of that life.

We are so human. We often make people the foundation upon which we build a life. Or maybe it is our career, our intelligence, our gifts and abilities, loved ones, a spouse or children. None of these things are strong enough to support the weight of life. Only God can do that. Only God can be the foundation that brings us purpose and meaning. Only God can empower us to withstand the storms of life.

I ran this idea by our son, who is a master carpenter and superintendent for a local construction company. At one point in his career, Jered bought and flipped houses for a living. I can remember his process of going to inspect several houses but choosing only one or two to buy. I had often wondered what criteria he used to choose the houses he wanted to remodel. Jered was quick to explain. “Mom, I always checked the foundation first. If it was unstable or unsound, I immediately dismissed it as an option. I knew I would basically have to start over if I wanted to sell the house. A faulty foundation will always support a faulty house.”

What is the foundation on which you are building your life? Today, make a new commitment to make a solid personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the relentless pursuit of His truth the rock on which your life stands.

Have a blessed day!

Choose to Praise God

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message:

I once saw a refrigerator magnet that said, “I know that God promises to never give me more than I can handle. But sometimes, I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” When trials come and life seems hard, we plead with God to deliver us from the problem when many times, His plan is to deliver us in the problem. Praise does not depend upon an understanding of the circumstance or trial. Praise depends upon an understanding of and faith in God.

As humans, we will never fully understand God – this side of heaven. God is holy and without blemish. God is all powerful and omniscient. He is Creator of the universe and yet lives in me. He is the only true, living God! We may understand some of His ways and comprehend the reasoning behind some of His plans. We may even come to the place of knowing him on what we call an intimate level, but a full understanding of God is reserved for heaven. Until then, we walk by faith, not by sight. We praise him in the darkness, knowing that the light is just ahead. We trust him for things we cannot see and turn to him in the valleys. Honestly, the thought of serving and relying on a God I can understand is not a reassuring thought.

Most people who know me well would describe me as a strong person, someone who can usually handle what life holds. I thought the same thing until, in 1995, I found myself a powerless, prisoner of the darkness as I battled clinical depression. It took me two long years to climb out of that pit and not a day goes by that I am not reminded of that wonderful, horrible time.

One of the many lessons I learned from my “pit experience” was that I cannot depend upon my own strength or my fickle emotions. God often asked me to praise him when, as far as I could tell, there wasn’t a whole lot to praise him for! I didn’t feel like praising him.

I began to understand that praise is not a feeling but a choice, a step of obedience taken without the assurance of a changed circumstance or the elimination of a trial. Praise focuses on God, not the circumstance, and fixes its gaze upon God’s truth and God’s character instead of the trial at hand or just ahead. That is why we can celebrate the battle before it begins. The outcome is neither our responsibility nor our goal. Praise begins and ends with faith in the very nature, personality and integrity of God … and that never changes.

No matter what lies ahead, God is faithful. No matter how hot the fiery trial may be, God will deliver us. No matter what man says or does, God loves and accepts us. So praise God! Thank Him today for every victory tomorrow holds! Celebrate – knowing that the battle belongs to God and because of that single truth, victory is certain.

Have a blessed day!

I Want a Love That Satisfies

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message…

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. ~ Psalm 90:14, NIV

I’m needy when it comes to love. Remember that game Hungry Hungry Hippos? Well, I’m pretty much Hungry Hungry Gwenno. (Don’t remember that game? Google it and then buy it for your child, four-year-old nephew, neighbor or grandkid. You’ll thank me.)

It seems our old friend Moses was a bit of a hungry hippo too.

In Psalm 90 he asked God to fill him and God’s people full of love: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (v. 14). Love this! Note that Moses connected the love of God with a satisfaction that put a song in his heart and a skip in his step.

Yes. I want this too. So my prayer each morning becomes, Satisfy me with Your love today, Lord. Fill me with Your joy and gladness, and lead my actions to sing of You.

As I pray this, God’s companionship meets my loneliness.

His grace overwhelms my grump.

His joy trumps my anger.

His provision satisfies my need.

David recognized that he needed God’s all-satisfying love too. He celebrated it … was desperate for it … was responsive to it. Look at what he penned in the familiar words of Psalm 63:

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (vv. 1–5)

I see my own heart reflected in David’s words and realize that when I’m hankering for a hunk of love, my longings are best met in the arms of my Lord. His is the love of power and glory. His love is “better than life.” And, like David, I choose to respond to His love with worship. My lips will glorify Him. I will lift up my hands. I will praise the all-worthy One. In doing so, my soul is secure. Satisfied.

Ultimately, I experience the satisfaction of God’s love through Jesus.

God’s perfect love compelled Him to sacrifice His Son to bridge the chasm of death between His holiness and my humanness. His is the love that holds, the love that heals, the love that refines, the love that calls my waywardness back to purity with kindness, the love that is always with me, that rejoices over me with singing and takes “great delight” in me (Zeph. 3:17).

This sacred, scarlet love of Jesus is the Living Water that quenches the desperate longings of my thirsty soul. If I want all the love God has for me, my feeble hands must reach for the ones that were pierced for my transgressions.

Every day.

When the sun shines.

When the storm screams.

I find God’s love when I reach out to Jesus.

His is the only love that satisfies.

Have a blessed day!