May 20

Are you fearless because you fear less?

 

Any fears flooding your thoughts these days? Reading on-line obituaries to see who died from COVID-19? Scrolling Facebook to read the latest thing to worry about?

After my cancer diagnosis in 1990, every night I’d look in the local paper to see if someone I had treatment with had died or how many people listed had died from cancer. It was a depressing ritual, but one I found hard to break. I guess it was part of those early days when I let cancer consume my thoughts.

And thank goodness I had cancer “in the olden days” as I like to call them when I didn’t have Internet access in my home or at my fingertips on a mobile device. I’m pretty sure that vast amount of Web information would have made me feel even more overwhelmed. (I just Googled “colon cancer” and got 174 MILLION hits!)

Don’t misunderstand, I’m thrilled at all the information—and encouragement—that is available on the Web, but a good question to ask yourself after your on-line time is: Do I feel better or worse after what I’ve just read? If information makes you feel more equipped to fight cancer or the pandemic or whatever trial you’re facing these days, then search away! But if reading makes you feel overwhelmed or depressed or fearful, please don’t keep putting such stuff into your head–especially since not all of it is entirely accurate.

Instead, I would encourage you to fill your mind with the truth that the God who began creation by simply speaking words is a lot more powerful than any possible misguided cells within our bodies. He’s a lot more trustworthy than any statistics in a medical journal and way more knowledgable than anyone’s dire predictions.

So stop feeding your mind with a voice of fear and instead allow a strengthening fear to fill your being. I’m talking about the fear of the Lord.

It’s not a “fall down and shake because you’re afraid of getting zapped” kind of fear. It’s a Wow! kind, where you’re in awe and amazement and wonder and reverence of God because of what He has done and still can do.

It’s this “fear” that I have discovered reduces all the other fears.

I love how Psalm 112 describes us “fear-filled” people:

Happy are those who fear the Lord.
Yes, happy are those who delight in doing what he commands. . . .
When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in.
They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. . . .
They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
They are confident and fearless
and can face foes triumphantly. Psalm 112:1,4,7-8

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah explained how he, too, learned to have the right kind of fear after God warned him that his country was going to be invaded.

The Lord has said to me in the strongest terms: “Do not think like everyone else does. Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind closed doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty. He alone is the Holy One. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else. He will keep you safe.” Isaiah 8:11-14

I don’t know about you, but that’s one voice of fear I always want to hear because it makes me fearless and able to fear less.

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Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns

 

May 06

When your world is crashing down…

 

My prayer for you today, my friend, is that no matter what life hands you–when your world or even the whole world is crashing  down–you will trust the Lord’s unending love for you.

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now;
rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone,
but the things we cannot see will last forever
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2 Corinthians 4:18

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Be sure to open this email in your browser to hear the music video below “Trust in You” by Jeremy Camp.

Apr 22

5 Ways a Pandemic Is Like Having Cancer

 

When this novel coronavirus invaded our globe, it was such a stark reminder of my long-ago cancer diagnosis that I actually said to myself: Now everyone will see how it feels to have your world fall apart right before your eyes.

For the past thirty years, my life has been divided into B.C. (Before Cancer) and A.C. (After Cancer) and now yours is too: Before COVID-19 and After COVID-19.

In 1990 when my 36-year-old world was rocked with stage 3 cancer, my pastor-husband was nearly paralyzed with fear that he would bury yet-another wife. Our little girls, ages 8, 10 and 12, tried to adjust to a bunch of babysitters and a mommy who either was lying on the couch or puking in the bathroom. I took a leave of absence from my newspaper reporter job and got replacements for my many volunteer church positions.

All the busyness of our happy home came to a screeching halt as we focused on defeating this unwelcome intruder.

 So here are 5 ways today’s pandemic reminds me of that cancer diagnosis (and don’t miss the last and most important one!)

NO GUARANTEES—I remember thinking that it would be much easier to go through the pain and anxiety of weekly chemo treatments for a year if I knew they definitely would cure me. But there was no such guarantee—only the sobering fact that I had about a 40-percent chance of surviving. (Wouldn’t you like some guarantees regarding all your virus precautions?)

NO PLANS—Friends would ask if I wanted to go somewhere or do something on a certain day, but I couldn’t make definite plans because I couldn’t predict how I would be feeling. People tried to encourage me by saying things like “Just take it one day at a time.” Honestly, there were days when I was just trying to get through the next hour or even the next five minutes. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have definite dates to travel, go out to dinner, get a hair cut?)

NO PEACE—Thoughts of cancer, my uncertain future and plenty of what-ifs filled my mind each day (and night!) I knew it wasn’t good to worry, so I worried that I worried too much! (Don’t you wish you didn’t think about COVID-19 every single day?)

NO NORMALCY—How I longed for life to return to normal. I just wanted my happy B.C. life back. And deep down inside I wondered if that ever would really happen. (Don’t you yearn to turn back the clock on social distancing and disinfecting everything?)

But there is one more “NO” which links these trying circumstances and it is the most important one:

NO DENYING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS—Because my life felt out-of-control, it brought me to my knees. And as I lifted to God my empty hands, my tear-filled eyes and my aching heart, He poured His promises, His power, and His peace into my life.

In 1995 on the fifth anniversary of my cancer surgery, I wrote a poem which is just as relevant today:

When your world is crashing down around you, trust Him.
When what is unfolding doesn’t make sense, trust Him.
When you see no light at the end of the tunnel, trust Him.
When your silent tears spill down, trust Him.
When the pain refuses to subside, trust Him.
When your heart screams, “Why?” trust Him.
When you have more questions than answers, trust Him.
When the devil tells you otherwise, trust Him.
When it’s the last thing you feel like doing, trust Him.
When there’s simply nothing else to do, trust Him.

Copyright 2002 by Lynn Eib.
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View this blog in your browser to play the music video below, “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle.

 

 

Apr 09

What do you need today?

 

Why do you have needs? Why do you need shelter or food? Why do you need emotional connections with other people? Why do you need to feel a sense of purpose?

You have needs because God created you with needs. He could have made you so that your shelter is on your back, as He did the turtle. He could have made you so that you could live a solitary, isolated life. But instead, He made you with needs. The reason is so that your needs could be His entry points. Your needs will point you to His supply.

The Father wants to meet your needs. He encourages you to look to Him to supply every need that arises. He takes pleasure in supplying you with everything you need.

Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

“Meet today’s needs,” Jesus taught us to pray. “Whatever arises today, Father I look to you for provision.”

I hear the Father whisper to me, “Nothing will come into your life today for which I have not already put provision in place. Just be alert and watchful. Look to Me first, I will point you to the supply.”

What an adventure it is to live this way! How it frees me from anxiety and frustration! I am learning that everything, from the major to the mundane, has been provided for by my Father. As needs arise from day to day, instead of asking, “Father, do something!” I just say, “Father, what have You already done? Where will I discover the answer You have provided?”

Please understand, God does not meet every need in the way that seems convenient to me. If that were my measuring stick, then I would often be frustrated. But if I have given myself to Him as a living offering, then I am open for Him to meet my needs in ways that will further my understanding of Him or advance His kingdom. You will only live in a state of blessedness when you have aligned yourself  with His will, so that your desire is to know Him at deeper and deeper levels.

If your motivating force is to get God to perform for you–to see Him bring about your agenda–you will not find the blessedness that Jesus offers. Often, what seems an inconvenience to me puts me on the path to an encounter the Lord has arranged for me. Or, something that throws off my schedule actually provides me with information I needed–sometimes before I know I needed it.

Sometimes God waits for you to ask, because until you see your need, you will not recognize His supply. He waits until you have come to the end of your own resources. He waits for you to turn to Him as the one and only source.

Blessedness comes in trusting His love for you and His wisdom. Peace is yours when you know that He will never withhold from you something that would truly make your life more complete.

Today’s blog is an excerpt from Set Apart: a 6-week study of the beatitudes by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, pp. 160-162. Copyright (c) 201. New Hope Publishers. Used with permission.

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Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below, “The Lord’s Prayer” by then 13-year-old Jackie Evancho https://youtu.be/qayluuujauM

 

Mar 25

Shaking Things Up

Don’t wait. Not a minute. Not a second. Instead, praise God now. If you and I wait to praise God until after something earthshaking and amazing happens, we’ve got the wrong order. Praise comes first. Doubt that?

Consider the classic praise story in the Bible–this scenario (in Acts 16) where Paul and Silas, bound in chains in the dungeon of a jail, their bodies bruised and bloodied by their jailers, still lifted their voices  to praise God.

And what an odd sound. Praise in a jail. Sung by two beaten, bloodied prisoners. It’s not logical. But as the book of Acts records, as they praised God, the earth shook. “And the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” Praise is power, indeed. But praise comes first.

When we’re bound up by some situation, in the midst of that mess, it’s hard to remember that we should praise God first. Not after it’s all cleaned up. But, while it’s happening. That is the proper order of praise.

In fact, the word praise (which in Latin means “prize”) shares a root with the Latin word for preposition. As we recall from grammar lessons at school, a preposition is the word that comes before the main thing. Such words hold the “before” position–the preposition–setting up the main topic. In our spiritual lives, praise sits in the same place. It holds the preposition, setting up God’s power so it can follow, moving in our hearts and lives.

And no prison chains can tie down that power. So don’t wait for your chains to fall or your prison walls to crumble. Praise God first. Right now. Despite your circumstances. Praise Him for being God. For His mercy. For His deliverance. For His hope. For His blessing. For His empowering Spirit. Then stand back. Your prison walls are coming down! (Content taken from One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional by Patricia Raybon. Copyright © 2011. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.)
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Today’s blog was written by Patricia Raybon, my friend and an award-winning, bestselling author. I love her writing, her teachings and that fact we both got our journalism degrees from THE Ohio State University (we even had the same favorite prof, “Mad Martha”!) You can connect with Patricia  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/patricia.raybon or on her website https://www.patriciaraybon.com. And if you love daily inspiration, check out her One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional–one of my favorites!

When you have about 15 minutes to praise God, please listen to the music video below of our church’s worship pastor Eric Sumpter and the worship band. There are three songs with the words on the screen so you can sing along. I promise both God –and you–will be blessed. https://www.facebook.com/christschurchofthevalley/videos/508513459834041/

Mar 18

Where’s God when I really need Him?

Why doesn’t God keep little children from getting cancer?

Why didn’t God protect that family from the drunk driver?

Why did my friend have to bury yet-another spouse?

Why did God allow……………..you fill in the blanks.

We sometimes struggle with not sensing God’s nearness, not feeling His presence or not seeing His power in the way we had hoped. If you’ve ever agonizingly cried out “Where are you, God?” you know exactly what I mean.

I certainly would never attempt to explain all God’s actions (or perceived inactions), but I do believe there are spiritual truths which can help in those desperation times.

One of these truths is gleaned from Joshua 3* as the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River into the land God promised them:

“So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them.  It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge,  the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.”

Can you picture the one- to two- million people biblical scholars estimate stood at the river’s edge? As they watched the river overflow its banks, I can only only imagine their desperate thoughts: OK, God, where are you? We’re all going to die here!

But God didn’t push back the water right in front of His people. Instead He was working upstream at a town called Adam (estimated by scholars to be almost 20 miles away). That’s where the water backed up and allowed all those millions to walk across downstream on dry land.

I love how my pastor Brian Jones discusses this “upstream” phenomena in his book Second Guessing God:  Hanging on When You Can’t See His Plan:

“Where’s God? Whenever we face a problem in our lives—sickness, job loss, depression, tragedy, or discouragement—God is at work upstream in those situations, beyond our line of sight. The only thing the Israelites could see was the problem right in front of them. They could have concluded that since the raging river was there, God wasn’t actively involved in their situation, but they would have been wrong. He was there; they just couldn’t see him at work.”

Are you having trouble seeing God at work in your life or in the life of someone you love? Those are the times we all need to trust that our heavenly Father hears, cares and is at work……..upstream.
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*This insight about God working upstream is not original as I have read several authors/speakers who have shared it.

Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below, “Way Maker” with Michael W. Smith.

 

Mar 04

Longing for Home

Our world could use some good news couldn’t it? In many ways it’s a frightening time in which to be living; wars, rumors of wars, the constant threat of terrorism, violence in the classrooms, families torn apart by abuse and divorce, and so many friends and relatives with cancer. Life is not only hard; it’s often downright unfair, as some people seem to have more than their share of troubles. You might even be one of those people.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a world where everything was fair and people didn’t get sick, and sad things didn’t happen, and nobody had to die?

Did you ever wonder why there’s a longing in each of us for just such a kind of place? It’s a longing for home, you know. A longing for our real home. You see, we weren’t created to live in California or New York or anywhere else on this planet. We were created for our real home: Heaven.

The Bible describes Heaven in Revelation 21:4 as a place where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.”

And why won’t there be any more tears or death or sorrow or pain? Not because we’ll have all the money we ever wanted or all the fame or all the knowledge or any other tangible item.

It’s because we’ll have God Himself.

In Revelation 21:3, the verse right before the one about no more tears, it says: “Look! God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them and they will be his people.”

That’s why there won’t be any more tears or pain or death. We’ll have what we always really needed to be whole—the constant presence of God Himself.

The great 17th-century philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote that inside each person is a “God-shaped vacuum.” There’s a hole, so to speak, in our hearts which leaves us longing for something more than this world has to offer. It’s a hole and a longing that God put in us when He created us. He knows only He can fill that hole even though we try to fill it ourselves with all sorts of things. Buying “stuff.” Relationships. Work. Sports. Learning. Religious rituals. Some even try things like food, sex, drugs or alcohol. But none of these can fill the God-shaped vacuum in us…instead they only make it bigger.

The only thing that fills that hole and makes us whole is when God fills it with Himself by putting His very Spirit inside us, one life at a time.

That’s right.  We find true joy, true fulfillment when we realize there’s Someone bigger than us. Someone greater than us. Someone worthy of every bit of praise we can give. We were created to praise God with our lips…and our lives.

And when we do, we experience a peace that hardly can be described. It’s a feeling that reminds us this world is not where we belong and that one day our longing for our real Home will be satisfied.

(Be sure to open this in your browser to enjoy the music video below “There Will Be a Day” by Jeremy Camp.)

Feb 19

How to Keep Calm and Carry On

 

What are your fighting against these days? Cancer? Addiction? Depression? Discouragement?

Or what are you fighting for?  Your marriage? A wayward loved one? Improved finances? Restored health?

Well, as the Brits like to say:

Seriously.

Keeping calm in the face of impending disaster actually is a recurring message throughout the Bible.

As the Israelites fled from Pharaoh’s enslavement, they panicked when the Egyptian army began overtaking them. “But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue today…The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Sure enough, the Red Sea parted, the Israelites walked through on dry ground and then the waters rushed back, drowning all the pursuers.

There’s another great calming story  in 2 Chronicles 20. The short background is that the Jewish King Jehoshaphat was told that some great armies were coming to attack him. His response was not atypical from what ours might be—he “was terrified and begged the Lord for guidance.” Shortly, God answered his prayer by sending His Spirit to speak through one of the king’s men:

 He said, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them… But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” 

The king and his people believed God and began to worship Him, praise Him and sing to Him. At the very moment they did this, the Bible says God caused the approaching armies to fight amongst themselves and kill each other. The Israelites won the battle without a fight because God fought for them.

Standing still and being calm does not logically sound like a good way to win a battle. But then God’s ways are not always our ways, are they? The armies coming against the Israelites were way too large and powerful to be defeated. The situations were hopeless from God’s people’s perspective—but hope-filled from God’s vantage point.

Perhaps the problem  you or our loved one is facing seems too difficult or even hopeless. But as my pastor, Brian Jones, reminded our congregation recently: “Every miracle in the Bible is preceded by a problem.”

Whatever problem you are fighting against–or for–is setting the stage for God’s divine intervention. I can’t promise exactly how He will deliver–whether the situation will miraculously resolve or if He will supernaturally empower you to get through it.  But if you trust Him, you can keep calm and watch the Lord’s victory.

So stay calm, dear friend, and know that even if what you see doesn’t seem to make sense, God is fighting for you. And please remember…He’s never lost a battle.

(Be sure to open in your browser to hear the music video “Never Lost a Battle” by Elevation Worship.)

 

Feb 05

Dumping Our Anger

 

When I was in the hospital after my cancer surgery, a friend came into my room with a big smile and announced: “God is going to teach you great things through this trial!”

I wanted to take the IV out of my arm, stab it in hers, and tell her, “You get in the bed and learn great things from God, because I ­don’t want to learn this way!”

Of course, I didn’t say that. Instead I just smiled and hoped she would leave very soon.

If you had asked me in June of 1990 whether I was angry about the nightmare unfolding before me–stage 3 cancer at age 36 with three young daughters and a husband who already had buried his first wife--I would have insisted that I was not. After all, it’s not really proper for a Baptist minister’s wife to get angry, is it?

But as I look back on those dark days after diagnosis, I realize I experienced a bevy of emotions: shock, disbelief, denial, disappointment, frustration, sadness, worry and yes, anger.

I don’t know what deep suffering or  overwhelming struggles you’ve had to face. Maybe you’re not as angry as I was; perhaps you’re only just a tiny bit ticked. Then again, maybe “fury” better describes what you’re feeling today.

Where can you go to dump it?

I suggest you run where all those with great suffering need to run: to the only One whose shoulders are broad enough, whose arms are strong enough and whose love is deep enough.

“It’s all right—questions, pain, and stabbing anger can be poured out
to the Infinite One
and He will not be damaged…
For we beat on His chest from within the circle of His arms.”
 Anne Cetas, Our Daily Bread.

Can you visualize that for yourself? You crying out to God, beating your clenched fists upon His chest and Him holding you in His loving arms.

            I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.
Psalm 69:3

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, 
but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
Psalm 22:1-2

And then after you’ve hurled your questions heavenward, don’t forget to go to God’s Word to find His response. A good place to start might be the promise He gave to Jeremiah, who was filled with so much grief he has been called “the weeping prophet:”

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt…”

 Jeremiah 31:3, 4

I believe our heavenly Father is the best place to turn with our suffering. He’ll either give us the answers we seek, or the peace we need to live with the questions.

(Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day.)

 

Jan 23

Is the wildfire of fear, worry or anxiety burning in your life?


Fear is your enemy’s weapon. He uses it skillfully and often to great effect. Fear and its offshoots–worry and anxiety–are like a wildfire, encroaching on every area of your life and leaving destruction in their wake.


Fear eats its way into your emotions, robbing you of the peace and rest God intends for you. Fear burrows into your relationships and colors your interactions with those you love. Fear robs your body of its vigor, occupies your thoughts, and monopolizes your attention. Fear hijacks your life.

We experience fear when situations and people are not under our control. Fear is a feeling of powerlessness. We can’t control outcomes, events, or people. Anything you can control does not cause fear. As we recognize our vulnerabilities, we begin to fear. It comes naturally to us and puts down deep roots. Unless we guard against it, we grow in fear instead of growing in faith.

When you are experiencing fear in any of its forms, consider fear as an indicator you are trying to carry a burden that is not yours to carry. You are trying to do God’s job for Him. You feel the responsibility for managing the situation, and you inherently know you are not powerful enough. So fear sets in.

Fear is designed to steal every single thing Jesus wants to give you. Fear targets joy and peace like a heat-seeking missile… Introducing fear and worry into your thoughts is Satan’s attempt to dethrone God in your life. He hints to you that God might not be all He claims to be. Isn’t that the essence of fear?

Why does God repeat His injunction, “Do not fear,” over and over? Because there is so much to fear. If you were expected to navigate life on your own, in your own ability, then fear would be the only choice. He does not promise to give you a life that has nothing fearful in it, but He does promise to buffer you in such a way that fear does not have the last word. We don’t have to give fear free rein in our lives. We are not at the mercy of events outside us because we have the living, present Jesus inside us.

It seems our human nature, apart from the redeeming, restoring work of Jesus in us, is hardwired for fear. When challenges appear, we default to fear. Fear is our habit. So Jesus is saying over and over, “Do not fear.” It’s not a command. You can’t make yourself stop fearing. It’s an invitation . Maybe it sounds something like this: “Let that fear drive you to Me. You have no control, but I have complete control. Instead of wallowing in fear, let fear redirect your heart and fasten it on Me.”

Jesus is the fear-buster. His voice speaking to your heart has the power to decimate fear. The voice that called the world into being with the power of His word has direct access to your mind and emotions. The Father says, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35)

We will all find ourselves in circumstances that have the potential to produce fear, and Jesus will use those circumstances to makes us fearless.
Today’s blog is an excerpt from Prized: Experience the Tender Love of the Savior, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, pp. 106-108. Copyright (c) 2019 by the Praying Life Foundation. Published by New Hope Publishers. Used with permission. (Be sure to open this blog in your browser to enjoy the song below “Fear Not” by Kristene DiMarco.)