Monday, October 2, 2017

TO THE LIGHT KEEPERS



Light – that which makes things visible, illumination
Keep – maintain custody of, protect, care for, preserve in good condition

A song was brought to my mind by a very unlikely source, and I couldn’t get it out of my thoughts.  It’s called, “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning”, and I had not thought of it in years.  It kept playing over and over again in my mind, and I felt compelled to find a copy of the words.  I knew the song spoke of a lighthouse, but my question was, “what are lower lights?”  That term was a puzzle to me.  Of course, many years ago, before GPS and all the other equipment we have now, sailors navigated by the sun, moon and stars.  They especially used Polaris, or the North Star as we sometimes call it.  These were called the upper lights, lights that God had placed above for guidance and illumination. The lower lights were simply the lights from the lighthouses. These lighthouses were placed strategically at harbors where ships could dock safely without running aground on rocks.  Their beams of light signaled a safe harbor ahead as they shone a welcoming beam across the water and guided the pilot safely into the port.
Today, most lighthouses are automated, so they do not have a lighthouse keeper.  But that wasn’t the case in the past.  The lighthouse keeper’s job was all-consuming.  They were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The safety of the ships and the many lives on those ships depended on them.  Some lighthouses had two keepers to lessen the load, but most had only one who had dedicated his life to it completely.  His duty was simple, but not easy.  He was to help the ships see more clearly in the obscurity of early morning, in the darkness of night, in the fog and in storms.  These keepers saved many lives.
Jesus came to bring Light into the darkness.  He came to make His kingdom visible, and to guide us through the fog and storms of this life.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  He placed this light into whoever would receive Him, then left us to be keepers of His light, saying, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.”  A city on a hill.  That sounds a little like a lighthouse, doesn’t it? A city standing tall and shining the light to show the way to those journeying through this world, letting them know there is a safe harbor accessible even in the most treacherous environment.
Jesus is unquestionably the Upper Light.  But He left us in this world as the lower lights, to guide others to Him.  The light of Jesus Christ shining through us is a welcoming signal to those in darkness.  It beams across the sea of humanity to offer hope.
            Are we carrying out our job to keep the light shining, to help wayfarers make it into the kingdom of God safely?  Philippians 2:15-16 says, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life”. Every time I read that verse, I envision the word of God as a torch we hold high to help others see truth and come to freedom.  If we let that light grow dim or go out, we snuff out the only light some people have.
            If we are to be faithful custodians of the light Jesus has given us, we will realize it is a 24-hour a day job.  We will make sure our lights are fueled and the glass panes are consistently clean and clear.  If our earthen vessel dims the light of Jesus, people will not get a clear view and won’t be able to navigate their way to Him.  We cannot be part time Light Keepers.  Our job is too urgent.  Too many lives are at stake.

“Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning; Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save.”

            Being a faithful light keeper is the most crucial responsibility anyone can have.  We are called to direct the “fainting, struggling seamen” to Jesus.  Souls are desperately in need of saving, and I wonder if we are too complacent in spreading the light.  Are we sending the “gleam across the wave”, or do we hide it among ourselves?  Jesus said, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”   Are we really holding forth the light, or have we become an elite club that focuses only on what God will do for us?  If so, our light will become dim and fade away.  We were made, not only to be receptacles of His light, but to shine that light into the hearts of others.  The light of Christ is to be passed on without fail, because every soul is heading toward an eternal destination of either heaven or hell.   
            God said, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.”  God saw the evil and darkness of the world and its inhabitants, and He searched for someone who would stand up and make a difference, who would sound the alarm of danger and light the way for people to navigate to the shelter of God’s kingdom.  The sad part was that he found no one.  Where were the light keepers?  Are we doing any better?  How much progress are we making?

“Dark the night of sin has settled; Loud and angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing, for the lights along the shore.”

            As a Christian, you are the light along the shore.  Picture in your mind those caught in the storm with no one to intervene and pull them out, no one to shine a light so they can guide their ship to safety.  Are we willing to help them?  Are we available at all times, or just when it is convenient?  It seems no one wants to be on duty as a light keeper all day, every day, but that is what we are called to do. 
            We shine light into darkness every time we give a word of hope and encouragement, give testimony to what we have personally seen and heard in our spiritual walk, when we are a godly example during a tough circumstance, when we communicate the word of God through preaching, teaching, writing, singing, radio, television, social media and many other venues.  We need to learn to wisely use every tool we have available to us.  Time is running out for many souls.
            We are responsible for shining the Light of Jesus Christ, but we are not responsible for their response to the light.  Some may see the lighthouse and refuse to come to it because they have their sights set on faraway places.  But the prophet Ezekiel wrote these words that God had spoken to him.  “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”  (Ezekiel 3:18-19)
            We need to hear the cry of those who are drifting and dying and let them know of the mercy of God to save them.  “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire…”  (Jude 1:22-23)  Where is our compassion?  Where is our fear of God that causes us to reach out even when we fear to do so?
            If we are so absorbed with the things of this world, we will be deaf to the cries of the dying.  If we do not keep our lamps trimmed and burning, we will be of no use to them.  They will die in their sins, but their blood will be on us.  We need to examine our motives.  What is our personal mission?  Are our priorities eternal or temporary?  Let’s wake up and shine.  Dare to ask God what that means for you personally.  Ask Him to give you His plan for you to save the lost.  He uses different people in different ways.  If you keep the light shining brightly in you, your eyes will be open to see those who need your help.

“Trim your feeble lamp, my brother; Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor, In the darkness may be lost.”

            We need to trim our “feeble lamps”.  We tend to look at the Scripture in the light of this world rather than looking at this world in the light of Scripture.  So, we have a dingy, obscure view that compromises the Scripture to make it fit in with our culture, and to look as though we are all okay.  When we look at the world in the light of Scripture, we will see it as God sees it – desperately in need of being rescued.  Yet we will also see the glory and grace God has extended to us all, the life in the Spirit realm that lifts us above this world.  And this life is available to “whosoever will”. 
Once we become a light keeper, the light of Scripture will guide us, and the power of the Spirit will enable us.  Then it is impossible to keep from shining.  Only when we become distant with the “Upper Light” will our lower lights be obscured or put out.  So, take care to tend to your light and keep it burning strong. 
            Let our prayer be, “Send me, Lord, into the world, the fire of Your Spirit guiding.  Send me, Lord, into the world, revealing Your holy presence.”  I can hear the Spirit calling; “Shine the light of Christ in darkness.”  That is our responsibility.

Let the lower lights be burning; Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save.”


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

TO THE DISAPPOINTED



Disappoint – fail to fulfill the expectations of (someone),
fail to satisfy the hope of
           
            When I finished my first book, it had been at the printer’s for what seemed a long time to me.  They had told me it would be ready on a certain day, and I was excited about finally getting it in my hand.  I received a call about an hour and a half before I was planning to leave to pick it up.  They were letting me know there had been a mistake and the wrong book had been finished.  Mine would not be ready until the next day.
            Was I disappointed?  Absolutely!  But I had just been sitting at my computer typing a scripture into a document when I received the call.  It said, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way.”  God reminded me He was still in control, and He was establishing my path.  As a matter of fact, He had prepared me ahead of time.
It may be tomorrow instead of today, or even next year instead of this year; but God will bring every word to pass in His perfect timing.  You can count on it.
Have you ever been disappointed?  What was the biggest disappointment you ever faced?  How did you handle it?  It could have been someone you trusted who let you down.  It could be that you failed to satisfy your own expectations.  But have you ever been disappointed in Jesus?  Be honest.  If you have, you aren’t alone.  Mary and Martha were.
Their brother Lazarus was sick and they sent word to their close friend, Jesus, Who often came to visit in their home.  Jesus received the urgent message and John 11:5-6 tells us what happened next. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.  When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.” Does that sound like love?  It seems He didn’t care.  What was He thinking to treat their request so lightly?  Jesus’ thoughts were not following the same path of Mary and Martha’s.  Nor was his response the one they expected, because He knew what they didn’t know.  His love was strong enough to do the right thing instead of the easy thing or the expected thing even though He knew He would be misunderstood.  By the time He arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days, was  bound with grave clothes and lying in the tomb.  Martha met Jesus in the way as He approached their house.  She said, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Clearly a statement filled with disappointment.  Yet she said she still believed that whatever He asked of God, God would give it to Him.  We all say that, but do we mean it?  Are we confident that He makes no mistakes?  We all know the end of the story, but Mary and Martha didn’t at that point.  Jesus went to the grave and told them to open the tomb.  Then He cried out, “Lazarus, come forth”, and Lazarus came forth still bound in grave clothes.  Jesus commanded them to loose him, and Lazarus was indeed alive and well. 
Look at the prayer Jesus prayed just before He called Lazarus to come forth.  “And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.  And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”  Why did Jesus wait so long?  Because He was about to do a miracle of gigantic proportions.  He knew what would happen.  No doubt.  He knew when he decided to stay where He was that Lazarus was dead.  There was a greater purpose than Lazarus being healed from sickness.  Jesus showed that He could raise the dead even after Lazarus had been deteriorating for four days.
What are you stewing about that God hasn’t come through yet?  I will admit I have had my times, too.  It seems God is uncaring toward our needs, slow in keeping His Word, but He is waiting for the right time to bring it to pass, because He wants the best, not mediocre.  Mary and Martha expected a certain response from Jesus, and they didn’t get it.  It wasn’t what they wanted and it wasn’t in the time frame they had requested it.  But Jesus gave them what they needed at the right time.  If they had just trusted, they wouldn’t have been disappointed.  Neither will we if we will trust Him.  Jesus will never do everything just how we expect Him to, and He doesn’t work on our timetable.  We have to remember that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, but His ways are perfect and His thoughts are omniscient.  Jesus will never disappoint us if we will trust Him even when we don’t understand.  Actually, Jesus never disappoints us.  We disappoint ourselves with expectations that are too small or too fleshly to allow His greater good.
As far as disappointing yourself, you are probably in the same boat with everyone else who has ever lived.  Peter was a total disappointment to himself.  He bragged to Jesus in front of all the other disciples how he would never deny Jesus, how he would die for Him.  And I believe he meant it.  He thought he could stand up to anything for Jesus.  Actually, all the other disciples said the same thing.  But a few hours later Peter denied Jesus three times and deserted Him in His darkest hour.  Die for Him?  Not even close. The best he could do was follow at a distance.  Peter was so disillusioned with his actions that he went out and wept.  He must have felt hopeless.  Even after seeing the risen Christ, he said to the other disciples, “I go a fishing.”  They all went with him.  Fishing had been Peter’s occupation before he was a follower of Jesus.  Now that he had failed, he may as well go back to the way things were.  But Jesus wasn’t finished with Peter.  While Peter and the other disciples were fishing, Jesus appeared on the shore and asked if they had caught anything.  They had not.  You can’t go back to your old life and be profitable.  Jesus said to cast the net on the other side of the ship.  They did and caught a record amount of fish.  John knew immediately Who it was.  He told the others, and Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore.  It was there that Jesus reaffirmed Peter’s call.  He asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  Each time Peter said ‘yes’ and each time Jesus told Him to feed His sheep.  Peter’s days of disappointment were over.  He was still a follower of Jesus Christ.  He was still a disciple in good standing.  All was forgiven.  After the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter became a mighty leader in the early church, and eventually did die for Jesus.  It was only by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the power or determination of Peter.
Don’t give up.  If you are disappointed in yourself, know this.  Things can be different.  They really can. You can’t undo it on your own, but Jesus can.  Take it to Jesus.  He will fill you with His Spirit and make you able to do what He has called you to do.  Peter was reinstated and empowered to do what he was not able to do before. You can be, too.     
Sometimes, it isn’t ourselves or God that we feel disappointment toward.  Sometimes it’s someone who was close to us.  Someone we trusted in, and they let us down.  When someone hurts us, it can be a devastating wound. 
David was chosen by God to be the king of Israel.  He had a son, Absalom, who was unhappy with David as a father and as his king.  So, he began to spread seeds of discontent among the people and let them know how things would be different if he were king.  Then, he did the unthinkable.  He usurped his father’s throne and, with all his followers, made himself king.  David, the king God had chosen, had to flee the city with those who were still faithful to him as his son forcefully replaced him on the throne.  A terrible battle ensued between Absalom’s army and David’s army.  Yet, as David’s men prepared for war, he commanded them to “Deal gently for my sake with the young man.”  (2 Samuel 18:5)
Absalom’s reign was short-lived, and David returned to his position, but only after Absalom was killed.  Disappointed?  Definitely.  David’s heart was broken.  He mourned for his son, the very one who had done such a treacherous, treasonous thing.  His mourning for Absalom caused his army to feel ashamed of the great victory they had won for him.  His general, Joab, told him he needed to snap out of it and commend his army for a job well done and for their loyalty.  They had risked their lives to restore order and bring peace.  Many had lost their lives.
We can be so disappointed in someone who has wronged us that all we focus on is our own pity and loss.  There are many others who are for us and try to encourage us.  We need to open our eyes to see them, and acknowledge their kindness.  Sometimes a broken relationship can be mended.  That is always the best.  But sometimes it is not possible, and we have to let it go.  Disappointment can turn into discouragement and depression that will bog us down and keep us from moving on with God’s plan.  We need to get past disappointment and get back to the assignment at hand. 
Whether you are disappointed because you can’t figure out what God is doing, or you have failed to accomplish what you desire, or someone has let you down, recognize it as a tool of the enemy to redirect you from the calling of God.  It is to undermine your trust in God.  Keep the faith, hope against hope and stand strong through the power of the Holy Spirit.


“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  (Romans 5:5 NKJV)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

TO THE OVERCOMERS


Overcome – to defeat, conquer, successfully resist

            Athletics has never been a strength of mine, and my weakness showed up in all its glory during Physical Education classes in my school years.  I did okay in some of the activities, but I wasn’t really good.  Obviously, everybody else knew it too, because I was usually one of the last ones chosen to be on a team.  That continued until the day the teacher announced that we would begin a segment on badminton.  We played in teams of two, and I suddenly found my niche in that class.  A friend of mine who was good at everything and later became a P.E. teacher, teamed up with me and we won the championship for all the P.E. classes!  We were unstoppable, and it felt great!  You don’t forget moments like that when you are used to being defeated and suddenly you are the conqueror.  It was glorious! I am probably the only person who remembers that, because it didn’t mean as much to anyone else.  But it felt so good to change my status and be a conqueror who was no longer beaten by my inadequacies.
            How about you?  Are you being beaten and defeated in your Christian life by the pull of the world?  This world, this culture, can be a trap to keep us down or it can be the challenge that causes us to rise up and overcome.  There is a way out of the trap, if we are willing to follow that path. 
            Jesus told His disciples, “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone.”  That sounds like ominous news.  They were all about to fail on a large scale.  They were about to desert Jesus.  But Jesus didn’t stop there with their failure.  He went on to clarify His words.  He said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)  Jesus was telling them that even in their scattered, fearful and unbelieving state, they could find redemption and peace.  They did not have to live in defeat.  They could be overcomers.  What was the game changer?  Jesus won the victory.  He has overcome the world, and because He did, we can too.
Jesus came in human flesh, and in that flesh, He lived a spotless, sinless, perfect life fully in the kingdom of God even while He walked the dusty roads and faced the devil in this world.  He was the perfect sacrifice Who took our sin on Himself, died and then rose again.  His death is our death (we are crucified with Christ).  His victory is our victory (we are risen with Christ).  The enemy has been conquered.  God has prevailed! That is where we get the power to conquer.  The Spirit of God in us will uproot the spirit of this world and the spirit of antichrist (the spirit in the world that opposes Christ and works through those who allow it).  The Spirit of God in us is unstoppable and will give us the power and strength to overcome.  We no longer have to be ruled by the dictates of this world.  We do not have to live in defeat.  We can be more than conquerors through Jesus Christ Who loves us. 
Those who are not overcoming are the ones who don’t know they can be overcomers, or those who have no desire to overcome the world.  Those who don’t want to overcome are comfortable in the world and have accepted sin as a normal lifestyle.  They really don’t see any reason to overcome.  Their lifestyle looks pretty much like everyone else’s, and they don’t want to rock the boat, even to be an overcomer and have eternal life.  Sadly, many believe it doesn’t matter because everyone goes to heaven, but as we will see, that is not the case.
In order for you to be an overcomer, there has to be something to overcome.  What is in the world that we are to overcome? Certainly our sin nature, but let’s be more specific.  Galatians 5:19-21 gives us examples of the outward behavior that stems from the nature of this world.  “Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ” (Amplified Bible) These components of earth-living will keep us ensnared by the world, and will lead us to destruction in hell for eternity. They will prevent us from entering into the kingdom of God, because choosing to be friends of the world means we are enemies of God.  But we don’t have to remain chained to that existence, because Jesus made a way for us.
            Let’s look at the next few verses in Galatians 5.  Like the words of Jesus we read previously, the good news will cancel the bad news if we apply it.  “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Amplified Bible)  When we have been born again of the Spirit of God, we exchange the spirit of this world for the Spirit of God.
            With the power of God working in us, not only can we overcome the practices of the sin nature, but God will do more than we can ask or even think.  He will do mighty works through us that we could never think of, much less accomplish on our own.  “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:20-21)    We will also overcome death, hell and the grave just as Jesus did.   
The ability to conquer this world with its temptations and trials comes by faith in Jesus. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)  Through faith in Christ, we break free from the spiritual gravity that holds us down, and we are lifted up into the kingdom of God.  We are like the space shuttles that separate themselves from this world’s atmosphere and soar into a whole new region.   
We remain in this world, but are no longer of it.  We are citizens of God’s kingdom.  However, Satan will continue to bring accusations against us, and try to make us believe we have to be a servant of sin because we cannot possibly live up to God’s rules.  He indicts us every time we make a mistake. He tries to make us forget about the mighty power of God that works in us. But overcomers will rise again when they fall.  “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.”  (Micah 7:8 NKJV)  God gives us whatever we need to overcome our enemies and even our own failures. 
            We can be overcomers instead of being overcome if that is the life we choose.  It is a battle, but it is not a battle we fight on our own.  Romans 12:21 says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Don’t allow evil to conquer you.  You have the power of God’s Spirit within you to conquer it. We conquer evil by doing what is right and good, by allowing the Spirit of God to work in and through us.  James 4:7 puts it this way. “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Be subject to God.  Yield the control of your life to Him.  The word ‘submit’ means to come under God’s control allowing His Word and His Spirit to govern us.  Study the Word of God so you can do what it says.  Let it change you.  Listen to the voice of His Spirit so you can follow Jesus.  Let Him lead you.  Then we are to resist the devil by setting ourselves against him, not by coming into agreement with him.  We oppose him.  It is the direct opposite of what we are to do with God.  We oppose the control of the enemy by allowing God’s Spirit to be in control.  When we do that, Satan will have to run.  The word ‘flee’ means to vanish, to avoid, to escape or to seek safety by flight.   An overcomer submits to God and resists the devil.

Let me leave you with a few Scriptures to encourage you in your life as an overcomer. 

Galatians 1:4 is speaking of Jesus when it says, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” (Galatians 1:4) 
As we submit, He delivers.
             
            “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4) 
The greatness of His power is in us to conquer.

            “Who is the one who is victorious and overcomes the world? It is the one who believes and recognizes the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.”  (1 John 5:5 – Amplified Bible) 
It is our choice.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15-17



Now, go out and OVERCOME!

Monday, July 10, 2017

TO THE LEARNERS


Learner - a student, a follower, one who imitates their teacher, one who learns by inquiry or observation

            When I was in high school, I was required to memorize the first section of the Canterbury Tales which were written by Geoffrey Chaucher in 1387-1400.  I did well memorizing the words and even enjoyed the challenge of tackling the Middle English language.  As a matter of fact, after all these years, I can still quote a small part of it, although I have no idea what it means.  I’m sure the teacher explained it, because she was very thorough.  But, it wasn’t a lasting priority for me, so now all I am left with is a few memorized words. 
            There is a little phrase I have often heard, “use it or lose it”.  And it is true.  If we don’t take what we have heard and put it into practice, we lose it.        That’s why the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” God is working in us.  We need to go with what He is doing and let it shape who we are and ultimately what we do. It is not enough to know the words of truth.  We must incorporate them into our lifestyles until they become as natural as breathing if we are to learn of Jesus.
Many people call themselves disciples or learners of Jesus, but in actuality they have only memorized a few words instead of becoming imitators of His life.  There are some who hear the instruction of the Teacher and follow it, who cultivate the character and life of the Teacher.  Those are the true learners.  The ones who hear the words but remain unchanged are not.
Jesus calls us to come to Him and learn of Him.  Not just learn about Him, but to learn of Him.  We can learn from other people when they tell us about Jesus, but that is not enough.  He wants us to learn directly from Him.  He said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me.” (Matthew11:29) Taking His yoke is the key to learning of Him.  This yoke unites us together with Jesus to work with Him toward a single purpose, His perfect purpose.  It keeps us at a steady pace as we pull together with Him.  We learn to match His steps and get in stride with Him.  If we try to work independently, we will hurt ourselves and impede our progress.  When we work yoked together with someone every day and in every situation, we don’t just learn what they do, we learn who they are.  We get to know their heart. The word ‘learn’ in this verse does not mean to simply learn the doctrine of Christ, but to learn Christ Himself.
Paul’s desire was to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.  He wanted to experience Christ in every area of life and become one with Him in the good and the bad.  He wanted to have the mind of Christ, to love what He loves and hate what He hates, to let Christ’s purpose become his purpose.  We all need that same passion to know Jesus and to imitate Him in our everyday life.  That’s what real learners do.  They have such a yearning in their heart to know Jesus that they lay aside other things.  The natural realm fades away as they walk in the Spirit of Christ.
            The twelve closest disciples to Jesus left behind their old lives and went wherever Jesus went, and they learned Who He was as they walked the roads with Him every day. They were yoked with Him.  Their connection was continuous.  It should be for us, too.  Prayer, our communication with God, is not a ritualistic discipline to be checked off our “to do” list every day.  It is a moment by moment connection with Him.  It is good to read our Bibles and pray during a certain time, but it shouldn’t stop there.  How does God fit into our lives for the rest of the day?  If you are caught in a stale devotional routine and have been wondering, “Is there more?”  The answer is ‘yes’. We can learn from Jesus, but we must acknowledge His presence more than just a few minutes a day.  The disciples learned because that was the most important aspect of their lives.  They had given up everything to follow Him, and they walked with Jesus daily in the mundane and the miraculous.  They were with Him morning, noon and night.  As a result, they knew Jesus Himself, not just His works. 
            When the disciples had questions, they asked Jesus.  When they were confused, they let Him know.  When there was a decision to make, they looked to Jesus for the right one.  When they disagreed with Him, they told Him and He would help them see things from a spiritual perspective instead of a physical one.  There were times He told them what was about to happen, and times when He told them it wasn’t for them to know right now.  But they learned because they were there all the time, not just part time. 
            The closer we are to Jesus, the more we will see things the way He sees them.  Being in the yoke with Him fuses our relationship, and we, too, can learn from Him as we walk daily with Him in the mundane and the miraculous.
One day, a crowd had followed Jesus out into a wilderness place because they wanted to hear His teachings and be healed of their diseases.  That evening the disciples told Jesus He needed to send them away to get something to eat in one of the villages.  Jesus said they didn’t need to go.  He said to the disciples, “You feed them.”  They told Him they only had five loaves and two fish.  So, Jesus said “bring them to Me.”  They brought them and Jesus blessed them, broke them and fed 5000 people.
The disciples had considered the situation in their natural minds, and they came up with a natural solution.  It seemed to be the best option.  But Jesus saw on a spiritual level, and the situation became a platform for a miracle.  Because the disciples heard Him and obeyed, He changed their focus.  They finally saw what Jesus had seen, but only after it came to pass before their eyes. Jesus can change our focus, too, if we will ask Him and obey what He says even when we can’t envision what He has in mind.  Many are facing circumstances that seem hopeless today.  If we ask God to let us see through His eyes and obey Him, we will see a platform for a miracle.  Stay in the yoke with Jesus.  Don’t try to pull the load alone.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  If you are not finding it so, it’s because it is not His yoke.
            We can also learn from Jesus by studying the Word of God.  A friend of mine said that one day when she was reading John 1 where it says “the Word was with God and the Word was God”, she realized, “If I know the Word, then I know God.”  When we read and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning of His Word to us, we see the heart of God, the purpose of God, His compassion, His zeal for truth, and His power.  Sad to say, many who have been saved for years still don’t know Him.  They have grown very little. Why?  Because they have not worked out their salvation.  They have not taken on Jesus’ yoke. They have not allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal the Word to them until it is woven into the very fabric of their being.
First John 2:6 tells us, He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”  Some years ago the WWJD movement was widespread.  It challenged people to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” before making any decisions.  Then they were to follow in the direction Jesus would take regardless of the cost and regardless of who misunderstood them.  The problem was, it became more of a fad rather than the life-altering heart issue it was intended to be.  Yet, even today, it can have a life-changing impact on those who take it seriously.  After all, isn’t that what the first disciples did?  They came to Jesus with their questions, ideas, perplexities and needs.  It’s no wonder, because that is what Jesus showed them when He turned to the Father in prayer for that vital connection.  We need to ask ourselves that question, listen for the answer, and act on it.  “What would Jesus do in my circumstances?  What would Jesus say?”  “How would Jesus react?”  Jesus would do the will of the Father.  His will is found in the pages of God’s Word.  We can go there for answers.
What “hopeless” circumstance are you closing the door on?  Ask Jesus to show you what to do.  When you obey, He will work it out.  We become so earthly minded that we forget our spiritual roots when we need them most, and when others need us to operate on a spiritual level on their behalf.  The Holy Spirit is right alongside us to open our eyes to see things the way Jesus sees them.  We need to ask of Him.  When we have decisions to make, we need to see what God sees and follow His vision.  Are we growing more and more like Him?  We aren’t if we don’t know Him?
            There is an old song that says, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus; All I ask to be like Him.  All through life’s journey from earth to glory, all I ask to be like Him.” That is the only kind of earnest, undying desire that will bring us to be true learners of Jesus.  Why do we cling to this world that is passing away when we can take hold of eternity? 

Release your grip and take Jesus’ yoke upon you and learn of Him!
His yoke is easy and His burden is light!





Tuesday, June 6, 2017

TO THE LOST


Lost – no longer possessed; wasted; unable to find one’s way

            My mother was working with a large piece of plexi-glass when it suddenly shattered into seemingly thousands of pieces.  Once she had gathered all the broken pieces, she put them in a bag and placed them in the trashcan.  Later that day, she realized the diamond was missing from her ring.  She looked for it everywhere she could think of and then remembered the glass in the trashcan.  It seemed to be a hopeless endeavor to find a diamond among so many pieces of glass, but she removed the bag, opened it up and began her search for the lost diamond.  She saw it almost immediately because the sparkle of the diamond stood out from the glass.  She was relieved and very happy when she found it.  The diamond was important, not only because of its monetary value, but because my Daddy had given it to her when they were engaged to be married.  It was worth the search to restore it to its proper place.
            We are like that diamond in the eyes of our Savior.  We are of great value to Him, and are worth the sacrifice He made to restore us.  We were all lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Their lives, and ours, changed drastically.
            Adam and Eve had a perfect life in the Garden of Eden.  No pain, sorrow, disease or any kind of evil was there. They also had access to God and freely enjoyed His presence.  But one day Satan began to speak to Eve through a serpent.  Eve was enamored at what she heard as the serpent began to question why God would tell them not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He told Eve, "Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."  This put a question in Eve's mind.  Could they have more than they already possessed by eating that fruit?  Was God keeping something good from them?  The fruit didn't seem dangerous.  It was beautiful to look at, so she indulged. The truth was that God had forbidden them to eat the fruit of that tree because He knew what the knowledge of evil would do to us all, the heartache it would cause and the darkness it would bring to our spirits.  But Eve was deceived by Satan, so, she ate the fruit.  She gave some to Adam and he ate, too. 
            They had been created in the image of God, but when they chose to rebel against Him, the essence of God’s nature and His image in them immediately died.  Where their minds had been enlightened to spiritual things, there was only darkness.  Where they had walked in innocence, they felt the guilt of sin.  And for the very first time, they were afraid and hid themselves from God’s presence. 
            Even their bodies began the process of decline, bodies that were created to live forever. From that moment on, the children produced were born with that sin nature, capable of committing every heinous sin imaginable.  "This is the book of the generations of Adam.  In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.  And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth."  (Genesis 5:1-3, emphasis mine)
            What a tragedy!  But God immediately came seeking them in the garden.  He could have easily cut them off from His presence forever.  Instead, He came and “called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”  God knew where they were and He knew what had happened, but He called them out of hiding.  He confronted them with their sin and dealt with it.  He explained to them the consequences that occurred because of their sin.  But He went beyond that.  He let them know all was not lost.  He covered them and spoke of redemption.
So, as a result of one man's sin, we were all sold into sin, and we lost the perfect world that we were created for.  That’s why every soul has a longing for something more, an emptiness that needs to be filled.  That’s also why nothing in this world can fill it.  We were created for more.  God knew that and already had a plan to buy us back.  The first mention is found in Genesis 3:15. In speaking to the serpent, God said, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."  God came to us.  He came in the form of His Son Jesus Who allowed Himself to become a man so He could die in our place.  Jesus allowed Satan to bruise His heel.  But He defeated Satan when He was resurrected so we can be restored to the place of God’s original intent for us.  Jesus bruised Satan’s head.  He came to call us back to Him.  He came to restore what the enemy had destroyed in us.
Romans 5:19 tells us, “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”  That first man was Adam who brought sin and death into the world and caused us to bear a sin nature instead of the pure nature of God.  Jesus is the One that makes many righteous and reinstates our spiritual life and awareness.
Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)  His purpose was very clear.  He did not come to condemn us.  We were already under a death sentence with no way to overturn it.  Jesus came to liberate us from judgment and restore our former existence.  He came to restore us to right standing with God and give us eternal life.  John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
            In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables about searching for something that was lost.  A woman had ten pieces of silver and lost one.  She searched diligently until she found it.  A man had 100 sheep and lost one.  He left the 99 to go find and rescue the lost one.  A grieving father’s son chose to leave his home and live a life of sin, but he came home repentant and was greeted by a rejoicing father.  In each instance, there was a celebration when the lost was restored to its former place.  Jesus told all these parables to stress to us how God has reached out to bring us back home to the place we belong - in His presence.
            Also in Luke 15, Jesus said, “Likewise, I say unto you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”  Repentance is our part.  It is the step we make toward God.  He meets us more than halfway.
            Jesus preached, “Repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Amplified Bible)  Repentance is a complete turnaround.  It changes the whole life.  And Jesus said without that kind of repentance, we will not enter the kingdom of God.
            Remorse is not repentance.  Remorse is being sorry for sin, regretting what we have done, but it brings no change.  It will only increase the burden of guilt.  Neither is reformation repentance.  We cannot change ourselves no matter how badly we feel about our sin or how much we try to reform our actions.  Only true repentance brings us to rely on the mercy of God and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ for remission of sin. 
            2 Corinthians 7:10 puts it this way: “For [godly] sorrow that is in accord with the will of  God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but worldly sorrow [the hopeless sorrow of those who do not believe] produces death.”
            Once we have repented before God, and believed on Jesus (surrendering our lives to Him), we become new creatures.  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Everything about us changes, from the inside out.  When Adam and Eve sinned, light turned into darkness.  When we are re-born, darkness turns to light.  When we are saved, we know it, because there has been a dramatic change.
            Let’s go back and revisit what Jesus said in Luke 19:10.  “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  What was lost?  The nature and image of God within us.  We were lost because we were without God.  But Jesus came searching to bring us back into unbroken fellowship with God.  No fear, no guilt, no sin, no condemnation.  To be at one with God again.  To be reborn in His image.
            Romans 8:29 tells us that those who are born again will be conformed to the image of Jesus.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says we are changed into the Lord’s image “from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  With the Spirit of God inside us, we can grow more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.  And His image will be increasingly evident in our outward behavior.  Colossians 3:10 says we “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”  We can be reborn in His image.
            Are you lost?  If you are, stop hiding from God.  The wisest and safest place to go when we sin is to Him.  He offers forgiveness and a new birth that transforms who we are.  No matter what course your life has taken, all is not lost.  You can start over as a new creation in Christ.

Instead of the image of Adam, we can bear the image of God.




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

TO THE SERVANTS

Servant – one who gives himself up to another’s will;
one devoted to another with disregard for their own interests

            A friend of mine asked me and a mutual friend of ours to sing a duet at her wedding.  Our friend had moved out of the area some years before and made the trip back for the wedding festivities.  As the order of the ceremony was discussed at the rehearsal, we singers were left as bystanders just waiting for our signal to sing.  My friend commented in his humorous fashion, “We are just the lowly musicians.”  But he was actually right.  We were there to do the bidding of the bride and groom.  We were standing by to sing when we were told to sing and sit when we were told to sit.  And it was the right thing to do.  We were not the central focus of the wedding.  Nor was the wedding being held so we could perform.  We were honored to be asked to play a small part in our friend’s special day.  A lot of people came and sat through the ceremony, but we had the privilege of being invited to take part in it.
            Paul called himself a servant of Jesus Christ.  The Greek word used is ‘doulos’, which means slave.  He had voluntarily given up himself and all his earthly interests to answer the call of God and to do His bidding.  He didn’t consider the cost too great.  He considered the honor more than he deserved.  Paul was single-minded and wholly devoted to Christ to the point of disregarding his own desires completely.
            If we constantly consider our rights and what is fair, we won’t be Christ’s servant, and we will get in the way of God’s purposes.  Jesus came to this world as our Savior and our example.  He didn’t fight for His earthly rights or stop carrying out the Father’s will when He wasn’t being treated fairly.  He said what the Father told Him to say and did what the Father told him to do, regardless of the consequences.  He knew God’s plan was perfect, and he didn’t allow His flesh to lead Him away from it.   God will not go along with our inferior, selfish plans.  He has a greater purpose than we could ever imagine.  And we are blessed beyond measure to be asked to take part in it.  But we need to remember, we are servants. [See Luke 17:7-10.]
            Jesus was clear about what is required of His servants. He said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)  The Greek word for ‘hate’ means to love less, to give a lower place of prominence.  It does not mean that we totally disregard our families and hold them in contempt.  It is a measure of our love for Jesus Christ compared to our love for our families.  Our love for Jesus must supersede our love for them.
            Jesus also said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  (Luke 9:23)  If we deny ourselves, we completely set aside our personal interests.  We put the will of God first, and we follow wholeheartedly.  Taking up our cross simply means we follow Jesus’ example of saying what the Father tells us to say and doing what the Father tells us to do, regardless of the consequences.  We conform to the example He gave in His life and His death.
            Becoming a martyr is not the point.  The point is to follow the directions of the Master with complete abandon, and see His powerful results.  Our dream may be to do great things and have a large following.  God’s plan may be for us to do His work in obscurity.  On the other hand, we may want to settle down in a small, peaceful neighborhood, and God may be calling us to the front lines.  The question is, will we follow Him wherever He leads?  Will we set aside our dream in this world in order to break into enemy territory and release souls from the kingdom of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of God?  Will we do the work God has called us to, or will we take our ease, guarding our comfort and our rights?
            It may seem we are being asked to give too much.  After all, we only have one earthly life.  Jesus only had one life as a human, too.  But He gave it up for you and me, so that we could have eternal life.  It is not an unreasonable thing Jesus asks of us.  He gives us the opportunity to work with Him toward eternal things.  Think of a high-profile person you would love to be asked to work with.  It cannot compare to being invited to work alongside the God of the universe.  And we can only do it because He paid the ultimate price for us. 
            First Corinthians reminds us we are bought with a price, then tells us what to do about it. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (6:20)  “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (7:23)  Jesus set a value on us when He died in our place.  The value was high.  The price was the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else can remove our sins.  Nothing else can save us.  It was a tremendous price when Jesus took our sins on Himself. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”  (1 Peter 2:24)  Jesus bore in His body the sins of the whole world for all times.  He took on our pain, our sin and the death that belonged to us.  Have you ever felt the condemnation of your own sin or the pain of your disease?  Imagine having the weight of all humankind on you all at once.  He didn’t have to do that for us.  He chose to.  He valued us.  What value do we place on Jesus?   How we live our lives will give the answer.
            Paul wrote in Romans 6:16, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” 
            Jesus gives us a choice.  Without His sacrifice, we had no choice.  We served sin and we were going to die and go to hell for eternity.  Now, we can choose to be free from that sentence of death.  We can trade it for “life more abundant”, being in right standing with God and living forever in His presence where there is fullness of joy.  We all make a choice.  We either choose the default, which is serving sin, or we can opt out of the default mode and choose righteousness by yielding to Jesus.
            So, how do we yield?  When we yield to sin, we listen to the urging of our flesh and we follow what it says.  Often, we are so used to the “little voice” that we obey without even realizing what we are doing.  If we choose to yield to Jesus, we listen to the urging of the Spirit of God within us and follow what He says.  (The Holy Spirit resides in those who are born again.)  We also need to immerse ourselves in the written Word of God to guide us and help us know right from wrong.  We simply stand ready by God’s side and do what He says.  We offer ourselves to be used of Him.  Now, in this world, people use us and then let us down.  God loves us.  He won’t do that.  Remember the value He placed on you?  He has a lot invested in us.  He goes with us on every mission and never leaves us on our own.  So we can confidently submit to his commands.  If we yield to sin, the results will be disastrous and are irreversible.  But we must make a choice.  We cannot serve this world and Jesus at the same time.  “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (treasure or whatever is trusted in).” (Luke 16:13)
            As if having Jesus pay our penalty of death and giving us new life in Him wasn’t enough, He gives us more.  If we want to receive it, we need to continue moving forward with Him and recognize the great authority He has as well as His endless resources and matchless power.  There is no one greater than He is in any way.  His majesty is unequalled in heaven and earth.  We must bow to Him in every area, and recognize who we are without Him.  But, we must also understand who we are because of Him.
            Scripture tells us Jesus taught with authority.  He cast out devils, healed the sick and raised the dead with authority.  Even the religious rulers recognized His authority, but they were jealous and resisted Him.  Authority is the ability or strength that one is empowered with.  Someone with authority possesses the power to cause others to submit to their will and obey their commands.  Those with authority in this world have limited, territorial authority.  Jesus has unlimited power in every sense of the word.  He could have made the scribes and Pharisees bow down and worship Him, but that was not the point of His coming.   
            In Mark 13:34-37, Jesus spoke a parable that tells us what He has done for us, His servants.  “For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.  Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.  And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” A servant has certain responsibilities, but with those responsibilities come the resources and authority of the Master. This master gave the servants everything they needed in order to carry on His work until he returned.  Jesus gives His servants everything they need, too.
            In Luke 9:1-2, we read, “Then he [Jesus] called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.  And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” [See also Matthew 10:1-9]
            Before Jesus ascended, He told his disciples, “ But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you….”  (Acts 1:8a) It is the same Spirit by which Jesus worked miracles and the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  As servants of Jesus Christ today, we have been offered the same power and authority by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus will return, and we will be called into account for what we have done with His power and authority while He was gone. 
            If we are still yielding to the things of the world, God cannot use us.  If we yield to Him, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the will of God and empower us to do it.  This is not an acquired power, but power that is inherent, “power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature”.  It is not inherent in our fleshly nature, so the fleshly, sinful nature must die.  This power is inherent in us only by the Holy Spirit abiding in us.  That is why Romans 12:1 tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We are to provide a body for the Holy Spirit to work through, and the Spirit within us is alive, fresh, strong, efficient, active and powerful.  It is then that we can complete the “good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” in our lives. 
            When we choose to allow the Holy Spirit to direct who we are and what we do, we have begun to walk in the Spirit.  We have become obedient to the character of Christ as well as the calling of Christ in our life.  We have become a servant of Jesus Christ, and, like Paul, we will disregard our own desires to do His will.  We stand by, ready to hear His command.  When He says ‘go’, we will go.  When He says ‘be still’, we will be still.  A servant stays close to his master and listens…then obeys. 

What are you doing with your authority?


Saturday, April 15, 2017

TO THE FEARFUL

Fear – an unpleasant emotion caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger, pain or a threat; dread; terror; cause to flight; cowardice; timidity

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock used to represent a countdown to global catastrophe.  It has been maintained since 1947 by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board.  The clock hangs on the wall in their office at the University of Chicago.  The factors that influence the “time” on the clock are nuclear weapons, climate-changing technologies, biotechnologies, cybertechnologies, and anything else that can destroy our civilization. On January 26, 2017, the Doomsday Clock was moved up by thirty seconds.  These scientists say we are now at 2 ½ minutes until midnight, or doomsday.
Few of us want to hear warnings about catastrophes in our future.  It strikes fear in us.  But even Jesus gave warnings to His disciples about things that were coming on the earth. He said that the powers of the heavens would be shaken, the sea and waves would roar, there would be distress among the nations, tribulation, persecution and “men’s hearts failing them for fear.” Then He said, “And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled”.  Jesus was telling His disciples not to fear all these things.
Don’t be troubled?  Don’t fear?  How can anyone face such overwhelming circumstances and not be troubled or afraid?  Why did He tell them those things?  To scare them?  Of course not!  He told them so they could be prepared…and so we can be prepared.
            If Jesus said not to be afraid, we need to take Him seriously that there is a way to conquer fear. We can find our way through the Word of God and by taking a closer look at the various types of fear.  Then we will see how Satan uses them to paralyze us and destroy our faith in ways we may not have realized before. When we see how Satan uses fear against us, we can be equipped.  Otherwise, fear will shut us down.  It will send us spinning in circles trying to fix things that only God can fix.  It will put our mind in a state of such turmoil that we cannot think clearly.  Fear is a diversionary tactic of the devil to turn us away from our faith and confidence in God. It paralyzes us from moving forward.
            Let’s look at some of the various characteristics of fear.  One of those characteristics is called dread.  Dread is an anxious anticipation of evil.  It isn’t terror, but rather an inner darkness and sense of foreboding.  It reminds me of the darkness and eerie stillness just before a tornado hits.  Dread hangs over us like the lull before the storm…even when there is no storm.  It gives us a continual sense of danger approaching.  When dread rules, we don’t expect anything good to happen.  We see the negative in every opportunity God sends instead of having confidence that He is working all things for our good.  We let dread lead us down the path of defeat instead of victory.
            Don’t you think Satan must have tried to put dread in the hearts and minds of the great men of faith?  “Joseph, you will never be free again.  Just be content that you have favor here in prison.”  “Peter, you missed your chance.  You denied the Lord.  It’s over now, and there is no turning back.”  We are not to live in a dream world and pretend our circumstances aren’t real, but we can’t let fear convince us they are bigger than God.
            Another type of fear will “cause to flight”.  It is something that makes us run.  That happens to a lot of people when God asks them to step out in a new area.  (Remember Jonah?) Or it may be a problem that is bigger than we are, so we are faced with a challenge.  We can accept the challenge, or we can run.  We can step out in faith to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit, or we can retreat.  This type of fear will bring up every negative reason for us to turn away from the call.
            Even Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go?”  He brought up the fact that he wasn’t good at speaking and the people wouldn’t believe him.  Finally, he said, “O, Lord, send somebody else!” (my paraphrase)
            Fear probably tried to tell David, “You can’t kill Goliath!  Run while you have the chance.”  “Peter, you can’t walk on water or preach a sermon! Don’t do something foolish.”  And the enemy of our souls will call your name, too, and say, “you can’t (fill in the blank).”  Don’t listen to him.  When you are reasoning out if you can do it or not, don’t factor out God.  If Satan can trick us into listening to his voice and acting on it, he can snuff out our faith, just like putting out the light of a candle.  When God calls us to something or we face a challenge, He says, “Fear not, I am with you.” What more do we need?
            Cowardice and timidity are fears that cause us to withdraw from life in the Spirit.  This type of fear will immobilize us and cause us to constantly pull back because we are afraid to make a move.
            When I was a little girl, I was afraid of monsters under my bed.  Now, technically, I knew they weren’t there, but I was afraid of the darkness and the unknown.  It was an unfounded fear.  When we get older, our fears change, but most of them are still unfounded.  They turn into “what-ifs”.  “What if I fail? What if I heard God wrong?  What if people reject me or come against me? I might do the wrong thing, so I will just do nothing.”
            Usually, we know what God said, yet we keep questioning Him.  But He doesn’t say anything else because He has already told us what to do.  If we continue listening to this type of fear, it will hold us captive in indecision.  Then we will either compromise by doing something that seems a little safer, or we will hesitate in confusion and insecurity until the opportunity passes.  Either way, fear has done its job.  We cannot allow fear to intimidate us and rob us of our relationship with God and our work in His kingdom.  So, what are we to do?
            In Mark 4, Jesus taught the disciples a lesson in faith. They found themselves in the middle of a terrible storm in the sea. The storm they were battling was very real.  It was very dangerous and about to drown them all as the waves covered their boat.  It wasn’t an imagined danger, but one they were literally in the middle of.  They woke Jesus and asked Him, “Do you not care that we perish?”  And He said, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?  Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.  But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  (Matthew 8:23-27)  The disciples were given a glimpse of His power and authority, even over the wind.  They saw a little more clearly Who He was and what He could do.  They were learning to have a little more faith in every situation they encountered with Jesus. We can, too.
            Why are we so fearful?  Why do we have so little faith?  Faith comes from trusting Jesus, and trusting Him comes from having a close relationship with Him. And we can’t have a close relationship with Him if we don’t know Who He is, what He can do, what He taught, and what He still teaches those who will listen.   Faith will overcome fear.  Faith will lead us on in the face of danger and uncertainty. 
            When fear overtakes us and crushes our faith, we need to realize what is happening and overcome it.  Romans 10:17 tells us how.  “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  That is simple enough, but it takes some initiative on our part.  Be careful what you read, what you watch, what you listen to, what you allow inside of you.  If we are not careful, fear will set up a blockade between us and Jesus. When that happens, it blocks the light and we find ourselves groping in darkness.  Darkness brings fear and is full of lies.  Light brings truth. Truth brings faith. Faith eliminates fear.
The more we read the Word of God and listen to the voice of God speaking to our spirits, the stronger our faith will be.  Hearing the Word is the first step.  But, the word ‘hear’ means more than just hearing with the physical ear.  It means “a receiving of the message”.  In other words, we have to take what our ears hear and put it into practice day by day as situations present themselves to us.
Here is a random example.  When we read Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil”, then we need to use some self-control to keep from sinning when we get angry.  We also need to make sure we have our anger resolved before the day ends so it won’t take root in our spirits.  It’s that simple!  Follow the instructions you read in the Bible.  
Fear comes from hearing, believing, meditating on and acting on the words of the enemy.  It comes with practice.  Faith comes from hearing, believing, meditating on, and acting on the living Word of God.  It comes with practice.
It may sound like a terrible struggle, but it’s really not.  Our part is simply to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly.” (Colossians 3:16)  It is a decision that will build confidence and trust in Jesus and a faith strong enough to conquer fear.  If you don’t eat any food for a few days, you will be weak.  If you don’t communicate with Jesus for a few days, you will be spiritually weak.
Remember, fear pushes us with threats and lies.  Faith leads us gently with light and truth.  Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  We may see some perilous times, but He will be with us, and He will give us the kingdom.

“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”

“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”


(Additional Scriptures:  Psalm 56:3; Luke 12:22-34; Psalm 46:1-10; Ephesians 6:10-18)