Archives For Fear

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Matthew 14:28 (ESV)
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Long before you and I were born, Peter stood on the edge of a fishing boat in the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm. He had a decision to make, one of the greatest decision of his life. Would he step out of the boat at the command of Jesus or stay in the boat and wait?

In 1444, Conrad Witz painted this scene found in Matthew 14. The question arises, what is so unique about Witz’s Fifteenth-century painting? It is reported, “he is credited with creating one of the only true “great paintings” of this scene.

But why?

It’s a very simple and remarkable answer! Peter was called the “rock” of the church. No painter would ever show the failure of such a great leader of the early church. Peter sank like a rock; therefore, the brush strokes of great painters remained undirected to capture this scene until Conrad dared to show warts and all.

Like all people who find themselves on an edge – a decision has to be made. Do you step out of the boat or wait? You see, no one wants to be painted a failure. It could go without saying- we certainly don’t want our failures showing up on a great painting for the entire world to see. But when you are answering the call of God and fail, is it failure? I would contend that the answer is no. Fear caused Peter to sink and yes, in a classic definition, we call it a failure.

But never forget!

When Jesus calls us to do something, He will not ultimately let us fail. Jack Canfield once said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Jesus was on the other side of Peter’s fear and Jesus is on the other side of your fear also.

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Only God can transform a bad life situation, but His first desire is to transform you through your surrendered dependence upon Him alone.

Twenty years had gone by, and the day Jacob has been dreading is now upon him. He is about to run into his brother Esau. God has asked Jacob to return, and the last time Jacob saw his brother Esau, Esau wanted to kill him.

God is at work in Jacob’s life, but at this point Jacob is to afraid to just trust in God’s plan, so he comes up with a plan of healing himself. He is convinced that he can boost his odds of a successful meeting with his brother by the power of self-sufficiency. However, God has a different plan.

God’s desire it to transform Jacob by freeing him from self-sufficiency. God is looking for surrender and not Jacob’s plans. God is looking for complete surrendered dependence. C.S. Lewis once said, “Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self.” God is looking to help Jacob find his real self that is found only in the surrendering of everything to God.

Try as we might, we can’t heal ourselves the way God can heal us. Self-Sufficiency must give way to surrendered dependency on God. In other words, you can’t be fully His until you are fully given over to Him. God has Jacob right where He wants him. Jacob has no recourse left but to rely on God, and that’s a perfect place to be.

In Genesis 32:24-31 Jacob is alone and wrestles with God until the breaking of the day. It’s not so much a physical confrontation as it is a spiritual battle where God is trying to give Jacob a new freedom. After a long match, God touches the hip socket of Jacob and Jacob is left in a position of utter and absolute brokenness and dependence before God.

Jacob declares,  he will not let go until he gets God’s blessing. Up to this time Jacob’s biggest weakness was not trusting God completely and trying to micromanage every step of his life. Verse 27 God answers Jacob by giving him the blessing of a name change.

A name change is a character change. A name change is a direction change. A name change is a purpose change. God changes his name from Jacob to Israel. God’s purpose for Israel has always been that they would bring the whole world to God himself. In one beautiful moment, Jacob’s plans are turned over to God and replaced with God’s purpose.

Jacob calls the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered. From that day forward,  he walked with a limp and a smile. He was now free because of surrender. How about you today? Are you free? Are you trusting God or trusting your plans?

Abraham had to lay down Isaac and trust God. Jacob had to lay down self-sufficiency and trust God. What do you need to lie down before God? It’s tempting to put off what you need to surrender. However, self-sufficiency, non-surrender and avoidance never brings healing.

Only God can transform a bad life situation, but His first desire is to transform you. God doesn’t want your plans He wants you.

Here the message, Surrendered Dependency Upon Him

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Have you ever felt numb emotionally and spiritually? I’m sure you have. Maybe even today you find yourself in just such a place. You don’t have any feelings because they seem to be gone. The effect of sadness and depression over the many closed doors in your life have slowly cut off your faith blood supply, and you feel only numbness.

Numbness! That place in your faith life where you want to completely give up, but you know you can’t, and you know you won’t. Numbness is the part of walking by faith that personally haunts me the most. Maybe you know the feeling I’m referring to?

You are doing everything right and still all the doors in your life seem to close with a dull rudeness. You break out your faith check list to make sure you are walking pleasing to the Lord and sure enough everything for the most part seems to be right on track. Why then is every door closing, and yet for everyone else around you, the doors seem to not even have a close option?

Numbness will take you to the place of Elijah. Elijah had just witnessed an incredible miracle in his life. He witnessed God move on Mount Carmel in such a way that human involvement couldn’t be credited with any part of it. Yet, not long after the open door miracle, we see him whining that he’s all alone as a follower of God. He is numb! He is in the perfect storm.

Numbness led him to isolation but even in the isolation God was there. Numbness can’t push God away from you. He is commanded to get up and eat and to his surprise food and water have been supplied for him. Numbness can’t cut you off from your needs being supplied.

Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GOD. GOD will pass by.” We are informed that a hurricane type wind passed through the mountains and shattered the rocks, but God wasn’t in the wind. Then after the wind there came an earthquake, but God wasn’t found in it either. Next, fire came, and God was not found in the fire. Finally, a whisper! God was in the whisper.

Numbness can’t be blown away. Numbness can’t be shattered away. Numbness can’t be shaken away. Numbness can’t be burnt away. However, numbness can be whispered away.

The whisper always comes. The whisper always comes. I’m waiting on my whisper. It will come!  How about you?

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Is it just me or is there anyone else that worries about not worrying about what God may or may not do? When I’m under pressure, I tend to overlook for answers in my own strength.

At times,  it manifest in running every scenario that could happen, or should happen to the point I can’t even sleep well at night. Time and time again living my faith in this manner proves to be a big waste of…well…FAITH.

After all the time wasted searching in my own power, I always end up with nothing! Then it happens. God reminds me that I can’t do anything with NOTHING but He can do anything and everything with NOTHING.

Suddenly, deep in my heart I can feel a groaning of the Spirit of God praying for me the perfect will of God and then it happens; peace consumes me. Sometimes, when you stop looking, and you stop trying to figure it all out, God moves for His glory in your life.

The searcher of hearts is always looking and listening for the groaning of the Spirit inside our hearts. God is always having conversations and communion in our hearts. When there are no more words to pray, the Spirit of God intercedes with groanings at the intersection of ruin and misery within the Christ Follower.

You must share in God’s sufferings to share in His glory. However, suffering when complete gives way to a beautiful witness of His glory and that is enough. God uses suffering, emptiness and troubled times of unanswered prayers to build His character in us, conforming us to Christ, and prepare us for final glory when heaven and earth become one.

You might not get what you thought you needed, but you will get what brings Him the most glory. Sometimes it takes getting nothing to get everything.

Romans 8:26-30 (NKJV)
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for uswith groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

unbelief

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Now that’s my kind of prayer! It’s my kind of prayer, and I venture to bet it’s your kind of prayer from time to time also. It’s not a faithless prayer. It’s a prayer that is mixed with trust and yet a hint of despair.

Despair is often the unwanted guest of an ongoing crisis. Despair somehow slips into our temple and pokes around causing us to doubt things will ever change.  Such is the case of the man in Mark 9.

His son is a demon-possessed, and he brings his son to the disciples of Jesus for deliverance. His steps of faith toward the men of God have ended in complete failure.  The disciples are not able to help his son.

The voice of despair grows stronger in his heart. He thinks to himself, “What now?” Suddenly, Jesus takes center stage. Jesus asks a few questions, and the man asks Jesus to do something. “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” I love the response of Jesus, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believers.”

Then we see the broken beauty of the moment. A man of flesh and blood has faith and yet unbelief mixed in his heart, but Jesus answers his prayer anyway. With tears, the father cries out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” It’s a prayer that bottles the request to remove the despair and fill up what is lacking in his trust.

He has seen the failure of the disciples, and it has only increased his  sense of despair and now what faith he has left seems to be quickly draining away. However, whereas the disciple didn’t have enough faith to accomplish the request, Jesus has unlimited power.

Jesus helps his unbelief and the miracle happens. Sometimes the greatest faith move you can make is to give your unbelief to Him in faith! The cries of this man’s heart have resonated with many that fight the same battle across the sands of time. He prays for relief just as he is, a doubter that needs a touch from God. Never forget; you can do the same.

dry-well

A dry well never worries God; a dry well only worries us. Looking into the well of life and finding it dry is a scary scenario; especially if the well has been flowing unhindered for quite awhile.  It’s in times of abundant flow we say things like, “God is good; God is faithful, and God is the provider!” However, when the well starts to become dry, there is a tendency to allow our faith to become dry along with it.

I’m convinced that one of the secrets to trusting God is being faithful with dryness the same way we are faithful with abundance. God requires faithfulness from us no matter the amount given or allowed into our lives. Adversity is the most amazing place  to see God demonstrate His faithfulness. He will always give you what you need to survive.

He is the God that will sustain you for His glory. Circumstances have no disturbance on God who is the master over all circumstances. Don’t panic and look for shortcuts when your well is running dry.  Look instead to the gift of faith God is trying to birth into your life to grow you into a disciple for His glory. Don’t allow the call of panic to grip your soul causing you to move into part-time loyalty to God.

Charles Swindoll once said, “From the tiny birds of the air and from the fragile lilies of the field, we learn the same truth…God takes care of His own…. At just the right moment, He steps in and proves Himself as our faithful heavenly Father.”

Don’t look at the dry well! Look to God who is the well that never runs dry. I want you to understand today that when you wholly yield to God, you are yielding to the answer for dryness. We are not called to prove the faithfulness of God; we are only God to demonstrate our own faithfulness in knowing that His inevitable supply will come.

Psalm 36:5 (NKJV)Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

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I’m not good with emptiness, but God is great with emptiness. Emptiness often becomes God’s greatest creative place in your life and mine.

Joseph was found in an empty well in Genesis 37:24 because of the envy of his brothers; yet eventually through the sovereign determination of God is made prime minister, second in the land of Egypt.

Emptiness doesn’t have to be a negative situation or a negative emotion when you know God is truly sovereign in your life. In fact, the greatest place to see the true message of what God can do with “empty” things is to ponder the empty tomb of Christ. The empty tomb is not a message of defeat and hopelessness. The empty tomb speaks to all of us, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Revelation 1:18

Maybe today you are feeling empty. Maybe today the future doesn’t seem so hopeful for you. Maybe today you can’t see past the moment of pain at all. Instead, You find yourself  hearing the negative and defeating voice of emptiness, and not the life giving voice emptiness has under the command of God.

You need to choose which voice you are going to listen to. Choose the negative and defeating voice and you will reap what that path leads to. Choose the life giving voice of emptiness and you will reap what that path leads to. If you are jobless today, if you are broken today by stress that is almost unbearable, if you are in the middle of family drama that is endless, there is hope for you. Your emptiness is a gift if you listen to the right voice.

Emptiness is a crisis, but in every crisis there is an opportunity for God to show off for His own glory. If you truly believe that God is sovereign, then you must believe that God has a plan and purpose in and through your emptiness. You can’t ever forget that God always shows up to demonstrate His glory in His perfect timing. God can work wonders beyond your dreams!

Which voice will you choose? Will you choose the negative and defeating voice, or the life giving voice of God? I think we both know which is correct. Now choose wisely.

Feelings1

I’m empty today. There is nothing inside of me that is happy. I’m my own worse nightmare. I break promises to God all the time, and I feel there is no way He can love me knowing the thoughts of my heart.

Bitterness haunts me and broken dreams seem to be the only thing in front of me. I keep going and yet deep inside I long for another direction for my life. I question if God knows what He is doing in my life. I fail so often I’ve almost started to expect nothing less.

I wonder constantly how to be a better Father, and yet I seem to never follow through on things and time is slipping away. I desperately want to be a better husband and yet I fall short time and time again. I want to be a better pastor, but I’m confused to what all that means and I wonder if I’m just setting myself up for more disappointment.

I write these things today to show you the voices I encounter on a daily basis, but I also write to tell you more.

I’m actually not empty because He said He would always be with me. That is a promise I can count on regardless of feelings. I don’t have to always be happy because He has promised me joy by the power of His Holy Spirit. I don’t have to worry about being my own worse nightmare because He is for me. I may break promises, but He is the God of mercy and even though He sees the thoughts of my heart, He knows I’m but clay and loves me anyway.

The Bitterness that comes from broken dreams only proves He has a better plan and a better way. The longing for another direction is only a thought of momentary escape, and God knows I’m committed until the end. He is not afraid of my questioning Him because in doing so, I’m drawn closer to His heart. I might fail more often than succeed, but He is there to pick me up when everyone else has run away.

He whispers to me that being a Father is not about being perfect but about loving them and pointing them toward Him, the perfect Father of all. He encourages me to love my wife as Christ loved the church and yet knows I will fail from time to time. Again He shows me His mercy and Grace. He calls to me to remain steadfast in being a pastor and promises me that when the chief Shepherd appears, I will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Oh the beauty of following Christ! Maybe you have similar feelings about your life today? If you do have similar feelings, then welcome to the human story. If you do have similar feelings, then He knows all about them. If you do have similar feelings, then you need to know they will one day pass away forever. Until then, keep walking, keep believing for He is with you.

faith

Is there such a thing as unshakeable faith? I sure hope not because trusting God most often comes with some shaking. After all, we are human. We are not God. To deny that we don’t shake just a little is to deny our humanness.

A little shaking on the inside doesn’t’ intimidate or dishonor God. The only thing that dishonors God is not obeying Him in spite of the shaking. Shaking should never be equated with not having faith. Faith is a gift given to us by God anyway. God wants us to exercise faith that honors Him. We honor Him by obeying no matter the feelings to the contrary.

He never called us to be unshakable. Don’t get me wrong, there are times you will not shake at all, but there are times you will shake a lot. Shaking should never lead to retreat. Shaking should become a stepping-stone forward and onward with God.

After all, He promises also to never leave us or forsake us. You can’t get better than that!

Great faith is not unshakable. Great faith is placing your trust in an unshakable God!

 

mqdefaultIt’s funny how a smile on the outside doesn’t always take away the insecurity on the inside. Faking confidence is a hard life to live. Sadly, there are many among us that have lived with a silent agony that eats them from the inside out. Maybe you know someone that lives this way. Maybe that someone is you.

You have learned to fake your way to the front of the crowd, but inside you feel like you are the last in line. It’s more common than you might think to fake confidence.

There are many people who have mastered faking confidence. They hide their shyness behind a smile. They have learned a smile creates an impression that all is well on the inside. Many people make a fast decision like when picking out clothing to buy or what meal to order, thus painting the false impression they are not indecisive. Often, strong eye contact is a learned and practiced skill that portrays inner confidence.

Now don’t get me wrong, all of the above-mentioned things are not wrong. In fact,  they can be true signs of true confidence and can help build confidence as well. However, you know the truth. You are the one that actually knows what is going on deep inside of you. After many years of reflection on this issue I’m convinced that the greatest enemy of true confidence on the inside is fear, the fear that you are not good enough, the fear that you are not truly unconditional loved by anyone.

Until you come to believe that God loves you unconditionally and entirely, you will never have the proper foundation of pure confidence that is God’s gift of grace to those who find their value in His love for them alone. 1 John 4:18, teaches us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” Accepting the perfect love of God into your life drives out fear! Period! Once fear of, not being unconditionally loved is gone, you are free to live in the gift of confidence that has always been there.

By design, God has placed in your life- worth and extreme value. He created you and He didn’t make a mistake. You are not a mistake. You are His and that is enough. You will never feel confident at all times. However, the fastest way to recapture confidence on the inside is to pause for just a few moments and say within your heart, “God created me out of His love, therefore I’m priceless in His eyes, and that is all I need.”

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”