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What Do You Fear? by Shadia Hrichi
The future? Death? Losing your job? Losing your home?
I'll never forget the year when I sensed God had pulled the rug right out from under my feet. In a span of merely 30 days, I lost a job I loved, had to sell my home, and the sweet little dog that had been in my home since he was a puppy went to live with my dearest friends who in turn were moving 2,000 miles away. On top of all that, it was Christmas. One morning, as I was trying to make sense of it all, my daily Bible reading fell upon 1 John 4:18 which reads -
“... perfect love casts out fear ...” (NASB)
If perfect love casts out fear, why was I still afraid? The answer, I discovered, is rather simple, but disturbing. I must not be experiencing the complete, perfect love of God. Almost immediately, I tried to defend myself. That’s not true! I love God, go to church, tithe, pray, lead a Bible class ...
But wait a minute. Did I read the verse correctly? Whose love is the Scripture referring to? Mine or God’s? I read the verse again. “...perfect love casts out fear.” Perfect Love. Only God is perfect. Clearly, the verse is referring to God’s love. And where does the Bible say that God’s love is dependent on us, or our thoughts, or actions? Nowhere.
As a matter of fact, Scripture paints a beautiful picture of this truth in the events surrounding Jesus's baptism. Before any miracles had been performed, before any healings had taken place, before any memorable public speeches were made, God the Father publicly declared His love for His Son. Before Jesus began His public ministry, the Father's Voice tore through the clouds of Heaven,
"This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." Matthew 3:17 (NASB)
God offers the same love to you and me. No more; no less. And just as Jesus had not yet done anything to earn His Father's love, so it is with each of us. God’s love for us is not dependent upon what we do or don't do. It is based entirely on Who He is. (Romans 8:28)
And yet, why was I still afraid? That’s when I read the second half of the verse,
“If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.” 1 John 4:18 (NLT)
Once again, I started to debate in my mind: I’m not afraid of punishment, I’m just afraid I won’t find a job or a place to live or ... But then I realized something. Something that is true for all who call God our Father. If we do not believe God will take care of our basic needs when we know He has the power to do so, we must not be convinced of His perfect love for us. And if He doesn’t love us, we must have done something wrong to cause Him to withhold His blessing. In other words, we think we are being punished. Oh, how the enemy delights when we fall into the trap of self-condemnation! But praise Jesus, the enemy does not get the last word!
Father, when we face various trials, give us the courage to bring them before Your Throne of Grace. Bring to our minds anything we need to confess that may be hindering us from experiencing the peace of Your Love and Presence. Draw us near and teach us how to trust in Your perfect love — for Your perfect love casts out all fear. Amen. Copyright © June 2018 Shadia Hrichi, a delightful writer and speaker, used with permission; www.shadiahrichi.comPersevering the Seasons – Dianne Herrin Stakes (a counselor and chaplain in Georgia and Florida)
Seasons of waiting can be overwhelming and sometimes make you sick. The pain can be very hard to take. But they are designed to prepare you, stretch your faith, and get you ready for everything that is coming next. Your struggle is part of YOUR STORY. We all have a story.
Every winter gives way to spring. This season will pass. Just hang in there my friend.
This season may not be exactly what you want but it may be teaching you something for the season ahead of you.
Have you ever found yourself in a season of waiting on God?
You know what I mean, right?
You’re walking along your merry way, and He abruptly brings you to a crashing halt.
Yeah. I’ve been there, too.
During my 70 years on earth I have ran into many crashing halts. And I had to wait. None of us like to wait…… that is in our nature. But God knows it is for our good. He knows there is a purpose in our season of waiting.
Every single time, when the answer came to me, the events that followed were so clearly orchestrated by God Himself that I couldn’t doubt His supreme goodness in having me wait. Sometimes His answer was no and sometime it was yes. When it was….no…I understood in later years why it was no and I was thankful.
One of the sweetest lessons I learned during this time is that God is in the waiting.
Your loving heavenly Father is with you in the wait.
And He’s working in the wait.
And so for your time in God’s waiting room, I’d like to suggest ten prayers straight from the pages of God’s Word. May they refocus your mind on your Savior and propel your heart toward worship…You will be surprised at what these words from your Creator God will do for you. Read them over and over…and over again…even as you wait!!!
1.) Praise God for His promise that those who wait on Him will renew their strength. Ask Him to fulfill this in your life, empowering you to run and not grow weary and to walk and not faint. (But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31)
2.) Tell God that you will not fear or be dismayed as you wait on Him, and that you’re trusting Him to be with you, to strengthen and help you, and to hold you in His hand on your hardest days. (Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with f qMy righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10)
3.) Remind God that your soul is eagerly anticipating His work, and that your hope is in His word. (I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning - yes, more than those who watch for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6)
4.) Claim with the psalmist that you will see the goodness of the LORD. Ask Him to help you be strong and to help your heart be courageous as you wait for Him expectantly. (I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:13-14)
5.) Affirm to God that He is good to those who wait for Him and to the soul that seeks Him. Name specific ways He has been good to you as you’ve been waiting. (The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25)
6.) Ask God to help you look to Him during your season of waiting. Praise the God of your salvation for hearing your prayers! (Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7)
7.) Rejoice in the Lord’s steadfast mercies that are everlasting and renewed every morning, even during times of waiting. Tell God you stand in awe of His faithfulness. (Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23)
8.) Ask God, in His grace, to enable you to wait patiently. Spend some time in silence before Him, resting your hope in Him alone. (My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. Psalm 62:5)
9.) Thank Him, and tell Him you’ll never stop thanking Him for what He has done in your life. Let Him know that you’re waiting for His good name along with all those who are godly. (I will praise You forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good. Psa. 52:9)
10.) Pray that the God of your salvation would guide and teach you in His truth as you wait on Him. (Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:5)
Finally, may your soul be strengthened and your faith fortified as you wait patiently for Him!
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance. II Peter 3:9
‘God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is.’
- Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest
BASEBALL Time! Some places around the world may not have persevered beyond all symptoms of winter, but nonetheless we have arrived at the beginning of a new baseball season in amerika. The similarities between the long baseball season and a faith-led life are unmistakable; both involve –
Ø a seemingly endless battle, with unanticipated bumps, setbacks, and some victories along the way;
Ø physical preparation;
Ø ongoing mental vigilance;
Ø abiding in one’s own abilities (gifts)…knowing one’s own limitations;
Ø learning from both one’s own experience and from the insight of coaches;
Ø choosing a team carefully.
The seemingly never-ending professional baseball season begins in the chilly, damp days at the end of each February in ‘spring training’, and doesn’t end until the blustery cold at beginning of November – more than 200 games of ups and downs, highs and lows, counting regular season, preseason, and post season playoff games.
Therefore…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… Hebrews 12:1
Much of the physical preparation is accomplished in the almost ritualistic annual ‘spring training’. Training includes building up the strength of the players so they can persevere through the marathon length season, honing skills, and learning to stay healthy by establishing healthful nutrition and rest habits, as well as daily routines including stretching and warming up, not to mention a constant vigilance to any seemingly small aches and pains
…those who run in a race all run, but…run in such a way that you may obtain the prize. 1Corinthans 9:24
Ongoing mental vigilance includes – over coming ‘self-doubt’ (in 200 games each year, even the best teams will LOSE probably 80 games….even the best players will probably strike out over 100 times!); focussing on matters at hand / avoiding distractions; learning to make almost constant adjustments based on one’s performance; recognizing and adapting to the ever-changing strategies and tactics of opponents (or in your faith-walk, your life or death enemy!); while the entire season seems to go on forever, each day is a new day…the past is to be learned from, but left behind; …and one day it WILL all end!
Each team is led by a group of mentors, ‘coaches‘…former players who became too old to survive the grueling 9- month season as active players, but had managed to acquire the intangible qualities of wisdom over the years. The coaches were rarely the most ‘successful’ former players. Coaches are keen observers, quickly noticing minute flaws in active players, and are able and willing to suggest adjustments to improve performance in the form of encouragement (and not scolding!).This intangible gift for ‘coaching’, cannot be attained by time in a classroom at some institution of higher learning.
Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding. Job 12:12
Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. Proverbs 19:20
The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their silver head. Proverbs 20:9
Learning, and then staying ‘within’ one’s own ‘skills set’ (giftings). No matter how hard one tries and how long he practices, he will never be Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson or Willie Mays! Similarly, no matter how long one sings in the shower, he will never be Michael W. Smith, Rebecca St. James, Twila Paris or Charles Billingsly! The coaching philosophy that one can accomplish any goal given enough effort is a lie [deception] of our age. The wishful lie does not prove true, it is not in accordance with God’s word, and it is based on a fictitious study! It would seem some of our greatest frustrations are attributable to our trying to be something we were never designed or created to be! [‘A man’s GOT to know his limitations! according to Clint Eastwood].
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb… Isaiah 44:24
He fashions their hearts individually… Psalms 33:15
Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity… Job 10:8
For we are His workmanship… Ephesians 2:10
Where there is no vision [of who it is He created us to be], people cast off restraint… Proverbs 29:18
Last, but not least, is selection of the team. In the baseball world, the makeup of a team is less fluid than in our faith journey. But individuals able to contribute with their great skills in various areas are needed of course, but equally important are durable folks, and folks who will get along with each other, celebrating the highs, and remaining faithful and encouraging during the lows, the down time, the inevitable setbacks - ‘reliability’,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself… Matthew 19:19
What is desired in a man is kindness… Proverbs 19:22
Cast out the scoffer (ridiculer), and contention will leave…strife and reproach will cease… Prov. 22:10
A man's gift makes room for him… Proverbs 18:16
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scoffers… Psalms 1:1
The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray… Prov. 12:26
He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. Proverbs 13:20
Consider what Scripture teaches us about the types of folks to disqualify from for our close ‘circle of friends’ –
Ungodly/actively bad (Proverbs 4:14), immoral (Proverbs 5:5), foolish (Proverbs 14:7), angry (Proverbs 22:24), gluttons (Proverbs 23:30), drunks (Proverbs 23:30), evil (Proverbs 24:1)…
Four God-fearing, prayerful men carrying the bed of a paralyzed friend could not make entry into a home where Jesus was teaching because the home was already jammed full of people. So, the four men broke open a hole in the roof and lowered the bed with their paralyzed friend…(Mark 4:2-4)
A mostly obscure player from days gone by comes to mind, Smokey Burgess. Also known as old ‘shake, rattle and roll…he was never highly skilled in the usual ways – strong, powerful, fleet of food, skilled defensively, and he no doubt had nicotine issues…and was relegated to being a backup catcher for much of his professional playing days. But he held the career record for total number of pinch hits (successful ‘hits’ as a substitute batter, usually in a ‘pinch’ – little or no notice to go up the plate to face 95 mph fastballs in a critical situation at the end of a game). In fact, Smokey’s reliability became legendary – that you could wake him up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night in the middle of December and send him up to the plate…in the middle of a snowstorm…and he would hit a line drive on the first pitch! And that’s how I would hope to be remembered – reliable!
But you say you don’t have an opponent…an enemy?
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I Peter 5:8
You don’t have battles? An opponent, an enemy? Haven’t you heard this seductively whispered in your ear –
‘just this once…you deserve to be happy…no one will ever know!
Guess again! You have an enemy! And you have a battle! Hence you better have a plan. A strategy!
Christy Matthewson – a supreme pitcher (only one player had more ‘wins’ in his career than Matty) out of Bucknell University in the early 1900s, was known for his faith and ‘clean living, and for his focus and strategy as much as for his power and durability. Matty suffered a rare loss one particular game when a young, unknown player had a game winning hit in the last inning. After post game celebrations quieted down, one of the kid’s older team mates asked the young player what pitch he hit (fastball? Curveball? Change up? Inside? Outside?) …the young player said I don’t know…why should I remember? The older team mate replied – ‘because Matty will!’
And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:23-27)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21