The Big, Bad Wolf

Psalm 34: 4

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Fear is a pernicious emotion. It draws us into ever deeper dread, and it draws to us all sorts of negative experiences. Once fear gets a foothold in our spirits, it invites all its little buddies to come torment us as well. We may begin with a fear of spiders or of heights only to realize one day that fear lurks around almost every corner. That is its nature. It wants to invade every part of our lives and it will if we don’t resist it. Thank God that He is our provider in every sense.

In the context of yesterday’s verse, we looked at 1 Chronicles 28: 9, “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.” In Father’s never-ending quest to encourage and edify us, He sends us this good news today from Psalms. We discover that not only does He let us find Him but that He answers us and our needs in that moment. Going one step further, when we seek Him, He delivers us from those insipid fears that plague our heart. There is healing in His wings, so every encounter with Him brings healing. He touches our hearts, our minds and our bodies with His soothing touch. His love roots out fear even that which has been lodged in our souls for many years. There are two keys, though which will help dissolve those fears.

When we search for God with our hearts, then it is our heart which finds Him. This may seem like semantics but there is a very real principle involved. Searching with your heart opens your heart to Him. The alternative is to search for Him with our minds. I am not suggesting that is a “bad” approach, just not the most potent. If you search with your mind you will still find Him but you will learn about Him more than engage with Him. This is the case because you are presenting your mind to Him. It is best if we present our hearts to Him. Allow your mind, will, emotions and personality to aid you but go to the Lord, seek Him with your innermost being. That is your heart or more precisely, your spirit.

Second, relinquish your fears to the Lord. Begin in a space where you accept and acknowledge that fear has no place in your heart. Expect Yahweh to vanquish those fears. This scripture reveals that if we are afraid, we have need of deliverance. I think we live in a time when we have come to accept fear as part of life. That is the exact opposite of the message the Father is communicating to you. His intention is to deliver you from fear. This means that you must let go of it. That can be harder than it sounds because you are surrounded by people who, almost proudly, confess to being fearful of at least something. Secondly, you may have lived with fear a long time. The familiarity may make it difficult to release the hold it has on you and that you have on it.

Fear is, functionally, a distrust of God. We don’t think of it that way, but it is true. To live with fear is to say to God that you don’t trust Him. The fear of heights or whatever is stronger, bigger and louder than your faith in God. Does that sound harsh? It is not my intention that it scald you. There is, however, an even more accurate way to articulate fear, if you can bear it. Fear is faith in Satan. It is the acknowledgement that he has power in your life and over your life. Deny that obscenity. Faith in God vanquishes fear because there can be no fear where the love of God prevails. Fear is like the big, bad wolf in the story of the three little pigs. He was big and frightening but, in the end, he was overcome, defeated.

Therefore, whatever that area is where fear has taken hold, infuse it with the love of God which has the power to deliver. Speak faith words over it. Do not continue to confess fear but rather replace those fear expressions with ones of faith.

Father is on site to deliver you from all your fears. He has promised you that if you will seek Him, not only will He answer you, but He will give you His deliverance. Don’t live below the God level, the level of life Jesus died to give you. Do not tolerate fear in your life. It is not of God nor meant to be a part of you. Call on the Almighty to be a keeper of His promises and present your heart to Him for healing and restoration.

It’s Your Choice

Deuteronomy 30: 19           NOG

I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.

Are you familiar with this verse? I want you to be. It is so very powerful and can change your life. In fact, this is a great one for you to meditate on. The piece of it I wish to highlight today is the word “choose.”

God has offered us life. He has offered us blessings. Death and the curse entered the earth in the Garden of Eden. So, both life and death and blessing and the curse are out there for the choosing. The interesting aspect is that we get to choose. I always smile when I read this verse because I hear it this way, “I have given you the choice between life and death, the blessing and the curse. Let me give you a hint. Choose life and blessing.” It is like God is trying to clue us in on which one to choose. It seems ridiculous at one level. We should be smart enough that He does not need to give us a hint and yet, it is a forebearer of a truth. We often make the wrong choice. We choose death instead of life and the curse instead of the blessing. Why would we do that?

Let me ask you a different question. Supposing you rather have life and blessing, how do you make that choice? What mechanism is in place for choosing? That is the main issue, I believe. Do folks know how to choose life? In how many ways do we choose the curse instead of the blessing? I believe most Christians do not realize there is a choice, how to make the choice, or how they are making the wrong choice daily.

One of the most poignant events in the Bible is found in the book of Joshua. As the book opens, Moses has just died. He, who was the liberator of Israel, who led them for years through their long sojourn, who importuned God for them, prayed for them, taught them, and cared for them, is dead. Now what? Shall the nation of Israel fall apart right there, having never crossed over into the promised land? It is a climactic moment is Judeo-Christian history. It could have all ended right there, on the wrong side of the Jordan. Instead, God appointed Joshua to be the leader of His people. How would you like that job, following in Moses’ footsteps? It must have been pretty frightening for Joshua. God took him aside, though, to give him the secret of success, to be his coach and mentor. God told Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1: 7 – 9).

I know that was a long quote but you need to see it all. Right here God gave Joshua the choice to fail or succeed. He even gave him the crib notes for the test. In other words, God didn’t make success a mystery. Success or failure lay at Joshua’s feet so God showed him the path to success. He gave him all the secrets. That is what God does.

Here is my point. Father wants us to succeed so He has given us the cheat sheet. “Here are all the answers,” He says. All we have to do is use them. How many points do you find in the quote from the book of Joshua? I counted seven. The real question is, how many of them are we doing. This is how we choose life and blessing. Joshua didn’t have to take God’s advice. We know he did because he enjoyed success and led the nation of Israel into the promised land. He chose blessing. He chose life.

Here are two of the big seven. One, do not fear. If we live in fear, we fertilize death and curse. Second, and this is a really big one, meditate in this Word day and night. When we meditate in the Word, we are actively choosing life and blessing.

This passage from Joshua teaches how to choose to live in the blessing. We need to follow where the Lord is leading. We need to communicate with him so that we see his ways generally and the specific path he points out for us. We can choose to be blessed. We can choose the abundant life Jesus said he came here to give us. I think if you will follow the advice God gave Joshua, if you will learn how to commune with Jesus and actually do it, that you will find yourself in overflow of everything good. Please, choose life, choose the blessing. It’s your choice.

The Good Shepherd

Psalm 23: 4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

This is many people’s favorite psalm. What is it that folks like about it? Is it knowing we have a shepherd who cares for us? Verse 1 from the Passion Translation reads, “The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough.” If this is your favorite psalm, do yourself a favor and read it from the Passion Translation. You are really going to love it. If you don’t own a Passion Translation just go to Biblegateway.com.

It wasn’t easy choosing one verse from this psalm but this one seemed louder than the others and thinking about it I realized you and I walk through the valley of the shadow of death almost daily. One of the points which has resonated with me over the years about this passage is that David was walking through the valley. He didn’t set up his tent and camp there. He kept moving forward, out of danger, through the challenge to glory and victory.

We recognize there are times when we must go through a troubling situation. There is no way around it, you just have to go through. We generally encourage one another that Jesus is with us even through those tremulous times. David takes it up a notch though. He says that even though he must walk through this foreboding valley, he shall not fear. David knew God was with him and being a shepherd boy himself, he recognized the devotion and care of the good shepherd. David killed both lions and bears to protect his flock (1 Samuel 17: 36). He knew God to be an even better shepherd than he. He trusted God to proactively deliver him from any evil that threatened him.

David said he was comforted by the Great Shepherd’s rod and staff. Here is where our image of God may depart from David’s. David saw the rod as comfort whereas some teachings cause people to fear God. Yahweh does not wield a rod to beat the sheep into submission. That is the image some people carry of God. We must put in the forefront of our thinking that our God is the good shepherd. He cares for the sheep as did David. If David was willing to face a lion and a bear to protect those in his care, won’t our Father do the same for us? Could David be a better shepherd than the Lord?

The rod and staff were for protecting and guiding the sheep. With the staff the shepherd could gently lead the sheep. When they went the wrong way, he could redirect their path. It could also be used to defend the sheep. David understood this and because of his understanding and his trust in the Lord, he could walk through the valley where death’s shadow looms without harm and without fear.

Fear is a crippling disease. In its grip we don’t walk through the valley. We don’t valiantly and confidently march through. The message of this psalm is that the good shepherd is with us and taking care of us. Therefore, we can lift our heads, throw back our shoulders and march through whatever peril appears on the horizon. There is no occasion for fear because the Lord God is your guide and your guard, and you couldn’t have better. You know that, but fear is an tricky thing. Our challenge is to live our life fearless and we can when we know our Father is with us. When we have true awareness of His presence with us and His guiding hand on us, then we, too, will walk through the valley and have no fear of evil befalling us.

Anger, Worry Flee from Me

Psalm 37: 8

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.

Here is the word of the Lord on worry and anger. It is pretty clear. It says don’t do it; don’t worry, don’t give in to anger. Now what part of that is difficult? Well, sometimes the hard part is in the execution of what God has directed us to do, rather than in the understanding. There is help in that though. First, God will never tell you to do something that He has not already empowered you to do. So, take some comfort there. Secondly, if He has told you to do it, then He will also help you. He never tells you something to do without making His resources available to you. You do not have to use will power to control your anger, you use His will power. Pray for His help and then let Him help you.

And as for worry, nothing good comes of it. Put worry away and don’t let it control your life any longer. Don’t waste your time and energy. Ask for help daily if need be and determine that you are not going to be a worrier. Anytime you feel yourself slipping, call on God to rescue you.

Lastly, God tells us that abiding in worry or anger leads to evil deeds. Worry and anger are ungodly thoughts and ungodly thoughts lead to ungodly acts. It is that simple. That is not to say that you will never feel anger nor be plagued by worry. It means that you must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ Jesus. When those thoughts assail you counter them with the Word of God. You can hang them on this verse from today. You say, “Worry, I declare Psalm 37: 8 to you and command you to be gone in the name of Jesus.” The worry, anxiety, fear or anger must, and will, flee. Beware, though, for it can come back within moments. When it does, you just speak these words again. Say, “Worry, I told you to be gone. Psalm 37 tells me that I am not the prisoner of you. Now leave.” Just keep at it until the worry, fear or anger is convinced that you mean what you say. Those negative feelings and thoughts have to obey the Word of God. Be free of those chains of fear, anger and worry. Be free in Jesus’ name.

Love & Fear

2 Timothy 1: 7

For God, has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

If God has not given us a spirit of fear, then from where do you suppose it came? Who did give it to us? Bingo! Fear is a weapon from the enemy’s camp. God gave you a spirit of power. He gave you His love and He gave you a sound mind. A mind that is consumed with fear is not from God. Jesus came so that you could be free from such torment.

God’s love inside of you produces power and soundness of mind. It is a shield and protection. That is not to say that you will not be attacked with the weapon of fear. Satan knows well that he can really sidetrack us with fear. Fear causes you to take your mind off of Yahweh and Jesus. It causes you to meditate on the bad things that “could” happen when you should be meditating on the promises of God. You can choose God’s Word over Satan’s lies. It is not always easy but we need to grow. When you are attacked, do just what Jesus did. Confess God’s Word right out loud. If it is a Dr.’s report that is worrisome, then attack that fear with God’s Word that He, God, sent His Word and healed you (Psalm 107: 20). Or that the stripes that Jesus bore for us were for our healing and that by those stripes you are healed (1 Peter 2: 5).

Know that God is not the author of fear but rather that He has sent to you His spirit. There is power, love and a sound mind plus all the wisdom you need for every situation in God’s spirit.

Redirect

Mark 5: 36

Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.

We are given many opportunities to be afraid. For some people those opportunities present themselves daily. But Jesus has an answer for that fear. The answer is his love (1 John 4: 18). There is no fear in love and his perfect love casts out fear. So, we are to abide in his love so that we may overcome fear rather than be overcome by it.

There are times you fear for your children and fear for your health. Sometimes situations look desperate and fear arises. But once you have lived this life long enough, you begin to realize that fear attracts negative things to itself while positive attitudes reject fear. As you gain a little experience you find that no matter how hopeless a situation appears, there is always a way out of it. There is always a glorious answer.

This is not to minimize the problems people face. There are huge challenges out there; otherwise there would really be no need for this teaching. Jesus knew that each and every one of us was going to face frightening circumstances. That is why he taught us to redirect our focus onto him. When we think about his miracle working power and the things he has pulled off for us in the past, we are able to face new challenges with much more faith. So, when you feel fear creeping into your heart, quickly redirect your mind to thinking about the miracles of Jesus. Think about things he has worked out in your life in the past and move your emotions over to faith in him rather than belief in that which you fear.

Shut Up Legs

Romans 5: 3 – 4            GW

But that’s not all. We also brag when we are suffering. We know that suffering creates endurance, endurance creates character, and character creates confidence.

It’s July 19th and we are deep into the running of the Tour de France. I love biking so I love to watch the race, but there is more to the Tour de France that I enjoy than just a bike race. There are beautiful views of France and its architecture, gorgeous churches, history lessons and their impacts, insights into the people of the various regions, and more, much more, in fact. One of the most captivating elements of the Tour de France though, is the human drama. The racing that goes on is fabulous and exciting but following the riders’ personal stories and triumphs is riveting. These professional bike riders turn themselves inside out with massive efforts. Mile after mile they continue to ride after their legs have begun to loudly complain.

One recently retired but still popular rider is Jens Voigt. Among other things, Voigt is known for his saying, “Shut up legs.” In fact, he had it on his top tube where he would see it when he looked down. Instead of letting his legs dictate his outcome, he made up his mind what he wanted to do and then expected his body to obey. He didn’t let the pain and discomfort dictate his race. I love this so much. In fact, I need to get his T-shirt with “shut up legs” emblazoned across it because like “Jensie,” this is my philosophy on life.

If you want to see suffering, watch one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France. Despite their suffering, though, they persist. That persistence produces endurance in their minds and bodies. Endurance absolutely does produce character. The top riders know how to suffer but their perseverance has produced confidence. They know they can push themselves and triumph. It is tried and tested.

You don’t know what you can do until you push yourself. We have to learn to stand on faith even when everything in us is yelling to quit. We’ve gotta yell back, “Shut Up!” We are the masters of our destiny and if God has given us something to do then we have to go all in like these professional bike riders.

Ask yourself, who is in charge? Is it fear, or is it you. What forces are keeping you from reaching the finish line? Let your faith speak louder than your fear. Don’t let the circumstances dictate your race. As I say often, “The facts don’t count.” What counts is your belief, tenacity and your ability to persevere in the grace of the Lord. If God has called you to climb a mountain then you can, no matter what the facts say. Speak to your mountain. Let it know that it must obey you. The mountain does not determine the finish, the character of the person determines the outcome.

Don’t be a quitter. Don’t give up when the going gets hard. Don’t stop believing just because you cannot see the finish line. Go on You Tube and watch this video of Jens Voight
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zreFKnBLDjg) and take inspiration from a champion. See determination in action and let it encourage you to persevere through challenges and seeming impossibilities. Get a big dream in front of you and chase it down. When it gets tough speak to those circumstances like Jens Voigt. Tell them to shut up!