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!

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!

How to Heal a Hurting Heart

 

When Life Seems Broken

Thank  you Gwen Smith for today’s message:

The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. (Nehemiah 1:3, NIV)

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of a land far from his home. (Which means he held a trusted position that allowed him personal access to the king.) When some old friends came to town he found out that his people, the Jews, were in a terrible situation. Deeply burdened by the news, he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. He took the devastation of his people to heart and responded on a soul level.

The Bible shows us that Nehemiah prayed. He was pressed but not crushed. He told the Lord that he was sorry for the way he and his people had rejected God and for the ways they had disobeyed His commands. He remembered the instructions of God to His people and reminded Him of His promises. And he asked God to hear his prayer, give him favor and lead his responses.

I read this and see a vibrant example of the way I should respond when difficult situations come my way. When my loved ones are hurting. When my homeland is unsafe and vulnerable to attack. Here are a few basic faith principles we can apply that Nehemiah modeled in his prayer and in the conversations that followed.

#1. BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Nehemiah wept and mourned in response to the situation. You don’t need to pretend that you’re “fine” when life hurts. Instead, You can do what Nehemiah did: cry. Be sad. Mourn. Grieve.

Because life is hard … and just because we’re Christians does not mean we get easy passes.

Thankfully, God knows sorrow well and is the generous source of comfort we need.

#2. PRAY. Nehemiah’s powerful prayer included the following. I’ve bullet pointed them to be a useful guide:

– Begin with confession (on behalf of you and your people).

– Remember and remind God of His Word.

– Petition on behalf of others (Pray for your people. Stand in the gap. Intercede.)

– Ask for success (Yes. You read this right. It’s okay to ask God to give you favor. Nehemiah did!)

– Ask for mercy (That the punishment we and our people deserve would be withheld.)

While following this template of Nehemiah’s prayer doesn’t guarantee any of us that God will answer our prayers as we expect Him to, it does give us a step by step path to follow that will focus our hearts on God’s intervention.

Then, after Nehemiah prayed, the Lord allowed the king to see that something was wrong. And the Lord allowed Nehemiah to experience the favor he asked for. BUT he had to face his fears in order to step into the provision God had for him. And this shows us another great takeaway…

#3. DON’T LET FEAR HOLD YOU BACK. Nehemiah was heavy with sorrow and the king noticed. In chapter 2 the king asked Nehemiah what had made him sad. “So the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” (Nehemiah 2:2)

Insightful king, right?

The next words Nehemiah writes are, “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Nehemiah 2:2-3)

Amazingly, the king cared! He asked what he could do to help, and then provided Nehemiah with everything he needed to go back to Jerusalem and help his people rebuild the ruins.

Nehemiah could’ve shrugged off the king’s question. He could’ve said,Nothing is wrong, my lord! I’m fine. All is well. But he didn’t. Even though he was afraid, he spoke truth. He didn’t let fear hold him back. And as a result, he was equipped with what he needed and was mobilized toward healing.

Are there complications that have your heart grieving and sifting through ashes?

Are you trying to keep a stiff upper lip and carry those broken burdens quietly?

God is all about rebuilding broken hearts and hopes, friend. He specializes in transforming smoky ash heaps into beautiful displays of His grace. He will move you toward that beauty and healing as you move toward Him in distress as Nehemiah did.

Have a blessed day!

Is Your Past Still Tripping You Up?

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message…

It spoke to me as I strolled down the check out aisle of Marshalls that day. The wall art that was featured on an impulse-buy rack.

 

Amen! I thought.

The message? Simple: “Don’t Stumble On Things That Are Behind You.”

My mind reeled, and I thought hard about this seemingly simple directive that points to a habit that trips so many of us up: looking back. Allowing the past to deter and diminish our present and our future.

The Apostle Paul had a difficult past to contend with. His early years were spent learning laws and tormenting Christ followers. Then he met Jesus and everything changed for him. He chose to move forward as the new man he’d become.

Instead of wallowing in the muck of condemnation, he stepped into the grace of Christ with determination. With a fresh mission. He wrote a heart-felt message similar to the wall art in his New Testament letter to the believers in the church of Philippi. That familiar, challenging passage…

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14, NIV)

Many of us know this section of scripture, but it’s important for us to realize that the conversation doesn’t end there. What Paul says next is a game-changing statement:

Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:15-16, ESV)

I want to be mature. I want to think this way. Don’t you?

I want to hold true to what I’ve attained in Christ.

It’s the way of life!

I read this and I begin to realize that what Paul is really saying is something to this effect: Let it go, people! Move on. Greater things await you. Don’t look back. It’s no good for you. You won’t gain any traction on the plans that God has for you. If you choose to look back then you need to grow up because that is not where your promise lies. If you are mature in your faith you will believe the gospel. When you are forgiven … You. Are. Forgiven. Believe it. What Jesus did for you and me covers anything that we lay at His feet. Fully.

I’m reminded that it’s time to move forward. That it’s time to fix my eyes on what is ahead, not on what is behind. That God’s mercies are new every day.

Clearly this press-on message is not about sweeping un-confessed sins under a rug and pretending they don’t exist. When we stumble – when we sin – we can’t just forget it and move on. We are to confess it to the Lord, and ask Him for forgiveness.

Grace meets us in the asking and settles it with God.Because of this we can move forward in His grace. Even when life is complicated and messy.

And it’s not about locking deep heart wounds in a secret compartment of your heart. The Bible invites us to take our aching, angry, abused, or offended hearts to Jesus so that He can give us the rest we long for. Healing for our heart wounds.

The reward of faith is freedom in Christ.

The past has no hold on you.

Grace fixes the gaze of the believer forward.

So the next time I’m tempted to look back at a failure or an old heart wound, I will remember the wall art wisdom from Marshalls and choose not to beat myself up, not to re-hash that painful conversation, not to blame that person … not to stumble on things that are behind me.

Instead I will reach for grace. I will reach for Jesus and call to Him for help.

And in the reaching I begin to take my place among the mature-in-faith.

Have a blessed day!