Archive for March 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fear Not: Part 4

(This continues the series where I'm posting the message that I recently shared with the women of our church.  If you missed the beginning, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

There’s an analogy here that’s helped me think about how trusting in who God really is can shape my fears. Imagine that you’re on a walk with your brother who just happens to be a heavyweight boxer. He’s got muscles popping out everywhere.  He’s won every boxing fight that he’s ever faced.  The dude can seriously fight.

Now, let’s say you’re on a walk with your brother and a man suddenly approaches you and yells, “Hand over your purse!”

In that moment, you’re in a really scary situation.  But are you afraid?

Well sure, your heart’s probably still beating wildly but you’re certainly not as terrified as you would be if you were alone.  You’re probably thinking, “This guy doesn’t even know what he just got himself into!”  You’re not fearing because you know who’s with you.  You know that your brother can take this would-be thief out in an instant and flatten him like a pancake!  Not only does your brother love you, he wants to help you and he’s got the power to back you up.  It’s not a perfect illustration, but it’s helpful for me.

Our loving Father-God, is stronger than any boxer in the world.   And this powerful, loving God, this is the one who promises that He’ll be with us to strengthen, help, and uphold us.

Listen to what Charles Spurgeon tells us about the certainty that God really will help us:

“It is but a small thing for me, your God, to help you.  Consider what I have done already.  What! not help you?  Why, I bought you with my blood.  What!  not help you?  I have died for you; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less?  Help you!  It is the least thing I will ever do for you; I have done more, and I will do more.  I laid aside my glory and became a man for you; I gave up my life for you; and if I did all this, I will surely help you now.”

The cross has demonstrated once and for all that God really is for us.  Our God has promised to be with us and to help us.  So Isaiah 41:10 shows us that the fight to weaken fear is a fight for believing the truth about who God is; it’s a fight for faith in God.  The fight for peace is a fight for faith.

But what does it really mean to weaken fear by fighting for faith in God?

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fear Not: Part 3

(This continues the series where I'm posting the message that I recently shared with the women of our church.  If you missed the beginning, you can read Part 1 and Part 2.)
The reason that we’re called not to fear isn’t because scary things don’t happen (they do!) or because we can handle them on our own (we can’t).  The Israelites really were facing a very frightening situation that they simply could not handle on their own.  The reason that they were called not to fear, the reason we’re called not to fear is because of the truth of who God is.  This is how God wants us to weaken the influence of fear: by fighting for faith in Him.

God tells us, “Fear not for/or because: I AM WITH YOU."  Why are we called not to fear? Because God is with us.  He’ll never leave us; this isn’t just a nice idea or an isolated verse in scripture.  This promise is repeated over and over and over again in God’s Word.  Just one of many other places where this is said is Hebrews13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  He’s with us!

God tells us, “Be not dismayed for/or because, I am your God.”  Why are we called not to fear?  Because He is our God-ours!  He’s not a distant stranger; if we have put our hope in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we have a relationship with God as our loving Father. We’re His children!  He really cares about us because we’re His.  He promises this over and over again in His Word. For example, Isaiah 43:1 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

God tells us, “I will strengthen you.  I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Why are we called not to fear? Because He promises to strengthen us! He promises to help us.  He promises to uphold us with His righteous right hand.

Think of the Israelites again.  They were in the desert for 40 years; a really frightening situation.  They were utterly dependent on God to provide even the very food that they ate.  And what did He do?  He gave them a new food that they’d never even heard of; He gave them manna.  He came through for them with just enough food for each and every day so that they wouldn’t starve.  God really did strengthen, help and uphold them even while their scary situation continued for decades and decades.  And this same God promises to strengthen, help, and uphold us.

This is who God is.  He’s our loving father that’s with us.  No matter what happens, He will strengthen us and help us and uphold us.  If we’re really believing this, shouldn’t it make a difference when we face things that are scary?

(Check back tomorrow for Part 4.)

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Fear Not: Part 2

(This post is part of a series where I'm posting a message that I recently shared with the ladies of our church.  To read Part 1, go here.)

Over the years, I’ve come to accept that I’m not an expert in many things.   I've had to accept that for whatever reason, apart from the Lord’s help, I am just very very prone to fear what is frightening.

Whether you’re a fear “expert” like me, or more casually aware of an occasional anxiety, we all are acquainted with fears.  In the midst of our fears and worries, something deep down within us wants to it really possible to have lasting peace? If it is possible, how?  

We’re going to spend some time in God’s word this morning to see what He says about how we can weaken the influence of fear in our lives. Let’s turn together in our Bibles to Isaiah 41.  One passage that’s been especially helpful to me over the years in my own struggle against fear is found in this chapter. 

Isaiah is writing to the people of the southern kingdom of Israel.  In the early parts of Isaiah, God forecasts that the people are going to experience His judgment.  They’ll experience His judgment by losing everything they’ve held dear and taken refuge in in this world.  They’ll even lose their land and their homes.  Pretty scary situation, right?  But then later in the book of Isaiah, God begins speaking words of reassurance to His people, even as they face the prospect of a terrifying situation, of losing everything that’s mattered to them. Follow along with me in Isaiah 41:10 to hear the Lord loving speak to His fearful children: 

God tells us, “Fear not, for I am with you.  Be not dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This call from God not to fear isn’t a judicial order; God wasn’t barking out an uncaring or exasperated command like, “FEAR NOT! “ That’s not the heart behind God’s words. These words are being spoken from the mouth of a loving Father that really cares about His fearful children.

Imagine holding your child that you deeply love in your arms-your child that’s crying and scared, afraid of the dark and looking to you for comfort.  You want to help this little one; you don’t want this child that you love to fear so you tenderly and patiently say, “Don’t be afraid.”  That’s how God is lovingly speaking these words to the Israelities-the same nation that’s well known for years before having wandered in the desert for 40 years, a nation that grumbled against God and forgot Him, a nation that doubted again and again that He’d provide.  God is lovingly speaking these words to the Israelites as a loving Father and He’s speaking them to us as well.

Do you see that when He says, “Fear not,” He’s saying it with love?  God is not merely a distant judge, He’s a loving Father.  Before we even cared anything about Him, He decided-He chose to make us His children.  He adopted us into His family.  “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” (Eph.1:4-5)  He is our loving father.

So we can see in Isaiah 41:10 that God lovingly calls us not to fear.  But there’s something else we need to see; we need to see the reason why He calls us not to fear.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fear Not: Part 1

Recently, I had the joy of sharing at a women's meeting for our church.  The topic was something that each of us, men and women alike, are all too familiar with: fear.  I thought I'd go ahead and post the message in bite sized chunks for those who weren't able to make it.  
Part 1
I’d like to start by telling you a story about a woman in this church.  You may or may not know her. It’s safe to say that we could probably characterize this woman as an “expert in fear.”   I’ve gotten her permission to share with you a bit of her story.  

Fear and anxiety had a grip on this woman even as a little girl. Even in elementary school and junior high she was so characterized by fear that she suffered from debilitating stomach aches.  She was so frightened about being alone that she begged her mom to sleep in her room each night.  She was so scared of talking with someone on the phone that she’d break out in a sweat whenever the phone rang.  Because she was so afraid of being seen as dumb, she rarely raised her hand to answer any questions in school even when she knew the answer.  She was so terrified of being kidnapped that she outright refused to go outside alone, even to the mailbox.

In high school, anxieties continued, even as her faith began to grow.  She was so frightened by the thought of getting into an accident that her parents literally had to make her get her driver’s license.  She feared falling short of the expectations of teachers, parents, and friends so much that she was perfectionistic in everything that she did.  She feared having nightmares to the extent that she dreaded going to bed at night.

These fears also ran deep in her relationship with God.  Because she was absolutely terrified of confessing any sin or really anything personal at all, she would feel sick even at the thought of giving a prayer request in youth group.  She was absolutely terrified of committing the unpardonable sin (even though she didn’t know what it was), worried that she would unknowingly commit it and be banished to hell forever.  Even though she was a Christian, she feared that maybe God wasn’t really who she thought He was-feared that maybe He wasn’t even real; this kept her up at night and she could hardly think of anything else.

The fears continued as she went away to college.  She was so anxious about the number of people in her lecture hall once that she had an anxiety attack, she broke out in hives and had to leave the room.  She feared falling into the same sins of drunkeness, sexual immorality, and worldliness that friends participated in so much that she felt panicky, even just being around them.  Because she was afraid that she might never get married, she struggled constantly with jealousy towards engaged and married friends around her.

And you can imagine how she has continued to struggle with fear once she did meet her husband and navigated learning to be a wife, not to mention getting pregnant and becoming a new mom.

This woman knew fear very well, didn’t she?  Fear was something she dealt with on a daily basis for years and years -it nearly overwhelmed her at points and even had physical consequences.  

And I can verify that her fears about frightening things have absolutely consumed her at times.  I can verify that because this woman is me.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Muh-kee! Muh-kee! (I'm not talkin' about a furry animal.)

Baby girl loves her milk (muh-kee-muh-kee).  I've never seen anything like it.  When she wakes up she immediately starts calling, "Muh-kee!  Muh-kee!  Uh ah you, muh-kee?" It cracks me up every single time.   

 She literally shakes when she sees her cup comin'.  Forget the snacks. Forget dinner.  This child wants her muh-kee.  So weird, and so completely Addie.  She's a passionate little girl!

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Teeth and Tears

My sweet, brave girl just had her first ever dentist appointment.  Oh my, was she excited!  The night before her appointment when I put her to bed she said, "Mommy, I think I'm just gonna lay there all night and think about what kind of toothpaste I'll choose.  Maybe I'll choose watermelon, or maybe cinnamon, or maybe grape.  I just don't know."

When the big day came, I wondered if my sometimes-timid girl would really be ok.  Would she cry?  Would she cling to me and refuse to open her mouth?  Would she decide she didn't really want to sit in the big chair?  To be honest, I was a little bit nervous for her.

When the super sweet dental hygienist asked Tali if she was ready there was a short silence.  "Please Lord, help her be brave," I silently prayed.  After a moment of deliberation, she flashed a big grin and hopped up into the chair.  I could not believe how absolutely strong and confident and happy she was.  My four year old.  My baby!  The entire experience was priceless.  Can't you just see how proud she felt?

Needless to say, I cried a bit as we drove home, amazed that my once teeny little 7pound 13 ounce baby had just courageously defeated her first dental exam.  

She really is getting so old-so big and mature and...dare I say, little girlish.  I miss "baby Tali" but I am absolutely amazed by "big girl Tali."  I've never met a sweeter person, young or old, than this little girl.


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Friday, March 4, 2011

Part 6: How well do you know your pastors?

I decided that after leaving you hanging for approximately 2 weeks, I might as well go ahead and post the answer.  As if you didn't already know who it is.

Question #6:  Which pastor was recently told by a barista at Starbucks, "You could totally open your own coffee shop if pastoring doesn't work out."

Answer:  My coffee lovin' husband. :)  By the way, Josh says it's a little concerning that everyone was so sure that he was the answer to this question.  Um, yeah.  I agree.

Thanks for playing, friends!  I had so much fun hearing all of your answers that I think I'll bring this little game back again at some point.

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